Piston Slap: For the Next Stage in Life

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap for the next stage in life

Mackenzie writes:

Hello, I am a 16-year-old girl looking to buy her first car. I am looking at Jeep Cherokees (NOT Grand Cherokees). I am trying to find a decent manual transmission one, but I can’t seem to locate any within a reasonable distance from me (Eastern Virginia).

My dad says I should look for a 1999-2001 Cherokee, but the few that I have found that are stick shift usually have pretty high mileage or are out of my budget. As car experts, would you guys recommend an older (94-98ish) Cherokee or a newer one with higher mileage?

I keep hearing that American-made cars are not as hardy as foreign-made cars, and that over 180,000 miles for a Cherokee is a no-go. My parents have agreed to pay half of the car, but with what I am finding, it’s still going to be a lot of money to pay. At first I was looking at $3500 tops, but I’m thinking I will have to raise that. Any help or advice y’all have on this subject would be greatly appreciated.

Sajeev answers:

I know you want a Cherokee and they are pretty cool, but they are a terrible choice for a 16 year old. And not because Jeeps are junk and American cars aren’t has durable as foreign cars. As if. It’s the wrong move for things we haven’t discussed: gas cost, insurance rates and safety.

Let’s be real: teenagers will explore the limits of their driving skills. And I’d prefer you (or a friend who borrows your ride) keep the shiny side up. The Cherokee’s design dates back to the 1980s, so they aren’t especially great compared to modern car and trucks in a crash. And blaming it on old age alone is me being generous to the Cherokee. Perhaps its because of Federal regulations at the time, but trucks had little of the common sense safety engineering of cars from that era.

A boring little car is your best choice, you will have more money for other things, and will be better off in the future. If that sounds good to you, what car would you be interested in?

Find one of those in your price range. Make sure it has some service history or a host of new parts to ensure it hasn’t had a neglected, rough life. This is a better move for you, odds are you will have more money for other things in the future if you take my advice. And, believe it or not, that’s what you will want when you use that vehicle to move to the next stage of your life.

Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.

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3 of 99 comments
  • Mnm4ever Mnm4ever on Jul 07, 2011

    Oh wow, the dreamers are out in full force today. To all the people recommending anything newer than a 2002-ish car, please, dont waste time posting. She cannot afford anything that new. For all of you recommending Turbo coupes or Panthers or anything RWD to a teenager from Virginia, please, stop. It snows there and she is a teenager. For anyone who recommended a performance car of any kind, do you even read the OP??? And finally, all of you guys who think you can buy a decent RAV4, CRV, or Toyota 4x4 for $3500... wake the f##k up. I am dealing with this exact situation right now, I have 2 teenage daughters and I am looking for good cars for them. I already went through this with my older daughter once, bought her a nice car, and learned that was a big mistake. Insurance on a $6-7k car requires full coverage, which is EXTREMELY expensive. Self insuring a teenager on a $7k car is not a good idea. So now we are looking at cheaper cars for her, and a first car for her younger sister. And before you guys chime in how they dont need a car, we dont live in a city and my wife and I work and cannot shuttle them around every day, a car is a worthwhile expense for us. For $3500 you have to shop smart. Forget anything that most people want or like, it will either be too expensive or a total POS. You need to lower your expectations and look for good cars that are not very desireable. That means either a classic domestic "old persons car", or a much older than usual import that was babied by some older owner with OCD. Forget any Honda that has been modified or lowered or has any evidence of being owned by a teenage fast and furious wannabe. And dont be afraid of higher mileage... a well cared for car with 130k miles will give you less trouble than one with 75k abusive miles. So I recommend almost any Buick or Oldsmobile from 1998+ in your price range. Look for the ones in beige or gold, no one wants them except elderly drivers. My personal favorites are the Regal or Park Avenue, but really any of them hold the best value. If you prefer imports... you are stuck with late-90s Hondas or Toyotas. Go for an Accord 4-dr or a Camry. They are older, but that was the golden age for those cars, and they are still very reliable. The Corollas of that generation kind of sucked, and the Civics from that period will all be beat to crap. So there is my list... 96-98 Accord, 94-96 Camry, 2001-ish Buick or Oldsmobile anything. Happy hunting!!

    • William442 William442 on Jul 08, 2011

      Please,what is the problem with rear wheel drive and snow? Maybe people should learn to drive.

  • Ciddyguy Ciddyguy on Jul 07, 2011

    A couple of things to think about when you go to buy your car, the extra costs of ownership besides the price of the vehicle itself,like the cost of gas and insurance and other factors such as that. With most trucks having at least a 16.5Gal tank, filling it with gas can get expensive. I know as I have the Ford Ranger with a 16.5Gal tank and it'll take over $60 just to fill it up and with 27mpg at best on a good day on the freeway, the cruising range is at best 350 miles, if not closer to 300 so that's something to think about with the Cherokee along with drive ability, reliability and other factors such as safety. You need to be able to avoid accidents and to survive one when you GET into one and the Cherokee isn't exactly stellar in either proposition so that's something to also think about. While it may be the cool car in town, it may also keep you from enjoying it if things like the drive shaft keeps falling down or what have you and repairs, even if cheap to perform can cost you down the road if they repeat themselves too often. But in the end, do what makes you happy, just be sure you can handle the financial responsibility that goes with it. As an aside, I currently drive a Ranger truck (1992 with over 234K miles on it), it's a 2WD model with a 5spd and it doesn't shift all that fabulous but handles much better than one would expect from a truck, but it's NO sports car none the less but for a truck, it does mild corners just fine and is stable at 70+, handles the snow decently for a truck but a small FWD car WILL outperform it in the handling department any day and it's surprisingly more drivable as an every day vehicle as far as small trucks go.

  • Kwik_Shift Once 15 Minute Cities start to be rolled out, you won't be far enough away from home to worry about range anxiety.
  • Bobbysirhan I'd like to look at all of the numbers. The eager sheep don't seem too upset about the $1,800 delta over home charging, suggesting that the total cost is truly obscene. Even spending Biden bucks, I don't need $1,800 of them to buy enough gasoline to cover 15,000 miles a year. Aren't expensive EVs supposed to make up for their initial expense, planet raping resource requirements, and the child slaves in the cobalt mines by saving money on energy? Stupid is as stupid does.
  • Slavuta Civic EX - very competent car. I hate the fact of CVT and small turbo+DI. But it is a good car. Good rear seat. Fix the steering and keep goingBut WRX is just a different planet.
  • SPPPP This rings oh so very hollow. To me, it sounds like the powers that be at Ford don't know which end is up, and therefore had to invent a new corporate position to serve as "bad guy" for layoffs and eventual scapegoat if (when) the quality problems continue.
  • Art Vandelay Tasos eats $#!t and puffs peters