New or Used: Which Last Car?

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
new or used which last car

TTAC Commentator threeer writes:

A recent ”New or Used” got me thinking. I’m facing a (sort of) similar situation regarding an upcoming vehicle purchase…for my 67 year old mother. A brief background…

My mother counts everything these days by the number of years on the calendar, and expects that the next car she buys will be her last ever. She keeps her vehicles for 8-10 years, always buys new and has generally owned Toyotas (1981 Corolla, 1993 Camry, 2003 Corolla…her current vehicle). Mom is ueber-practical when it comes to cars, and hasn’t dared let herself consider anything remotely upscale in her recent automotive purchases. I dread the thought of her going to another Corolla, though potentially, a decked-out Camry SE wouldn’t be the worst thing to spend the next 10 years in. She once longed for an Audi, and has on a few occasions mentioned that for the same cash she put down on her (then) new Corolla, her workmate bought a nicely-equipped used Mercedes…and recently, a close relative of ours also went the used route and bought a CPO E-class, so she is aware of the value of depreciation…I’m just not sure I can convince her of that route. Plus, she is very much a ”drive and forget it” kind of car owner…problematic or reliability-challenged cars would only serve to frustrate her down the road. Me personally, I’d like to see her splurge a little with her last whip and enjoy some of the good life for having worked her tail off and for having given so selflessly of herself to the rest of the family.

So B&B…I ask you…if it were YOUR 67 year old mother, what would you recommend around the $25k mark (push $30k, but that would be a tough sell) that doesn’t scream ”refrigerator on wheels” but is still reliable enough to run 8-10 years and isn’t a land yacht (she is large car adverse and more than likely a tad technologically challenged!). Something with a touch of class and buttoned-down road manners (again, see the ”no land yacht” clause!). New is preferred, but I could maybe, maybe swing her over towards something no more than two years old.

Enough criteria to make your head spin? Over to you all…

Steve Answers:

I’m not sure if I would even bother with a new car purchase.

If memory serves me correct, you are a long-time TTAC reader whose mom has a 2003 Corolla with about 90k and leather seats.

Unless the vehicle has been in some type of severe accident that bent the frame and/or your Mom is simply uncomfortable driving the vehicle, I would just let things be.

Why? Two reasons. These cars tend to be highly reliable and your mom is not an enthusiast. Folks who aren’t into cars shouldn’t waste $25,000 on ‘appliance transportation’. They need to get from A to B in a good, safe, comfort appliance… and Toyota Corollas tend to offer a very long and good life in that regard.

Get the vehicle maintained to the T. Have it detailed, touched up, let her even put in a ‘car scent’ if she is so inclined. Spend $25,000? No way. Wait until the vehicle reaches 15 years or 150k miles…unless your mom lives in a locale where ‘rust’ is a big issue.

Five years from now she may want to consider a Corolla, Matrix or Camry. Today though I think her friends and other influencers may just be creating ‘friction through fiction’.

Keep the car… and let her go on a few ‘practical‘ cruises with her friends… if they still have the money.

Sajeev Answers:

Getting something that’s both nice and cheap is tough. Town Cars and premium GM W-bodies (i.e Buick, Olds, Pontiac) used to fit the mold. Not so much anymore.

The Mehta family went this route exactly 25 years and 2 days ago via Fox Body Lincoln Continental…and we never looked back. Today, much like yesteryear, my Mom drives a CPO Lexus GS430. Your Mom is a perfect candidate for a Lexus ES, certified pre-owned or not. It’s still a Toyota, it’s not a Camry to people outside of the autoblogosphere, and there will be a comfort level for her because of the familial relations. And ladies the age of our mothers will admit they want to own a Lexus. If you offer it at the right price to make them comfortable.

You can go to a non-Lexus brand and get the same (or more) car for less money, within your 25k budget. The Lincoln Zephyr-MK-Fusion thing is nice enough, especially with heated/cooled seats. Cadillac CTS or a fully loaded, $40,000 when new Taurus Limited? Sure, why not! The perks to every automaker’s fascination with entry level luxury cars is there are plenty of “duds” that don’t touch the 3-series, C-class and even the Lexus ES in terms of resale and popularity. Still, your Mom is the ideal candidate for the ES.

While Steve has a good point, I think buying something nice for your Mom is always the right way to go. She did so much for you, more than likely. Provided you stay the hell away from out-of-warranty modern European sleds with some of the most fragile and costly components known to man, you can’t possibly go wrong.

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 62 comments
  • Loguesmith Loguesmith on Jan 05, 2012

    Back in 2003, my folks bought their last "new" car. Dad was 68, mom 65. The last "new" car purchase for them was 1973; since then, they had bought used. They were going to get another Toyota - at the time, they were driving a '91 Camry DX - but dad discovered that he could get a Hyundai Sonata GLS V6 for the same price as a 4-cyl Camry LE. So they did. I think the transaction price was around $18K or so. Almost 9 years later I think the car may have 30K on the clock; it looks and runs as if it had just came home from the showroom.

  • Mor2bz Mor2bz on Feb 01, 2012

    "even let her put in a car scent"? Yeah, that's right, finish her off with some synthetic chemicals in a closed environment. More of an inheritance for you.

  • Dukeisduke Globally-speaking, in August, BYD was the fourth best-selling brand name. They pushed Ford (which had been fourth) to sixth, behind Hyundai.
  • 2ACL Some of the reported issues sound expensive for all but the most committed wrenchers. Scant documentation on some of the previous work is also a minus. I wouldn't mind something like this, but whereas the seller is trying to make room, I don't have any for something this intensive.
  • Merc190 Any Alfa has a unique character built in, so there's that, once you get it running properly, until it doesn't...
  • Syke Yeah, no sympathy for the dealerships whatsoever. I've gone enough thru training a dealership's salesperson under the guise of trying to buy an EV. I'm pleasantly surprised that Ford's insisting on Level 3 DC Fast Charging rather than the usual Level 2 that most dealerships have now. This is definitely forcing a commitment on the part of the dealer that they're going to be serious about selling EV's.Oh yeah, DC Fast Charging is never free, so you're definitely talking another income stream for the dealership. The big question is are they smart enough to make something real of it?I continue to say that the legacy automakers biggest problem when it comes to selling EV's is their own dealerships. And this article really drives that home.
  • SCE to AUX Yeah, I'm going to spend 5 or 6 figures on a used/abused car from a punk.