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Reliable car -- mechanic advice appreciated, too

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We're in the market for a small, cheap, but most importantly -- RELIABLE - car.  The oldest boy of our refugee family friends is turning 18 at the new year.  We've taught him to drive, he's taken driver's ed, all that stuff, so he's ready to go to get a license early next year.  But then the next step...a car.

I'll be posting around here about that sometime soon -- we're fundraising (that's what my wife is doing for her birthday, we've got some money already set aside, etc.), but this post is about how we find a good one.  I suspect we're looking for a small sedan, low mileage, low maintenance.  Maybe something like a Corolla, Elantra, Versa, Rio, (something else?)

So this post is asking 1) thoughts on which vehicle would be best to look for, 2) might as well ask if any of you knows of a decent one for sale? and 3) a good mechanic who would do a good and fair inspection of a used car to make sure we're getting a good one.  And hell, any ideas of budget for a gently used small car would be helpful.  We're starting this process, so we're gathering data.

Then, hopefully in mid-January, we can get him something to drive.  Which will be a game-changer for his family (mom will never drive, younger brother is still several years away).  I figure if we can raise enough to have a bit left over, that can even pay for a few months of insurance (we figure we'll pay for it ourselves for a while after that, until he can get a couple of years of college under his belt and earn enough money to pay for it himself -- which he will do.  He's a go-getter).

Appreciate your input.

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The Japanese cars (civic, accord, those you mentioned) would probably be fine, but also on the expensive end unless you go old.

The Koreans seem to be reliable, but I have heard various stories about shocking costs of repair.  More anecdotes than anything.

The Ford Focus seems to be a quite decent little car.  We bought the MIL one and it has been fine.

I suspect your budget is somewhere north of $5k.  Much below that, you're going pretty old, high-mileage and taking some risks on repairs.

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The Japanese cars (civic, accord, those you mentioned) would probably be fine, but also on the expensive end unless you go old.
The Koreans seem to be reliable, but I have heard various stories about shocking costs of repair.  More anecdotes than anything.
The Ford Focus seems to be a quite decent little car.  We bought the MIL one and it has been fine.
I suspect your budget is somewhere north of $5k.  Much below that, you're going pretty old, high-mileage and taking some risks on repairs.

Yeah, from just some basic shopping around, I expect $8k will be our target. For example, I can see a few corollas in the 50k mileage class at that price. Versas with lower mileage in the $6k-7k range.

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Toyota makes the most reliable cars. Also the Koreans have been making reliable cars since about 2014.

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Consumer reports is the Bible regarding reliability. Toyota is still the best with Korean cars closing fast. Honda stunningly has dropped in quality significantly. I bought my daughter a one year old Corolla. Affordable, high quality, great gas mileage. I’ve owned Lexus/Toyota’s for 30+ years. The reliability of all of them has been fantastic.

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My parents and I have owned a dozen or so honda's and probably put a million miles or more on them and other than normal maintenance can only think of 1-2 other things. Dad had to replace a clutch at about 250,000 miles in one of his accords, and wife's Element's rear axle got out of round. She won't admit it but I bet she ran over a curb to cause that one.

So yeah, I'd stick to accord or corolla. Don't worry about the age as much as the miles. Get something under 150k miles and you should be fine.

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We started my oldest daughter out with an Elantra and it held up very well.  I think any of the models you are considering would be good safe bets.  As far as a mechanic, I'd recommend finding someone local to your area.  I'd also recommend plugging in a code reader to see what might have(if any) popped up in the past.

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Civic corrolla Accord senta is what you want. Look on carvna but don't buy anything from a state that had flooding. Ny,nj, tx etc during those years. Look at the titles.

 

 

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In 2017, I got a 2013 Honda Fit with 23,000 miles for a little under $12,000 from Carvana. That price was incredible for the vehicle/age/mileage - no dealership could touch that. Still had one year/12,000 miles of manufacturer's warranty in addition to the limited warranty Carvana has (90 days I think?). On price alone they were really good but I had a very good experience with them and you have a seven day window to return the vehicle, no questions asked. I have heard of the flooding/rust issue as well, so definitely do your DD on the vehicle beforehand and get it inspected in that window, but overall I was really satisfied and would recommend them for both price and simplicity. I don't know exactly what y'alls budget is, but their inventory is generally lower mileage stuff. Mine was a vehicle coming off a lease that wasn't sold by the dealership. Probably not the place to go if you decide you want to go with something a little older/cheaper.

As for the vehicle, I like my Fit a lot. It's a lot roomier than it looks. I am plenty comfortable in the car and I am 6'2". It has a lot of storage space for a car that small; with the seats down it's got as big of a trunk as the Chevy Trailblazer it replaced for me. Solid on gas, no major maintenance issues in 2.5 years (knock on wood). Generally reviewed as the best subcompact when I was doing my research. Underrated perk - very few parking spots you can't squeeze into. I believe they're cheaper than the Camry/Accord and Civic/Corolla but I could be wrong, newer versions have definitely increased in price as the vehicles have gotten more popular.

As for inspection, I had a very good experience Auto PI in Austin. Their whole business is due diligence inspections for things like purchases so they're not selling you anything. They come to you and I think it was like $100. Certainly worth a look if you don't have a relationship with a go-to mechanic.

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Just spent a couple of hours helping them move (slightly nicer apartment, same complex), and looked around the parking lot, as the other residents are in the same economic demographic. About 20% of the cars were Corollas. That seemed telling. A couple of Elantras, and some small Kias. One Honda Civic.

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you're going to need to go to houston or dallas as those are much bigger markets (bigger selection).

2013 civic 65k in conroe $8K

2012 civic 61k in houston $7k

dark horse candidate: my mazda3 didn't need anything at all for the first 100k.  since then it's only been the rubber bits wearing out in the suspension and the valve cover. 

 

Edited by elfenix

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Not including insurance, gas, and maintenance, that $8K budget pays for 500+ $15 Uber rides. Does he really need a car?

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Not including insurance, gas, and maintenance, that $8K budget pays for 500+ $15 Uber rides. Does he really need a car?

Trying to send him to college, maybe Blinn or Texas State. And yeah, having a set of wheels would be a life changer for this family. And importantly, for him.

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my most recent company car was a Malibu and I ran that car hard for 100k mile. Zero mechanical issues. It shocked me actually 

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12 hours ago, ButtFumble said:

6561ac109d50f429949586ee4aba5ad8.jpg

Wow, the nose of that car reminds me of some cartoon character, but I can’t think of who.

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The one thing you want to be certain of is that you are not buying something that is going to immediately have a major engine problem.  The idea of having a mechanic do an inspection is smart.  I would never ever buy a higher mileage used car without doing a compression check on the cylinders.  Easy to do if you have access to plugs. But will lit you know if you have any head gasket or cylinder compression issues, which are you major issues you are trying to avoid. 

Don't forget the cost of insurance in helping this young kid out.  My daughter's Young Life group did the same thing for a kid a few years ago. It was life changing for a kid who had sacrificed everything for his family. 

 

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I've had good luck with Rising Sun, just off Anderson Ln. 

It's walking distance to Whataburger

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7 hours ago, XYZ said:

Wow, the nose of that car reminds me of some cartoon character, but I can’t think of who.

Nigel Thornberry, perhaps.

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On 12/1/2019 at 3:46 PM, elfenix said:

you're going to need to go to houston or dallas as those are much bigger markets (bigger selection).

2013 civic 65k in conroe $8K

2012 civic 61k in houston $7k

dark horse candidate: my mazda3 didn't need anything at all for the first 100k.  since then it's only been the rubber bits wearing out in the suspension and the valve cover. 

 

Exactly this..you will have more luck outside of Austin area. Our vehicle prices suck for whatever reason. SA is another consideration.

You can try to get Austin to match an out of town price, but they usually just tell me to enjoy my trip lol.

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On 12/2/2019 at 9:13 AM, horn4life said:

The one thing you want to be certain of is that you are not buying something that is going to immediately have a major engine problem.  The idea of having a mechanic do an inspection is smart.  I would never ever buy a higher mileage used car without doing a compression check on the cylinders.  Easy to do if you have access to plugs. But will lit you know if you have any head gasket or cylinder compression issues, which are you major issues you are trying to avoid. 

Don't forget the cost of insurance in helping this young kid out.  My daughter's Young Life group did the same thing for a kid a few years ago. It was life changing for a kid who had sacrificed everything for his family. 

 

This right here is a big deal. I've started tracking our family finances more closely over the past year, and the cost of a car -- without a car payment -- comes out to about $250/month: $100 for insurance, $50 in amortized maintenance costs (oil changes, tires, brakes, inspection, registration, etc.), and another $100-plus in gas. So even if he gets a part-time job, one week of work a month is going to go straight to that car.

He also needs to know that he needs to take care of his tickets when he gets them.

Back to the main topic -- Toyotas will go forever if you take care of them. There's a reason why you don't see people in third world countries fighting their civil wars in Fords.

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25 minutes ago, Red Six said:

This right here is a big deal. I've started tracking our family finances more closely over the past year, and the cost of a car -- without a car payment -- comes out to about $250/month: $100 for insurance, $50 in amortized maintenance costs (oil changes, tires, brakes, inspection, registration, etc.), and another $100-plus in gas. So even if he gets a part-time job, one week of work a month is going to go straight to that car.

He also needs to know that he needs to take care of his tickets when he gets them.

Back to the main topic -- Toyotas will go forever if you take care of them. There's a reason why you don't see people in third world countries fighting their civil wars in Fords.

They’ll go for a good long while even if you don’t take care of them.

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On 11/30/2019 at 9:14 PM, XYZ said:

Toyota makes the most reliable cars. Also the Koreans have been making reliable cars since about 2014.

You can get a low-mileage Kia with a lot of warranty left on it for your price range. 

 

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3 minutes ago, Deej said:

You can get a low-mileage Kia with a lot of warranty left on it for your price range. 

 

note: kia's powertrain warranty isn't fully transferable.  second owner of a 2017 kia will get a 5/60k powertrain. 

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