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I have been searching on craigslist, auction sites, and doing research on what is a good car to get. It would be great if anyone knows anything about these cars, so please share your experiences. Even better if you have personally driven one or owned the car in the past. This is not a comprehensive list, so suggestions are also welcome. Here is the list:

1998-2005 Honda Civic
Honda Accord
Honda Fit
Toyota Yaris
Toyota Corolla
Toyota Scion Tc
Ford Kia
Ford Focus
Ford Nissan
Ford Mazda 3
Dodge Neon
Dodge Intrepid
Mazda Protege
Nissan Sentra
Saturn (mid-90s)
Chevrolet Cobalt
Pontiac G5
Chrysler Mitsubishi
Suzuki Sidekick
Geo Tracker

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Last Post by dexter737
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    jbennet 1,618   7 Years Ago

    [quote]I know that people want to scam you any chance they can get.[/quote] Dont know about in the US, but when buying a car over here in the UK its essential to get a *full* history and *all* its documents and to take someone who knows about cars with you. … Read More

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If you are in the USA, I suggest a visit to the local library and asking them for the Consumer Reports Annual Auto Review issue. You will bet a lot more detail about years, models, reliability etc than you could from a group like this.

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Honda Civic is a great car. Reliable, decent performance, comfortable, and easy to handle.
Same for early model Ford Focus (they're supposed to have some problems in the 2003-2008 period, from what I hear).

Mazda are supposed to be good too, but I wasn't too impressed checking them out in the past (tbh, that was 13 years ago).
I'm no big fan of Toyota styling, but they do know how to build them.
I'd stay clear of Nissan and any Korean cars myself.

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I had a Mazda Protege once. It was a good little car; it had 225,000 miles on it when I traded it in towards a new car a few years ago. This was a 1994 Protege, so I can't attest to current quality, but that one served me well.

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Thanks for the chart. I'll check it out, also will search for Consumer Reports Annual Auto review at my library. That should be relatively easy to find.

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I live in Australia and have owned Toyota, Nissan and Mazda vehicles and have found them to be decent cars, with the Toyota getting my nod for best overall.
I now prefer to buy Australian made as I am tired of seeing my hard earned dollar going overseas.

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Do you think it is unreasonable to find a car in a price range of $500? I'm going to be a college student again and so can't afford to spend a lot. I was with a friend tonight who said to save up at least $1000 for a down payment. I know that you have to be careful when buying used cars.

Edited by zortec: n/a

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Even $1000 is way too little for a decent car.
Any money you save on the purchase you're going to loose in extra repairs and maintenance cost.
Best to save up longer and buy a decent *relatively young* used car from a reputable dealership.
That gives you warranty (maybe even some manufacturer warranty if it's young), a known service history, and the knowledge it's not some straightened out clunker that might have a criminal history as a getaway vehicle.

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In the price range you are talking about repairs are bound to come quickly, so stay with something homegrown like a Chevy or Ford where the parts are easier to get and cheaper.

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Despite the current spate of bad news - older Toyota Corollas are pretty good deal. I bought a Corolla Al-trac brand new in 1988 and drove it until 2006 when it got totaled. I'd say a Toyota or a Honda in your price range would be from the '90s; they won't have airbags or anti-lock brakes but they would get you to and from college. Look for a 'hupty', go looking with a friend, drive the car, ask why they are selling it, ask for the records they kept for the car, don't be rushed by 'we have a firm offer coming to buy it in an hour', always be prepared to walk away from the deal, don't carry cash with you, if you feel uncomfortable walk away. If you spend $500 on a car and it gets you through a year or 2 of college for about $500 in repairs, you are better off than spending $3000 on a newer car that is trouble free.

Right now I am driving a 1996 LeBaron that was given to me when my Corolla was totaled; it is a pig, everyone laughs at my 'plush-mobile' old ladies car but it does not cost me anything in maintenance and it survived a fight with a deer in WI. I'll probably drive it until it falls apart, which will be years from now.

Edited by GrimJack: n/a

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@echo GrimJack
You don't want to spend a lot on your first car. The more you spend now, the more it will cost you in insurance and depreciation. Plus, it is likely that you'll end up denting it at some point. If you'd spent $3K say, you might be tempted into paying for repairs. But on a $500 car, you'd just say it "adds character". All that you'll really care about is whether it's capable of forward motion :)

Do you have any knowledgeable family / friends who can help you look over a car?

So long as the engine/transmission/wheels are sound, repair and maintenance should be pretty limited (and you won't care about the trim).
Eg
- starts first time from cold
- doesn't blow black smoke when revved hard
- smooth gear change when driving

> I was with a friend tonight who said to save up at least $1000 for a down payment.
You're going to need some extra cash anyway. Even if you spend only $500, you ought to have another $500 you can draw on for insurance, maintenance and repair. Keep your car fund up to date, otherwise you'll be off the road.

Cars are expensive either way:
- go expensive, and you will lose $'000 on depreciation, and may spend $'00 on repairs.
- go cheap, and you may spend $'000 on repairs.

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I paid €4500 (about $6000) for my first car, and it lasted me for 5 years before it got totalled in a crash.
Getting a good car first off saved me a lot in maintenance and repair bills, as it simply needed less.

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Thanks for all the information guys. I am reluctant to spend a $1000 if I can find one for less. It's not going to be the most appealing car, but would like it to last a couple years. If I can get one for a few hundred, that would be ideal.

What do you think about buying off craigslist? I know that people want to scam you any chance they can get. I know others who have bought their cars off CL and they have served them well.

I gather that European and Japanese cars are not a good bet. It is better to stick with American makes. How does Honda stack up with its predecessors?

One of my friends last night said that there is a good chance one of those cars listed would be stolen. They are high profile cars among thieves. I would be interested in your view on that statement.

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I know that people want to scam you any chance they can get.

Dont know about in the US, but when buying a car over here in the UK its essential to get a *full* history and *all* its documents and to take someone who knows about cars with you. Also be very wary if it isnt up to date with servicing (they may be selling a poor runner or one which has failed its MOT [roadworthiness test]) There are services (here at least) where you can text in the registration (and here you can check the VIN stamped on the chassis to make sure its not a cut and shut) in order to see whether it is stolen or written off.

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I gather that European and Japanese cars are not a good bet. It is better to stick with American makes. How does Honda stack up with its predecessors?

One of my friends last night said that there is a good chance one of those cars listed would be stolen. They are high profile cars among thieves. I would be interested in your view on that statement.

Honda are Japanese cars :)
American made cars are of generally lower quality and higher cost than any others (though in the US European cars may be relatively expensive).

What cars are popular with thieves is quite local. It will affect your insurance cost of course, as will (sometimes) colour.
Otoh if you buy an old beat up clunker like you're looking for (that's all you're going to get for the pittance you're planning to spend) chances of it being stolen for the make and model it is are slim.
It's more likely to get stolen by some kids wanting to go joyriding as it's the only one with locks that are easily broken that they could find.
Good thing of that is that it's likely to be recovered nearby (rather than shipped off to another country to be sold), bad thing is that it's likely to be totally trashed and the insurance company might not pay out well in that case.

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I gather that European and Japanese cars are not a good bet. It is better to stick with American makes

Lies, i agree with jwenting, american cars are very unrelaible. There is a reason the american auto industry is failing...

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Apologies if this has been stated, but I saw something about craigslist:

Do not buy a car on craigslist. If you insist on doing so, at least compare the prices to other similar cars (according to make & model) and make sure the craigslist one isn't outrageously cheaper. And never buy a car without doing so in person. And Toyota and Honda are two of the most reliable manufacturers, neither of which is American.

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I've bought Subaru Impreza Wagon (i want sedan, but can't find it), after 1 yr. driving i've changed Impreza to Forester t/tb :) both cars are nice! But Forester BETTER :)

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I've bought Subaru Impreza Wagon (i want sedan, but can't find it), after 1 yr. driving i've changed Impreza to Forester t/tb :) both cars are nice! But Forester BETTER :)

Sorry for my english :(

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Yep but quite a lot of GM cars are produced in Europe. They are still crappy ;)

So it's not the workers, but management?

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So it's not the workers, but management?

I would say design.

I've owned a Ford Mondeo and it was a piece of crap. I bought it for 3000 dollars (or something) and it broke down 3 times in its first year. So I got rid of it.
Next up was a volkswagen, which was supposed to be a reliable and durable car. It kept having problems with the motor-management and airco. So in all fairness: it did run. But after the n-th time that some mysterious light started blinking in my dashboard, I sold it and bought back a '02 Nissan Maxima.
Been driving it for almost 4 years now and it never ever had a problem. The only thing I changed was a pair of tires and the brakes. So hooray for Japanese cars :)

Edited by Nick Evan: n/a

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You know, sometimes you should take the source into account when asking questions. Or go look at sites that rank used car reliability (like). Google on "used car reliability ratings" and bypass both Edmunds and Consumer Reports because they will not tell you anything until you subscribe.

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Quite a number of Honda and Toyota cars are produced in America.

To Japanese design, with major components being shipped in from Japan (especially the electronics and stuff), in Japanese run factories.
They're better than cars designed by US car makers, but they're not American cars even if made in the US, just as BMWs built in the US (and yes, BMW has a US production facility) aren't classed as American cars.

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I would say design.

I've owned a Ford Mondeo and it was a piece of crap. I bought it for 3000 dollars (or something) and it broke down 3 times in its first year. So I got rid of it.

Mondeo is said to be one of the most reliable vehicles you can have. Maybe you just were out of luck?

Design has something to do with it, but design is driven by management and manufacturing as well as marketing.
Manufacturing limitations determine what the design limits are, management sets the restrictions the design has to conform to (cost, etc.) and decides what design to put into production.

Manufacturing however can do a lot of good or harm.
If the workers produce shoddy products and perform no quality control (because there's no incentive to and/or management doesn't allocate budget to it) bad products enter the market place however good the design is.

For example my father has a 2008 Jeep Cherokee. A well designed vehicle that has some flaws which should have caused it to be sent back up the production line had this been a Japenese or European built vehicle.
The panels of the dash don't fit together well for example, not by design but because of poor assembly.
When delivered the window in the driver door wouldn't open, turned out a right door window had been fitted in it instead of a left door window, the different curve causing it to get stuck and burning out the electric motor.
Those aren't design flaws, they're manufacturing defects. In the end management is responsible (together with union power, which is in part the responsibility of management allowing unions to gain such power) for creating a work environment in which such things aren't cause for a product to be rejected on the production line and never to be shipped to the customer.

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So it's not the workers, but management?

Read above, it's both :)
In case of GM's European brands, it's the same as in the US, heavy union influence causing shoddy work ethics and poor quality control.
Management allows (or has to allow because of government regulations) that influence.

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