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  • karjunkie 04/06/10 6:20 pm PST

    Consumer Reports has a lot of used car bargains in the $5,000 range. Of their list, I would select a 2001-2002 Honda Accord or Civic as the most reliable choices. A 2003 Subaru Impreza would be on the top of my list as well. If gas mileage is the most important thing, the 2002 Toyota Corolla is tops, very reliable and gets 40 MPG on the highway. If, on the other hand, you need a big land shark for long distance highweay cruising, the 2002-2003 Ford Crown Victorias are built like tanks, are simple to fix and last a long time.

  • morin2 04/06/10 9:30 pm PST

    The 03 Impreza was prone to headgasket failures. The 2001 was the last year with the 2.2 liter engine and that engine is both bulletproof and very easy to service. If looking at Imprezas, the 2001 L and Impreza Outback Sport (wagon) would be better choices.

    I have the 2002 Corolla in Chevy Prizm trim (same car, different label) & my daughter drives that car. One caution is to avoid the 3-speed auto trans - unless 100% of your driving is city driving. Toyota must have been the very last manufacturer to phase out 3-speed autos. It will not get anywhere close to 40 mpg at highway speed, even with hypermiling techniques, and the high revs will drive you crazy. The engine braking however, as you can imagine, is very good :). The Corolla/Prizm is fine with a 4-speed auto or 5 speed manual (they will get 40 mpg) - but good luck finding one. Also, look for a high trim level (LE for Toyota and LSI for Prizm) to get such luxury features as a fold-down rear seat, power mirrors, etc. Corollas were updated in 2003 and the 3-speed AT went the way of the dinosaur and good riddance to it.

  • karjunkie 04/07/10 8:38 am PST

    FWIW, I got 40 highway MPG on a rental 2003 Corolla on a 800 mile trip through Indiana, but maybe as Morin says the 2002 model with a 3 speed auto was less efficient. In any event, I don't think any other car of that vintage had better highway MPG.

  • morin2 04/07/10 6:01 pm PST

    The 03 Corolla was the first year of a new design. It was larger and used the same economical 1.8 liter 4 cyl - but with the huge advantage of having it mated to either a 4 speed auto or 5 speed manual.

  • isellhondas 04/09/10 2:47 pm PST

    Good advise except I don't think you'll be able to find an Accord or Civic in that price range.

    Mazdas and Nissan products don't hold their value nearly as well as Hondas and Toyotas do and they are good cars too.

    Even a Saturn is a good value for the money especially now since they are about to fold.

  • motorstreet 04/17/10 12:21 pm PST

    You should look for a Volvo 850. A good one can be hard to find, so you need to be careful. I have a 1995 850 and it has been amazingly reliable, having only a few minor problems in 15 years. The 850 is a very nice car to drive, safe even by today's standards, amazingly comfortable, and very well built, but they don't cost a lot to buy. They can be expensive to repair, but if you find a good Volvo specialist that shouldn't be much of a problem. A 850 with 80k-100k miles and the non-turbo 5 cylinder engine will probably cost $3000-$4000. The 850 became the S70 in 1998, but I have a neighbor who bought one of those and found it to be much less reliable than my 850. The Subaru Legacy/Outback is also a great car that can be bought for low prices. A 1995-1999 version is the best option in this price range. One of my relatives drives a 1997 Outback Limited with 150,000 miles and has only had problems related to fender benders and faulty after-market gas caps. These are extremely reliable, fairly nice to drive, almost luxurious (Limited trim level), and very capable in adverse weather. You can find one with 90k-120k miles and the 2.5 engine under $5000. Don't be scared of high miles because as long as it gets routine maintenance the 2.5 engines will go forever. I have a friend with a Forester 2.5 that has over 250000 miles and is still going strong. I prefer the 2.5 engine because they're stronger, more powerful, and more powerful.

  • morin2 04/17/10 12:45 pm PST

    I'm a big fan of subarus and we own 3 of them at the moment. However, the earlier 2.5 engines suffered from excessive rates of head gasket failure and I do not recommend a 2.5 engine before 2004. The 2.2 engine, on the other hand, was used up to 2001 in the Imprezas (and some base Legacy "Brighton" models to about 97) and is very durable. It is a favorite of backyard aircraft builders and old VW van converters. It is also astonishingly easy to maintain and repair. Used Outbacks of the late 90's to 03 would be better bought with the 3.0 H6 engine. Its not as easy to work on as the 2.2 or 2.5, but does not suffer from the head gasket issues of the 2.5's from the same years. The H6 is standard on LLBean models which have a lot of nice features.


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1. Stever@Edmunds 670
2. morin2 645
3. MrShift@Edmunds 615
4. texases 495
5. karjunkie 230
6. knowledgepower 195
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