New or Used: Two Buck Chuck and a Spaghetti Dinner

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
new or used two buck chuck and a spaghetti dinner
Jerry writes:Hey Sajeev and Steve,Hope everything’s going well over at TTAC. I’m submitting my 2nd question and hoping you guys have some insight to offer.I currently drive an 06 xB, and I’ve been very happy with it. It’s fully paid off (I bought it used with cash), and it’s served as a great car for moving and helping friends move. When they were selling these, they really should’ve teamed up with IKEA to offer a gift card because this car is the ultimate IKEA-mobile.A while back, I also wrote in to ask about a comfortable highway cruiser…I loved the panther suggestions, but I ended up with cold feet and didn’t buy one since gas prices have no upper-limit in sight. My situation hasn’t changed that much since then, except that I would like a safer ride since my girlfriend is driving a lot more now. Thankfully, she can drive stick, so that opens up a lot of good used options that aren’t as in as high a demand.Initially, I was looking at the Ford Five Hundred because of Michael’s good reviews, but that led me down a rabbit hole to check out the Avalon as well. While boring, I know the Avalon is extremely comfortable, and I imagine the Five Hundred to be similar (will test drive one soon). But in my Craigslist stalking, I’ve also come across 2 cheap manual transmission Camrys, an 07 and an 09 for $11k and $14k respectively. The 07 has 69k miles and the 09 has 32k miles. Potentially, these might even drop a bit since most buyers seem interested in getting an auto. Do these seem like reasonable deals? I’m hoping to keep this next car for the next 4 years until my girlfriend graduates grad school and we can have a place with a garage. That’s when I’ll consider something more sporty and interesting.Steve Answers:The good price for the Camrys is really dependent on the features, condition and miles. That is unless it happens to be one of the thousands of wrecked and rebuilt Camrys that get shipped out every year to developing countries.Those works of plaster caster art live up to the most famous buy-here pay-here dealership in the Memphis area. Who upon sitting with about 12 bikini bare babes in a hot tub and his birthday suit (covered with bubbles), says to his televised audience… ‘It’s all good!” He means it too…thousands of his customers pay for his unique commercials.Just remember Jerry, “it’s all good!” until you get that monthly payment on top of your student debt. But seriously… why don’t you just let your girlfriend figure out what she wants in due time and go get it…or not.Let her get a lot more time behind the wheel. Enjoy a few nice quiet romantic nights with a bottle of wine and old write-ups of New vs. Used. Actually make it Two Buck Chuck and a spaghetti dinner. She’s in grad school after all.I have been in your shoes in the past, Jerry. So what did I do? I bought my then girlfriend, now wife, two vehicles along with one I razed from the dead.Total cost of all three cars? $2000.Total selling price of all three cars? $2300.Total time with all three? Six years, four of which were after she got her degree.If you must buy something, start with something inexpensive. Then follow my series on ‘How to Buy a Used Car” and make sure it has good crash safety ratings. Most non-enthusiasts are usually as happy in a $3000 car as they are in a $13000 car. Good luck!Sajeev Answers:Well that’s a tough act to follow.Jerry, our Magic 8 ball can’t tell you if those Camrys are good deals, condition of the wear items and service records are a big factor in determining if a 3+ year old vehicle is a good value. But I will say that a stick shift Camcord might be right up your alley. As long as you are okay with the resale difficulties of such a boring vehicle with a not-boring transmission. That will be a tough re-sell, relatively speaking.That said, I am totally down with you getting a 5-speed Camry. Or Accord, but I think a Camry LE is a far superior land yacht. My only point is that you can get a nicer/better/cleaner Panther for less or (usually) much less money, with a better ride and plenty of change in the bank for their significant fuel economy penalty.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.
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2 of 24 comments
  • 210delray 210delray on Nov 08, 2011

    The main safety issue with the first-gen xB is that it has no side airbags. These are a must in any side impact crash. I personally don't buy into the notion that you can avoid any crash, but that doesn't mean I buy the largest vehicle available either. Both Camrys in question have side curtain airbags for front and rear occupants and side thorax airbags for front seat occupants. The car has an excellent crash test record, and a manual transmission is quite rare. In fact, the new '12 model no longer offers a manual. The car is decently sized and it will get good mileage with a manual plus 4-cylinder (the V6/manual combo went away a couple of generations back). If in good condition (and after a check by a mechanic before buying), I'd seriously look into either one, but especially the newer one. But as others have noted, if you plan to sell it in the near future, expect a VERY long wait for a buyer. Manuals just aren't popular in this class of car.

  • Beerboy12 Beerboy12 on Nov 08, 2011

    I would not go to a sedan after owning a hatch. Consider a bigger hatch like the golf / mazda 3 / focus or Versa. Most of these cars are better cruisers than people think and still give you good utility space that you are used to. On the safety topic. Consider that smaller cars are lighter and handle better because of better breaking and less inertia. Most accidents that require a bigger car to survive will kill you anyway. I am with the defensive driving crowd and believe there would be far less accidents on the roads if more people drove defensively instead of going out and buying a 4 ton SUV and driving as they wish, because they will survive.

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