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sporty, fuel effecient car under 20k for college

The Right Car for Me | TrueDelta


My 1991 Honda Accord coupe is breaking down on me and i am about to start college so I am looking into a new car. I will be driving alot so i need something that is reliable and fuel effecient; however, I am someone who has to have a car that isnt seen all the time (Like a boring camry) here in Idaho and i prefer it to be a smaller 2 door car as i tend to not like bulky sedans. My main thing is the car MUST be a manual! (Save the manuals!!!!) Some of the cars I am looking at right now are: A 2013 Scion FR-S (Love the body style) with less than 8000 miles at a local dealer for about $20k, A 2013 Honda Civic Si (Ugly as hell body style) with 15000 miles at a non local dealer and i still have not heard back so i dont know the price, A 2013 Honda Accord Coupe with the 2.4l (which seems like it would be slow compared to the others) with 14000 miles at $20k, and the last one I found today, A 2010 VW GTI that has me worried at 70k miles (no more warrenty scares me with a VW) priced at $15k.

Basically my prefered/requirements are:
Must be manual (prefer short thro shifters)
Prefer a coupe (I like the smaller sporty look)
Must be under or around $20k
prefer lower miles with a warrenty still on it so like a 2013 or newer
Something reliable for school

I look forward to hearing what others have to say/suggest.

Priorities: Price or payments / Powertrain performance / Reliability & durability / Fuel economy / Insurance cost

Preferred Bodystyle(s): Coupe

Car Needs: Daily commuter / Errands about town / Fun toy

Primary Driver(s): Tall driver

Need minimum of 2 seats

Will consider both new and used cars
Maximum mileage: 40000
Maximum age: 5 years

Maximum price: US $ 20000

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Response from mwcten

6:18 pm August 5, 2015

My first thought is that if you're short on money, a $20k car is NOT the way to go. I'm not even going to ask what sky high interest rates you're getting offered. Pay cash for something cheaper and keep some money in the bank in case anything goes wrong. If you go to a good independant mechanic, a $2k-7k car will be a lot cheaper for you in terms of your total costs (depreciation + insurance + gas + repairs + tax). Note that collision insurance costs for a young male driving a sporty 2-door car are old-turbo-VW-maintenance-cost scary.

What about an 00's Acura RSX? 2dr, they look nice, way below your budget so you would have money for repairs, they're fast, not omnipresent on the roads. If you really want to drive something unique, get a well maintained Toyota Paseo, although you might have to fly one way south to find one.

If you're really serious about dropping $20k on a car, look into a new Mazda 3. iSV or iSport ones can be had for under $19k, manual transmission. The powertrain warranty will last until you're out of college.

The problem with unreliable cars that are still on warranty (like the FRS) is that you're going to pay for them eventually; it will just be in depreciation, because eventually you'll own the car outright and it will be an unreliable car off-warranty. At that point, the market is not going to pay you as much for it as if it were a reliable car. After five years you are left with, say an 8 year old $5,000 car whereas if you bought a new, same priced reliable car, you would have a 5 year old $11,000 car.


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Acura RSX
Honda Prelude
Mazda Mazda3

Response from mkaresh

6:35 pm August 9, 2015

The problems with the FR-S are mostly irritants, such as a chirping fuel pump and condensation in the tail lamps, so I wouldn't be too afraid of its iffy reliability stats.

I'd be more concerned about how well this car will handle through Idaho winters, how noisy they are on the highway, and insurance costs.

But...how about a second-gen (2011 and up) Scion tC? Not as fun as an FR-S or even a Civic Si, but more fun than many people think, much cheaper than those options, more more comfortable than the FR-S on the highway, surprisingly practical (roomy rear seat and cargo area), and likely very reliable. They haven't sold many, so you won't see a bunch of cars like yours around, either.

Be sure to check insurance costs before buying anything.


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Scion tC

Response from ejulien6

4:14 pm September 14, 2015

Based on your situation and criteria I'd advise you to expand your options and be open to well maintained cars between 5-8 years old and within the 10-15K range. This will get you a greater bang for your buck and hopefully keep you from buying a low mile abused car.

A few cars which fit your requirments would be 2005-2010 G35 coupe, 2007-2012 Altima Coupe, 2008-2010 Accord Coupe, 2012-2013 Hyundai Genesis Coupe and 2007-2012 Ford Mustang. If you're willing to go with a compact coupe I'd throw in the Kia Forte, Hyundai Veloster, and Mazda 3Speed if you're into sporty hatchbacks.
There are alot of great options out there if you're willing to do the research and expand your horizons a little.


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Honda Accord
Nissan Altima
Infiniti G
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