Looking for affordable short cars under 12 feet.
September 9, 2008 8:59 PM   Subscribe

Looking for a list of cheap short cars (under 12 ft), and suggestions on the best way to find one in the Seattle area.

My wife and I will soon be moving to a new townhouse with a 1-car garage and very limited on-site parking. In front of the garage is a 10-11 foot slab of concrete that might fit a nice subcompact car.

The obvious choice here is the Smart Car Fortwo, but finding an inexpensive one is pretty much impossible.

I figure the mini-cooper is another option, but there's the cost issue again.

I thought a beetle would be a good choice, but they are over 13 feet long, which would for sure hang out past the 'driveway'.

I've done a lot of searching, but it's very slow going and I feel like I'm making NO useful progress.

What I need, ideally, is a way to sort all cars by length, find a way to determine if they are even available in the US (since most I've come across are only European), and then I could take that reduced list and see if there's any potential options.

Any tips? Feel free to give suggestions, but remember the ridiculously short space I have to work with.

Am I fighting a losing battle here?
posted by johnstein to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
How inexpensive are you thinking? A Toyota Yaris hatchback is probably about the right size, is cheap as new cars go, and should be as reliable as anything. You could just go to Edmunds and start looking around -- they should have all the data you need.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 9:22 PM on September 9, 2008

The shortest car I could think of off the top of my head is the Toyota Yaris/Echo which runs 12'3". There's not much that's going to meet your specs, though I should say I'm not a "car guy" and there might very well be someone on here who can think of something.
posted by Autarky at 9:25 PM on September 9, 2008

Darn. LOHK beat me as I was looking up the length on WP.
posted by Autarky at 9:26 PM on September 9, 2008

The Daihatsu Charade hatchback is 12' 2". An older Geo Metro/Suzuki Swift Hatchback is 12' 3".

If you buy one that's already missing its rear bumper, you'll be under 12 feet.
posted by toxic at 9:42 PM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

hwy 99 in everett(aka auto row). more dealerships(used and new) than you can shake a stick at.
posted by docmccoy at 9:44 PM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

I did this research a year ago, and the 1st Gen Mini Cooper is the only (recent) car under 12ft (by about 1/2") besides specialties like the Smart Car.
posted by rhizome at 9:45 PM on September 9, 2008

What's in front of the slab? If it's lawn, you can get another foot or more by putting the wheels at the edge of the slab and overhanging the bumper on the lawn.

Also, here's a list of the shortest cars by 2007. According to it, the only car under 12' is the Smart Fortwo.

Two scooters would fit nicely on an 11' parking pad!
posted by mendel at 9:48 PM on September 9, 2008

also, if you do go to a dealership, check out the car there and then find out if they have a website and buy the car online. a friend of mine got the best of the salesman that way. they tried to screw her on the price. after an hour of so of dickering she went home and purchased the car online for $1500 less than the salesmans 'lowest price'. She went back to the dealership. The salesman approached her and asked her if she came back to purchase the car. She replied, "no, i'm here to pick up my keys".
posted by docmccoy at 9:51 PM on September 9, 2008 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: docmccoy, I actually live on hwy 99 now. One of the reasons for the move is to get away from all the car dealerships. I planned on making the tour, but wanted to do my research first.

Thanks for the suggestions so far.
posted by johnstein at 9:54 PM on September 9, 2008

How many wheels do you need? A three-wheeled utility or passenger vehicles might work for you. If that doesn't make sense, there are probably some hyperefficient "alternative" vehicles that might work in your situation. It might be easier to find a suitable vehicle if you take long range and freeway speeds out of the equation.
posted by stet at 9:54 PM on September 9, 2008

Response by poster: stet, the car would primarily be used to commute to the store and to nearby park-and-rides. It would be necessary to stick to a highway like 99 or 527 for most of the trips, but definitely no freeway driving.

What are these other 'hyperefficient alternative' vehicles?
posted by johnstein at 10:20 PM on September 9, 2008

How about an MG Midget or an Austin-Healey Sprite? These old sports cars were both under 12 feets in length. A restored one is quite reasonable, have a look at eBay Motors for examples. Of course, you'd better not be too big a person and handy with fixing cars to keep one going.
posted by richg at 11:50 PM on September 9, 2008

Does anyone sell the Ford Ka in the US? It's 11.875 feet long.
posted by nicwolff at 12:18 AM on September 10, 2008

I don't know what you're considering "inexpensive", but just across the border here in Canada we've got a dealership selling Kei cars imported from Japan. Kei cars are a classification of car that has an engine of 700cc or less. As a result, they get awesome mileage (60mpg plus in some cases) and are also usually tiny as hell. That said, I have no idea if you'd actually be allowed to bring one into the US and register it. I could also be talking out of my backside and it could be easier to get one of these on the road in the US than up here in Canada. If you want to have a look, here's their site.

I notice they currently list a Rover mini convertible (which is obviously not a Kei car) and you'd probably not have any trouble registering that in the US since there's lots of little British cars around there. You might have problems with it simply because it's a little British car, however. I've had 3 British cars (including the Triumph in my driveway right now), and they usually have a 10:1 ratio of driving time to fixing time, so be forewarned..
posted by barc0001 at 12:56 AM on September 10, 2008

On further examination of that Rover Convertible, I see that it's actually an '88 model year. For some reason I misread that as a '78. I personally have only had experience with little British cars up to the '82 model year, and it seemed to me that the later models were a lot more reliable, relatively speaking. So my previous post's maintenance ratio may be very pessimistic. I actually used an '82 model year car as a daily driver for almost 4 years, so . But on the other hand my '78 model year car spent more time apart than on the road...
posted by barc0001 at 1:47 AM on September 10, 2008

Chevrolet Aveo. A very small car. And presumably quite cheap.
posted by miss tea at 3:45 AM on September 10, 2008

The Kia Picanto seems to be sold only in Asia or Europe, but it's very common here in Germany, so maybe you could find an imported one in the US. It would fit your length as well as price requirements.
posted by Lynx at 5:46 AM on September 10, 2008

the electric car George Clooney has been using is under 9 feet in length and they estimate the low end model will sell for around $18k.. unfortunately, this is at least 36 months out, but you may still want to check out the Tango
posted by jrishel at 6:00 AM on September 10, 2008

Man, a Datsun 510 is *just* too long. Cheap though. And oh so freaking cool... Imagine a japanese knock off of a 1970s BMW 2002 or 3 series. Apparently it's 13'5''.
posted by zpousman at 7:56 AM on September 10, 2008

Um, Smart Passion? Dealership is in Tukwila. Likely to be a loooong wait though, unless you buy private-party.
posted by karizma at 9:44 AM on September 10, 2008

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