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Old 07-02-2013, 05:36 PM   #1
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Smile 1st Time Driver: Used Car Recommendations (For Under 2.5K)

Hello All,

I've saved up about 2,500 for my first car, and I've been researching and browsing used car possibilities over the last few weeks.
I'm twenty-four, licensed, from NYC.

I wanted to ask for any recommendations and/or feedback for the list of cars I've come up with for possible purchase. I am concerned, for better or for worse with the following order: mpg, number of total miles, safety ratings, handling, storage space, etc.
(I've seen some of the models below in my price range).
I am also looking to criss-cross the country with this car.

Options:

Honda
- 1984 Civic 1500S HB
- 1986-1987 CRX HF
- 1992 Civic Hatchback VX
- 1993 Civic Hatchback VX
- 1994 Civic Hatchback VX
- 1995 Civic Hatchback VX
- 1987 Honda: Coupe HF 4 Cyl 52/57
- 1995 VX Hatchback
Geo Metro
- 1994 XFI
VW
- 1980s RAbbit
Suzuki
- SA310
- 1989 Swift
- Forsa
Chevrolet
- 2000 Metro
- 1988 Sprint Metro
- Spring ER
Ford
- 1990 Ford Festiva
Nissan
- 1983 Nissa Sentra (Datsun)

I'd love to hear from people who own or have owned these cars (maybe you are looking to sell?), and could tell me from personal experience what they think of the model they drove.

Many, Many Thanks!

(I've come to love to Honda Civic VX manual models, and if anyone in the New York-Boston-Philadelphia-D.C. area is looking to sell theirs, I would love to get in touch with you).
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Old 07-02-2013, 07:31 PM   #2
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That's a good list. Ford Escorts and Chevy Cavaliers make great first cars too. Whatever you decide on, look it over well. No matter how well made, cars of that age in that price range in the NYC area are going to probably have some rust, despite how well made they may have been made 15-20 years ago. Try to find a vehicle with minimal rust.

Make sure everything works. In that price range, most of the vehicles will probably have little things wrong with them. Probably most of the stuff can be taken care of in an afternoon with minor mechanical skills required. You don't want to find out after you buy a car that the windows or the a/c don't work.
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Old 07-03-2013, 07:00 AM   #3
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Saturns are good to add to that list as well. I know a guy that will say "crown-vic" as you can get them cheap and they are a really comfortable ride. The mileage isn't that great (it's a freakin' V8) but they are readily available around here and are very cheap.

I can second the cavalier thing. I paid $2000 for it used at 95,000 miles. it currently has 253,000+ miles on it and I have owned it for 9.5 years. I don't hessitate to take it anywhere. ironically, my wife drives it now.
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Old 07-03-2013, 09:18 AM   #4
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I agree that Crown Vic's are cheap, comfortable, reliable, etc, but I would question a vehicle of that size for a new driver in a heavily congested urban area. The Crown Vic is going to be much more difficult to park than the other vehicles listed.
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Old 07-03-2013, 11:48 AM   #5
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Don't count the CV out. RiabovB said "I am also looking to criss-cross the country with this car."

RiabovB, correct me if I am inferring wrong but it appears that as a NYC resident you haven't needed a car and that's why you don't own one, but you are now planning an extended road trip. A CV is a perfect car for that, surprisingly efficient (as Jay2TheRescue will attest) for highway trips, comfortable, very durable/reliable, inexpensive to purchase, maintain, and repair, safe, and there's plenty of space for all your stuff on a long tour.

Even with its better fuel economy than expected it's not going to match most of the small cars listed, but that may be offset by durability, reliability, and cost/ease of maintenance/repairs. You might have trouble finding a replacement for a failed 13" tire but a 225/75-15 for a CV is one of the most common sizes in any tire shop, heavily used on sedans, minivans, pickups, and SUVs from the 1970s until very recent models. A brake master cylinder for any of those 80s imports or domestic-badged foreign-made subcompacts might not be on the parts store shelf in the town where the car fails, but everybody will have it for the CV.

At the cost of moderately more fuel usage I'd much rather criss-cross the country in a CV than anything else discussed in this thread.

Getting back to smaller cars though, I agree with the Saturn and Escort suggestions. Take a look at gaslogs for some Saturn drivers here, some models easily get well over 40MPG. User Ford Man has multiple Escorts over 500,000 miles, they are solid. Cavaliers can be as good but many people seem to dislike them; it's still worth looking at them/driving a few to see if you like them.
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Old 07-03-2013, 12:26 PM   #6
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cavaliers seem to be stuck in the mid 30s so that is a bit of a minus. also, a lot of people think they are race cars and thus drive them into the ground. the larger motor 2.2 liter means you won't get much better mileage out of it than the mid 30s unless you really start doing advanced techniques (engine off stuff). Other than that, it is a very bland car that is outdated but whatever.

I have had very good luck with mine as far as longevity. I am not going to say the will all last that long as I see them on craigslist all the time with 150Kish miles on them with replaced motors or transmissions. I attribute that to the "IT'S NOT A FREAKIN' RACE CAR" mentality.

Test drives are going to be very important for you. It would suck to buy a car and then find it uncomfortable... for 16+ hours at a time.

I would think that comfort would be high on your priority list if you wer driving across country. Transfer trucks have really comfy seats for a reason.
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Old 07-03-2013, 12:26 PM   #7
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I guess you're right HC, I forgot about the road trip aspect. Of all the cars discussed so far, the Crown Vic (and its twin, the Mercury Grand Marquis) would be my first choice for a road trip. Their comfort, quietness, and ride make long road trips much more enjoyable. When running well and driven responsibly, a Crown Vic can get upper 20's/low 30's on the highway.
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Old 07-03-2013, 06:03 PM   #8
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dont discount late 90s to early 2000s civics. they can be had in your price range especially if you're not looking for a great looking car.

also the chevy branded toyota corolla known as the prizm is a great choice...cheaper than the corolla even tho its the same car(except minor exterior differences)
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Old 07-06-2013, 08:28 AM   #9
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Mazda Protege late 1990's or early 2000's.

I bought a 2000 Mazda Protege LX (one owner) with 130,000 miles for $2,300 in Nov. of 2011.

Here is an example. Mazda Protege 2001
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