Edmunds Answers

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  • avatar morin2 11/25/09 10:25 pm PST

    Jorge,

    Your English is very good. Quebec is probably a better place to learn French than English! My family is mostly from Quebec from late 1500's to 1800's. English is not my first language either. I spoke French exclusively as a child in an ethnic neighborhood in Massachusetts, then both French & English but have lost the French now after decades of disuse. It came in very handy for an easy A in high school, college, and for tutoring in college.

    I am going to assume that you will be shopping for a car that is older. Others will make some recommendations, but I'll start:

    Minivans are very practical and many spoiled people will foolishly not consider them because they are not "stylish". I prefer the older Mercury Villager and Mazda MPV minivans for better reliability than the GM, Ford and Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth minivans. The older Mercury Villager minivans were the same as the Nissan Quest and better than the newer ones.

    Among 4-door sedans, everyone likes the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry - but they will be more expensive. The mid to late 90's Camries are outstanding cars. I am a big fan of subarus, but for older ones, only consider those with the 2.2 liter engine (not the 2.5). The AWD will be helpful if you attempt to drive in the snow. The 93-94 Subaru Legacy wagon is one of my favorite practical cars for its ease of maintenance. Some others: Nissan Maxima, Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable, Saturn SL2, and any GM sedan, especially Buicks, such as the LeSabre, with the 3.8 liter v-6 only. Almost all of these older ones also came in nice practical wagons - which are much harder to find in newer years.

    Avoid any rear-drive car for winter driving in Quebec. And of course, have any car checked out before you buy it. Then use the mechanic's findings to help your price negotiation. You may wish to consider taking an intro to auto mechanics class at a local high school or community college to learn how to do your own maintenance and repairs.

    Good luck !

Answers

  • morin2 11/25/09 9:50 am PST

    300,000 km for metric challenged US readers is 186K miles - about the useful life of a Caravan. You should have no expectation of any reliability. If you are good with a wrench, then it may be worth the risk, but you would be wise to avoid this unless there is a record of everything having been replaced recently. Or bring your tools with you when you go for any drive. When you have such a vehicle (I have), you consider yourself lucky on those days when you arrive without a breakdown - and you then hope that luck continues for the rest of the day. Good luck!

  • morin2 11/25/09 11:40 am PST

    Thinking more about your question, for the right person, driving such a vehicle with no loan can be empowering and also environmentally responsible, since no resources and energy will be used for the new vehicle alternative, in theory. But many people buy minivans for young families and I'd hate to think that you're squeezing a bunch of little ones in this thing and setting out in a cold Canadian night drive of hundreds of miles & expecting no problems. On the other hand, this might be just the ticket for the handy, mechanically inclined owner who needs the space to haul things around locally. There's a lot of room when you remove the seats and minivans are very practical.

  • jac16 11/25/09 1:38 pm PST

    Thanks a lot for your response. I appreciate it very much. My problem is that I would'nt know what to do if there appears a mechanical problem. I just know how to change a wheel and as you said, it would a very risky situation. In the other hand, I just would like to buy my first family car with some confidence about its duration, at least 2 or three years without problems. So what would you decide in my place?

    Thank you very much


  • morin2 11/25/09 3:44 pm PST

    Ok, now we know that you're not a mechanic - that helps. Even being mechanically inclined does not always help. For example, I bought a new 2009 Subaru Outback this spring and it broke down 2 months later at 4000 miles while crossing a busy highway. Even if I could have found the wire that rubbed against the valve cover and shorted out a main fuse, there would have been nothing I could have done. It was towed 50 miles to the nearest dealer. I use this as an example that no matter what you do - there are no guarantees about reliability. Even new cars fail unexpectedly. One of my most reliable cars was a 1968 Dodge Dart that I had as a grad student in the 1970's - that I bought used for $400 and drove all over the US East Coast - with none of the problems I've had with new cars. Today, such a basic car would be unacceptable to nearly everyone - with its 3 speed manual column shifter and no power anything or AC. But I could afford to buy it with cash - a method I highly recommend. The engine from that Dart may still be running - now in a boat in the Chesapeake Bay.

    I have nothing against Caravans and we actually had 3 of them and never had any problem with them - unless you count speeders running stop signs & T-boning us once, and a stolen car that sideswiped another...These may not be the easiest to buy used because typically they are used for families with small children and the interiors take a beating. Like any car, some may not get the maintenance they deserve. So, its important to take any vehicle under consideration to a mechanic for a complete check-up - especially the Chrysler transmission. It will be the best 75-$100 you will spend. I don't know where you are, but there are sites to find reviews of mechanics. I have used this one:
    http://www.cartalk.com/content/mechx/
    and had good luck finding a great mechanic for my son in college over 100 miles from home who was unfamiliar with local garages.

    One of the tools many people use is the April issue of Consumer Reports. Its the annual auto issue and has specific recommended used car models (these were good new and could be good used - if checked out). The library will have a copy. In addition, browse among the many forums here at Edmunds. We're all volunteers who share a common belief that this is a great site for information.

    I can't come right out and say: "buy one of these" because your needs may not be the same as mine are today. But there have never been better, safer, more reliable cars in general than right now. Notice I did not say "easy to work on" because the improvements have come at the expense of complexity - more reason to have anything checked out by a qualified mechanic because there's always been a lot of junk for sale. That hasn't changed!

    Consider all factors when considering a car. We often see people focus on the fuel economy rather than the total cost to own. Some cars are so cheap to insure (such as the Caravan - possibly the lowest insurance cost in the US) that the savings more than makes up for less fuel economy. And you can join AAA for road service for the breakdowns that might occur.

    Let us know more about your specific needs - things like how many kids to haul, are they in carseats, highway driving or city, snow driving or not, and special needs like do you need to carry a canoe on the roof, or tow a trailer, carry building materials or tools, and we'll be able to suggest some of our favorites for your needs.

    All of us who post here are here to help - don't be afraid to ask questions. There are hundreds to thousands of combined years of experience here.




  • jac16 11/25/09 8:57 pm PST

    Thanks again. Well as you maybe have already realized, my English is not so good, but I'm going to do my hadest.
    I'm living in Quebec Canada (the french province of Canada) since June 2007. I came here from Peru with with my whole family, my wife and two daughters. They are 12 and 19.Here in Quebec we drive in city as well as in the highway ( I have relatives living in USA). By the moment there is no canoe,trailer, neither building materials.
    My only concern is maybe the winter that is tough here and get a car to transport my family nearby and do shopping with my wife.

    Thank you very much


    Jorge

  • morin2 11/25/09 10:25 pm PST

    Jorge,

    Your English is very good. Quebec is probably a better place to learn French than English! My family is mostly from Quebec from late 1500's to 1800's. English is not my first language either. I spoke French exclusively as a child in an ethnic neighborhood in Massachusetts, then both French & English but have lost the French now after decades of disuse. It came in very handy for an easy A in high school, college, and for tutoring in college.

    I am going to assume that you will be shopping for a car that is older. Others will make some recommendations, but I'll start:

    Minivans are very practical and many spoiled people will foolishly not consider them because they are not "stylish". I prefer the older Mercury Villager and Mazda MPV minivans for better reliability than the GM, Ford and Chrysler/Dodge/Plymouth minivans. The older Mercury Villager minivans were the same as the Nissan Quest and better than the newer ones.

    Among 4-door sedans, everyone likes the Honda Accord and Toyota Camry - but they will be more expensive. The mid to late 90's Camries are outstanding cars. I am a big fan of subarus, but for older ones, only consider those with the 2.2 liter engine (not the 2.5). The AWD will be helpful if you attempt to drive in the snow. The 93-94 Subaru Legacy wagon is one of my favorite practical cars for its ease of maintenance. Some others: Nissan Maxima, Ford Taurus/Mercury Sable, Saturn SL2, and any GM sedan, especially Buicks, such as the LeSabre, with the 3.8 liter v-6 only. Almost all of these older ones also came in nice practical wagons - which are much harder to find in newer years.

    Avoid any rear-drive car for winter driving in Quebec. And of course, have any car checked out before you buy it. Then use the mechanic's findings to help your price negotiation. You may wish to consider taking an intro to auto mechanics class at a local high school or community college to learn how to do your own maintenance and repairs.

    Good luck !

  • jac16 11/26/09 1:12 pm PST

    Well thank you very much my friend. I'm going to take into consideration all your advices and if there is time I will take some mechanical classes. If I find something interesting I will be in touch with you for more advices.

    Merci beaucoup et au revoir mon ami


    Jorge

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