By on May 13, 2013

(photo courtesy: erfabber.com)

Hey Sajeev and Steve,

I am about to graduate college (this week in fact) and before I start my new job I need a new/used car. I am lucky enough to be graduating college debt free and with an excellent new job lined up. I will be moving from bone dry Texas to rainy Seattle.

For the past 6 months I have been driving my father’s 2006 Avalon, but he will need it back once school is over and I don’t think I can take another day driving it. The lack of steering feel, the horrendous turn radius, the size etc.

I am leaning heavily towards something fun and sporty with a manual transmission. I am looking at cars between 15k and 18k. 20k if I can find something really clean. I will be getting an interest free loan from my parents that I will be paying back within the first year. My top three choices are an E46 M3, a E39 M5 and an RX-8. Yes all notoriously unreliable cars. Is there something I am missing? Should I forget the M badge and get a E46 330i or an e39 540i? Or should I go in debt and get an FR-S or BRZ?

Thanks

Steve Says:

If those are your top three choices for buying a used car, I have one simple piece of advice.

Buy the new car.

The only caveat I can give you is that a new sporty sedan, hatch or wagon will likely be far more useful to you than a sport coupe. A lot of my friends who owned a sports coupe back in the 90′s ended up shelving them once the wife and kids came into their life.

Right now you may be as close to that stage in your life as Mercury is to Pluto. But trust me. Life happens fast and your needs (and tastes) always change in due time.

Sajeev Says:

Your taste in fresh-outta-college cars is just disturbingly awful.  It means that if you aren’t a shadetree mechanic, you hate your pocketbook.  If you can (and will) turn a wrench, you are obviously a masochist. And the RX-8 is so terrible that even loyal Rotor-heads begrudgingly include it in the family…so you need a reality check.

Then again, when I graduated from college (post Enron-collapse in Houston) I was lusting for…a damn job. So perhaps I should take the personal equation out, and be more like My Man Lang.

I know you’re hot to trot with your sweet gig and no debt, but you are overlooking your future needs of a house, fancy clothes, lavish vacations, expensive dinners/cocktails with the pretty ladies, etc.  Such items not only require a more reliable mode of transportation than a used up BMW M, but something with a lower total cost of ownership.

Are you traumatized by your father’s Avalon? Apparently so. But, for crying out loud, don’t swing to the other end of the spectrum just because of it!  There are plenty of reasonably nice sports sedans, that will be a better overall machine.

My advice? Test drive every sports sedan from a Kia Optima Turbo to a Focus ST, to a VW GLI, to…well every dealership in town.  If that all fails, then you get an E39 M5 and rule the world. For a moment.

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157 Comments on “New or Used? : The Brass Ring Edition...”


  • avatar
    jdmcomp

    And not a clue as to how expensive Seattle can be to live in. Sounds like a spoiled brat doomed to lifetime indebtedness to the BMW teat.

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      Come, now, have a little respect for your fellow people.

      We don’t know what his degree, job, or attitude toward life is.

      He’s given no indication that he has an entitled attitude.

      He is excited about graduating and his new beginning, which is an excitement that I share any time I attend a graduation.

    • 0 avatar
      mannygg

      How on earth did you get spoiled brat from the OP’s letter?!
      Just finished college with a good job – 15k doesn’t sound so unreasonable? You don’t even know how old he is. I bought an r33 skyline when I was 19. THAT is irresponsible (and I have always been a tight-ass with my funds).

      OP – I have an e46 M3 and it is a great car. I’ve had it for a year so far and other than the fuel cost (really, really expensive here) it has been absolutely great. I’ve had some small issues when I first got it, but if you want to do some basic work on your cars, it is pretty easy to get dirty with. And fantastic to actually drive.

      I also considered an RX8, but even worse on fuel and a less reliable reputation. Sounds like we both have good taste (Sajeev is clearly wrong!).

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      @jdmcomp

      I had similar thoughts. Buy the cheapest POS you can manage for the moment because:
      (1) Seattle rains quite a bit so good luck hooning in perpetual rain
      (2) I have never been but from what I gather its quite populated and parking will be at a premium. Have fun when some hipster doofus backs into your gorgeous E46 with their $100 car when you park on the street.
      (3) Get your excess money in the stock market, they will keep inflating it until it pops… this should have happened by now but it looks like it may have be a record year. When SHTF again, pull out your profits and buy some newly broke dick’s Lex or Bimmer.

      • 0 avatar
        BobAsh

        I don’t understand you at all. It rains in Seattle = it is perfect for hooning a RWD car. Hooning on water is much slower and therefore safer than on dry pavement…

        And your other comments terrify me as well – not buying a stick because you can back into cars behind you? Needing a TC to operate car in RAIN?

        That’s every stereotype about “stupid-Americans-who-can’t-drive” right here… :(

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Well you’re certainly entitled to an opinion, but try hydroplaning in poor weather conditions other than a slight drizzle. Oh and while you’re at it bring one of your RWD sticks to Pittsburgh, try living in our wonderful driving metropolis for a year including the bad winters complete with frequent ice with little to no salt on most roads. I’ll be sure to call you a wrecker when you end up in a ditch.

          Take a look at this road and ask yourself how would you’d fair on it in winter with a stick and RWD. Its two miles from here. Steepest public street in the US.

          http://en.wikipedia DOT org/wiki/Canton_Avenue

          • 0 avatar
            FuzzyPlushroom

            I’d much rather have a stick in inclement weather, actually… greater ability to start from a stop, not to mention slow down, without forcing the computer to get involved. I’d certainly insist on dedicated snow tires, though.

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            Is Canton Ave representative of Pittsburgh, or an unusual road?

            Unless I lived on that and had to drive it, I’m pretty sure I would look for an alternate route in a snow storm – regardless of what I’m driving.

            Snow tires help tremendously, though I’ve certainly never driven on anything like that in the snow.

            I’m not sure if a manual matters – in slippery conditions, if you lose momentum in the middle of that hill in any car, you are in trouble.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Parts of Pittsburgh resemble this road (the parts I’m from and live in certainly do) but it can vary in diff parts of the city.

            There is a similar but more widely traveled road nearby called Crane Avenue that I have almost lost control of my auto Saturn a few times in winter. Fortunately there is a longer, flatter, way around that road but for some roads such as Canton, there may not be an alternate route. The South Hills presents some driving fun, hence my reluctance to drive a 5-speed around here, at least one as a DD.

          • 0 avatar
            BobAsh

            Well… I have never had any problems with aquaplaning, and yes, I have driven (and hooned) more than my fair share of RWDs in rain, snow or on ice.

            Driving a fast, fun RWD in rain is much more fun, as rains brings the limits of grip much lower and enables you to do things that would otherwise be totally stupid in relative safety – e.g. Hyundai Genesis V6 is a prime example of a car that’s most fun on water. It doesn’t work very well when driven really fast on dry roads, but it’s immense fun to drift it in the rain – and you can do it in quite safe speeds. Snow is even better. Every time it snows here and I have some RWD at my disposal, I take it drifting before it melts.

            As for unintentional loss of grip/traction in the rain, I can’t imagine it in a modern car with modern tires, unless you are doing stupid things or going stupidly fast. Ze Germans drive zeir M5s and M3s at 100+mph on the highways in the rain, and they don’t die because of it.

            Also – five speed is much easier to control in any adverse condition than automatic (any kind of automatic). Manual transmission doesn’t shift when it wants to, and it has a clutch to help you controlling things. Try to unstuck the car in snow with automatic and manual – a HUGE difference.

            If you lost control with your automatic Saturn anywhere and it made you too scared to drive a manual, you probably never had any control of the car in the first place.

            Also, if typical road looks like Canton Ave, and it snows, you need AWD. If there’s ice, you are fucked, unless you have tracks. To be honest, I would be scared to WALK icy road steep like that.

            On the other hand, I have driven RWDs in hilly areas and even small mountains during winter. It’s not great for going up the hills (unless it has engine in the back or really good tires), but you can make it work. And I was driving old cars with shitty tires. New car with good tires will work anywhere, unless you are stupid. And unless you are going to some ski resort.

            Also, if you need TC in low grip, you can’t drive. ESP can be and is really wonderful and useful technology. TC is something I switch off every time in every car that allows it. In normal situations, it’s annoying. On snow or ice, it makes you go nowhere.

      • 0 avatar
        SoCalMikester

        If he gets in now and the SHTF, it might be a long fall, breaking his own.

        I waded in late 2008 when F was selling for a couple bucks. If only id invested the whole nest egg, i could have conceivably become a hundredthousandaire!

      • 0 avatar
        Power6

        We get more avg rainfall in Boston than Seattle does. Still plenty of dry days here.

    • 0 avatar
      cloudsymphony

      OP Here:
      First off thanks Sajeev and Steve for the quick response. I will definitely go test drive new, I like the Focus ST a lot. I just dont like the idea of being in debt in case I lose my job. My parents wont send debt collectors after me if I fall on hard times.

      Just a little bit of background since I seem to becoming off as entitled. That was not my intent at all. I am graduating from The University of Texas with a degree in Business. I have worked every semester/summer since my freshman year of college. I will be working for one of the two big tech firms in Seattle. You can guess which one. I will admit that I am very luck that my parents paid for my education. If they had not I would not be looking at buying a car, I would be paying back my debt. The first car I bought was a Nissan 240sx so I have been itching for something RWD in my life. Hope that clears up any confusion.

      • 0 avatar
        jeffzekas

        Funny, this subject came up the other day- you see, my brother bought a brand new M3, and “it has been trouble since the day I bought it.” Also, two of my kids have owned used BMW 3-series, which are guaranteed to “break down and cost you $1,000 ever time”. Best bet: Avoid Beemers, unless you want to get to know the local tow truck drivers on a first name basis.

        • 0 avatar
          burgersandbeer

          Just to clarify, E46s and E39s are not likely to leave you on the side of the road. They do have high running costs, but mostly from replacing more balljoints, bushings, mounts, and more rubber pieces than you ever imagined a car could have. Combine this with high parts costs, and it can get expensive. For the majority of the problems you are likely to see, the car remains driveable.

          • 0 avatar
            BMWnut

            A BMW will usually get you to the repair shop where the real hurt will begin. Except for those once-in-a-lifetime very rare occurences when bad karma comes your way, that is. It only happens when the bearing in the power steering pump expires, the radiator explodes in a cloud of steam, the alternator stops circulating electrons, the fuel pump refuse to send fuel to the engine or a blown head gasket causes an extreme misfire. In my case owning a 325i (E46) and a 530i (E39) at the same time means that I know the tow truck guys very well.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    Pay all that money for a crappy used car that’s going to drive you financially broken in maintaining it….

    I was in the same position your were 4 years ago. I got a used diesel powered SUV. Practical, comfortable for trips, and decent on fuel. Basically, at that time I was going for as practical as possible to get me going in my life.

    About a year after that I got a much better job, a great girl, and once we started to get going (two years I bought my Jeep) I went out and got the fun sporty coupe; just a basic, but brand new, 12′ V6 Mustang. It’s been a great car, great and gas, reliable, fun. It doesn’t have the snob appeal of a BMW; but that’s a plus in our eyes.

    It’s hard to claim you’re being stupid/foolish without a look at your income and budget (which isn’t our business). You’re obviously trying too hard to buy the coolest car you can, which, a lot of girls (the good ones you actually can settle down with in a few years) aren’t going to find that appealing. Plus, for that much, you could a decent new car, that’ll last you several years, not hammer your budget every month with repairs.

    Oh, and that RX-8? What an awful piece of shit. A friend of mine had theirs bought back by Mazda after a year of pretty much sitting in the dealer. The BMW’s aren’t much better either.

  • avatar
    Michael S.

    A sporty hatch would be the sweetspot. A used MazdaSpeed 3 would be far more reliable and practical than any of the top-shelf units he listed, not to mention the much lower TCO.

    Everyone I knew in college that had a coupe got rid of it not long after their entry into the real world. Lancer Evos, Scions, WRXs, and even Mustang GTs gave way to Escapes, Tacomas, Accords, and Priuses (Prii?). The former are all fine and dandy when you don’t have to pay your own bills, or at least most of them. The latter are far more practical once you are the one on the hook for all of your insurance (health, home, car, life), phone, electric, water, rent/mortgage, etc. Be frugal until you’re established. You’ll thank yourself later.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      +1 on the ‘speed 3.

      And forget the mom and pop financing, I am pretty sure they won’t be reporting your stellar payment history to the credit bureaus. Get dealer financing, mazdausa.com says they are offering 0.0% for up to 60 months. If your parents want to help you they can co-sign.

      • 0 avatar
        thelaine

        Another +1 on speed 3. Just try it. It is a little rocket. You will have a blast with it. Good value for the performance you get.

        • 0 avatar
          dolorean

          Considering the choices you given above, and the Speed3 is a great choice, may I suggest the following? Mazdaspeed 6, SVT Focus, Saturn Astra XR 3 door or if you can find one in decent shape, Ford Contour SVT. All give you a freakin’ sweet time heel-toeing, have enough grits to get breakfast going, nice leather seating, and are easy enough to work on and modify.

          Great cars. Great fun. However, really, REALLY look them over before you buy one. Ensure that some pimple-head hadn’t raced it near to death and that that bane of most of these cars, el Monstruo de óxido, hasn’t started munchin’ on the underside and rear.

          • 0 avatar
            Kyree S. Williams

            I wouldn’t recommend an Astra because of the relative lack of parts, but the others you mentioned seem like solid choices….

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Astra is certainly rare, but there were only 11,445 SVT Contours even built. Focus would be my choice in that lot.

            http://en.wikipedia DOT org/wiki/Ford_Contour

  • avatar
    Sundowner

    Let me explain something to you about Seattle and car choices:
    you want something small, becuase you can’t park anything big anywhere.
    you want something with an automatic, becuase the traffic will destroy both your clutch and your left hip if you get a stick out there. (and this advice is coming from a hard-core stick enthusiast)
    AWD is a nice to have in the area becuase there’s so much great cold mountain weather fun to be had.
    a wagon or hatch is a nice to have becuase you aren’t going to afford a house in Seattle on a first job, and you’ll likely move a few times until you hone in on a neighborhood you like.
    I’d strongly recommend that you avoid all your choices. Even if they were reliable, they’re prime targets for hipster hate and will not be treated kindly.

    Really, I’d recommend that you ‘go native’ and get a Subaru or Audi wagon.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Sound advice.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      I think you are stereotyping Seattle. We don’t know anything about his future job or where he wants/can afford to live. There are lots of us in the Seattle area that don’t work in Seattle proper and may not have to deal with the worst of the traffic. So a MT isn’t necessarily going to be a terrible choice for him.

      I’d also disagree that there is going to be the target of “hipster hate” because he is driving a BMW, at least no more than he would driving an Audi.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Not up on hipsters, but the few I have encountered seem to be pretty mellow and out there. It would surprise me if these folks really dialed up hate on anyone.

    • 0 avatar
      greaseyknight

      MT vs Auto is all in where you work/drive. Seattle is one big mashup of hills with lots of stops/starts that are very steep. The rest of the state has lots of hills but nothing that would be unusually harmful to a MT.

    • 0 avatar
      mannygg

      Statements like this crack me up :)

      Unless you are disabled, geriatric or terminally lazy, there is absolutely no reason to not get a MT anywhere. Somehow the majority of the world’s population (including Europeans) manage to live in dense cities without driving Autos.

      There are many so good reasons to get a MT (especially in an older car, especially if you live in a hilly area) that it is a no-brainier!

      Op – your legs will be fine and your clutch will be fine. Driving a MT and living in a city is easy.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Please define “hilly”. Ever been on a 60 degree hill at a light with the locals right on your ass? What happens when you drift back when you engage the clutch?

        • 0 avatar
          mannygg

          Isn’t that what the handbrake is for? Even without it, you shouldn’t be drifting backwards. It is pretty easy to ride the clutch a bit in that situation though.

          Only car i’ve driven that was actually hard to not stall on a hill start is a 2012 Opel Astra diesel. Absolute piece of s**t engine. Nothing below 2000rpm (in a diesel!) and then WHOOSSHHH goes the turbo.

          I still stand by the fact that a MT is not a real setback ever. I’ve seen large trucks doing hill starts on Norwegian icy mountain roads, so an m3 should be able to handle it ;)

          • 0 avatar
            Russycle

            I love driving stick. Except in Seattle. Seriously, it has some crazy steep hills, with traffic lights right in the middle of them. If I had to navigate them every day, I’d probably go automatic.

          • 0 avatar
            -Nate

            The simple fact is : not every one can or wants to be that proficient with the clutch .

            I grew up on old stick shifts , in the steep hills , in the rain , snow and mud , on mis matched bias ply tires that were more often than not worn out and I never had any roll back issues but those dayze are long gone , even the Hot Rodders these days want ice cold AC and fuel injection , no wonder slushboxes out sell stick sifts like 10 to 1 .

            The best advice here was ” marry the -RIGHT- Woman ” (or Man if I have to be P.C.) ~ this part took me into my fifties and the front page of the L.A. newspaper but in time , I figured this simple thing out .

            She’s not even a Car Person and doesn’t like to go fast but , she supports whatever
            vehicle rings my bell at any given moment.

            Best of luck with the new J.O.B. and life , cars are a dime a dozen , have fun playing .

            -Nate

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          Alternatively, you could learn how to not roll back with a stick-shift. I somehow manage (even without using the handbrake) on the steepest hills in San Francisco on the occasions I drive into the city, and often with someone too close to my back bumper.

          Berkeley has better traffic control on hills, however, from what I understand — I almost never drive there, but a friend of mine mentioned it. In SF, they’ll put a stop sign at the top of the hill. In Berkeley, they’ll have no stop signs in the uphill direction (effectively a 3-way stop, one-way right of way, at a 4-way intersection), and all other directions will have a sign that says something like “Opposing traffic does not stop”.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Heck, both my BMW and FIAT have built in hill hold on the brakes – they CAN’T roll back on hills.

            Not that I have ever had an issue, and I have driven a manual transmission ’79 Peugeot 504D all around San Francisco. Never been to Seattle, but it can’t possibly be any worse than that.

    • 0 avatar
      dude500

      As a prior Puget Sound resident, I have to second the notion that your new community won’t look favorably on a “pretentious” BMW or other outward shows of wealth (even though that is also pretentious thinking). It is not a “hipster” thing, Seattleites don’t like the perception of wealth. You will probably get less luck with the ladies with a BMW, and many of them will feel uncomfortable being seen in one of them. On the other hand, they will commend you for a sensible choice like a Camry.

      If you do want to get them excited, buy a 4-Runner or XTerra and put a roof rack and hitch on it, because while SUV means pollution, roof-rack and towing means biking in the mountains, skiing, sailing or other outdoorsy activities. Better yet, get a Subaru (more outdoors, less SUV). That will get the ladies.

    • 0 avatar
      ExPatBrit

      As a fellow Seattle resident I agree, unless you are willing to buy an extra set of rims and install some good winter tires on the BMW you may fall off the road unless you drive it like it’s an Avalon.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    Fun, sporty, manual, reliable, $20K?

    Why not a showroom-fresh Mazda3 hatch?

    • 0 avatar
      Luke42

      If you remove “sporty” as a requirement, a a new Nissan Cube or Kia Soul would fit the bill.

      they’re also useful for moving, and hauling kids (which could happen within the lifetime of the car).

      Also, our Prius has turned out to be one of those “good life decision” kinda cars. A used one with 100k on it, from a typical Prius owner, is likely to last a long time and only cost about $10k. It’s a car that’s more fun to own that it is to drive, but you can buy a $5k hobby sports car, which would let you have lots of fun, get to work every day, and come in below budget.

      Oh, yeah, the advice I would give my younger self that isn’t about women is to start using those electronic budgeting tools earlier.

      • 0 avatar
        wsimon

        If you are looking for the best financial situation, I am going to second the Prius. I have an 05′ Prius, and although it is terrible to drive, it is in the lowest insurance bracket, cheapest on fuel, and simply does not break down. From what I have seen, it has the lowest running costs of any modern car sold on this side of the Atlantic, not to mention that with the hatchback it can actually move things (and it doesn’t hurt that you won’t care when someone parks by sound and hits it, something very appreciated in an urban parallel parking environment).
        Granted, if you can’t stand that boring of driving dynamics, something like an Infiniti G35 or Acura TL is probably a good compromise, more reliable than the Germans and have high depreciation, so late model ones in good condition fall into the $15k price range. Personally, if the badge doesn’t matter, a new stick-shift Focus would be my choice for $15k. Unfortunately, I will be graduating with debt (at least two graduate degrees worth, I’m considering a third) so I can’t really consider an old BMW.

    • 0 avatar
      redav

      I bought a Mazda hatch/wagon right when I left college; it was a fantastic decision. It may not be as ‘sporty’ as he wants, but the versatility is invaluable. A hot hatch like the Speed3 or Focus ST would be a great way to get both, but IIRC both of those cost too much new.

      But to take things in a different direction, if he wants sporty, fun, & a certain ‘I have arrived’ flair, the new 6 could be good a choice. The base model with manual starts just over $20k, so it’s near the ballpark if still a bit high.

      • 0 avatar
        JD23

        I bought a new 6 when I graduated college and it was a great decision. I got a very good deal on it – $16.5k for a $21k MSRP car – and kept it for a 6.5 years, a time that included five years of grad school and my first job out of school. It was very reliable, practical, and inexpensive to own. Although underpowered, it was also enjoyable to drive compared to the Camcords.

        I’ll agree with everyone else and say that the older BMWs could be fun as a weekend car, but not as a primary form of transportation.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    If you can afford it, get the Toyobaru thing or a V6 Mustang or Challenger. Or go all the way V8. But try to get the new car.

    Those used cars you want can be better left as project/weekend cars. If you get one, get it at a good price, enjoy it thoroughly and then sell it. I can put money in that they were your “heroes” at some point in your earlier years. Mines are (still :-S) the E34 M5 or 525i, C4 Corvette, MKIII Golf, GM Saabs, 92-96 Corolla/Camry/Celica, Soarer, Supra, 1st gen LS400, 3rd Gen Firebird, Chevy B-body (whale or not)… I could go on and on.

    You will eventually get to the conclusion that the DD has to be: 1) reliable, 2) have low running costs, 3) be a nice drive and 4) you must like the thing (looks, interior, gadgets, equipment).

    Good luck!

  • avatar
    -Nate

    All good if not gentle real world replies here , I hope you take heed before you make a big mistake ~ there will always be sporty cars for you to enjoy later .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    cgraham

    Don’t listen to any of these people – go drive the cars that you want, and buy the one that you like the most.
    You have the rest of your life to drive something boring. A V6 accord has plenty of power but it will slowly suck at your soul until you are in your middle age and decide you should own a motorcycle. Get what you want now to get it out of your system.
    I was in your same situation out of college and decided to buy a fast car instead of a good car. I am done with it now (5 years later) since life has changed, but buying a car doesn’t sound like a lifetime commitment to you, so dabble in the dark side just so you know what it feels like – otherwise you’ll be full of regret.

    • 0 avatar
      mannygg

      +1
      So many people offering boring options (mazda 3? mazda 2? diesel SUV!?!). If you want a sports car or sports sedan, buy one. Some people seem to forget that mundane considerations like ultimate practicality or reliability are not the only deciders for car buyers, especially enthusiasts.

      Hopefully you get some good suggestions for actual fun cars you haven’t considered yet! I would also suggest a Honda S2000, WRX or, if something bigger an Audi RS4.

    • 0 avatar
      Russycle

      No. Just no. I have nothing against fun, interesting money pits, but we can safely assume this will be the poster’s sole mode of transportation, and he’ll be living in an apartment, meaning he won’t be doing any wrenching himself.

      Get a new, reasonably fun, reasonably cheap car that will get you 50-100K trouble free miles, and save yourself more aggravation than you want to imagine. Once you get the house in the burbs, then you can think about picking up a toy for a second car.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        This is precisely what I am trying to do, but we all have heard the siren song of the [insert dream car here].

      • 0 avatar
        DenverMike

        I hear what you’re saying, but OK, if I had to recommend “new” for this kid, I have to go with the regular cab, stripper Toyota Tacoma.

        Under $18K, 2 seater, RWD, 5-speed ‘stick’, standard limited-slip and cloth interior.

        The TRD catalog offer parts to help it ‘handle’ or soften the rear jounce, if you don’t mind losing payload.

      • 0 avatar
        SoCalMikester

        Maybe he will meet up with a chick in a smart car, buy a golf, then move to nawlins?

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      +1

      There is no reason a carefully bought M3 can’t be a reliable daily driver. I know several folks in exactly that configuration. They ARE expensive to run, but not ridiculously so. A cheaper but almost as fun choice would be a 330i ZHP. But any of your top three are fine as long as you fully expect the occasional big bill. Don’t let this bunch of panther-loving tightwads defer you from buying a car YOU will enjoy. Heck, when I was a wee lad just getting started I lived in a downtown apartment and owned two Peugeots and a Spitfire! Still have that Spitfire…

      But your best bet is to take advantage of this fresh start and choose a wise place to live so that you don’t HAVE to depend on the car. Get a place close to good public transit, and keep the city from eating your toy. The best way to enjoy any car is to not have to absolutely depend on it.

      • 0 avatar
        Felix Hoenikker

        Panther loving tightwad!

        Hey. I resemble that remark!

      • 0 avatar
        jeffzekas

        “There is no reason a carefully bought M3 can’t be a reliable daily driver”- more proof that Beemer drivers are delusional. Even the BMW blog site says, “Set aside $3,000 to $4,000 a year for maintenance.” Case closed. For me, having fun is DRIVING a car– which will happen very little when your BMW is in the shop constantly. BTW, my youngest son called me yesterday- his 3-series is in the shop (AGAIN) having the radiator replaced (which stranded him– again– leaving him without a car to get to work in). After 2 years of owning the “ultimate driving machine”, he is selling the German Moneypit From Hell and buying a Toyota truck! BTW: I have noticed something lately: all the Porsche drivers and new BMW drivers are, for the most part, a bunch of old guys between 40 to 50 years old. Why? Because it takes that long before you can AFFORD an unreliable, expensive, silly car for driving “fun”. Forget fun. Go practical. You can have fun RENTING an exotic car for a weekend- and then, turn it back in, and be happy, unstressed, and debt free!

  • avatar
    kyngfish

    I bought a used AMG. It wasn’t 20k, but it was still used. I searched and waited until I found something well-maintained with low mileage. Best car I’ve ever owned. Yes at some point it’s cost me a bit in repairs, but I can do the general maintenance, change brakes, fluids, fool with electrical components and etc and that’s saved me some money, there have been some electrical issues, but overall the thing has been a peach, and at around 365 lb/ft of torque, it kicks some serious ass. It was 100 % worth it. Great thing is, after the initial depreciation, it doesn’t really drop that quickly so in a pinch I can still sell it for a good amount of cash.

    If you can pay back a 20k loan within a year, and you’re willing to be adventurous with a wrench. I think you’ll be fine. Although I don’t think you can get a clean E46 or E39 in that price range.

  • avatar
    Windy

    Two items jump out at me.
    1. debt free… that is wonderful but you need to start building a credit history so forgo the interest free loan from Dad or use it as a down payment on a new car to get your monthly payment where it needs to be or use it to furnish your first apartment in the great northwest wet and go for a new Mazda 3 or the like: avoid the BMW M cars until you can manage a 2ed car as a toy. A new car with the bumper to bumper warranty offered for the first few years will remove and worries about having transport that works every time you start it… keep the loan term down to 3 years and plan on keeping the car for 6 to 8 years. Honestly your status in your new town and job will not be linked to the type of car you drive it will be linked to you as a person.

    2. at your age you will pay through the nose for the insurance on a M class sort of car, so once again look at a nice new Mazda 3 or the like… if it has to be German Design then look at offerings from VW or Audi and if BMW engineering is your must have consider one of the many MINI offerings or a 1 series BMW.

    Extra thought: when you apartment hunt look for a place with covered parking or house share a place with a garage this will help with your insurance as well as keep the cry in better shape for later resale in that climate.

  • avatar
    mkirk

    If you can go without the back seat, I like a Miata (with the Power Hard Top for the Pacific Northwest). Great size for the city, reliable, and should satisfy your sporting urge easily on your budget. I like the stick, but the auto isn’t bad, especially in the city.

    You want fun to drive, but you need reliable so you can focus on your new job.

  • avatar
    chaparral

    If he’s thinking about a $20,000 car coming out of college, he’s probably an engineer. You don’t have to consider the needs of a future wife and kids in this car purchase – it’s too unlikely in the next five-ten years.

    For the car itself, I recommend the reliable American machinery – Corvettes and 4th-generation Camaros. My C5 has been easy to maintain even on a graduate-student budget.

    If four real seats are needed, the Subaru Impreza WRX STi is the best of them all – not fragile like an Evo, not boring like a six-cylinder Accord. It might not be as cheap as a Civic to maintain, but it’s no BMW.

  • avatar
    Astigmatism

    I’m surprised that nobody’s told you to get a Panther yet – if you believe the B&B, a 1994 Mercury Grand Marquis with stiffer springs is clearly the best car ever made for anyone in any situation.

    That said, if you want car advice, rather than (i) life advice, (ii) people yelling at you, or (iii) people telling you what car they drive and why you should drive it too, your situation actually seems pretty easy. You apparently want the opposite of the Avalon you’ve been driving, would like something with a bit of cool-car appeal, and don’t mind spending money you haven’t yet earned on problems that haven’t yet cropped up. Skip the clutch-frying, oil-guzzling, already-been-abused BMWs, for the love of God. But if you’re moving in with a roommate who has an SUV and is willing to share it, then go test drive the BR-Z and see if you can deal with the drone (make sure you get a good 20 minutes on the highway in the test drive).

    I’d personally recommend a new GTI, which you can happily enjoy under warranty, can throw snow tires on in the winter and make it up into the hills, can fit a week’s worth of bags in the back for you and a girlfriend or road trip buddy, and which feels like a much, much nicer car on the inside than anything else in your price range.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “I’m surprised that nobody’s told you to get a Panther yet – if you believe the B&B, a 1994 Mercury Grand Marquis with stiffer springs is clearly the best car ever made for anyone in any situation”.

      Change that to a 2004 LSE model and you’d be accurate. I suspect that since this guy is shopping BMW M cars and RX-8s, he’s not interested in practicality or reliability, so no one has bothered to go there.

      • 0 avatar
        hubcap

        “…he’s not interested in practicality or reliability, so no one has bothered to go there.”

        Allow me to rephrase…

        “He’s not interested in a rolling piece of shat, so no one has bothered to go there.”

        My good deed for the day is done.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Hey now, some would argue those Bimmer choices represent a rolling piece of shat. Although in this case I’d argue against the Panther due to size, fuel economy, and lack of traction control (in the endless rain).

          • 0 avatar
            Scoutdude

            Traction control has been available on Panthers since the Aero age. True not all of them have it but it was available and it is not hard to find one so equipped.

            However the key to traction in the rain is all about the tires not which wheels are driven or if they have traction aids. Cheapo all seasons do not work well in the rain, UHP or Max performance tires that are at or near the top of their class in wet traction are the way to go for most if not all of the year in “Seattle” depending on where exactly you live in the Seattle area.

            Real world MPG a Panther is probably better than the RX8 and in the same ballpark as an M5 if not better.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I wasn’t aware, thank you for clarifying.

    • 0 avatar

      That’s because Panthers are always the best advice. Too bad I can only repeat that mantra so many times.

      • 0 avatar
        Windy

        The new Mobil one add with the taxi fleet owner repurposing ex police panthers as cabs and his personal car must be from an add agency where someone reads ttac

        ► 1:02► 1:02
        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfQok4DZvhs
        4 days ago – Uploaded by OfficialMobil1
        This cruiser has been through it all. But, the mechanic expects that with Mobil 1 the car is just …

      • 0 avatar
        chaparral

        Are all these Panther recommendations in jest?

        I completely don’t get the point of a big-on-the-outside, smaller-than-a-Neon-on-the-inside car that drives like a worn-out half-ton pickup truck and gets barely acceptable fuel economy on the freeway. Sure, it might not cost much to maintain, but neither would a Mazda2 or 3 and they don’t show up on every car recommendation thread.

  • avatar
    SomeGuy

    Used Mustang GT. Don’t bother with BMWs until you get a garage and can afford a second car for when it breaks.

    You’re welcome.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I’d say this would be a good choice if the OP can put aside the brand snobbery. A later model Mustang GT will offer all the thrills of a BMW M in the same price range, but will have much better reliability on it’s side.

      • 0 avatar
        kyngfish

        My brother has a mustang…I’ll reserve my judgement until I’ve driven a BOSS 302, but the damn cabin in my brother’s mustang sounds like it’s falling apart and the GTs in a sub-20k range also are of the 300hp variety…

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          You can find 5.0L GTs for around 20k now, but you’re right that most under 20k are the 4.6L 3v. Still, no one should scoff at that as those cars aren’t that much slower than the 5.0L, still handle well with the right package and offer a lot for the money.

          4.6L 3V GT will offer the same amound if thrill as the BMWs OP mentioned and will be FAR faster and more reliable than an RX-8.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Just curious where are those 5.0 GTs and what kind of mileage/previous hooning does 20K buy you these days?

            The Ford dealer closest to my appt, reads three ’11 GTs (one a conv) at 25,900 @ 13K , 26,900 @ 16K and 28,900 @ 22K.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      28, There are some private sales out there in the 22k range with ~30k miles. Not loaded cars, but 5.0L/6 speed manual. What more do you need?

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I haven’t really looked into it, I was just curious maybe on other parts of the country they were much cheaper.

        I have a friend who is toying with the idea of dealing his ’07 GT auto / 16K otc to me, trouble is I’m not really set up for it being in the appt with no garage and all. In my mind, if you can spend another say 5 grand and get the 5.0 vs ye old 4.6L Mod, spend the five grand, hence my interest.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          I try and keep an eye on what’s out there as a Coyote GT is on my list. I’ve seen some private sales with higher than average mileage being listed in the rock bottom 20k range and they seem to disappear quickly. So people know the value they’re getting.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I think it depends on the condition of those high mileage cars. A 2014 base GT starts at $30,900, if you can drive it 30K a year (constant travel for work?) for three years and then get 20Kish out of it, I’d say you did well. But on the flip side if you spend $20K for a 90K car, when you could spend 25ish for a sub 25K example, you spend the 5 grand and are foolish to buy the high mileage one, IMO. The market is overpaying at that price point, at 12-15 I might bite.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            The 2003/4 Cobras run approx $20K with 50K miles.

            400 supercharged HP in Fox body? Tremec 6-speed?

            http://www.lemonfree.com/cars/used-for-sale-Ford.Mustang/trim-Cobra/location-Inglewood–CA/year-2003.2004

            http://cgi.ebay.com/ebaymotors/2003-svt-cobra-mustang-/261215035047

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            @Denver

            That’s an ’04 and ten years old, plus its the MN-95 which depending on your opinion is a plus or minus.

            Did the Cobra run a different engine than the GT? Other than the packaging I wonder if it was any different.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            @28 – They have a DOHC 4.6 with all-forged internals. Yeah, way different than the GT… They’re cranking up the ‘heat’ on these things to over 1,000 HP, stock bottom end.

            Of course you would seek the unmolested and low mi., but most were likely driven carefully in hopes of it going up in value.

            Either way, this kid is ready to dive into a same vintage BMW..

            Also, just a ‘pulley and tune’ gets you over 450 HP and yeah, it can take much more!

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I know a bit about 3800 tuning just because I have one and have had them in the past, but I was not aware the 4.6 Mod could be made into such a monster.

          • 0 avatar
            DenverMike

            The beauty of it is you can beat on all day, without holding back. I mean, 450 sc HP in a lightweight Fox means it’ll easily pull away from anything common to the street, and for the foreseeable future.

            That compressor whine♫ is like no other. Except for the Lightning.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          I havent seen any ’11+ GTs with 90k miles on them. By higher mileage, I mean 30-40k miles, with a particular depreciation hit coming at 36k when the basic warranty expires.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Sorry for the confusion, 40K is not high miles to me. An ’11 base GT/40K otc for 20K does seem like a nice proposition.

  • avatar
    carnick

    I’m completely with cgraham on this one. Now is the time in your life to drive something that is a little fun. If you are just graduating, you don’t have a spouse/kids/oppressive mortgage yet. Those will come soon enough, but probably not for a few years. Once you get there, then I agree with the other posters that you will *need* something practical, reliable, etc. etc. that will probably be as much fun to drive as operating a dishwasher. Then, if you’re lucky (have a supportive spouse, make enough money, etc.) you can get a second fun car – in about 20 years, when there may not be too many left (due to escalating fuel prices and environmental regulations).

    So, within some reasonable limits, why not have some fun now? I would lean more towards your desires at this point. You do need something reliable to get you to work on time every day, otherwise that excellent job will become a sweet summer memory. But you’re 21, not 41 – it’s not yet time to sell your soul for completely boring soul-destroying pure practicality.

    In the interests of full disclosure, I am a complete rotorhead, so obviously my comments will be biased – as will everyone’s, based on their personal past experiences and preferences. I wouldn’t recommend any BMW in your price range, because what you will get is something with over 100,000 miles that will bleed you dry in maintenance costs. I’ve owned BMW’s, most are great fun to drive – but they can be horrendously expensive to maintain. They are a great car to have – as long as it’s still under the factory warranty. After that, watch out. Particularly the sporty ones you want will have been thrashed to death before you get it. You will find yourself writing 4-figure checks to the dealer every month to keep it on the road, and the brag value of driving a ‘beemer’ will quickly wear thin.

    Being a long-time rotorhead, I would suggest looking for a low-mileage RX8. Thanks to jaw-dropping depreciation, in your price range you could probably find one of the last ones built with under 10,000 miles. Most people that bad-mouth wankels are armchair critics who haven’t actually owned one. I’ve had 4 in my life, and used a RX8 (which I bought used) as my daily driver for 4 years. The one and only time it left me stranded was in a record-breaking blizzard that dumped over 2 feet of snow, and I stupidly tried to drive home on its OE summer-only Pirelli P Zero tires.

    With a little attention to basic maintenance (such as, check the oil level religiously at every fillup), the RX8 can indeed serve as reliable daily transportation – up to a point. While there are a number of owners on the RX8forum that have over 100,000 miles on their original engines (and a few with over 200,000), I would agree that once the engine gets past around 70,000 miles, you’ll want to have something else to rely on.

    Which will probably be around the time you may need the minivan/station wagon etc. if a spouse and children are on the horizon. Until then, the RX8 will be one of the most special cars you will have ever owned. It is a true driver’s car, directly hard-wired into your central nervous system. It’s a low-budget exotic, and every drive will feel special. Plus, it has sort-of 4 doors, and a reasonable back seat to transport your friends (for short distances), though even with all-season or snow tires, you’re not going to be driving into the mountains to go skiing.

    You either get the RX8 or you don’t. It’s one of the most polarizing, and passionate, cars out there. Now may be the last chance to get a nearly-new one for a fraction of its new price. I would suggest taking one for a long test drive, and if you connect with it, buy it, immediately fit all-season tires (so you can at least get around in the city), and enjoy the he!! out of it for a few years.

    The poet John Greenleaf Whittier wrote, ‘for of all sad words of tongue and pen, the saddest are these: what might have been’. There will be plenty of time for you to lead the ‘life of quiet desperation’ in a minivan (paraphrasing Thoreau). We live in a Golden Age of performance cars, but that time may be passing soon thanks to environmental issues and fuel costs. There won’t be any wankels if 54 mpg CAFE kicks in. There will always be performance cars out there for those that can afford them, but for low-bucks fun, it might be ‘last call’. For now, enjoy yourself a little.

    Good luck, and have fun.

    • 0 avatar
      zamoti

      While the actual choice of car is debatable, I agree with the idea that you shouldn’t get something practical.
      Being mid-career, and in the thick of family life, I’m GLAD I bought a Miata when I did. I wrenched on it, had fun with it and then crashed it at a time when it didn’t matter so much. I had a great time (except the crashing part) and don’t regret it at all.
      It was 100% impractical, tiny, silly, made fun of, etc. Who cares about practicality when it’s your first time to step out? As noted by others, there’s plenty of time to drive practical mid-sized boring sedans, crossovers and the like. You don’t have kids, don’t have a house and you don’t have a need for all the baggage that such things require. Get the RX-8, let it break and learn to fix it. Get the Mustang, suck down the gas and put a loud exhaust on it to drown out all the interior rattles everyone complains about.
      Finally, though I’m sure this is entirely the wrong place for this, for the love of God DON’T get a Panther! I know this place loves a Panther, but talk about round peg, square hole. “Hey everyone, I’m considering an RX-8, M3, something fun and fast, etc, whaddya think?” “You should get a fat, bloated turd of a car like a Panther, that’s perfect!” Maybe everyone should recommend a B-body Buick, or a pillow with wheels.
      WTF guys, WTF?!
      TL;DR, go with your gut, get the RX-8, STI, BRZ, Evo, Mustang, M[3,5]. If you need to move, rent a truck. Don’t buy a Panther, it’s NOT always the right answer.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        I don’t see where anyone actually recommended a Panther in this thread. Perceived acts of Pantherism?

      • 0 avatar
        jeffzekas

        If you’re going to recommend an RX-8, why not go all the way, and tell him to buy an Alfa Romeo? “It is not because the truth is too difficult to see that we make mistakes… we make mistakes because the easiest and most comfortable course for us is to seek insight where it accords with our emotions – especially selfish ones.” (Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn)

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      Just so I’m clear, you told him to avoid bimmers due to maintenance costs and then recommended a car where the engine is suspect past 70k miles?

  • avatar
    chaparral

    One wild card:

    You can get a brand-new Mazda 2 for $12,000 or so at some dealers.

    If you want to always have money free for that project car, that CNC lathe that showed up on Craigslist, that ICC shifter kart, then a fun little car that might win the lowest-cost-of-ownership-of-anything derby might be a good idea.

    Same goes for the ’94 Miata that I drove for the first three years of my professional career.

  • avatar
    kkt

    That rain in Seattle is snow in the mountains, an hour’s drive to the east. If you might get into skiing or mountaineering or just want to be able to drive over the mountain passes in the winter without having to put chains on, consider a Subaru or other AWD car, or at least a front-wheel drive car. There’s reasons why they’re so popular here.

    Another suggestion would be a new Mazda3. These will cost much less in maintenance than the BMWs you suggested, let you put money aside for future house down payment, and still be fun to drive.

  • avatar
    jansob

    Looks like you’ve been plenty smart so far, so don’t blow it…you can relax a bit and have fun, but don’t go off the deep end.
    Please oh please oh please listen to the voices of experience. I actually registered just to make this comment….stay away from used high-end German cars until you can afford it as a hobby…they really, really, really are money pits unless your dad owns the dealership.
    A used Miata would be a fabulous driver’s car, and reliable as heck. If you teach a potential Mrs to drive a stick, she will want to keep it and buy a second car should a family be on the horizon.
    If you’re into winter sports, the Subie option is the way to go. Being able to go without worry or tow-trucks is far more impressive to the ladies you want to meet than a nameplate that screams “I love high maintenance relationships”. Relaxed competence (and the extra cash to splurge now and then) will win over a fancy nameplate every time.

    New…will put you in debt. Which you don’t want until your career is a bit more stable.

  • avatar
    Morea

    Of course, the car in the picture is an Alfa Romeo…

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    “I am leaning heavily towards something fun and sporty with a manual transmission. I am looking at cars between 15k and 18k.”

    Honda S2000. All the fun and handling of the RX8, Ms, and Toyobarus without the depreciation and upkeep costs. Worst thing it might need is a new top (although in Seattle you might as well buy a hardtop instead).

  • avatar
    racer193

    If you have the budget buy the rx-8 and set aside a chunk of change for an ls swap. It should be a 180° flip in reliability and it dosnt add enough weight to the car to change its handling charateristics. A good shop and a good kit and the car could be on the road within a week. If emmisions are an issue theres always the e-rod crate straight from gm. You are only young once you may as well have some fun as life slowly catches up and starts to suck some of the fun out of it.

  • avatar
    ant

    I had bad luck with my 04 tsx that I bought used.

    Clutch was toast right when I got it at 70k. then the transmission blew up at 100k. Cost me six grand just with those two items.

    I won’t buy any used cars that are manual and “sporty” anymore.

    I buy new.

  • avatar
    Cubista

    PNW = Subaru territory. Sporty + Manual Gearbox + Subaru = Impreza WRX (nevermind the STI trim…you’re getting WELL out of your budget for that and the differences aren’t worth the boost in cost).

    My recommendation: Any used Subaru WRX from 2009-to present, ESPECIALLY the hatchback. Bonus if you’re able to land a good deal on the 2011 model with the body redesign.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      WRX wagon would be a very nice compromise of sporty and utility. But a new one can cost $30k+ easily. And a used one is more likely than not to be trashed by the previous owner considering its target audience. Tough choices.

    • 0 avatar
      Manic

      Saabaru is the right answer. Also why not Pontiac GTO if RWD is important? Or E90/92 BMW 335 which has same acceleration than E46 M3.

  • avatar
    E46M3_333

    My advice. Don’t ever get married. Then you can drive what ever the heck you want for the rest of your life.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      Here’s some even better advice. Start your own business. What type is really up to you but something that’s easily scalable would be best.

      Work hard, deliver value to your customers, and the money will come.

      Then you can not only drive whatever you want, but you can live wherever you want, float in whatever you want, fly whatever you want and ride whatever you want.

      As a bonus, you can vacation wherever you want.

      To some wanting an “expensive” performance car or for that matter any good the mob has deemed “frivolous” is a stupid and reckless endeavor.

      For others it lights a fire that leads to making more money in a couple of weeks than most people make in a year.

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      ……My advice. Don’t ever get married. Then you can drive what ever the heck you want for the rest of your life……

      My advice, Marry the RIGHT woman. Then you can drive whatever the heck you want for the rest of your life.

      There. Fixed if for you. My wife asks to go for fast rides.

  • avatar
    ajla

    You guys and your new cars. It’s like I’m watching The Price is Right.

    Personally, if I was looking for a BMW, I’d want one with an I6. If I wanted a V8, I’d go S4 or Mercedes.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “Personally, if I was looking for a BMW, I’d want one with an I6. If I wanted a V8, I’d go S4 or Mercedes.”

      I totally disagree. An E-9x M-3, with the V-8, would be my choice. In fact if the OP had more to spend it would be my recommendation. It’s the most reliable BMW of its generation. No direct injection. No turbo. Just a 4 liter, high revvin’, hard charging V-8.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Uh, no, they are not. Any 3 series with the N52 inline 6 is a more reliable and FAR less expensive to maintain car than the M3. Still plenty fast with a manual transmission. Add the BMW Performance intake and exhaust to make it sound much more exciting.

        I will agree that the M3 is probably a better choice than anything with the N54/55 turbo 6 though. Though the difference in cost of entry will pay for a lot of maintenance. And the difference in gas mileage and tire mileage.

        • 0 avatar
          Cubista

          If he wants something sporty, he’s cross-shopping the Toybaru twins, AND he’s seriously considering a BMW, he’s definitely looking at the wrong car in the M3.

          Though my original recommendation of a used Subaru WRX hatchback (preferable years 2009-2011) stands as being the best car for where he’s going, a BMW Z4 is a better choice for a pure sports car than an M3. Probably find one for a good bit less, too. It won’t be as powerful as the M3, but it is a lot lighter. And it doesn’t necessarily have to be ragtop…they probably have a lot more coupes to choose from in Seattle than they do in places where the sun DOES shine more than 30 times a year.

        • 0 avatar
          hubcap

          “Uh, no, they are not. Any 3 series with the N52 inline 6 is a more reliable and FAR less expensive to maintain car than the M3.”

          Agreed. I was focused on the DI, turbocharged engines. N52 powered vehicles will incur less maintenance and running costs when compared to the S65 in the M3.

          That being said, I’d take the M3 with the alacrity of a 17 yr old seconds away from seeing if the carpet matches the drapes.

          • 0 avatar
            jeffzekas

            I suppose if you are comparing BMW with Yugo, then said car would be considered “reliable”. BMW CARS ARE EXPENSIVE, HIGH MAINTENANCE, AND ABSURD– like that mistress my buddy’s dad ran away with, when he was twelve years old. And why is it that only folks who have never owned (and paid for) a Beemer’s maintenance are the only ones to comment favorably on the M3, while ignoring the INSANE cost of owning one? And why do fanboys conceal the true, evil, money sucking nature of German cars? (my other son owned a Jetta, another “fun but always in the shop” kinda automobile).

          • 0 avatar
            burgersandbeer

            jeffzekas – It seems to me the people who are the most consistently vocal in complaining about BMW running costs are the ones that have never owned one themselves, and only have stories from friends or family.

            And you should clean your Caps Lock button. You must have spilled soda or beer on it; it’s sticking.

  • avatar
    Domestic Hearse

    Seattle has access to so much awesomeness. Coastline, wilderness, mountains.

    Do you like the outdoors? Hiking, camping, mountain biking, road cycling, skiing?

    A manual boxed Subaru wagon would be ideal for this country. Back mountain roads, up to snow country, long drives along the coastline with decent economy.

    Another thought, a Jeep. If you get the traditional 2 door, you’ve got a vehicle that’ll park easily in the urban areas (turning radius means it can do a circle on a sidewalk), holds its value as well as any vehicle with very little depreciation, and can get you to all the beauty the Pacific northwest has to offer.

    I’ve moved around all over America, lived in seven states. Each time I arrive someplace new, I go nuts exploring and then find new adventures, new hobbies, interests. Find a vehicle that maximizes your ability to do that. Explore. Experience. Those are the things that count. The vehicle is just the tool that helps it happen.

    • 0 avatar
      Alexdi

      This. There’s so much to do in Seattle and near it. Consider that over the car.

      If you buy one of the BMWs, you’ll find out a few things right away. First, your life can be ruled by possessions. It’s no good to have a nice car if you’re always worried about parking away from people, or washing it, or making sure you friends don’t slam the door too hard. Second, a sedan is not the best practical form factor. Things will always be too big for the trunk. Third, you’ll spend much more time scooting around at low speeds in the city than using that great handling or that power. Big cars and stick shifts are really unpleasant in small spaces. Fourth, the terrible gas mileage and maintenance costs will bother you. You’ll think about getting a motorcycle or using public transit just to avoid driving your money pit.

      I wouldn’t necessarily go with a Jeep per se, but a strong case could be made for a Subaru WRX hatchback or a VW GTi.

    • 0 avatar
      kkt

      For the most part, this is good advice. But I would not really recommend the Jeep (unless you’re into wheeling Jeep trails), because of poor reliability and mileage and lack of comfort on long drives.

      Something with FWD or AWD, with some clearance so you can go in snow or dirt roads.

      • 0 avatar
        Domestic Hearse

        As a former Jeep owner and club wheeling member, I don’t know what poor reliability you’re referring to. Unless you roll yours over on a regular basis. And as for comfort, go try the latest versions of the Wrangler. Very SUV like on the road, and trail capable as always.

        Besides, this young man wants FUN. He’s even willing to buy some expensive used high-maintenance German money pits in search of FUN.

        Put the top down on a Jeep Wrangler on ANY road — city, highway, trail — and you’re having fun. For extra good cheer, put your Border Collie in the passenger seat, decked out in the red handkerchief collar, and park near the beach, and watch all the girls stop by to say hi.

        Just for fun, park next to the dude sitting in his 10-year old BMW. See who attracts more bikini’d attention. HINT: The Jeep wins even without the dog.

        • 0 avatar
          kkt

          Former Jeep co-owner for about three years. Things were constantly going wrong, even though there only about 70K miles on it. The convertible is a mixed blessing too; it’s fun on a nice day but there’s not all that many nice days in Seattle, and they’re a theft risk all the time. If he wants to go wheeling, certainly a Jeep is the way to go, but if he just wants to cross the mountains in winter, do snow sports, or get to trailheads there are much better vehicles.

          • 0 avatar
            SoCalMikester

            A friend had a 91, soft top, zippered windows. impossible to hold a conversation at freeway speed.

            seemed to hold up well, aside from the exhaust manifold cracking once.

            i think he paid $11k in 1992, low mile (under 10k) used. put a new top and windows in right before he traded it in for a new 98 ram. if ida known he was only going to get $5k for it i shoulda bought it.

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          Until they ride in it and see how much it sucks! It must depend on the type of female, as I asked some females about this, and they laughed and had the same response as me:

          http://www.thetruthaboutcars.com/2013/05/generation-why-we-are-not-scion/#comment-2047478

          That dog in any other car might work better.

          Agree on the unreliability of Jeeps too.

  • avatar
    snakebit

    A Mazda RX8? That’s like buying a ’67 TBird four-door that won’t start, Yes, four doors but a back seat really meant as a padded continuation of the trunk, and not for warm-blooded critters.

    A E46 M coupe? I don’t know what’s out there for 20K, maybe think about a non-M coupe with manual and sport seat option.First, if that really is in your top five choices,as has been suggested, get an insurance quote first.
    The combination of BMW, 20yr old driver, and two door car could be very scary to your wallet. If you’re still sold, look for a certified pre-owned car with long warranty, and it won’t hurt to learn of any independent BMW service and parts sources that your new co-workers can tell you about. If all this proves a little too much money, change the one thing that is in your power: how about a E46 four-door?

    If you’re ready to part company with the E46 choice, I love the suggestion of the Focus ST, Mazda3, VW GLI/GTI, I’d add Impreza to the ‘new’ list and first gen Acura TSX(I think 2008 was the last year) with manual or autobox for the ‘used/preowned’ column. And this being Seattle, how about something from London Fog, say, with a lining.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    You have the best opportunity that you will ever have to spend lots of time test-driving everything. Make sure you try out a Mini Cooper-S. Mini’s have high owner satisfaction ratings, they hold their resale value, and women love them. Don’t be seduced by cars with huge horsepower numbers. It’s more fun to drive a slow car fast than a fast car slow.

  • avatar
    slance66

    This advice is sound. “Test drive every sports sedan from a Kia Optima Turbo to a Focus ST, to a VW GLI, to…well every dealership in town”.

    There are tons of sporty affordable cars out there. Don’t forget insurance…on the M3 or M5 it will kill your pocketbook as surely as the car is likely to kill you. I had a Honda Prelude after college in the late 80s. Not fast, but fun to drive and got great mileage.

    It is a great time to have a fun sporty car, but do you really want a v8 RWD pseudo racecar for the wet streets of Seattle? One that is very costly to maintain, insure and fuel? I’d second others who suggested a “hot hatch” Focus ST, 3 Speed or GTI would fit. Or if you must have a BMW, just buy a 2008 328i. It’s a great handling car, plenty fast, room for your buddies in the back, insurance won’t break you and the mileage isn’t terrible.

  • avatar
    duffman13

    As much as I love having a RWD car, I would not recommend it in the PNW unless it was a second car. None of the cars you described are terribly unreliable, but I don’t think I’d trust them at their current mileages as a daily driver either. With a RWD car out there, you’ll absolutely need a second set of snow tires or the winter. FWD and AWD you may be able to get away with all-seasons.

    I recommend you follow a similar path to what I did. Out of college I bought a Acura RSX-S for the compromise in practicality (hatch), most-weather capability (FWD), and sportiness (VTEC, yo.) Something analogous to that now would be a Mazdaspeed 3, Focus ST, or WRX. I would lean towards a WRX limited if I could find one, bonus points for 2011 or newer for the AWD and mountain fun living out there.

    Then I moved to an S2000. I’m currently shopping for a beater to drive to work as well, but I also have a wife who has a useful car.

    • 0 avatar
      snakebit

      I saw the talk about driving in winter, and the mention of the S2000, and had to give my two cents. The combination of winter(read snow) and S2000 is a dangerous one. I was stuck driving home in Boston, on a perfectly level highway five years ago, and found that an S2000 on a level, plowed but snow covered road was the worst driving experience I’ve ever encountered, worse than a late model Mustang, far-far worse than a Miata.
      That being said, in rain or on dry pavement,driving an S2000 is addictive beyond words, so d…n much fun.

      If winter in Seattle is part of your shopping consideration, I’ve had very good luck with my E46 coupe with manual and DSC (traction control)and a full tank of gas to weigh down the rear axle. I’m even passed BMW 5 Series, and you will ,too, as long as you’re sensible about speed and being vigilant for careless drivers around you. If, however, your commute involves taking roads similar to the approach to Mount Baker, you’ll want something like a small SUV or awd crossover.

      • 0 avatar
        burgersandbeer

        Is the S2000 experience with snow tires?

        • 0 avatar
          snakebit

          No, it was with OEM tires front and back, and the two snow situations were commuter rides home when no snow was forecast, and we got short snow bursts 20 minutes or so before leaving for home, leaving just enough slippery stuff to be troublesome. To me, the problem is the wide patch of tread surface the S2000 lays down, really ideal nine months of the year, but a big problem in snow. Doing it again, I’d keep a beater for the bad months, but then, I have a long driveway and a garage, so space is not an issue.

  • avatar
    dude500

    As a prior Puget Sound resident, I have to second the notion that your new community won’t look favorably on a “pretentious” BMW or other outward shows of wealth (even though that is also pretentious thinking). It is not a “hipster” thing, Seattleites don’t like the perception of wealth. And Seattleites are very, very judgmental about this. You will probably get less luck with the ladies with a BMW, and many of them will feel uncomfortable being seen in one of them. On the other hand, they will commend you for a sensible choice like a Camry.

    If you do want to get them excited, buy a 4-Runner or XTerra and put a roof rack and hitch on it, because while SUV means pollution, roof-rack and towing means biking in the mountains, skiing, sailing or other outdoorsy activities. Better yet, get a Subaru (more outdoors, less SUV). That will get the ladies.

    • 0 avatar
      kkt

      It depends on the particular group of people. There are certainly BMWs in Seattle and even more in the suburbs.

      • 0 avatar
        dude500

        “It depends on the particular group of people”

        Yes; those not originally from Seattle.

        • 0 avatar
          corntrollio

          I was thinking that it’s the opposite — the people who aren’t from Seattle are more likely to feel that way about BMWs. Usually the non-natives in places like SF, Seattle, and Portland have the “zeal of the newly converted” thing going on.

          The natives couldn’t give a s**t about hipster douchebaggery.

    • 0 avatar
      onyxtape

      I guess it’s been a while since you’ve been in Seattle. Even old-school neighborhoods (Ravenna, Green Lake, Maple Leaf, Ballard, Fremont) have tons and tons of bling cars rolling around and parked on driveways (along with your Subarus and Volvos). If they all belong to non-natives, then the natives have long gone away…most likely to Portland. Now Portland still exhibits a lot of the anti-money “snobbery” characteristics that you speak of. Not so much Seattle, IMO.

      Not to mention that a lightly-optioned 4-Runner or Xterra costs the same as a 3-series.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    If you’re going to go for a 3-Series in that price-range, don’t get the E46…which is, by my research, the least-reliable and most-costly generation of 3-Series to maintain. If you’re willing to travel, you could definitely find a good E90 for that money—perhaps even a post-LCI one (2009 and later). But be wary of the MY2006 units, because they had some early production issues.

    EDIT: And stay away from the M3s and M5s this early in the game.

    • 0 avatar
      kyngfish

      Wherrrree have you seen an E90 for under 20k? I’ve never ever seen this…

      • 0 avatar
        Kyree S. Williams

        Here you go. All of these are E90 328i models, with under 60K miles, and all under $20K. Keep in mind the fact that the ones that are slightly above 20K can probably be negotiated with the right technique. They’re all over the place, but as I said, if you’re willing to travel…

        http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/searchresults.xhtml?endYear=2011&zip=73162&listingType=used&listingTypes=used&sellerTypes=b&maxPrice=20000&modelCode1=328I&sortBy=derivedpriceASC&makeCode1=BMW&startYear=2006&maxMileage=60000&numRecords=25&searchRadius=0&showcaseOwnerId=588213&captureSearch=true&Log=0

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I would take a look at the new Subaru Forester Turbo. It has AWD, cargo + passenger space, good ground clearance and more than ample power.

  • avatar
    jetcal1

    Manual CTS. Or a late Impala. Both within warranty,

  • avatar
    ctg

    One observation and one piece of advice:

    1) The four cars the questioner listed don’t have much in common… except that they give you HUGE enthusiast cred. This makes me think that he hasn’t actually driven any of them, and is just going by reputation. The M5 and the RX8 are just incredibly different cars. I would echo Sajeev’s advice and drive as many of these cars as possible before honing in. Figure out what you really want.

    If one of these cars really speaks to you, go for it. But I wouldn’t rule out more “ordinary” choices like a Mazdaspeed3, GTI, WRX just because they don’t give you as much internet credibility.

    2) If you do fall in love with an impractical, unreliable car, then go for it. But one thing to consider is that the unreliability doesn’t just affect your budget… it can affect your life. Even if you put away a nice fat car repair fund, having to take your car in for service is a pain. You’ll have to take cabs or bum rides. You’ll worry about getting stranded if you need to take a long road trip. Even if you have an unlimited repair budget it can be really stressful. So of the choices you presented I’d go with a new BRZ/FRS.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    Another RWD car that’s fun and that won’t kill you on maintenance is a G35/G37.

    You could also get a G35/37x for AWD, as some suggest, if you choose.

    But it sounds like you’ll probably end up with a BMW, if you decide not to get a new Toyobaru. I agree with the others that the M will probably kill you on maintenance, and it’s hard not to find abused ones.

    Make sure you can afford the insurance on whatever you get — there are a lot of young guys on the BMW forums who think they can afford a BMW, but when they hoon it into a tree or a telephone pole (the infamous “check this out” as they turn off the traction control…), they can only part it out because they only have liability.

    • 0 avatar
      SoCalMikester

      those would have to be the kids with money? if youre paying on a car note, they require full coverage.

      • 0 avatar
        corntrollio

        It depends. Probably most common is that they have a job they’ve saved money from and live at home, so they have no rent/food expenses (easy to save $10-15K if you don’t have living expenses, plus throw in your trade-in). They may trade in a mommy-purchased car for a 330/335 or an M3. They may get some sort of bonus or inheritance and blow it, etc. It’s the interwebs, so you can’t be certain.

        e46fanatics dot com/forum/showthread.php?t=956234
        www dot m3forum dot net/m3forum/showthread.php?t=376451
        www dot m3forum dot net/m3forum/showthread.php?t=164845&page=2 (this guy had a lienholder, but never checked his insurance statements to make sure he had comp/coll)
        I’ve seen several threads on whether to have insurance or not.

        This one’s my favorite (says other people are jealous because an M3 and they don’t, can’t afford tow, no PPI on a heavily modded car, tries to blame others for speeding tickets, engages in stupid stunts, general douchiness, trying to commit fraud, etc.):
        www dot m3forum dot net/m3forum/showthread.php?t=416546

        In some cases, it’s an older one that probably could get away with not having full coverage if they weren’t otherwise living beyond their means. Most of them put overpriced made in China low-quality wheels on them. It’s basically people who blow every penny they could find under every couch cushion on the BMW, with little left for maintenance/insurance.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    As a fellow Texan , keep in mind that Seattle will be much more expensive to live in. Texas may be run by all hat and no cattle idiots but unlike Washington there is no income tax, and housing in Seattle will be much more expensive . So budget accordingly , I would suggest delaying the car purchase until you are settled in and know what your expenses will be .

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    I’m not sure I understand the question. You admit your three choices are expensive to run and then ask if you are missing something. What else would you be missing? Cost is the downside to those three. If you think you can afford it, and you are willing to pay, who cares?

    Out of the three listed, I think you should give the RX-8 a shot. I haven’t driven one, but it has to be pretty far from an Avalon. Nobody ever complains about the ride or handling in an RX-8. Some see the lack of torque as a negative, but I see it as a plus. You can stomp on it and listen to rotary music without getting into trouble. Or at least not as much trouble as the other two. The M5 is grossly overpowered for daily driving. You will be constantly annoyed at how much power you have that you can’t legally or safely use. I’m pretty sure of this because I’ve driven an E39 540 for the last five years. It spots the M5 112 hp and still has that same problem. The M3 is obviously in between the RX-8 and M5, though closer to the M5

    Speaking of the 540, I’ve done a better-than-average job of tracking my expenses. Compared to your option of going into debt, over a five year run I think a 540 will be slightly more expensive than a $25k new car. This involves some guesswork, such as expecting the new car to be worth about 50% of its original value after five years. It even accounts for new car insurance, though that does narrow the gap. The accounting is more art than science, but I still expect this to be true most of the time. Exception is if you DIY everything.

    Also, I replaced the 540 with an E46 330. So far, the maintenance costs have not been much different. E46 is still pretty expensive. Any used BMW is going to immediately cost about $2k in maintenance before you feel good about using it as a daily. Very few sell these things in perfect working order.

    Just my experience with a couple options you were considering. If you think you can eat the costs of a cars like these, have at it. Remember with a new car, you aren’t stuck with the entire length of the loan. You only have to hold it until its value will pay off the loan. Then you can sell it at any point, like any other car proving to cost too much to run.

  • avatar
    Lorenzo

    Forget the three money pits. A Ford Ranger with a camper shell is the way to go. For those who say now is the time to drive what you want, I disagree. Wait until male menopause sets in, and you’ll appreciate it more then.

  • avatar
    Whuffo2

    No matter what you buy, it’s a depreciating asset. As its value declines, it’ll want repairs, insurance, taxes, etc. Owning a car is more expensive that most give it credit for.

    Things like BMW M cars are all about image; how it makes you look to others. There’s no roads or streets where you can legally use that level of performance, so that’s not a valid reason for purchase. And those fast semi-exotic rides carry huge insurance premiums for the young unmarried male driver. Try asking your insurance agent about the costs of insuring these cars for an eye-watering quote.

    Since you’re just starting out, it’s all bright and shiny in your world. That’s fine, but be more practical and you can still have lots of driving fun. Drop by your local Honda dealer and take a Fit for a test drive. They’re pretty nice, you can buy a new one within your budget, and your fuel and insurance costs will be minimal.

    When you meet the right girl and settle down, the Fit will be a practical family car. Until then, it’s not ugly – but it’s not gold-digger bait either. You don’t need the kind of company a M car would attract. If for no other reason, this is a great one for avoiding expensive looking cars.

  • avatar
    Pat26.2

    I’d go sniffing around VW dealers. The 2012 6-speed manual Turbo Beetle can be had for thousands off. If you don’t want 207 ft-lb of torque at 1700rpm, and 200hp, check out the base model.


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