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Fuel efficient daily commuter

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta

Tolvateer

Last car was 2003 Honda Civic, paid $5,400 in cash from private party when it was 8 years old, and was most expensive car I've bought so far. Spent $8,300 on repairs and $12,000 on gas in the 7 years I owned it. Bought with 110k miles on it, put 110k more miles on it before the engine died.

Mostly driving 10 miles to work in somewhat congested traffic, sometimes driving 40 miles into city, occasionally going on longer camping/hiking trips with some gravel/dirt roads, maybe one 7-10 hour highway trip per year.

Slightly more cargo space, like a hatchback, would probably be nice.

Gas cost me more than I expected on last car, so better mileage would be nice.

Usually just transporting myself, but sometimes friends. If 5 people can tightly squeeze into it, that's adequate.

New York, so needs to deal with snow. Civic handled it well enough.

I feel like the Civic required a lot more time and money on repairs than I was expecting, so more reliability would be nice.

I have $20k in the bank that I could spend, but even $10k feels like a lot compared to my previous cars. I've read that most economical choice is 10 years or older, but 2012 or later provides the best trade-off of features with economy?

Prius's gas mileage and reliability sound appealing, but ground clearance is bad for snow and dirt roads?

Priorities: Fuel economy / Reliability & durability / Safety & braking

Need minimum of 4 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum age: 6 years

Maximum price: US $ 13000

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Response from gmctrucks2006

3:17 pm April 9, 2018

There are many terrific vehicles in this price range, but you want good ground clearance, so may I suggest a compact crossover? In an NY winter, I would recommend AWD, so either the Subaru Forester, Honda CR-V, or the Toyota RAV4 would all be great choices! All three vehicles are great safety AND reliability-wise, but the downside is that these cars hold their value very well, so you may have to cross shop other vehicles. Good luck!

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Subaru Forester
Honda CR-V
Toyota RAV4

Response from danlisahall

6:59 pm April 9, 2018

Sorry to hear that you Civic was so costly to maintain and used more gas than you anticipated. I think your experience was a bit unusual and normally the Civic would be one of the 1st cars I would suggest. Perhaps yours was a lemon or poorly maintained before you purchased it. I recommend that you don't scratch the civic from your list.

I agree that most 2012 or newer cars offer both convenience and safety features that are worth having.

Since you got around well in the snow with your Civic, proably most FWD with traction control would be fine 95% of the time. If you encounter lots of snow or want additional safety (especially for braking) consider getting dedicated, studdless snow tires. A good set with wheel would run about $500 in my area.

The Prius is very reliable and economical and will cart 5 folks in pinch as long as they are not real tall or wide . This is probably your best bet if it meets your space needs.

A Honda Fit would also work well, good fuel economy, reliable, very flexible for hauling cargo and people. Main drawbacks comfort -- loud & stiff ride. The base models get slightly better mpg and ride a bit better. City mpg in my experience is 26-33 mpg

The Kia Soul is another hatch you should check out. Compared to the Honda, it will be more comfortable, equally or more reliable, more people space with slightly less cargo space. Mpg will be less than Civic or Fit in neigborhood of 20-28 mpg depending on traffic and driving habits.

Last but not least I suggest you look at a Toyota Corolla. Many consider them rather bland, but the have undeniable high marks for reliablity and good mpg. Unfortunately they no longer come as a hatchback. But for an appliance to get you from point A to B, they are hard to beat.

Regarding getting a used car, there are many good ones out there, but finding one is sometimes challenging. I always try to by from an owner as it will cost less than from a dealer & usually come with less BS. Even more important you can get a idea how that car was cared for. Look for a vehicle has only had 1-2 owners and one that the current owner has had it for at least years. That way you should be able to learn what has been replaced (if anything) and get service records. No proof of service? Keep on looking!

Happy car hunting!

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Honda Fit
Kia Soul
Toyota Corolla

Response from LectroFuel

8:20 pm April 9, 2018

If the Civic had enough ground clearance and was good in the snow, pretty much any economy car will perform the same.

First I would suggest the Prius. It has gotten 5/5 reliability on 15 of the 17 years if has been on sale. Our 2005 Prius is still running at 252k miles. The 3rd gen (2010-2015) gets over 50 MPG and the battery performs well in cold weather. It has a powerful heater, though the engine has to turn on if the engine isn't warm. Ground clearance is average like your Civic. My family of four has been on several 4-day vacations in both our 2005 and 2016 Prii, so it does have a large cargo space. The rear seat is large for a compact car with reasonable width and lots of legroom, one of the reasons it makes a great taxi. With my 2016 Prius in stop and go traffic I get around 70 MPG with normal accelerations, which is around triple what you would get in your old Civic. The best model year for you is the 2012 because MPG increased and that was the start of a mild refresh when there were more standard features. Advanced safety systems were available in the higher trims. It has a comfortable ride and is an ideal commuter or family hatchback.

The Soul is another good one. It has a large cargo space, especially with the rear seats down. Passenger space is pretty good and it is available with many features for a low price. These will be cheap because Kias depreciate quickly. They are reliable, but the Prius, Corolla, and Civic will hold up a little better. If you can get one Certified Pre-Owned, you can get the remainder of the 10 year/100k mile powertrain warranty. Many luxury features such as cooled seats were available with the Soul. I would suggest a 2014 because that was after the refresh. MPG will probably only be a little better than your Civic. The Soul has never been a comfortable cruiser. It is pretty bumpy and loud.

Comparing the 2012-2015 Civic and the 2014-2018 Corolla, I would take the Corolla. These were the worst years for the Civic in terms of how Honda cheaped out, though reliability was still very good. Major selling points to the Corolla are the large back seat legroom and reliability. It is perhaps the most reliable car on the road. It rides nicely and has large trunk for the class. The engine is rough and loud when passing or merging and MPG is not as good as the Prius. It isn't available in a hatch. I have driven a 2015 and 2017 as loaner cars and they are perfect point A to B cars for most people, though they are not at all exciting. I would still take a Prius over the Corolla because the Prius does everything better (except acceleration) and MPG much better. All years are reliable, but I'd get a 2014+. I don't know if you can afford the 2016 Scion iM, which is a Corolla hatchback. It is about $1,500 over budget.

If you start to look at some overpriced SUVs, the Toyota RAV4, Honda CR-V, and Mazda CX-5 are all great choices. They won't do well on gas, though. Some other hatchbacks worth a shot are the Hyundai Elantra GT, Kia Forte5, Honda Fit (might not be large enough or comfortable), and Mazda3 (though the interior/cargo is tight, lots of fun to drive). Avoid the Focus.

Like Dan said, get snow tires and your car will almost for sure perform well in the snow. AWD doesn't help with braking or cornering in the snow, only starting from a stop. I don't agree with the 2012 cars article you linked because all cars are different and it is a generalization, not a fact. Please tell us what you buy and good luck!

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Toyota Prius
Kia Soul
Toyota Corolla
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