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Reliable, efficient, safe sedan, coupe or hatch for under $12k

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta


Helping my nephew look for a used car. Needs to be reliable above all, but also safe and get good MPG. Daily commute is about 30 miles round trip plus general other running around duties and the occasional 2-3 hour trip out of town. Has $2k to put down and doesn't want to finance anything longer than 48 months.

Thought about out a former rental Toyota Yaris or Corolla from Hertz with around 40k miles on a 2014-2015. Seems the rental companies only sell their top 5% of cars themselves and auction off the rest. Thinking this would be a safer bet than buying a former rental from a dealer like CarMax or other new/used manufacturer dealer (I.e. Chevy, Ford, Toyota, etc.)

Have also thought about late model Chevy Cruze, Ford Focus or Fiesta and Honda Civic. The Focus and Fiesta transmissions concern me a bit, though. We saw a 2010 Honda Fit with 94k miles that he liked, but I found out is is included in the Takataairbag recall and has yet to be fixed. Not sure he wants to deal with that.

The car would probably be treated decently, but would probably have the occasional delayed oil change and other maintenance would probably get slightly delayed as well. Needs to be able to handle not being babied, but it won't be trashed either. Prefer something is good mechanical and physical condition. He's not looking for a beater that needs fixing every 3 months, or looking to buy another car in 2 years. Would probably have our local mechanic inspect before putchase of any vehicle, just to get it on a lift and see if anything alarming jumps out.

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

Need minimum of 4 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 75000
Maximum age: 7 years

Maximum price: US $ 12000

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Response from colin42

10:45 pm February 21, 2017

Don't worry about the airbag recall. It will be taken care of - you'll just need to take it to a dealer.

I'd avoid the Focus unless you get a manual for the rasons you stated. The C-Max doesn't have the same issue and is in budget - avoid the Energi model as the earily ones had issues..

I'd also avoid the Chevy Cruise as well. (http://dashboard-light.com/vehicles/Chevrolet_Cruze.html)

I'd suggest a gen 3 Prius - bullet proof reliabiltiy and 50 mpg. A 2010 can be had for < $6500.

Also look at the Chevy Volt - they have shown to be reliable and can be had for well under $12000. (http://dashboard-light.com/vehicles/Chevrolet_Volt.html). Look for a 2013 or newer they had a slightly larger battery and the hold function. I had a 2013 (leased) and now have a 2105. The biggest complaint is rear leg room. Obviously ths would only work if he had the ability to plug it in nightly.

With all hybrids they have a powertrain warranty of 8 years / 100,000 miles so look for one with a good amount of mileage before the warrenty expires.


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Ford C-MAX
Toyota Prius
Chevrolet Volt

Response from mwcten

11:19 pm February 21, 2017

If your nephew has $2k in cash, he can buy a car outright for that $2k that will cost less to keep on the road and that will be more reliable than a $12k Cruze, Focus or Fiesta. A $2k Craigslist Toyota Echo or Scion Xa or Xb (early 00's, 150k-250k miles) just won't typically need any expensive parts, unlike Chevy and Ford's dual-clutch disasters. I'm not making this up - check the data under the reliability tab on this site. And that's to say nothing of the insurance costs saved by not having collision on a car you're making payments on. And really, a reliable $2k car would be the smart way to start out. People who want to stay poor make car payments. People who want to improve their financial situation pay cash money.

If you're dead set on dropping $10k-ish though, the Honda Fit is the smart choice. Regarding the recall, literally no one had died from Honda Fit airbag malfunctions last I checked. Sure; if you drive them in the salty southern Florida air for another 10 years, they might send out shrapnel if they go off, but that's not typical usage. Get it fixed when its convenient. I'm driving around in my '09 Fit that needs the same recall and it's just not a big priority. You're at least an order of magnitude more likely to die in a Fit because they didn't put Electronic Stability Control in all of them until '12 than from any airbag issues. The Yaris, Corolla and Civic are reliable cars too if you can actually get them for a good price relative to kbb value.


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Scion xA
Toyota Echo
Honda Fit

Response from onefastdriver

12:53 pm February 23, 2017


I wrote an article for my relatives when they were looking for small SUVs. http://onefastdriver.blogspot.com/2014/06/buying-tips-for-used-small-suv.html

There are other articles there that deal with a variety of cars. They are just opinions based upon prior experience owning these vehicles, so there's no association with auto-makers or dealerships.



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Buick Encore
Toyota RAV4
Mazda CX-5

Response from Dante

11:27 pm February 26, 2017

One of the most reliable cars (maybe #1) according to True Delta and CS is the Prius C. You can get one at Hertz for under $12,000, it gets about 50 MPG combined, insurance is cheap, and it will still have part of the Toyota warranty. Depending on what state it was originally sold in and what state he lives in he might get the 150,000 mile CARB warranty also.


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Toyota Prius c

Response from NormT

12:59 pm July 12, 2017

I didn't think that CR recommended the Primus C in part due to it's noise. I would not jeopardize my hearing for hours in something like that.

The Volt is probably the best, almost maintenence free deal going for not much over $10,000.


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Chevrolet Volt
Chevrolet Bolt EV
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