By on June 16, 2015

 

On My Way! (photo courtesy: www.thejewisheducationproject.org)

On My Way! (photo courtesy: www.thejewisheducationproject.org)

Anonymous writes:

Hello Sajeev,

I was in with Mark Stevenson regarding my terrible, and unfortunately pretty common situation. I am post DUI (sadly not my first), but have quit drinking and am well on the road to recovery. I live in a city that does not have transit that will get me to work on time and therefore require a car to get there.

I am able to get my license back now but am not well versed in the subtleties of affordability vs. reliability in used cars. The cost of a car is one thing but insurance is prohibitive for all but PLPD on a fairly old used car. I have been quoted between $2700 – $3300 for cars that are between 9 and 15 years old.

The more “affordable” cars seem to be the following; Pontiac Sunfire, Nissan Sentra, Hyundai Accent, VW Golf, Passat, and Jetta (I inquired more about them thinking diesel might save me long term). I also found that quarter ton trucks like the Ford Ranger were in this “affordable” range. Sedans are lower insurance and I also have a young son who will necessitate back seat accessibility.

So my question for you is… Can you help me by recommending or at least educating me on this age of vehicle and the presumed affordability vs. reliability trade off? On one hand I could get an older “cheap” car to afford insurance but would then likely have to spend more on repairs.

Thanks in advance.

Sajeev answers:

Boy, is this question gonna ruffle some feathers in the comments section or what? Keep this in mind: addiction is a mess far beyond the scope of a blog post.

This I believe, especially after having a friend die from complications related to an eating disorder. I regret not saying how I hated watching him struggle to do basic tasks, his complaining about everything, blaming the doctor and his prescriptions…perhaps not being a colossal jerk to him back then. Perhaps it’d help more than heartless reassurance. (Or not.) So I wish you luck in a jerk-like fashion: owning a car is a privilege, not a right. 

On to the car. When viewing vehicles this cheap, avoid the considerations of new (and late-model) buyers: service history and interior condition trump all. For example: buy a 15-year-old Chevy Lumina with acres of service history, new tires and a cherry velour interior over a 9-year-old Toyota Camry with no track record, marginal rubber and dried-out leather thrones.

While diesel maintenance is a hassle, and while Euro car parts prices and/or inconvenience of ordering (for less online) are not in a diesel VW’s favor, I’d grab one if it came with a binder fulla receipts atop the floor mat. Because when buying a vehicle this old, this cheap, you are buying someone else’s problems. Mitigate the risk and buy one with the most evidence of parts replacement, attention to detail and a modicum of an owner’s adoration.

You sure as hell aren’t gonna get a car that you want, and that’s by design.

 

Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.

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129 Comments on “Piston Slap: A Used Car on The Road to Recovery...”


  • avatar

    I’ve seen this problem with clients who had a DWI. Pretty much you are consigned, as you see, to almost worthless cars, at insurance rates for a new Porsche. You have to do this for whatever period of time your state blackballs you as an “assigned risk”. Be careful not to get any other violations during that time as well. Know the “end by” date of your automotive exile, and drive the speed limit, stop at all signs, and keep your reg/inspection stickers up to date. If you get pulled over for any reason, your prior will come up in the Data Terminal, and the cop will have a different attitude….so do all you can to avoid a stop.

    Cheap and simple. Slap a satnav on the window ($90) and use bluetooth through a replacement stereo system for the phone ($200). You now have all the gadgets of the new car. If I were inyour situation, I’d look for a used old person car, one which lived in a garage, and the kids/estate are looking to sell. Provided it was run a few times a month for the store, post office and docs, you will probably have something that will be in good shape despite age. It will probably be a Panther :)

    Good Luck with your recovery. I’ve a few folks who saw the light, so to speak, after a bust, and are clean. I’ve a few others, who weren’t ready yet….

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Here in Ohio, we mark people with this problem with a bright orange license plate for all to see.

      I think it’s excellent for both police recognition and the cognizance of other drivers. As well as shaming.

    • 0 avatar
      360joules

      Please stay sober.

      Moving forward, big sedan with maintenance records is the way to go.

      When arrested for DUI the algorithm is: 1) stop drinking 2) lawyer up 3) get alcohol treatment 4) change your insurance policy before your conviction date so that you are no longer an authorized driver which means 5) quit driving for a period of time. In many states, you can be the policyholder but not a covered driver. Where people get nailed on SR22 rate filings is not the DUI but that they were cancelled on their insurance after conviction. Once you resume driving with SR22 coverage, you will pay way-way less if you changed your coverage to avoid cancellation.

  • avatar
    RangerM

    An older (early 2000s) Taurus or Impala might fit the bill, and there are plenty of little old ladies who barely drove them and mostly kept them in the garage. If they’re anything like my grandmother, they had the maintenance done much more frequently than necessary given the lack of use.

    Probably have a few shopping cart scrapes, but likely less than 70000 miles.

    Have no idea what insurance on such cars might be, though.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      This. “Full size” cars are usually among the cheapest to insure dollar for dollar.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        This sounds like a good idea. I personally hate how the Taurus feels to drive (like a mushy pillow filled with rubber bands) so I’d go for a 3800 Impala.

        Or some Buick of 3800-ness.

        Alternatively, another “full-size” and depreciation happy early 2000’s car, the Maxima/I30/I35 with reliable 3.0 or 3.5 VQ.

        But I don’t know if you get punished for a luxury brand in this insurance situation?

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          You won’t get punished for a near-luxury vehicle when it comes to insurance. Our MkT is cheaper to insure than our C-Max. Insurance companies will just look at a 2004 I30 as a 10 year old large sedan.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Excellent then, not punished for free extra leathers and equipment.

            (04 would be I35 though, final year.) :)

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            Yeah, at that point, and with minimum coverages, insurance companies don’t give a damn about your actual car. It’s about protecting you, and others, from yourself. Large and midsized sedans that are not performance cars, do that pretty well.

    • 0 avatar
      econobiker

      Third generation Hyundai Elantra 4 door sedan from 2001 to 2006 are tough cars with some minor foiables (auto transmission upshift/down shift sensors) but otherwise very bullet proof and bland with decent mpg. So they are anywhere from 14 to 9 years old- plenty of junkyard parts and aftermarket support so full insurance is not required.

      And that this generation Elantra was used (in right hand drive) as taxis in China around the 2008 Olympics which means it was the Korean made equivalent of the Ford Crown Victoria. Afterall, Chinese taxis- many drivers on somewhat poorly maintained roads in bad traffic.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        Good suggestion, even the generation before that (96-00) are underrated cheap cars soiled by the stigma of the 1st gen Elantra and Accent and Excel. All Korean cars through the mid 00s seem to eat a lot of wheel bearings and have prematurely wearing clutches on manuals, but are on the whole not too terrible.

        I’ll throw out my perennial suggestion of the 98-02 Corolla/Prizm. Aside from burning oil on neglected cars there’s really not much that can or does go wrong. And if it does they are cheap and simple to fix. Ride softer/quieter than similar age compacts and have more durable suspensions.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I will withhold my thoughts on whether the person in question even deserves to be behind the wheel of a car after ‘2 strikes,’ anyways….

    Sajeev is right on the money. Steve Lang has drilled it into all of us at this point: buy the previous owner’s maintenance, not the badge. I’m a dyed in the wool Honda/Toyota guy but I would absolutely jump into a clean J-body Cavalier over a Civic if the Chevy was a clean car with a maintenance record and the Civic had a ‘fresh oil change.’ Likewise I’d pick the 200k mile Camry with a meticulous previous owner over the estate sale Lesabre being flipped with 20k miles (and leaky shocks and every single rubber gasket ever).

    • 0 avatar
      FormerFF

      +1. Miles and condition is what counts, not model/make/year.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        @FormerFF

        There are some cars which even in good condition and reasonable miles WILL cost more to run and take care of – which is of top importance for those on budgetary restrictions such as this man.

        Thus, avoid all VW/Saab/Volvo items.

        • 0 avatar
          FormerFF

          I should have limited it to the mainstream brands. I have no recent experience with VW, I did have a GTI quite a few years ago and my experience was good.

          If you pull up one of the automotive search sites and look for what you can get that is late model for less than $15,000, the selection is impressive. (I’m looking for a car for my daughter in that price range.) If you look for something less than $4,000, it’s kind of depressing. To maximize a purchase like that, I’d start looking on Craigslist on Friday afternoon, that’s when the largest number of owner sales get posted. If you see something that looks good, ping the owner immediately and try to go see it that evening. Competition for decent low priced cars is fierce, apparently there are a lot of people who are cash only buyers and this is their price point. If you like what you see make a deal on the spot. Last year, I had a 12 year old Mk I Focus hatchback with a manual transmission, and I sold it to the first person who looked at it Saturday morning, I could have sold five of them if I’d had them.

        • 0 avatar
          krhodes1

          IMHO the Volvo 940 is the best cheap car there is. They are a Panther that doesn’t suck. Dirt cheap to buy, dirt cheap to run, dirt cheap to insure. Comfortable, and drive nicely if slowly. About as safe as ’90s cars get too. Even a built in brat booster seat.

          In 2011 I needed a car for six months to get me from selling current daily driver car to delivery of new car. Picked up a ’95 off eBay for $1200 (with 200K on it), spent MAYBE $250 on it, drove it for a year and sold it for $1500.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I always liked the look of the 940, very upscale and dignified. I don’t see enough of them to ever register on my radar. Just God-awful condition 850’s.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I was thinking 940 but figured age might disqualify it.

          • 0 avatar

            The 940 is the cleanest of the boxy Volvos, and my favorite in that style. The last car my parents bought was a used ’95 940 wagon, which they picked up on June 29, 1999. My nephew has had the car since the early-mid-’00s, and it now has somewhere around 200k, and has been living in LA. (I would have taken the car after my parents were gone had it had a stick.)

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            The 940 is the ultimate evolution of the RWD redblock Volvo. All the same great bulletproof mechanicals in a chassis that is 25 years more advanced, with 95% of the engineered out of it (240s have lots of stupid in them). They did not sell particularly well because they were ancient expensive dinosaurs even in ’95. But they are darned good cars. I have owned six 740s and three 940s, and all of them were essentially bulletproof. Worst issue I ever had with one was A/C, and all the A/C stuff is GM!

            The biggest thing to remember about 850s is that they were designed to be first and foremost cheaper to build and more profitable than the RWD cars. But that said, the fact that you still see them around when the newest of them is nearly *20* is not unimpressive to me. They start looking shabby, but they do keep on trucking.

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            I second the 940 suggestion, failing that a 240 or perhaps 740 will do the job if you’re good at sorting out electronics.

            With the 940 you get Camry dependability but without the rust, weak door handles, sealed bearing hubs, expensive parts, or Camry owner maintenance.

            You get the Panthers durability with a chassis that won’t collapse in a side-collision, a much nicer interior, rear-leg room, and better gas mileage.

            That being said I’m not sold on 850’s, my last one required a good sum of cash to sort out a CEL due to countless leaks in the emissions system hosing. Lots of hard to reach parts too.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I think we’ve jumped the shark now there Ryoku. I see just as many hipster/vegan owned Volvos that “never die!!!” that still run but need every service under the sun. Aside from corrosion protection and crash safety, oh and seat comfort, I’d argue the 940 is worse than a mid-90s Camry in just about every way. The 92-96 (XV10) Camry has superior ride and handling, a more powerful, more efficient, quieter motor, and a higher quality interior. For the tinkerers among us, yes the Volvo is more DIY friendly in terms of fasteners not rusting as much and in general the longitudinal layout being more amenable to timing belt changes. But I4 Toyotas are still very easy to work on. Durability? Mid 90s Toyota sedans will take an insane amount of abuse and straight up offroading before the factory shocks and balljoints fail. Likewise their CV axles have unheard of resilience, I’ve seen cars with torn boots drive around for years without the joints starting to click.

            I’d love to hear Steve Lang’s input on the matter. I remember he famously made the argument of the 4th gen Honda Accord being more deserving of the title ‘most durable’ than Volvo 240s (in a southern climate). Hondas are all well and good, but lack the neglect-friendly aspect of a non-interference engine and long wearing McPherson strut suspension of the contemporary Camry.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            Up here where the tinworm never sleeps, ’90s Volvos are a dime a dozen. ’90s Japanese cars inhabit junkyards, as they mostly failed inspection some time ago. If you live in a gentler climate, YMMV. I’d still infinitely prefer to drive a 940 than a ’90s Camry, nice cars though Camrys were in those days.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Coming from Ithaca NY, home to many hills and just South of a salt mine, I was just about at the epicenter of the combination of a) the most road salt ever and b) loads of old Volvos driven by crunchy granola Ithacans and college professors. I understand that Maine has stricter inspection standards on body rust through, but even in Ithaca where the odds are seemingly stacked absolutely in old Volvos’ favor, we still have an absolute plethora of old Accords (namely the 90-93 cars and 94-97s), 92-96 Camries, 93-97 Corollas, 92-95 Civics. On the Hondas, yes the rear quarter panels start to go, but outside of that they really don’t rust structurally (strut towers, subframes) anywhere as much as people seem to make it sound. Much newer Subarus get junked for rusted through front subframes than 90s Hondas. Fuel and brakes lines yes, everything non-European is at risk and to the non-DIYer those aren’t cheap fixes.

            But from what I’ve seen, Volvo 240s, especially unwashed unmaintained ones driven by our modern day hippys, rust out as much as anything else. In fact, even these vaunted 940s are ultimately not immune.

            looking around seems to confirm my suspicions:
            https://www.volvoclub.org.uk/faq/BodyRust.html

            Volvos are very well rustproofed, but they’re not wholly immune, nothing is.

          • 0 avatar
            krhodes1

            240s are a design from the mid-60s. That considered, they are pretty rust resilient, especially ’86 and newer. Remember, the NEWEST 240 on the road is now 22 years old. Most are 25+, they sold relatively few of them in the 90s. 7/940s are massively better. You are correct, nothing is immune from rust in the very long term. But a 940 is pretty close, with the early 940s being better than the last year of them – as with MB, they went to more environmentally friendly materials to their detriment. Still more rust resistant than just about everything else on the road.

            There are very few mid-90s Japanese cars left in Southern Maine, especially when you consider the original sales volumes. That rear quarter rust that you dismiss IS an inspection failure here. The rule is “no holes or rough edges”, even in non-structural parts of the car. Rotted fuel and brake lines are as well of course, and that takes just as many cars off the road as body rot does.

            Ultimately, Japanese cars simply do not have that “live forever” reputation here that they do elsewhere due to the rust. What does it matter if the drivetrain will go 300K miles if the body is junk in less than 10 years? Swedish and German cars DO have that reputation here because given a clean body you can always fix the mechanicals. Obviously, YMMV elsewhere.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Ah I see! So around Season 5 of “RYOKUS GREAT CAR ADVENTURES” that dirtbag Ryoku began “jumping the shark” as he criticized Toyotas for expensive parts.

      A Camry will get you a more efficient engine, but you wont get Volvo safety, hail/rust/corrosion immunity, RWD simplicity, “unique” styling.

      Both are good picks though, get whichever one you can fine in the best shape.

    • 0 avatar
      formula m

      I could never, ever choose a 15yr old lumina over a 9yr old Camry provided it drove acceptably during the test drive. I don’t care how many maintainance records they supply for that Lumina. Interior and maintainance are exactly right but don’t get fooled that it is a blanket rule. I’ve owned a 90’s regal and montecarlo so that example is not good advise.

      Find a 2wd Honda CRV or something similar. You will be way happier than any cheap Jetta, 10+yr old Hyundai or 12+yr old domestic.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Early 240s are NOT great at fighting rust, later ones aren’t bad if you can identify and fight it.

      Too many of them go around without their engine splash-guards and end up rusting out in that area, mostly hippy owners.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Early 240s are terrible, they only lasted 10-12 years here when the average Japanese car was lucky to make it 5-6. :-) My Grandparent’s ’80 Subaru flunked inspection for rust at age 3 and needed welding, and was in the junkyard by age 7 while still running like a swiss watch. My ’82 was junked in ’90, for rust. My best friend was still driving his Dad’s old ’76 245 when we were in college in the late ’80s. It had had some rust that was repaired, but nothing serious. The usual holes in the spare tire wells. Pre ’86 240s are pretty much extinct, but they ARE 30+ years old. Absolutely no shortage of 86+ 240s still roaming around, though the numbers are definitely dwindling.

        Toyota really seems to have upped their game in rustproofing in the past 10-15 years, I don’t see rusty Toyota cars anymore – trucks yes. Hondas still rust – especially underneath. Mazdas and Subarus are still pretty bad, though not nearly as bad as 30 years ago. I can’t say I have noticed any rusty Koreans, but then maybe they die mechanically before they get rusty?

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    Mr. Mehta has it right. Moving along…

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    Not sure what state you are in or what the insurance laws are there, but in most states you have an SR22 requirement. The problem I have with the system is that most of the time those who need the highest limits can barely afford minimum coverage. When I worked for Progressive we were known as a high-risk-haven since we would give policies to just about anyone who could pay. I dealt with SR22 frequently and I found that almost everyone with it could barely get by.

    The system is set up against you and I wish you luck. But good for you for attempting to navigate it the right way and taking your beatings. Please get the highest coverage you can afford and drive like an old lady.

    • 0 avatar
      sproc

      “The system is set up against you and I wish you luck.”

      I wouldn’t quite put that way, but rather the system is set up to reflect the extremely high risk demonstrated by his actions, rather then just unavoidable demographics like being young and/or male.

      My brother sadly went through a 2xDUI stretch many years ago. I do believe that his rates went down somewhat once he got married. In this case, I’d also be looking for any and all possible discounts like professional organization membership, credit unions, etc. Also, 15 years on, I’m envious of the success and happiness my brother has achieved, and I wish OP all the best as well.

      • 0 avatar
        smartascii

        @sproc – First, let me say that I am NOT condoning DUI/DWI in ANY way. That said, the research seems to indicate that a person using a cellphone while driving is just as dangerous as a person who’s drunk. And yet, we don’t slap the text-and-drivers with mandatory multi-thousand-dollar insurance policies and make them pay even more thousands in court costs and fines. Some states have laws against using your phone while driving, but the consequences are orders of magnitude less severe. Our DUI consequences may well be correct and proportionate responses to the crime, but I think there’s an element of alcohol=bad=sin=punish!! that happens, and to the extent that’s true, the system IS stacked against you, because the cost and the length of the consequences can and will destroy people’s lives. Just like driving drunk. Or texting.

  • avatar
    Exfordtech

    This was setup on a T for you Sajeev, don’t know how you missed it: Panther love. Scour Craigslist for a one owner retiree that is giving up the car or has passed away. It may sound harsh, but the demographic of panther owners makes this a pretty safe bet. Got my son in law a 97 Grand Marquis, 75k miles for $2 grand last summer. One owner, New England summers and Florida winters, car was immaculate and well maintained. Dead nuts reliable, it’s good for an easy 200k miles with normal maintenance.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I was going to say this. A panther or a Buick of the early 2000s vintage will be cheap to insure and maintain. You won’t get the fuel mileage of a compact, but depending on how much you drive you could save the difference in your insurance rates. Plus you get the bonus of that big car ride.

      • 0 avatar
        seth1065

        Not sure how safe a panther is from that era, the OP said he had a son, not sure if he can swing a safer car, good luck , learn from your mistakes and move on.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      As big of a fan as I am of the “aero” “fat” panthers, I think that they are a poor choice just due to middling fuel economy and questionable winter traction (unless you pony up for snow tires). They are no more durable than an older Corolla, and I mean that as a compliment to the Corolla more-so than a diss to the panther.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        I’ve never found winter traction to be an issue in them on all seasons. More likely to get stuck in a Corolla with all seasons. (I’ve owned both in a snowy climate).

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I’m gonna agree with the anti-panther in this situation. They aren’t that safe either, or good in impacts on the side at all. In this price range, you’ll see very ghetto-tized as well.

        • 0 avatar
          Exfordtech

          Not ghettoed at all:
          http://boston.craigslist.org/gbs/cto/5071057719.html
          I understand the safety argument but everything is relative. How much is this person driving? Where is he driving? At his price point, there are a number of trade offs: purchase price, reliability, safety, ease of repair, cost of repair, etc.
          Want safe? Doesn’t list the mileage, but I wasn’t aware the prices on these could be this low:
          http://boston.craigslist.org/gbs/cto/5070536912.html

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Couple things:

            -The GM looks okay I suppose, but there’s rust over the front wheel well (which is odd) and I question both the ownership, English in the ad, and the “grandma’s car” aspect. Those are NOT 1999 wheels, they’re off a newer model, I believe. Why?

            As well, the drivers doors look like they’ve been hit and/or replaced.

            -That 500 is cheap because it’s an AWD, which means it has an imminent-failure CVT, and is an avoid at all costs.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            “I understand the safety argument but everything is relative.”

            Exactly, look at which other cars he mentioned. A panther will be as safe or safer.

            “but there’s rust over the front wheel well (which is odd)”

            Not odd at all, it’s the most common spot for the bodies on these to corrode.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            I don’t see that sort of corrosion here. I see it only at the rear wheels, and usually down lower where trim has touched the body and trapped water. It can be worse on Town Cars because of their additional style cladding.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            I will confirm the front fender panther rust, the fender has a lip that dirt collects on, trapping moisture. A very common sight.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            @gtem

            How’d you feel about that GM he put up there?

          • 0 avatar
            Exfordtech

            Rust over the front wheels is rather common, I’d be inclined to think the hinge pins are worn on the driver’s front door, and the rear was painted at some point for whatever reason and wasn’t blended into adjacent panels. The language isn’t a deal breaker, Fitchburg is an old furniture mill city (factories gone long ago) with a large Latin-American population. If the paperwork he claims to have checks out, then it’s likely legit. The GM I found for my son in law was purchased from a Portuguese father and son whose English was no better but they were extremely honest and trustworthy. As with anything on CL, it’s never shop alone and buyer beware.

          • 0 avatar
            gtemnykh

            Very suspicious on the mileage/price on that ’99 GM, especially taken together with the poor English in the ad. Is there any reason aside from hiding a very worn steering wheel to put one of those awful steering wheel covers on a car? Call it profiling, but I am immediately on edge when I see poor command of the english language like that. Stereotypes being what they are, but a lot of 1st generation immigrants from all over the world are particularly handy with rebuilding auction-bought rides and flipping them.

            I’d rather pay a bit of a premium but get a cleaner car, even with higher mileage, from a more reputable source. Plus I just don’t like the decontented ‘whale’ panthers anywhere as much. Give me a green over green leather 1996 Grand Marquis LS, now we’re talking.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Agree, agree! Too much sketch in that ad. Too many questions.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            “2006 ford five hundred – $2900 (boston,mass)”

            “This car is a 3.0 automatic, all wheel drive”

            F that car. Kill it with fire.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          The Panther was at the top of the ratings for its time in side impact far better than anything else in this price range. You do want to hold out for one with the side air bags though.

          Everyone around here thinks they are poor because of Jack’s crash and the fact is he was hit by a car that was estimated to be going 40-50mph at the time of the impact while Jack’s car was sliding sideways tword that vehicle at 40ish itself meaning the impact was similar to getting hit by a vehicle traveling at 80mph. So very good crash protection.

    • 0 avatar
      Scoutdude

      If ever there was a case for the answer to be Panther this is it. No where does you buying dollar go further. It may not be good timing but the state/county/city auction should be explored. You know those fleet cars are over maintained and when there is a big batch of Panthers they go cheap.

      I recently picked up a P71 for my daily driver/beater to keep the miles on the good vehicle down. I picked up a 2005 that had 5 brand new tires that the county had spent $1200 on for $1000. 105K on the clock so it will be good to go for a long time. Personally I’m going to sell it before the next auction they go for $2000-$3000 on craiglist around here.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Nice buy. I’d hang onto it and get some use out of it for a year but you do what you think is best.

        • 0 avatar
          Scoutdude

          Thanks. The plan is to get another one at the next auction. All in I’ve got about $1500 with the tax, license ect and a set of Mustang wheels and tires. So I pocket the $1000 and pick up another one for a similar price as the county still has a ton of them in their fleet, so I’m sure that come October when they have their next auction there will be another 20 or 30 of them and I’ll be able to pickup another for around $1000. Since they have fallen out of favor with the taxi operators they tend to go cheap when there are that many of them.

          The better deal was the one I picked up for last October which I’ve give to my Daughter. That was an 03 with only 61K on the clock that I picked up for $500. The reason that one went so cheap was because it was the first one of the batch, they did a really bad job of removing the decals and left a lot of adhesive which attracted the dust in the gravel parking lot like, well glue. The other thing that scared people off was that they used it as a parts car and had removed the entire wiper assembly, motor, linkage, arms and cowl cover. One guy I talked to after I won it was like “that’s going to cost several hundred to replace all those parts”, which would be true if you purchased all of it new from Ford. I however went to the self service wrecking yard and had everything out the door for about $45 including the linkages to make the rear door handles work from the inside and move the locks out of the door jamb and into their normal location.

          I’m about $1000 all in on that one because it didn’t have good tires and needed a belt. I picked up some “only used one season” winter tires on craigslist for $200. I also added a nicer radio and the power pedals from the wrecking yard. The brand new tires that came on the one I just bought went on it for the Summer. That one will be her car to take to college and with 75K on it now it should only need a new set of brakes and oil changes until she graduates.

  • avatar
    JREwing

    I found myself in a situation where I needed the cheapest car likely to get me through three years of 30,000 miles a year of work travel and commuting for < $7500. Oh, and this was 2010 – where the used car market was stupid expensive. I couldn't touch a Honda or Toyota with under 100,000 miles for $10,000.

    The strategy was very similar – ignore the provenance, and buy by vehicle condition. I stumbled upon a clean '06 Cobalt with 25,000 miles for $7,000 – and pounced.

    Was it a perfect car? No. But it did the job – eat lots of miles and not break down often. That's what is needed here.

  • avatar

    My best friend lost his license to a DUI back in 2007. He used to drive “buzzed” with Long Island Iced teas he’d get when we got out of work at the bank. He got caught – thankfully – and couldn’t drive his 300c AWD. Problem was, the loophole was having his girlfriend drive the car – and getting insurance under HER name for the car.

    Basically, he’d sneakily drive – without a license – whenever he felt like it. He ultimately stopped the buzzed driving, but he’s probably the most irresponsible person I know. I HATE DRUNK DRIVERS WITH A PASSION.
    He never listened to me when I warned him.

    A DUI in this state can cost you well over $10,000 when you combine the fees and penalties.

    As far as getting a car to drive, I recommend a used Ford Panther platform or a used Dodge Charger. Fleet cars are cheap to maintain and fix in my experience. Insurance might not be so high on them in your state due to the cost of repairing them being low.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I’d say a fleet (read: police) panther or worse a Charger is just about the worst choice for someone looking for a budget commuter. Maintenance or no, these things get run hard. Gearing makes mileage even worse than the civilian variants (P71 fords don’t get more than low 20s on the highway typically). A charger of that provenance (or any provenance frankly) will eat a nice hole in your wallet in front end suspension repairs. And the usually-sound Diamler derived 5spd autos may not be so sound after some enthusiastic patrol car duty. Now if you’re suggesting to buy the plain jane civilian variant of said fleet favorites, that’s more sound advice. But even then, I wouldn’t touch an older LX car (or any ChryCo) with a 10 foot pole.

      • 0 avatar

        The stories about “front end damage” are played up. This ONLY happens when you have very large wheels – 20 or larger.

        I had the 2.7-L 300 with 16″ wheels. NO PROBLEMS even after 60,000 miles.

        The SRT versions with 20’s rode much harder and needed more micro-repairs: bushings, sway bars, etc.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          60k is hardly a test IMO, but I have a friend with a 2006(?) Magnum that’s needed constant fiddling with the ball joints and tie rod ends since 100k. He’s at 160k now and things have been fully gone through several times now. A large part of that is surely inferior aftermarket parts, but ask any indie mechanic, Mopars have a well deserved reputation for short lived suspension components (among a litany of other things).

        • 0 avatar
          bball40dtw

          There shall be no recommendations of vehicles that contain the engine that shall not be named.

      • 0 avatar
        Scoutdude

        I’ve had Panthers with all the available gear ratios and the difference in MPG between them is negligible at best. My most recent driver was a 2001 GM with the 2.73 ratio and I consistently averaged about 19.5 mpg. My current driver is a 05 P71 with 3.27’s and it consistently averages 19.3 mpg. My Marauder with the 3.55’s does in the same range or a little higher because it’s driving pattern is different than my daily driver, ie I don’t use it for commuting in stop and go traffic, on the other hand It does get pushed harder on average than the cars that do get stuck in traffic.

        The condition of course depends on the dept many maintain them well, you preferably want a county or state patrol rather than a city car. Those forces are more likely to have a “1 officer-1 car” policy than cars that are run 24-7 in shifts. With a 1-1 force the driver is more likely to take care of it because if it is damaged he can’t get away with the it was like that when I got it. He is also more likely to make sure something that is wrong gets attention.

        Yes you do not want a Charger pursit there is a reason that many depts did not buy more of them and the ones that do use them often retire them at 60K before they need a new front end and transmission. Panthers on the other hand they will keep as long as 150-160k.

  • avatar
    01 Deville

    Three items Of detail will help us help you better
    1. How much car can you afford regardless of insurance costs?
    2.Where do you live?
    3. Are you handy with cars? Or have access a good cheap mechanic?

    Assuming Midwest or new England (snowy winters) with $3k limit and not having a reliable mech (find one quick) I would recommend early 2000 gm Fwd cars like park avenue($800-3k), lesabre(1.5-3k), impala($2-4k) these cars have solid powertrains and hvac. Try to get one that has intake gaskets done and you might end up needing to do wheel bearings but other than that they are safe, reliable,easy to maintain comfortable cars. Pontiacs used to have higher insurance than other gm brands. I would also avoid dodge/ Chrysler of this era.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I’m with you on the Buick brand around that time, but not the Park Ave with high miles and/or BHPH. It sensor-dimes you to death.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Read my mind although Lesabre has its own niggling issues.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Both sets of my grandparents had circa 04 LeSabres, around the same time. Both of them had sensor and electrical faults, and one had a complete transmission failure at 40K miles.

        On second thought, one of the two might still have theirs. I never see their garage. The other set moved on to… a Century after all the issues. Then a Terraza, which they still have.

        • 0 avatar
          redmondjp

          I have an ’01 Lesabre and an ’03 Century in the family fleet right now. As much as the Century is a ‘bleh’ car, I’d take it in a heartbeat over the Lesabre (this from somebody who owned a 1988 Buick Electra for 16 years).

          Maintenance is still key – intake manifold gaskets on either are a weak point, and if you botch the job on the Century and overtighten the rocker arm bolts, bad things will happen!

          But far less things have gone wrong with the Century than my Lesabre, sad to say. The early 2000s is another “dark year” period for GM IMO – their part quality really sucked.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    You need a brand that died or no one cares about.

    Find the cleanest Pontiac/Saturn/Mercury/Buick/Olds you can find.

    Based on insurance pricing, the 2008-09 Taurus/Sable is probably too new. That’s typically one of my recommendation for under $10K budgets. There is always the 4th gen Taurus and Sable. I still see plenty of them roaching around.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I think the 08-09 Taur/Sab twins are too new for his budget, much less insurance concerns. If he wants something $2000 to $4000.

      Down there I’m saying Impala, Taurus (bleh), Maxima, LeSabre. Vulcan, 3800, timing chain VQV6.

      • 0 avatar
        bball40dtw

        I thought the $2700-$3300 was the cost of auto insurance. He’s looking at cars 9-15 years old, so I figured there may be some price overlap with a 2008 Sable. I would even recommend the Five Hundred or Montego as long as he buys FWD. AWD = CVT of doom!

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          Oh oh you’re right. I read it wrong. Wish he’d give his actual budget for the purchase. Any time you ask someone “recommend a car for me” questions, you HAVE to say how much you can spend.

  • avatar

    I’m curious as to what public transportation options are not available–are there no buses? If you rent a house or apartment, could you move closer to work? Or could you bike or buy a motorbike/scooter that doesn’t require a license?

    None of these options are ideal, but if you are also rebuilding your finances, it may be better to look at non-car options more closely than spending a minimum of $4-5,000 a year on insurance, gas, and maintenance on a $3000 car.

  • avatar
    tonyola

    There have been some good suggestions here. I would also include an older Toyota Avalon for consideration – perhaps one in the 1998-2004 range. These were generally bought by older buyers who liked the concept of a Buick LeSabre but wanted a Japanese car. As usual, service history is important.

    Good luck with your recovery program.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      That’s a good idea on the Avalon. It’s nicer, larger, and less thought of than the Camry as an option. All have a V6, and they’re easier to find in good condition.

    • 0 avatar
      55_wrench

      What Tonyola said.

      I have had a Panther, an ’01 Lesabre and recently sold an ’01 Avalon to a family member who needed a break. The Avalon beats them both by a huge margin.

      The 2000-2004 Gen 2 is starting to come down to your price point now.

      Look for: privately owned, service records, recent timing belt, and evidence of frequent oil changes.

      I bought the one I had when I was still commuting 120 miles/day, and needed something dependable and comfortable. The Avalon ticked all the boxes. After 4 years and 75,000 miles of ownership, all it needed was oil, brakes, a mixture sensor and valve cover gaskets.

      I sold the car at 200,000 miles only a month ago . The new owner got a timing belt and water pump as part of the deal, and he should be good to go until 300K.

      And no, it’s not a sludge machine. I changed the oil at 5K intervals with Valvoline dino-juice and the area under the cam covers was spotless.

  • avatar
    ponchoman49

    When times got tough for me back in 2003 after losing my 43k a year salary job due to lay off, I sold my payment car and instead moved right into a reliable A-body Olds Ciera of 1993 vintage. It’s 3300 and 125C transaxle gave me years of trouble free service and parts on those cars is very cheap. Fast forward to the present and those cars are still around in surprising abundance and they are usually quite cheap, tires are inexpensive along with parts and finding a well cared for example is not very difficult on Craigslist. My friend just picked up 3 A-body cars, a 1990 Celebrity Euro wagon, a 1994 Buick Century Special and a 1995 Century wagon. All 3 have well over 100K and are V6 equipped. Each has been reliable after the initial small bugs were worked out and other than the 1994 3100 needing an intake manifold gasket have been reliable daily driver’s for there cash strapped family. The best part, all were less than $1000 bucks each and are mostly rust free and in decent condition!

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Those are a good idea in places where rust isn’t a huge concern. When I see those around here in Ohio, they’re all rusted to bits around the wheel wells.

  • avatar
    SteveMar

    We needed a reasonable second car from me as a daily driver that I could also share with my “soon to be a driver” teenage son. Settled on a 2000 Lexus ES300 with about 150K miles on it but a very clean service history. Cost about $3400. It’s basically a gussied up Camry, albeit with more sound insulation and the ultra smooth Toyota V6. So far, it’s needed brakes, but otherwise super solid and reliable. It cost about the same as a Camry but the owner pool for Lexus means you have a better chance of good maintenance and easy driving. I would look at Acura, Infiniti and Lexus equivalents of some of the more mainstream models — by this point in the depreciation curve, you aren’t likely to be paying much of a premium for what was (in its time) a premium car.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Get ready for this OP…

    I agree with the calls for >04 Camry, Accord, Avalon etc. the issue is though there are NO deals on these cars. Period. You will pay through the nose and absorb any deferred maint. Because they can. So unless you have considerable coin and also can happily afford 3K annual insurance for cars worth 8 I suggest you look for more value in your selection. Since you have a son, safety should be tantamount and most if not all of those mentioned do not have the best safety records.

    Clean 08-09 Ford Taurus FWD which is Volvo derived (avoid Ford Five Hundred IMO)

    Rough/avg/clean with mileage

    08 Taurus true value: $2829 156K / $5657 110K / $8486 63K
    08 Sable true value: $2600 140K / $5200 102K / $7800 64K

    Clean 05-09 Volvo S60/S80/XC70 FWD.

    Rough/avg/clean with mileage

    05 S60 true value: $2682 126K / $4250 100K / $5818 74K
    05 S80 I5 true value: $1214 175K / $2427 126K / $3641 77K
    05 XC70 true value: $2157 184K / $4314 127K / $6471 70K

    Clean 3800 GM G-body: 00-05 Buick Park Ave/Lesabre/Bonneville, 06-08 Buick Lucerne.

    Rough/avg/clean with mileage

    05 Lesabre true value: $1,523 189K /$3,000 126K / $4,569 63K
    05 Park Ave true value: $1,388 164K / $2,775 109K / $4163 54K
    05 Bonneville true value: $517 194K / $1033 152K / $1,550 110K
    06 Lucerne true value: $2833 124K / $5036 86K / $7239 48K

    Based on these extrapolations, the Bonneville is the best overall value, followed by Lesabre/Park Ave assuming you can find one in clean to avg condition (Lucerne trades for nearly double for whatever reason so I’m not impressed). The four G-body cars are all the same platform so the Bonne is just as good as Lesabre, but like Lesabre, probably has the same decontenting issues (i.e. cheap window regulators, sway bar links etc). 3800 is *the* domestic cockroach car motor, and it would be my first choice in a G-body because G-body had an excellent crash rating for its time. After that I would look for a Volvo, the S60 being the most common and the S80 being a better value 2005 onward. The issue with Volvos is they are of a high build quality and can take somewhat of a beating, but P2 models can be difficult to DIY, they also require timing belts every 70K. Look for receipts that the timing belt and water pump were changed on schedule. If you can find one owned by the original owner or CPO buyer, there is a good chance of this or at least they didn’t beat on it too much. Avoid Volvos owned by sh**bags, which will be a substantial percentage of Craigslist. After reviewing the data, Taurus/Sable are the most expensive however they are also newer than the others I pulled. Ford gives the luxury of domestic parts and labor prices while giving you a Volvo design of domestic build quality and the excellent Ford 3.5 motor. The trade off is “new” Volvo like DIY. I like Taurus quite a bit and for the most amount of money I would give it a look, if you can find one.

    Additional: On a personal note, I can relate to the effects of alcoholism although not from the alcoholic’s standpoint. I wish you well, however I would point out alcoholism physically alters brain size and chemistry. However there is hope that some of the damage could be reversed over time. if I were you, I would start doing some research into this area. Do it for your son.

    “Some brain cells are irreversibly lost from alcohol abuse, according to study researcher Natalie May Zahr of the Stanford University School of Medicine.But alcohol also shrinks the volume of brain matter, a process that can be reversed with sobriety.”

    “This study offers recovering alcoholics a sense of hope ― hope that even within two weeks of abstinence, the recovering individual should be able to observe improvements in brain functioning that may allow for better insight and thus ability to remain sober,” Zahr said in a statement. “Indeed, a minimal of brain healing may be necessary before the addict is able to achieve the control necessary to maintain continued abstinence.”‘

    http://www.livescience.com/24027-alcoholics-brains-recover-detox.html

    “Evidence shows that heavy alcohol use modifies the structure and physiology of the brain, although the extent of recovery after years of abstinence is unclear.”

    “Several of these studies have shown that years of abstaining from booze can allow brain regions to return to their original volume and can repair neural connections across different regions. Much of this restoration occurs in the system most adversely affected by chronic alcoholism—the frontocerebellar circuitry, which regulates decision making, reasoning and problem solving.”

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-much-can-the-brain-recover/

    However new(er) research by Dr. Terry Sejnowski shows the brain can grow new neurons in some cases:

    “As an illustration of how culture affects neurobiology, Sejnowski recently found that exercise stimulates the birth of new neurons and new connections in an area of the brain central to memory (the hippocampus), thereby improving memory formation. As an example of how neurobiology affects culture, Quartz is using brain imaging to investigate how the structure of our visual cortex determines our visual aesthetic, which in turn will determine what kinds of things we surround ourselves with, and in what we find aesthetic pleasure.”

    http://www.dana.org/Cerebrum/2003/Capturing_the_Brain_But_Losing_the_Mind/

    http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/when-build-brains-like-ours/

    Oh and also on Coursera for free: Leaning How to Learn from Dr. Barbra Oakley and Dr. Terry Sejnowski.

    Neurology science for the layman combined with effective learning techniques based on actual research.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I can’t believe the Sable is worth less than the Taurus now, considering it’s exactly the same but a bit more stylish. God bless that failed brand thing.

      Can’t agree on the 10 year old Volvos – it’s gonna have little things go wrong, and the 05ish ones all have interior trim problems. And by this time, they’re on their owner #2 or #4 who doesn’t give a sh!t, and pays as much attention to it as the owner of similar vintage Saabs. The S80 is gonna beat you up in maintenance of it’s little weird S80-only parts. Any mechanic at CarX can see a 3.5 Sable and say “shoot I’ll fix it.” Show them an S80. They’ll go “Oh uhh… we don’t really work on those here.”

      While the Bonne is cheaper, it’s typically owned by poor, younger people who live in apartments, park them outside, and buy stick on bits from AutoZone. The LeSabre does not fall prey to this issue, because old people own them and park them in warm condo garages, and a homie wouldn’t be seen in one.

      I’m saying Sable on this list. That’s a lot of low mileage, safe car for not a lot of money. LeSabre is secondary choice.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “I can’t believe the Sable is worth less than the Taurus now”

        Branding. Same reason a Bonneville trades nearly for free compared to Lesabre.

        S60 and S80 are the same platform (till 2006) and nearly the same car, but S80s teething issues were so much more severe the values go down. S80 also offered blow up motors which S60 did not, but a 2.3L I5 in a base S80 is the same as an S60. You make a point on finding a shop with a clearly foreign vs domestic car, but that’s part of the game. By CY 2005 most of the teething issues were fixed in both the S60 and S80, but the S80 moved to EUCD in 2006 which is far more expensive. However the S60 soldiered on until 2009 largely unchanged (which is why I specified a long range).

        When old people own them, yes. These Buicks might be 40% original owner and 60% 2-3rd+ owner at this point. A clean Bonne if found will be a better buy than a clean Lesabre at this point, even the fictitious KBB will show this.

        I like Sable too, but it will a harder find. There were over 20 Taurus SEL FWD models on the MMR list and only 10 Sable FWD base models (and four Premier), suggesting a ratio of at least 2:1.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          I just figured Sable might be $100 less, not several hundred at these already low figures. Big difference there!

          I guess my problem with advising someone to shop these old Volvos is that you have to give such strict, good guidance. They’ve got to know what they’re doing, purchase a specific engine and trim, in a specific year, and look for certain maintenance records, etc etc. It’s hard for most people. Something Sabley is more a general recommendation, and harder to eff it up.

          Is it possible to find a clean Bonne? I don’t think I’ve seen a clean one in years! I would worry on the limited market that individual owners might get a “nice Bonne hard to find” attitude and up the price like a Riviera.

          Agree the Sable is more rare. Sable Premier even more so. Worth the search, IMO. I really like the front and rear clips better. All Sables came with HiD’s as well, whereas on Taurus they were only an option or not available (not sure).

          Driving the Cruze recently, I realized how much I take for granted night visibility with HiD.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            That’s not how it works. When Oldsmobile was finally culled in 2004, we saw a 10% decrease in Olds resale in 2005. When I bought my Pontiac I knew this and I paid about 8% less for a loaded GP vs a base W-Lacrosse, and I overpaid by about a grand because I got bid up by pricks.

            If we look at the $686 difference between the clean Sable and clean Taurus at 64K:

            Answer:

            686 is what percent of 8486
            = 686 / 8486
            = 0.080839

            Converting decimal to a percentage:
            0.080839 * 100 = 8.08%

            G-body 3800 is the best choice for this reason, they are all pretty much the same and more common than D3 Taurus and P2 Volvos. I selected Volvos because of their high build quality and superior crash ratings, but you are correct in they are not as easy to buy and one must be very specific on motor/trim etc.

            “Is it possible to find a clean Bonne? I don’t think I’ve seen a clean one in years! I would worry on the limited market that individual owners might get a “nice Bonne hard to find” attitude and up the price like a Riviera.”

            They are out there but given production figures a Buick is easier to find. So are Rivs, they just aren’t everywhere. I looked at one last year but it didn’t make sense for me at the time.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Oh and I meant to note, I find the final interior version of the Bonne utterly disgusting and tasteless, and would avoid for that reason as well. But that’s just a personal preference.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            When you’re in OPs position style is secondary at best.

          • 0 avatar
            bball40dtw

            HiDs are great. Our MkT has the cornering HiDs and the auto bright/dim feature. It makes such a difference when driving through rural backroads at night.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        My rule for Volvo is this: RWD or nothing, I have a friend who owned an 850 turbo and most recently and S60 and both were expensive money pits.

        Bonnevilles are the best looking G-Bodys imo, but most of my local ones are a bit beat up if not donked. Lesabres less so, but I still see a few with headliners held on by tacs.

        I don’t recommend Japanese cars anymore partially because of their expensive pricing, and partially because their parts can be even pricier than a European makes.

        • 0 avatar
          gtemnykh

          Depends on the Japanese make/model, depends on the European make/model, you’re making some sweeping generalizations IMO. Stuff for a main stream Honda/Toyota cost peanuts, and they are generally a piece of cake to work on. My old 1998 Mazda MPV had crazy parts prices because they sold so few of them, and factory parts were pricey due to a poor dealer network. Likewise something like an Infiniti Q45 will probably have some expensive one-off stuff that’s dealer only.

          I see plenty of clean older Corollas (98-02 gen is the sweet spot right now IMO) in the $2000-3000 range. 92-96 Camries with plenty of life for $3000, 97-01 Camries for $3500-4500. 94-97 Accords for $2500-3000, 98-02 Accords for $3500-4500. Not unreasonable for cars with plenty of comfortable and reliable life ahead of them. What European comparable car are you saying is a better value in this price bracket?

          • 0 avatar
            Ryoku75

            I argue the 940s a good pick if you don’t mind something in the 90’s. Get a decent one for $1500, pocket the rest.

            If you want something newer its a toss-up between American and Japanese cars.

            Newer Volvos only cause one to pick up drinking once more.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      And since I’m browsing – I was not aware the Maxima had a 4-seat rear executive package (?) option at one point.

      http://www.autotrader.com/cars-for-sale/vehicledetails.xhtml?zip=45241&endYear=2016&modelCode1=MAX&showcaseOwnerId=0&startYear=1981&makeCode1=NISSAN&searchRadius=25&maxPrice=8000&showcaseListingId=0&mmt=%5BNISSAN%5BMAX%5B%5D%5D%5B%5D%5D&listingId=393318053&Log=0

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Where did you find this Maxima? This is what I get:

      This car is no longer listed for sale.
      The Seller has removed this ad from the site. Keep searching! We update our listings constantly, so we are sure you’ll find similar cars.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        Ugh, I just looked at it! Oh well it’s on Cars.com too.

        http://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/detail/629429847/overview/

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          $6K for an 04 with 125K?

          Reality is a real bitch. Note to Nissan, this rear seat package should have just been standard to the car.

          MY04 Nissan Maxima SL

          06/03/15 NEW MEX Lease $3,300 120,443 Avg WHITE 6G A Yes
          06/10/15 NJ Regular $3,200 122,992 Avg SILVER 6G A Yes
          06/02/15 NEWENGLD Regular $2,900 125,815 Avg GRAY 6G A Yes
          06/11/15 PHOENIX Regular $2,700 127,348 Avg BURGANDY 6G Yes
          06/04/15 TX HOBBY Regular $2,300 127,367 Avg SILVER 6G A Yes
          06/09/15 ATLANTA Regular $4,100 129,452 Above WHITE 6G A Yes
          05/20/15 NJ Lease $1,700 129,776 Below SILVER 6G A Yes
          06/02/15 GEORGIA Lease $3,000 131,580 Avg RED 6G A Yes

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Ha, I was certainly NOT saying that was a reasonable price, just the seat package caught my eye.

            I think most people buying a sedan want 5 seats, so 4 as standard would be an even greater sales flop!

            There wasn’t even a 4-seat option in the Q45, though there was a rear seat Luxury package with adjustable heated seats back there, and center arm rest with stereo and climate controls.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Maxima was supposed to be the cool 4DSC, therefore four vs five passengers wouldn’t have been an issue as Nissan had other sedan models at the time.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “05 Bonneville true value: $517 194K / $1033 152K / $1,550 110K”

      Seems like unusually low prices for an ’05 Bonneville even considering the mileages.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Those are the min/mid/max ranges in MMR. Maybe Canada is different.

        • 0 avatar
          danio3834

          Still off. I’m thinking there may be an error in that data or not enough to get a good picture. An ’05 Bonneville in decent shape with 110k is more like a 4-5k car retail, 2.5-3k at auction.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            MY05 Pontiac Bonneville V6 SE

            05/21/15 DETROIT Regular $5,100 82,954 Above GRAY 6G A No
            05/14/15 PHOENIX Lease $2,900 98,212 Above SILVER 6G A Yes
            05/14/15 DETROIT Lease $1,200 128,068 Avg GRAY 6G A Yes
            06/04/15 MISS Lease $500 140,333 Avg GOLD 6G A Yes
            05/27/15 FT MYERS Lease $1,100 144,236 Avg SILVER 6G A Yes
            05/28/15 NORTHSTR Regular $1,500 173,392 Avg BLUE 6G A Yes

            MY05 Pontiac Bonneville V6 SLE

            04/08/15 KC Regular $8,300 78,196 Above BLACK 6G A No
            05/05/15 PHILLY Regular $6,600 82,816 Above SILVER 6G A Yes
            02/24/15 NEWENGLD Regular $4,100 97,826 Avg WHITE 6G A Yes
            02/04/15 CEN FLA Regular $2,000 104,500 Avg RED 6G A No
            04/01/15 SEATTLE Regular $3,900 134,246 Avg RED 6G A Yes
            02/04/15 LAKELAND Regular $1,250 167,322 Avg GRAY 6G A Yes
            05/20/15 PITTSBGH Regular $1,000 169,627 Below RED 6G A Yes

            MMR Estimates SE V6

            Prices are based on more transactions than shown under ‘Transactions’, above.
            Jun 16 – Jun 23 2015
            Above Average Below Jul 2015 Jun 2016
            Auction $2,225 $1,350 $500 $1,300 $25
            Est. Retail $5,775 $4,575 $3,400 $4,500 $2,775

            MMR Estimates SLE V6

            Prices are based on more transactions than shown under ‘Transactions’, above.
            Jun 16 – Jun 23 2015
            Above Average Below Insufficient Transactions To
            Auction $5,675 $3,375 $1,050 Estimate Future Prices
            Est. Retail $10,500 $7,325 $4,175

  • avatar
    Slow_Joe_Crow

    Insurance rates are based on how frequently the model is crashed, or crashed into. Thus Corvette insurance is cheaper than Camaro insurance and convertible Mustangs are cheaper than coupe Mustangs.
    This makes old lady cars a good bet since they are driven conservatively and things like well maintained 3800 powered Buicks a good bet. I’d consider a 4 cylinder Ford Ranger but only a personal use truck.
    Beware of Toyondas at this price point too many people stupidly drink the Toyotas are reliable or Hondas last forever Kool-Aid and don’t bother to change the oil or rotate the tires.

  • avatar
    thelastdriver

    I’ve always driven Camrys or Corollas (a Geo too!) with a few Cavaliers in the mix. You’ve got a young son so safety and reliability are an issue for you. I’d say 4-cylinder 3rd or 4th generation Camry. Anything after ’94 has dual front airbags and anything too late will be out of your budget. You might even get lucky and find a wagon. I just drove mine into a pole after relapsing and can speak for their safety.

  • avatar
    r129

    It seems as though the OP was thinking about a smaller car based on the cars he listed, but lots of people are recommending larger vehicles. I do think that something like a GM W-body would be an excellent choice, but I’ll focus on small cars.

    Several years ago when shopping for a small car, I found that when it comes to regular, non-DWI insurance, the cost of insuring small cars varies wildly depending on the model. The Cobalt, Saturn Ion, and for some reason, VW Jetta were among the lowest. The Ford Focus, Hyundai Elantra, and most Kia models were significantly higher.

    The Cavalier and old Saturn SLs seem to be “cockroaches of the road” that usually only die from their frames rusting out. For whatever reason (demographics?), the Sunfires don’t seem to have fared as well. In any case, they are cheap to buy, cheap to fix, and cheap to insure if you can find a well-maintained, non-rusted example and don’t mind driving a penalty box.

    For something a bit newer and “nicer”, there is always the Cobalt and Ion. With that ignition controversy, Cobalts are cheaper than ever!

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I have a Saturn SL and can tell you they are cheaper on insurance than the similar period Neon (as my brother found out) but all of those small cars have poor crash ratings.

      • 0 avatar
        r129

        He didn’t mention that he was looking for a safe car when he listed his criteria!

        I just didn’t think of it because crash test ratings are not something that I usually take into consideration when purchasing a vehicle, but I can see why someone might be concerned with the safety of one of those cars.

        How about a Chevy Prizm? They seem to be rated quite a bit better, and can be had for cheap.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          True, but with having a son to ride around it should enter into the criteria. If safety is a serious criteria, the econoboxes of yore are mostly out, IMO.

          The Prisms are mostly gone, I think the final model year was 2002. I’m not sure on crash ratings of Prism/Corolla of the period. Maybe they were IIHS “acceptable”.

          • 0 avatar
            r129

            The last year was 2002, but that would fall into the 9-15 year old range that he mentioned. If he truly does want a smaller car, there are far worse choices. Crash test ratings aren’t too bad for a small car of that time
            http://www.cars.com/chevrolet/prizm/1999/safety-ratings

            I was just checking Craigslist in my area to see if Prizms are in fact still significantly cheaper than Corollas. Seems that Prizms are usually listed for $1000 less than a comparable Corolla, most of them are $1500-$2500.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            Sounds like a good choice then.

    • 0 avatar
      Toad

      In my area the Cavalier and old Saturn SLs seem to be the official car of the poor young single mother. The car and occupants have an almost third world look to them.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        The US is becoming the third world if you haven’t been paying attention.

        • 0 avatar
          Toad

          If you pay attention you will see that if you have little education, no partner/spouse, and a few kids you will live a third world lifestyle.

          If you make those choices in the US at least you get to drive a Cavalier; in the rest of the world you walk.

          • 0 avatar
            28-Cars-Later

            I agree with you, but its missing the forest for the trees. This behavior is tolerated and subsidized by society, therefore it will continue to become more popular.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Yep, it’s authorized. There’s a crappy apartment building which I was near yesterday – which is subsidized by Section 8 in such a way that all rent is covered each month, save for $25. Makes it very easy to get by doing jack sh!t.

          • 0 avatar

            Section 8 dwellers ‘hustle’ enough money on the side to come up with the requisite 25% cash down to ‘roll out’ from CARMAX with a CAF-approval on 2012 G25 sedan.

  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    Accent or Sentra – they are cockroaches (durable), and cheap to maintain. You can tell people you’re trying to save a little on gas.

    Best wishes on your journey. It will be nice to put this chapter behind you and rejoin society in a productive way. We need more people like you who understand themselves clearly, than those who think they’re above it all.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      A close friend has an MY06 Sentra and its been a disaster. The entire exhaust has been replaced over time (out of warranty), she had numerous sensor type issues (which were fixed under warranty), needed a fuel pump (out of warranty), but the kicker for me was the CVT. In 2005 Nissan did this. She’s got 80 some K on it now but the extended Nissan CVT warranty ran out I think in Jan. I think its just a matter of time. I encouraged her to look at the new Corolla and I think she was quoted $4K on trade. I wouldn’t be looking at one, but that’s JMO.

      • 0 avatar
        gtemnykh

        CVT on a 2006 Sentra? I think not, they were the last year of the B15 generation with the plain jane 4spd auto (jatco I assume). 2007 was the first year of the new renault derived chassis and the new powertrain (including CVT). Altimas had CVTs since the 2002 MY as I recall.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          I’m sorry I made a mistake she *bought* it in 2006, its an MY07 B16 Sentra similar to the one shown on Wikipedia.

          https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nissan_Sentra

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        I know someone with a late 90’s-early 2000’s Sentra thats spent nearly $7000 keeping it going, why they haven’t sold it yet is a mystery to me.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      In my experience, both these cars are terrible disposable heaps.

  • avatar
    iMatt

    While in university, I could hardly afford to insure my car, let alone maintain it. One broken ball-joint later, and I had no choice but to let the tow truck driver take it, never to be seen again. And that one was my absolute favourite – a 95′ Accord wagon with almost 500 000 km on the clock.

    I picked up cycling – out of necessity at first, but quickly became passionate about it. Couldn’t have been better for both my physical and mental health at the time as at that point, even enrolling back in school was a personal “reset” in my life. Cycling just made it that much sweeter.

    I was as fit as I had ever been and enjoyed setting new personal benchmarks as I discovered a wonderful new sport. Get good enough at it, and 50 km a day is nothing. My commute to my part time job at the airport was 70 km round trip requiring just under two hours of total commute time. Of course, I was lucky to be living in a very bike friendly city with numerous right-of-ways and patient drivers. The bike lanes were even plowed and salted all winter long!

    If you can make it work somehow for your own errands and commute, perhaps there are alternatives for getting your son around? Thought I’d share my experience, it sure helped me at a very stressful time in my own life.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Around here, serial DUI offenders seem to prefer 80’s Olds Cutlass Supremes. Perhaps you should check those out.

  • avatar
    Southern Perspective

    Dear Anonymous,

    Recovery is possible.

    Recovery is ongoing.

    I have not had a drink today. One day at a time, and by the Grace of God, I have been able to say that now for 29 years this month.

    Use the program to learn how to live.

    You have my prayers.

    • 0 avatar
      geozinger

      I had to log in just to reply to this post…

      +1

      I’ve known several people who have been addicted and it’s a nasty, terrible situation to be in. Some make it out, others don’t.

      Until you walk in another man’s shoes, etc., etc…

  • avatar
    Luke42

    I’ve found used Ford Escapes from the early 2000s to be a) repairable b) kid-friendly and c) fully depreciated long before their utility/comfort expires.

    I didn’t particularly *like* my Ford Escape, because the V6 was growly and the transmission shifted rough. I’d get a 4 cylinder version, or a hybrid, if I had to do it over again. It was a lot of car for the money, though, and there’s a huge rolling junkyard out there to keep yours running.

    If I were in the OP’s position, I’d jump right back it to one of these.

    P.S. If the price in negotiable, used 2nd-gen Prii might be a good option. Previous owners are likely to heve treated them well, and they’re cheap to run (though more expensive upfront), and the car is but up to discourage aggressive driving (which is one reason why auto journos hate it). Plus, it looks responsible and boring. If it were affordable, it would me o good fit for the other constraints of the situation.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      I really like first gen escapes, the 3.0L duratec in a compact SUV was a revelation back in the day. Unfortunately, as you alluded to, the CD4E transmissions do not generally live long lives in this application (or in any application it must be said). Additionally, in northern climates rust becomes a very real danger. So as long as the transmission checks out and it hasn’t lived its whole life up North, Escapes/Tributes are a solid bet.

  • avatar
    jkross22

    Get an electric bicycle.

    When you need to go to the store, Uber or ride share with someone else.


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