Dear Sajeev and Steve,
I work as a research scientist, and currently we have a visiting scientist from South Africa working with us for six months. Normally visitors stay in university housing and are able to take the shuttle bus to our lab, but our current visitor is bringing her husband with her and staying in a house they found themselves. She should have about a 30 minute 20 mile drive to the lab and just looking for reliable transportation around a medium sized city, and maybe the occasional weekend sightseeing trip. She does already have a rental scheduled at the airport for the first week (probably an Impala), but for more long-term what type of newer car should she be looking for that will retain its value when she goes to sell it at the end of her stay, or would it be more reasonable to rent for six months? I will mention she drives a Land Cruiser most of the time in South Africa and seems to like it a lot.
The question for your friend may not be ‘the car’… but ‘the owner’.
Forget about rental. If she wants to make a mid-four figured donation to the nearest automotive for profit that’s fine. In the world of dollars and sense long-term rentals simply don’t make sense.
What she needs is a well maintained vehicle in the $4000 range. Let them spend a few weekends shopping among private owners, or, they can go on Ebay and find a nearby seller with strong positive feedback and a vehicle that they would likely enjoy.
Steve, as per usual, is right. My father is a professor/research scientist, and it seems that the PhD/Post-Doctoral lifestyle is far from platinum grilles and Bentleys. Honestly, it’s also far from buying a late-model family sedan for short-term use, either. Someone in your friend’s shoes needs a short-term vehicle that’s cheap to purchase, have close to no depreciation, and mainstream enough (no finicky European whips) to guarantee a quick sale on Craigslist when the sabbatical ends.
She likes her Land Cruiser? My advice is to get a sub $10k Jeep Wrangler, Toyota Tacoma/4Runner, Ford Ranger, 1st-2nd Gen Explorer, Nissan Hardbody/Pathfinder, Jeep Cherokee, Chevy S-10…or any other cheap to own, easy to sell trucklet. No Suzukis or Isuzus, please: they seem fairly hard to re-sell in a hurry. The smarter money is on a 5-10 year old W-body/Panther, older CamCord or anything else Honda or Toyota, but they aren’t teenagers with no finances to speak of. Spending a few hundred extra for a non-Impala is understandable, and acceptable.
My fav of the bunch would either be a 5.0 Explorer or a nice V6 Tacoma with a stick. Both are a definite Ja-Nee given the circumstances.