New or Used: Nagging Wife Thinks I Need a New Car!

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
new or used nagging wife thinks i need a new car

Zach writes:

Dear Sajeev and Steve,

My wife has recently started insisting (more along the lines of demanding) that I get a new(er) car. While the junkyard gem 97 civic has only served me about a year, it has only cost me $1000 total. With 270k on the odometer and counting, it is really starting to show its age but runs 80 down the road with cold air and no issues. I drive 130 miles round trip everyday with practically all of it on the interstate. The civic gets 34-38 mpg which is the part I like, but I am starting to question the reliability.

So now I am looking for a good commuter car. The only option that I am dead set on is cruise control for the obvious reason. While initially an 08 Impreza hatch grabbed my attention, 26 mpg was unacceptable for me. So now I am left searching again. I have test drove the Mazda2 and Fiesta and either would meet my needs as far as size goes. They both seemed pretty peppy for all 100 hp. I have plans to test drive an Accent but havent made it that far yet.

So now for the question, what else should I consider? I have no issues with buying CPO or used. We have an extra car in case something did happen to the civic so I am really in no hurry except for the nagging about how much dislike there is for the civic.


  • Price
  • Cruise control
  • Comfortable
  • Throw kids (7&9) in back in a pinch
  • good radio
  • >=35 mpg highway, city doesn’t matter


  • heated seats
  • leather
  • bluetooth
  • hatchback
  • cheap/easy maintenance

Sajeev Answers:

I dunno what’s worse: the fact that there’s no proper successor to a 1990s Honda Civic (the 6th generation was the last I really cared for) or that your wife makes you feel that way. Then again, I understand how pressure from a loved one makes something as mundane as a new Civic be more like torture to own. This V8 Luxo Barge fanatic finally gave into such pressure and decided a little four banger truck was all I needed.

Quite honestly, the latest Ford Focus and Hyundai Elantra get the mileage you need, have the stuff you want and get pretty amazing mileage. And they’ll be far more refined than an old Civic on the highway. While I have problems with your need for leather (think of the depreciation!), these will be the right way to go. But I am still feeling nostalgic for the good old days of Hondas, and wonder if we’ll ever get a light-ish weight runner like ye olde Civic ever again.

Steve Answers:

I would go at least one step up in size to a compact vehicle.

As Sajeev has mentioned, the Focus and Elantra would easily fit your budget and priorities. I have yet to drive the Ford. But the Hyundai seems to be an absolute gem of a new car with the exception of the leather seats (average) and interior materials (ditto). Compared to a 97 Civic though, it’s definitely a step up. I would consider the Elantra, along with the Cruze and Focus as leaders in today’s compact market segment.If it were me I would simply look for an older used car that attracts your interest. CPO’s are ridiculously expensive these days, and I always tell folks that it is the prior owner who ‘certifies’ the genuine condition of the vehicle. So find someone who is either tired of their vehicle, needs to move, needs the money, or simply yearns for something else.
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3 of 136 comments
  • Landcrusher Landcrusher on Mar 09, 2012

    Baggins, I am sure the solution to that is easily available. Likely limited to certain tires which could already have been changed. There is usually more than one OEM tire for cars as popular as the Accord.

    • Burgersandbeer Burgersandbeer on Mar 09, 2012

      Quieter tires might help a bit, but recent Hondas have a reputation for poor sound insulation, particularly from tire roar.

  • Mrb00st Mrb00st on Mar 09, 2012

    Commuting highway 50 miles a day? Cruze Eco 6-speed. 42mpg (EPA rating) on 87 octane, seriously comfortable and quiet interior on the highway, enough torque to be fun (and the VTuner setup pushes output to 170bhp/177lb-ft on 91 octane without a gas mileage penalty!) and plenty of options. If you want heated leather you can get it in a 2LT with a six-speed. The LTZ has all the goodies but is auto-only, and honestly a 2LT has all the stuff you'd want anyway. Only downside to the Eco is the smaller gas tank (12.6 instead of 15.6) and the absurdly deep gearing, but i think a 2LT manual is still rated at 38 or something like that, and feels a lot punchier than the Elantra, Focus or Civic. Tiny turbo motors ftw.

  • Tassos ask me if I care.
  • ToolGuy • Nice vehicle, reasonable price, good writeup. I like your ALL CAPS. 🙂"my mid-trim EX tester is saddled with dummy buttons for a function that’s not there"• If you press the Dummy button, does a narcissist show up spouting grandiose comments? Lol.
  • MaintenanceCosts These are everywhere around here. I'm not sure the extra power over a CR-V hybrid is worth the fragile interior materials and the Kia dealership experience.
  • MaintenanceCosts It's such a shame about the unusable ergonomics. I kind of like the looks of this Camaro and by all accounts it's the best-driving of the current generation of ponycars. A manual 2SS would be a really fun toy if only I could see out of it enough to drive safely.
  • ToolGuy Gut feel: It won't sell all that well as a new vehicle, but will be wildly popular in the used market 12.5 years from now.(See FJ Cruiser)