Thank you for taking the time to read and answer this email, it’s greatly appreciated.
I have a budget of $6k and would like to buy a used car (automatic transmission). I really like the Scion tC models from ’06-’08 (I’m a fan of its smooth curves). Is it worth spending $6k on a car that has ~100k miles? I live in Silicon Valley and most the Scions I’ve seen for sale are in Sacramento or LA; I wouldn’t mind traveling a bit for the right car. By that measure, I love to drive and need a car that can take me all along the West coast as well as the weekly commute and won’t break the bank when it comes to repairs. Am I asking too much of a used vehicle? My 2001 civic made it through 235k miles, and while I prefer to stick to the Honda or Toyota family, am I missing out on a reliable American vehicle?
Again, thank you for the advice.
Back when I used to judge high school solo and ensemble music competitions for money in college, I seriously considered buying a rubber stamp that said “More dynamics.” I mean, every single kid needed to use more dynamic contrast (loud and soft playing), so I literally wrote “More dynamics” on every single judge’s sheet. The stamp would have been a YUUUUGE time saver. After about three months of doing the Ask Bark column, I’ve decided to buy two rubber stamps—one that says “Pontiac Vibe” and another that says “Scion tC.”
I say this not to be (entirely) facetious. There are good reasons that people are attracted to these cars — they’re reliable, they’re functional, and they’re attractively styled. They’re also holding their value like a mother. I sold my 2005 Scion tC for about $9000 in 2008. I could probably get close to that for it today, eight years later.
Let’s address the actual question that Sophia has asked here — is it reasonable to spend about $6,000 on a car with 100K on the clock? Well, it obviously depends on the car. In the case of the tC, it’s a definite maybe. Let me explain.
The tC typically attracted one of two types of buyers:
- A nice young lady (such as you) who just wanted something sporty, fun, and cute to drive.
- A Toyota JDM aficionado who really wanted something like the FR-S, excuse me, Toyota 86, only it didn’t exist yet, so they bought a TRD supercharger and TEIN springs and god-knows-what-else for it. Like this one.
If you find one that was owned by the former, I’d say that 100K on that Toyota 2.4 liter motor shouldn’t be a problem at all. In fact, you should be able to knock out another century of miles and still be in good shape. The tC isn’t a particularly complicated car, and there aren’t many known issues with any of the main components.
However If you find one that was owned by the latter, run away as fast as your little legs can carry you. It’s likely had a hard life. However, since most of the ricer-types preferred stick shifts, I think you’ll be okay.
Now, with all that being said, I did a search for tCs in the Valley, and you’re absolutely right about it being difficult to find one in your price range. In fact, even searching 500 miles out, the options aren’t fantastic — lots of cars with salvage titles, super high miles, damage history, etc. 100K miles might not be to much to ask of a used car, but once we start getting closer to 200K, we’re pushing it a bit.
However, if you bump your budget up to about $8,000, the selection is much better. I would never tell you to stretch yourself beyond what you can really afford, but if it’s only a few more months of saving, you’d be better off with a fresher car. You could also look at some Civic and Accord coupes in that price range, but after several years in a Civic, it sounds like you’re ready for something different.
Are you missing out on something American? Well, unless you consider the Pontiac Vibe to be American (where’s my little stamp?), I’m gonna go ahead and say no. $6K and below doesn’t get a lot of American two-door fun (think Cobalt or unloved-gen Focus). Based on your love of the tC, the only option I’d recommend for you in your price range would probably be a 2005+ V6 Mustang, and I think you’d have better reliability out of the Scion.
So Bark’s final recommendation is that you scrape together a few more bucks and go Scion shopping. By the time you do that, the favorite son brand will be completely dead, which might help drive down prices a bit, as well. I hope you enjoy your tC as much as I enjoyed mine.
Are you looking for some sensible car buying advice? Or, just looking for some justification to spend a lot of money on a purely emotional purchase? You’ve come to the right place! Email Bark at [email protected] or get all up in his DMs on Twitter at @barkm302.