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Safe inexpensive 4 door for mother of 1, under 6K, reliability and what we should look for

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta


car is for my adult daughter who has a 3 year old son. Needs to take him to school and go to work and back. less than 30 miles a day. No major accidents, good reputation, able to go at least another 75000 miles if possible. cold AC (live in FL), no major issues with model.

Priorities: Fuel economy / Safety & braking / Brand reputation & image

Need minimum of 4 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 115000
Maximum age: 9 years

Maximum price: US $ 6000

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Response from AcuraT

10:39 am March 26, 2019

For this there is only one answer. The Toyota Corolla. It is the appliance of cars. It is very safe, it is very economical, it is one of the most reliable cars on the road in the USA, the AC is fine, and it is not that expensive. You can get a 2007 to 2010 with 70,000 to 100,000 miles on it in your price range in your area, and those cars can go over 200,000 on the original powertrain easily.

Don't expect a lot of power but enough to merge with fast moving traffic. Don't expect a lot of space but enough to be comfortable. Don't expect luxury as it is basic transportation. But as a first car it is hard to beat.

Back in the 1990s I owned one as my first car. The thing was indestructible and it fits exactly what you describe. Today they are just as reliable and durable.

There are other cars like the Mazda 3 and Mazda Civic as well if you prefer them which are nearly as reliable as well, I just think the Corolla is the best choice of the three.

Best of luck.


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Toyota Corolla
Honda Civic
Mazda Mazda3

Response from Sea-Dan

11:29 am March 26, 2019

AcuraT's recommendations are excellent. I would add to his list the Mazda 6, Honda Accord & Fit, Kia Optima & Soul, and Hyundia Elantra. It is surprising how many pretty good cars are available on the Seattle Craigslist for $6.5k or less. The key word here is "good" because they are not all good.
How do you find a good one?
You need to know or have someone who knows cars assist you and drive the car for at least 10 miles, test all accessories. You can google "how to pick a used car" for more info. Consider using Consumer Reports and True Delta to find the most reliable years and potential trouble spots. If you find a car you like but have doubts, spend $75 for a mechanic to check it.
I'd go to craigslist, type $6,500 in the price space, then type in the model -- "Corolla" for example cars & click the icon near the top that says "owner". You want to look for an original or 2nd owner car (who has owned it for at least 1 year - not a flipper). You want someone who has all the service records & has changed the oil at least twice a year. You can't trust all original owners, but many of them have loved their car, take good car of it & just want it to go to a "good new home".
IF it has over 90,000 miles find out what has been replaced. Most cars by that point need a timing belt, spark plugs, brakes, AC service, coolant changed, & sometimes CV joints. IF those haven't been replaced within the last 30K, take it to a mechanic for inspection and expect to spend ~ $500 to get certain parts replaced so the car will be reliable.
I'd be looking at the above models starting at $6,500 as most owners ask high expecting to get a little less.
I wish you well and would love to hear what you end up with and the process.


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Kia Soul
Hyundai Elantra
Honda Fit

Response from LectroFuel

2:36 am March 28, 2019

The Corolla is the one and only car you should be looking at. No other car at $6k will be as reliable. They aren't exciting, but they get the job done every time if you take care of it. Thus, the most important thing to do now is to look for one that was taken care of and maintained. Keep in mind that $6k will get you a bad Hyundai or Kia, and ok-but-not-great Mazda3, or an ok Civic. Hyundai and Kia did not make good cars just a decade ago. The first gen Mazda3 is not super reliable, but is good enough. Also, rust was a problem with those.

We actually bought a 2014 Corolla S Premium with 84k miles a couple months ago for my youngest son. It was at the dealer for the first month to get the premium Entune system replaced as it was bricked from the previous owner. They put in a temporary radio out of a Prius C. Two months later, the part is still on backorder. Also, the A/C is intermittently working. Other than these problems, the car is pretty comfortable and normal to drive.

The dealer screwed up with a few things: for some reason they did not give me the "buyer's guide" paper, which is the paper that is required by federal law to be stuck to every window of a used vehicle when the vehicle is delivered including the VIN. I took a pic of it before I bought it (my proof), but I didn't take delivery for another few months and they didn't give me the paper. It said the dealer will pay for all the labor and parts cost for 4k miles or 90 days. They say I don't have any warranty despite the paper showing a matching VIN, so I'm going to sue them if they can't get it sorted. I literally have 4 papers I signed proving that I have a warranty.

The thing I don't like about Toyota is their horrible dealers. The 6 dealers around me have messed up at least one thing in the service and/or sales departments. I don't go to them unless I'm there for a warranty/recall repair. Their corporate customer service is also crap and useless.

Despite our troubles, Corollas are still the most reliable cars on the road. We are a sample size of one and I don't know the exact history of our vehicle, only the CarFax. My trusty mechanic pointed out during the inspection that the timing cover is very slowly seeping oil where the cylinder head and engine block meet and it will need to be resealed sometime before 200k miles. He said it happens on a lot of Corollas and isn't anything to be worried about.

Good luck and I recommend buying private party or from a reputable dealer. Please tell us what your daughter ends up with! I recommend an inspection by an independent mechanic, which I paid $60 for.


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Toyota Corolla
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