Author Topic: How to Choose a Car?  (Read 6853 times)

climber1

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How to Choose a Car?
« on: February 15, 2015, 05:30:13 PM »
I have never owned a car. I didn't need one in college and I currently live <1 mile from work. My city also has Uber which I use when I need to go somewhere out of bike range and/or look nice when I get there. So I don't really need a car. However, I want one. I would like to be able to get out of the city on the weekends to enjoy some of the state and national parks nearby. With my current income and savings rate, I will have no problem paying cash for any reasonably priced vehicle.

However, I have no idea what vehicle to get. I will of course buy used, but what models should I consider? Which can I buy with 100K miles and expect will run reliably until 200K+ miles as opposed to needing major maintenance at 120K miles? And of course there are other factors like gas mileage to consider. I don't care about appearance at all. I just want something that I can drive the ~400 mile roundtrip to Yosemite every few weekends. Is there somewhere online I can find this kind of information?

Dimitri

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Re: How to Choose a Car?
« Reply #1 on: February 15, 2015, 06:05:24 PM »
You can always start with Consumer Reports - http://web.consumerreports.org/test/SEM/version8.htm?EXTKEY=SG72CR0&CMP=KNC-CROBRANDG&HBX_OU=50&HBX_PK=consumer_reports&gclid=CJu_neKg5cMCFQ-saQodVDIAXw

I've never used their on-line version but years ago I have gone to the library to read their annual car issue.

That said, this forum seems to hold the Honda Fit in high esteem.  It is a relatively inexpensive five door subcompact that has been in production worldwide since 2001 (for sale in the United States since 2006).

Learn more about the Honda Fit at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Honda_Fit.

In my opinion you probably can't go too far wrong with either a Honda or Toyota.

alberteh

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Re: How to Choose a Car?
« Reply #2 on: February 15, 2015, 06:31:47 PM »
seconded. If you have little experience with vehicles get a reliable one. Stick to Honda or Toyota and you'll do fine (Honda Fit, Civic, Accord or Toyota Yaris, Corolla, Camry are all good choices)

randymarsh

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RWD

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Re: How to Choose a Car?
« Reply #4 on: February 15, 2015, 07:33:41 PM »

hyla

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Re: How to Choose a Car?
« Reply #5 on: February 15, 2015, 07:58:54 PM »
Also, you mention Yosemite and weekend trips... I would highly recommend a hatchback over a sedan.  When I replaced my corolla with a similar sized hatchback it was incredible how much more useful it was for fitting bicycles, skis, hiking gear etc. in, even though the car itself was about the same size.  I can even sleep in it comfortably if I fold down the back seats. 

bogart

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Re: How to Choose a Car?
« Reply #6 on: February 15, 2015, 08:47:36 PM »
Another way to get a sense of longevity of different brands is to pick a low-end price -- I'd say somewhere between $1K and $2.5K -- and "shop" on Craigslist to see what vehicles are listed with what mileages at those prices.  The higher the mileage for a low-price vehicle, the longer they generally last.

Retired To Win

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Re: How to Choose a Car?
« Reply #7 on: February 15, 2015, 09:07:25 PM »
Also, you mention Yosemite and weekend trips... I would highly recommend a hatchback over a sedan.  When I replaced my corolla with a similar sized hatchback it was incredible how much more useful it was for fitting bicycles, skis, hiking gear etc. in, even though the car itself was about the same size.  I can even sleep in it comfortably if I fold down the back seats.

Our 1998 Subaru Forester works like that for us. (Rear hatchback door and completely reclineable passenger seats.  All-wheel drive, too!)  We've put over 243,000 miles on it and it is still running great.  Of course, we've been very good about keeping up the recommended maintenance on all systems.

An older vehicle can be a great vehicle.

Monkey Uncle

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Re: How to Choose a Car?
« Reply #8 on: February 16, 2015, 04:48:15 AM »
Which can I buy with 100K miles and expect will run reliably until 200K+ miles as opposed to needing major maintenance at 120K miles?

Any car with that kind of mileage is going to need some maintenance.  But it's still way cheaper than buying new.  You can minimize the immediate out of pocket expenses by asking whether/when the following common major maintenance items have been done (ask for documentation):

brakes
belts/hoses
battery
shocks/struts
tires
timing belt

Look through the owner's manual for all the recommended maintenance items and make sure the owner has performed all of the items when they were due.

mwulff

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Re: How to Choose a Car?
« Reply #9 on: February 16, 2015, 05:29:52 AM »
I would recommend the Honda Fit. As a hobby mechanic I tinker with a lot of cars and Honda always impresses me with their build quality and general reliability.

I'm not familiar with the engine used in the US version of the Fit but make sure that it has a timing chain. Timing belts need to be replaced and that costs good money.

Honda Fit or Toyota Yaris would be my top picks for a single person car. (From models available in the US)

etselec

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Re: How to Choose a Car?
« Reply #10 on: February 16, 2015, 10:21:51 AM »
Other folks have given great car advice, but I'd add that "don't get a car" is still an option. Run the numbers on renting a car each time you want to take a trip: cost of rentals vs. cost of car (maintenance/repairs, opportunity cost for the $$ you'll use to buy it, parking costs if that's applicable to where you live). Look at RelayRides and similar services (the Uber/Lyft of car rental) to see if they're less expensive or more convenient than regular rental places.

Forcus

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Re: How to Choose a Car?
« Reply #11 on: February 16, 2015, 10:29:48 AM »
I usually don't offer advice not asked for but I'd say don't get a car. Most rentals are unlimited mileage at a daily rate. It's just one more thing to worry about breaking, costing money, etc.

gt7152b

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Re: How to Choose a Car?
« Reply #12 on: February 16, 2015, 11:13:40 AM »
I usually don't offer advice not asked for but I'd say don't get a car. Most rentals are unlimited mileage at a daily rate. It's just one more thing to worry about breaking, costing money, etc.

+1. Run the numbers using all the car ownership costs like maintenance, returns on the money you spend on the car, insurance, taxes, parking. Then come up with a realistic number for the days you'll be using the car and calculate the car rental costs per year. I doubt you'll come out ahead owning a car unless you can buy something for very cheap and do most of the maintenance and repairs yourself.

Forcus

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Re: How to Choose a Car?
« Reply #13 on: February 16, 2015, 11:58:35 AM »

+1. Run the numbers using all the car ownership costs like maintenance, returns on the money you spend on the car, insurance, taxes, parking. Then come up with a realistic number for the days you'll be using the car and calculate the car rental costs per year. I doubt you'll come out ahead owning a car unless you can buy something for very cheap and do most of the maintenance and repairs yourself.

Yep that's the only way to calculate it. All tangible costs for a car and estimate the number of trips to parks, etc. to get a cost per trip. Then compare that to renting.

Another thing, with the convenience of a car, you may be tempted to take it for errands you currently run by walking / biking.... I certainly would.

climber1

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Re: How to Choose a Car?
« Reply #14 on: February 16, 2015, 04:20:35 PM »
Thanks for all the ideas. hyla, the suggestion of a hatchback is much appreciated. I could definitely see myself sleeping in the car on weekend trips.

I would prefer to rent as a few people have suggested, but it isn't a realistic option. I am 19 (yes, I finished my schooling quickly). This means that very few places will rent cars to me and I haven't found any locations nearby that will. Of course, this also means my costs of car ownership will be higher due to insurance.

The other option is to stick to outdoor trips closer to home. There are several open space preserves right in the Bay Area that I can reach by Uber/Lyft. While much smaller and more crowded than Yosemite, Sierra National Forest, etc., it does allow me to get out of the city. This option is certainly cheaper, though not fully satisfying.

I probably shouldn't buy a car. I think I am just getting frustrated with working a lot and not doing much else. It has been great for my net worth, not so much otherwise. I guess this is the hard part of delayed gratification in getting to ER.

galliver

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Re: How to Choose a Car?
« Reply #15 on: February 16, 2015, 04:58:21 PM »
I think I am just getting frustrated with working a lot and not doing much else. It has been great for my net worth, not so much otherwise. I guess this is the hard part of delayed gratification in getting to ER.

This bothers me about your post. It shouldn't be that bad. You deserve to live; if you focus so much on savings that you aren't doing the things that are inherently valuable to you, that make life worth living...it's just not worth it. I think it's pretty silly to live in CA without access to the outdoors.

Make a list of cars that seem suitable to you based on specs/reviews. Bf and I focused on Honda, Toyota, Mazda, Hyundai, and Subaru; fuel economy, reliability, low cost of ownership, and the ability to get up a mountain were important to us.

I really wanted to like the Honda Fit, but it seemed to struggle getting up a highway ramp and I had no desire to take it, loaded with camping gear, up a mountain. I was happier in a Hyundai Accent. (Which we seriously considered but went with another, not-very-Mustachian car we will drive into the ground because we love it so much.)

My conclusion from the experience was that the only way to decide which car is right for you is to make a list based on specs (MPG, Consumer reports ratings, costs, etc) and then go out and drive them to see if you're comfortable with it. While I could probably drive almost anything for a week, if it comes to purchasing I don't want to have awful visibility or jerky acceleration or trouble reaching the pedals or whatever. Yes, it's a time consuming process; I think it's worth it.

Do the math--your income, the cost of ownership (fixed and per-mile), the value of getting out in nature vs the cost of renting, the hassle of dealing with renting (going to the rental agency every time), and the cost of therapy for being locked in a city and doing nothing but work. 

GuitarBrian

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Re: How to Choose a Car?
« Reply #16 on: February 16, 2015, 07:48:15 PM »
I had to deal with renting (read not renting) before age 25. Good luck, even if you find a company, it will cost a crazy premium. At 18, provided you have a pilot license (with correct certification) you can rent a jet, with same price/requirements. But when you land, still can't rent a car.

I have personal experience driving 2 used Toyota Previa minivans a combined 243,000 miles. The first got rear ended at 300k the second is going strong at 240k currently. First ones still runs, but it was hit hard, and is hard to fix a car with so many miles.

Paid 3k for the first one with 127k miles on it. 2K for the second @ 170k. Both were 1995 S/C models.

Have never had any engine/transmission problems... in fact other than having to replace a $70 rubber bushing (It didn't fail, just was making a slight noise... took about 5 hours tinkering with it) all maintenance has been regular, oil, brake pads, did the spark plugs/wires one time on the first van around 280k.

For your situation I am not sure if it fits the bill, but they are cheap. Have been reliable (unbelievably so in my experience), for the room/utility (We have towed cars, trailers with cars, enclosed trailers, 20 sheets of 4x8 plywood inside, full sound gear plus instruments and 6 people... etc) and it gets decent mpg (22-24). I have set up a bed in the back and driven cross country, or camped in the mountains.. but slept in a nice bed :) The rear seat comes out easy.

A quick look on CL in sfbay and there are several in the 2500 range.

All the other vehicles I have experience with don't really fit your needs.

Khaetra

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Re: How to Choose a Car?
« Reply #17 on: February 17, 2015, 05:04:57 AM »
I think I am just getting frustrated with working a lot and not doing much else. It has been great for my net worth, not so much otherwise. I guess this is the hard part of delayed gratification in getting to ER.

This bothers me about your post. It shouldn't be that bad. You deserve to live; if you focus so much on savings that you aren't doing the things that are inherently valuable to you, that make life worth living...it's just not worth it. I think it's pretty silly to live in CA without access to the outdoors.

I agree with this 100%.  Saving is an awesome thing, but don't make yourself miserable doing it.  Others have given you car options that would be suitable for what you'd like to do, so I'd say go for it and enjoy the outdoors!

Forcus

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Re: How to Choose a Car?
« Reply #18 on: February 17, 2015, 09:14:46 AM »
I would prefer to rent as a few people have suggested, but it isn't a realistic option. I am 19 (yes, I finished my schooling quickly). This means that very few places will rent cars to me and I haven't found any locations nearby that will. Of course, this also means my costs of car ownership will be higher due to insurance.

Ah ok, that makes a bit of difference. I remember taking business trips alone, doing high profile work and yet couldn't rent a car without a whole company process to get it done. Really maddening.

If you can't rent / beg / borrow / steal then yeah I'd pick the cheapest reliable hatchback / minivan that it is easy to park and cheap to own. Where I live, space is "cheap" so no reason to have a Smart car or similar - they don't make sense, lower mileage and worse to drive than pretty much any compact sedan. If space is at a premium and parking is difficult where you are at, I could see a Smart car, iQ, or my favorite, a Fiat 500. The 500 is fun to drive and not a penalty box like the others (maybe not the iQ, never driven one). I've also seen newer 500's for around 10k. I've seen new Spark's for about the same price but I've never driven one, I assume they aren't quite as tight and sporty as the 500.

If space is not an issue, consider a newer Suzuki SX4. Since Suzuki left the U.S. values have plummeted - I see 2009-2010 SX4's with 50k miles for $6k and sometimes less. But they are pretty reliable and decently equipped cars, FWD and AWD, stick and automatic. And they are serviceable at any independent mechanic so they aren't really an orphan (I wouldn't say the same for Saab). I would have got an SX4 sport sedan awhile ago but the wife keeps vetoing it.

Just some ideas.

climber1

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Re: How to Choose a Car?
« Reply #19 on: February 17, 2015, 11:36:45 PM »
Thanks for the additional suggestions. To address some of your concerns about me making myself miserable by being too cheap, don't worry. I have an awesome job which I love and am really good at, a 6-figure salary, and a 6-figure net worth (I hit 100K last month). Life is pretty good.

I think part of my problem is that weekend vacations are just inefficient both in terms of time and money compared to longer trips. For instance, to go to Yosemite for a weekend, I would have to spend ~7 hours driving and the gas expenses for under 48 hours there. It makes a lot more sense to go for longer. I also find long vacations more relaxing as it takes me a while to get out of work mode. This has worked so far in life due to the long summer breaks in school and college. I probably just need to adjust to the working world where there are no Christmas, spring, or summer breaks.

I have decided to postpone a decision on getting a car until I have visited all of the open space preserves nearby. I have only been to a small fraction of them so it makes sense to explore them before venturing further especially since I have been to Yosemite before. If after visiting all 24 (by Uber or bike), I still want a car, then I will go for it.

Forcus

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Re: How to Choose a Car?
« Reply #20 on: February 18, 2015, 10:46:13 AM »

I have decided to postpone a decision on getting a car until I have visited all of the open space preserves nearby. I have only been to a small fraction of them so it makes sense to explore them before venturing further especially since I have been to Yosemite before. If after visiting all 24 (by Uber or bike), I still want a car, then I will go for it.

That sounds like a really wise decision. You're 19 and have a 6 figure net worth, by comparison I am 33 and just hit 6 figure net worth a couple years ago so you are already doing pretty well. Sounds like you'll be FI way before you even hit my current age!

pagoconcheques

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Re: How to Choose a Car?
« Reply #21 on: February 18, 2015, 12:19:10 PM »
There's plenty of good advice in this thread and elsewhere on MMM regarding which cars to buy. 

Consider borrowing cars from friends as needed and being a stellar borrower.  Always fill the tank all the way, even if it's empty when you borrow it.  Wash it before returning it.  If you are a regular borrower of a particular car and it needs tires, chip in or flat out buy them.  Depending on what your friends are driving, this gets you access to a diverse fleet (economical car for long road trips, pickup truck for moving furniture, etc.) with no regular payment or ongoing cost.  With the right group of 3-5 friends who are willing to lend a car, you could easily do this until you turn 25 and it's easier to rent cars or a life change really dictates that you need to buy a car of your own.

But, and I can't say it enough, be a good borrower.