Edmunds Answers



  • Stever@Edmunds 07/04/12 8:46 am PST

    Here's one jumping off place:

    2012 Used Car Best Bets

    I'm partial to the Vibe in that list.

    Some smokers live to be 90 (my mom). Others crash and burn in their 40s. Kind of the luck of the draw, with any car, new or used (but cars are a lot more reliable these days). So read the reviews but don't drive something you hate; chances are most any car you get will do fine.

    With any used car, it helps to get the service records and have your own mechanic do a pre-purchase inspection. Even then, you may wind up with one with clogged oil passages. Try to buy smart but try to set a little aside for repairs. If nothing else you'll be replacing brake pads and tires over the next decade and can use the savings for that.

    If you're keeping the car for a decade, don't worry about the resale value.

    If you like the Grand Am, why not drive it completely into the ground?

    And if you study and intern in a bigger city, dumping car ownership for a Zip Car or CarSharing could be an option as well.

  • morin2 07/04/12 9:07 am PST

    In general, I'd agree that the Japanese cars will be more reliable over a 10 year span. However, when considering used, the prior care - both how it was driven and also how it was serviced, will be most critical. So, for those reasons, I'd encourage you to focus less on the model and more on how gently the car was treated, and how well it was maintained. That will require more detective work. Ask the previous owner (and it should have only 1 previous owner) about his commute route and then evaluate that route.

    You want complete records, of course. And you must have your own mechanic conduct a complete mechanical inspection (and examine the car for evidence of accidents) before you begin to negotiate.

    Also consider demographics of ownership. For example, an Accord is more likely to have been driven by an adult than a Civic, yet costs little more. Hyundais historically have been marketed to people who can't afford much - therefore, I believe they generally get less maintenance.I would not consider one just on that basis alone. People with no money are not likely to be keeping up with oil changes or to use premium parts.

    Any car you choose will require regular maintenance. Once you get over 150K, repairs will become more frequent and expensive (struts, exhaust, etc). You can delay repairs by driving gently. For example, brakes last me the life of the car because I rarely use them and coast to stops & downshif a manual transmission. Consider a manual transmission to further lower your risk of expansive repairs (and to get a better purchase price). If you don't want to be bringing in a car for repairs, then don't buy a car loaded with unreliable factory options (GPS, cruise, remote start, even power options like power windows, etc).

    Don't ignore Japanese cars hiding behind American labels. I have a 10 year old Chevy Prizm in my fleet that I bought 7.5 years ago. Its a Corolla with a Chevy bowtie pasted on. When I bought it, it had depreciated like a Chevy and I got it for half the cost of an identical Corolla. That was the last year for those and 2002 is now too long in the tooth for you, but there is another one to consider: the Pontiac Vibe. The Vibe is the same car as the Toyota Matrix and may be found cheaper. It is a Corolla mechanically - which is a good thing and has a versatile roomy interior in the rear. My supervisor at work has one and she just had her first repair at about 160K miles - replacing the struts. Otherwise it has been just normal maintenance.

    Good luck with the car and med school.

    After posting this, I saw that Steve was saying many of the same things at the same time. So our suggestions should be viewed at independent confirmations.

  • dulleakyle 07/04/12 9:08 am PST

    Thanks for the advice. I should have specified that while I drive the Grand Am, it is in fact my sister's (she doesn't need a car at the moment), so I have no choice but to buy another car. And I would love to drive that baby into the ground...

  • Stever@Edmunds 07/04/12 9:16 am PST

    Sounds like your sister needs to give you a matriculation gift and go buy her own car. :-)

    Since you like the car, maybe TMV the '05 and check it out?

    Reliability has been slightly suspect over the years but the '05 has minimal problems per Identifix.

  • dep 07/04/12 9:35 am PST

    If your focus is on reducing the total cost of ownership of a used car over a ~~10 year period and selecting a car with a very high in service to repair ratio (meaning it won't be in the shop much) your very best bet will be to select a used car that has already PROVEN to be among the most reliable used cars available in your price range.

    The quick and easy answer would of course be to say you would focus on Honda and Toyota models as they, statistically, are going to be the most reliable makes that offer used vehicles in your price range. Consumer Reports publishes their statistical analysis of used vehicles and that would be a good place to start.

    As others have pointed out it is possible to buy a Honda that will break down a lot and a GM that will run for 300k miles without issue. BUT, those are antidotal stories and don't represent a causal relationship between brand and reliability.

  • Stever@Edmunds 07/04/12 10:16 am PST

    Interesting word choice to be giving a med student, but we're all fluent in chat typos around here. :-)

    Consumer Reports may be the antidote to GM but like clinical research, they have flaws too, like relying on a self selected sample.

    All the more reason to have your indy mechanic check any used car you are interested in.

  • morin2 07/04/12 10:45 am PST

    Another option - since your budget is up to 14K would be a basic no-frills new car. There are several models that can be bought new at less than 15.4K. Since the financing on a new car is better than what you'll get on a used car, the slight increase in price could save interest costs. You could pay less on a new car of 15K with 0% financing than financing a used car (you'd have to do the math). Here's my list of cars available today, taken from actual selling prices at www.fitzmall.com (I am not connected to them except as a happy repeat customer):

    2012 Mazda 2 manual trans - $14,134
    2012 Nissan Versa 5 dr HB, auto trans - $14,428
    2012 Toyota Yaris 3 dr liftback Auto trans - $15,061
    2012 Suzuki SX-4 4 dr. HB selectable AWD crossover, man trans $15,283
    2012 Scion xD manual trans $15,061
    2013 Hyundai Accent auto trans $15,382

    Some of these have special financing - such as Suzuki's 0% for 72 months. (I bought one of these in 2011 and love it).

    Don't feel pressured into buying a used car if the vehicle is uncertain to you in any way. The antidote could be an inexpensive new car with few gadgets and gizmos to break down, no unknown history, and an excellent factory warranty.

  • dulleakyle 07/04/12 11:08 am PST

    That's an intriguing idea too, and thanks for doing the research. If I get a car from that site I'll make sure they put your commission check in the mail ( =


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