TTAC Commentator Supaman writes:
Hey Sajeev and Steve,
Got another head scratcher for you. A friend of mine was involved in an accident over the previous weekend which totaled her car (2006 Corolla S). She still had a year’s worth of payments left and the money she gets back from insurance leaves her with a smidge of $4000.
She doesn’t have the credit rating to get a financing on a new car which leaves her with under 5 grand to get a used one. She dislikes the idea of anything “used” as reliability is her main concern but after giving her a reality check she’s decided to reluctantly go along (not that she has a choice since she NEEDS a vehicle). Question here is of the cars I’ve looked at (most in the 100k mileage range) which would be best? American? Japanese? I was in a similar situation in 2006 when my car was totaled and after 4 days of relentless searching I found a diamond in the vein of a 2002 Hyundai Elantra with less than 50k miles for $3000. I’m not sure if she’ll be so lucky but if you have any suggestions it’d be greatly appreciated.
In situations like these, the condition of the vehicle is far more important than the brand on the grille. That said, don’t run off and buy a “creampuff” E38 BMW just because it fits in the price range…that would be quite the mistake!
American? Maybe. Japanese? Probably. European? Not a chance!
Stick with commonplace models with a large following in the aftermarket. Busted marker light? You can easily get a Chinese knock off lense for an Camry on eBay. And more than likely, you always will! Even the oddball Mercury Montego isn’t a bad idea…though the taillights are a little on the unique side.
Stick with a mainstream family sedan with as much service history you can find. That’s always a safe bet at this price point.
Retail vehicles are priced based on their year, model, and mileage. But they should always be bought based on their condition, condition, and condition.
Let her read up on that first. As for specific vehicles, what you really should look for are consumer reviews on carsurvey and other sites where consumers offer written feedback on their vehicles. Some older cars are cheap for a reason (Older Chryslers with the 2.7 Liter V6) while others are unpopular but reliable (Regals, 2000- 2006 Tauruses with Vulcan V6′s, etc.)
One other thing. You may want to start with people the two of you know instead of the great wide world that is Autotrader and Craigslist. Prices are already high due to the upcoming tax season and at least in Atlanta, the average $4000 car will be around 10 years old and have around 120k miles. Toyotas and Hondas are a bit more pricey along with luxury cars obviously. Suzukis and Mitsubishis will often be less costly along with anything out there that is dead or dying.
Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to firstname.lastname@example.org , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.