New or Used: The Short and Pokey Commute

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
We’re committed to finding, researching, and recommending the best products. We earn commissions from purchases you make using links in our articles. Learn more here
new or used the short and pokey commute
Brady Writes:

Dear Steve/Sajeev,

I’m a 35 year old physician with wife and 2 kids, who has happily made do with a succession of automatic VW Passat wagons, first a chipped 2000 and now a 2010 I use to reverse commute out of my large metro region. We’ll be moving to the oceanfront suburb of a small New England city this summer and I’ve got to select car #2. My commute will by short and pokey–7 miles each way, some of it along beautiful marshland and ocean, some of it not. Long haul family trips can be done in the Passat, but the second car should safely carry the kids in a pinch. Budget is 30-35k max. I’ve been thinking new v6 mustang convertible, but then again, is it time to invest in the future and, say, lease a volt? Or practical, comfortable fun in a new GTI/Golf TDI? Revisit a heavily depreciated bug convertible we used to love despite it’s crude underpinnings and tight back seat? Or take advantage of some older interesting vehicles–S4 cabriolet, 3 series convertible, or something I’m too boring to have considered?

Steve Answers:

What will make you happy?That’s what you will have to figure out. The answer is almost limitless and you should take plenty of time to test drive whatever strikes your fancy. Since you already like Passats, I would start off with a 2008-2009 Audi A4 Cabriolet with low miles. Maintenance is absolute critical on these machines due to the overall fragility of VW products (don’t get me started).But like a lot of ‘second car’ models, you can find a fair share of them with low miles in today’s market. Many of which will have CPO warranties and the all too essential books and records. Both the A4 and the more powerful S4 cabriolets can seat four people in the real world. The 08′-09′ time period I mentioned is also right about the time when Audi started making strides in their overall quality.

As for top of the line convertibles and hardtops, I have a very soft spot for the M3 convertibles. However so does every yuppie between Boston and San Francisco. The Audis will cost less money and will tend to not be nearly as abused as the M’s. Given your short commutes and beautiful scenery, I would play the field but start here first.

Sajeev Answers:

Brady, you need to see what you really want in a second car. Reading between the lines it needs to be topless, not insanely powerful with VW-sized proportions (Corvette LS3-FTL) and of premium intentions. That said, always buy a German ride with a factory warranty covering your entire ownership period. The Mustang is a good long term value, but I don’t see you liking it over the long haul. Then again, prove me wrong. Or really blow our minds and buy an LS-1 powered Miata, as that’s what you really need. I’m serious!

My even more serious choice? A MINI droptop, preferably a Cooper S. And most definitely in Hot Chocolate paint, as the autobloggers-turned-Facebook-Admins at the Brown Car Appreciation Society demand it. The MINI is small, upscale, eco-friendly in appearance (though not really in practice) and drives like a firecracker. You can fit kids in the back seat, especially if they must be punished for misbehavior. And when the inevitable “repairs trump resale value” argument happens, the MINI has a strong following and hold their value quite well. Especially compared to any and all Audis.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.
Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang

More by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang

Join the conversation
2 of 62 comments
  • Mazder3 Mazder3 on Jun 06, 2011

    Try out a low-mile Volvo C70. There's one in my quaint New England village and it looks quite fetching in black.

  • Lorenzo Lorenzo on Jun 07, 2011

    I grew up in a small pictureque city in New England near the ocean, and if you're going where I think you are, you'll have a convertible top down for 3-4 weeks in the Spring and 3-4 weeks in the Fall. In between you'll want air conditioning to chase the humidity and the other times you'll be using the heater, the wipers, defroster and an ice scraper. Anywhere near the ocean there's freezing rain, and the roads get slick. Get a car with a sunroof and extra rustproofing. A Subaru WRX (or Impreza GT) would work just fine.

  • Marty S Corey, thanks for your comment. Mercedes has many different models, and will survive. Jaguar is planning on only offering electric models and will be in trouble. They should continue their ICE models as long as possible, but have discontinued the F-Type already and will probably be discontinuing everything else. We purchased the current XF this year, which is a nice car, but would have been splendid if they had just continued the supercharged V-6 in it.By the way, I have really enjoyed your Continental and Eldorado series. Was just showing it to my barber, who owned several 1954-56 Eldorado convertibles.
  • Marques My father had one of these. A black 1984 Pulsar NX with a 5-speed stick and a grey interior. Dad always kept it in pristine shape-that black paint was shiny even in the middle of the night. I swear I could still smell the Rain Dance carnauba wax! The only issue that car ever had was that it was never driven enough-it would sit for 10 days at a time! The Hitachi carburetor on it(and other Nissans of the time) were known to be troublesome. It went to the boneyard at 72K miles when a hole got punched in the block. By that time the Pulsar had long ceased production.
  • VoGhost This is the only new vehicle I have the slightest interest in.
  • VoGhost I love it. Can't wait to get one. Finally, trucks are becoming actually capable, and it's great for America.
  • Peter Just waiting for Dr. Who to show up with his Tardis, and send these things back to the hellish dark dimension from which they came.