Used car recommendations?
November 4, 2004 6:00 AM   Subscribe

What's the best car you've owned in terms of reliability, longevity and generally fun to drive? I'm in the market for a used car and I'm leaning towards a luxury sedan. I'm curious to learn what cars everyone loved.
posted by renyoj to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total)
An E28 BMW 535is. The E28 BMW 5-series cars are ridiculously cheap right now. Bulletproof mechanicals, very affordable parts, 80's BMW 'sharknose' styling, that big, smooth, torquey straight six, and with about $500 in suspension parts (and some stickier tires), some very impressive handling (not quite a 2002, but it has an air conditioner, so it's a trade-off).

Check out My E28 for info and classifieds.
posted by saladin at 6:24 AM on November 4, 2004

Infinity G35 sedan or coupe. The engine is the foundation of any vehicle, and the Nissan 3.5 liter VQ engine is the best available in the US market today. The G35 offers great looks and so far - it's a new model - decent reliability. It has rear wheel drive and a manual transmission, which if you're a driving enthusiast, are major advantages.

BMW makes fine cars as well, but as I don't care for their karma, I'll let someone make their case.

posted by mojohand at 6:28 AM on November 4, 2004

I absolutely love my 94 Geo Metro. I bought it for $100 a year ago. It's driven me half way across the country and back and is still in great shape. 3 cylinders ain't much, but man is it incredible for gas mileage. Seriously, I drove from Kingston, ON to Boston, MA on one tank of gas. I love having a small car too, I can drive in the city where most sedans and SUVs can't and I can park in some of the smallest spots you can imagine. It's perfect for the city.
posted by soplerfo at 6:37 AM on November 4, 2004

Response by poster: I'm surprised to hear about the Geo Metro. I currently have a Ford Escort Coupe. People have a hard time believing me, but it handles incredibly well and I have put almost 120K on it with minimal problems. However, I want a car that feels luxurious and comfy, but still fun to drive. Mojohand, I'm actually leaning toward a 1997 Infiniti J30, but if I had unlimited funds, a new G35 coupe would be what I would buy.
posted by renyoj at 6:45 AM on November 4, 2004

Oldsmobile Delta Eighty-Eight with the 3600 [3800?] V-6 series engine. It just floats along and it is probably the most reliable engine GM has produced in the last 20 years. A friend who drove it last weekend said it was the most enjoyable cars she has ever driven. They regularly get over 200,000 miles of life before anything major wigs out. Everyone I know who has owned one swears by them. Don't get a '93 model though, the clear coat on the paint job is craptastic and the car will most likely look patchy.
posted by sciurus at 6:48 AM on November 4, 2004

Haven't had it for a year yet, but our Volvo Cross County V70 wagon is great. Fast and safe. Reliable. And I've never met a Volvo owner who didn't wind up becoming a serial Volvo owner (this is my first, a used 2000 model).
posted by baltimore at 6:49 AM on November 4, 2004

My son is driving the 93 Nissan Sentra and it handles really well, has low maintenance and great mileage. I had a Toyota Camry wagon that was really great until its untimely death. When buying used, look for the luxury package. It doesn't add that much to the cost and adds a lot to the enjoyment. has information on used cars, including maintenance and reliability.
posted by theora55 at 7:04 AM on November 4, 2004

I have been driving a 1994 Nissan Altima since it was born (10 years now). I just replaced the original exhaust 6 months ago and it still has the original clutch - 147,000 miles and counting. Problems (other than regular maintanence)? Needed some front suspension parts 3 years ago to resolve a clunking sound coming from the front end, rear driver-side power window motor died 4 years ago, radio died 3 years ago, the mount for the driver side sun visor broke 3 months ago, and the metal along the rear wheel wells is rusting out (mine is the only Altima I have seen doing this). I will be driving this one into the ground!
posted by internal at 7:24 AM on November 4, 2004

Misunderstood your question, renyoj; thought you were looking for new. As stated, I'm not a BMW fan, but word around the campfire is that those E35 Beemers Saladin recommended were some of the best that BMW ever made.

The 5th generation Maximas, particularly the 2002-2003, got a version of the VQ35 engine I mentioned, were made in Japan, very reliable, offered excellent amenities and performance, and are probably down to $12-15K as there's a new generation out. Downside: front wheel drive, paint is very soft, chips and peels.
posted by mojohand at 7:35 AM on November 4, 2004

VW Jetta- I love mine, would buy a used one in a second. Get leather seats and killer stereo. I feel great everytime I get in it. Downside: back seat area is small and uncomfortable and the cup holders (at least in the 2002) are in the way of the cd player but you can adjust sound/song/radio station from the steering wheel. After a hard day sitting at my computer I turn on the heated seat for my back on the way home.
posted by Jikido at 8:03 AM on November 4, 2004

Forget fun go for reliable and comfort if you put on the miles. Old's Aurora. Big ol Northstar V8 25 MPG and a lot cheaper than the German and Japanese cruisers
posted by mss at 8:04 AM on November 4, 2004

1981 Toyota Tercel
posted by trbrts at 8:05 AM on November 4, 2004

My backup car is a 1978 Toyota Cressida and I love it. Technically it was a luxury sedan back then. My main axe is a boring old Honda Accord with 115K miles on it. My boyfriend has the same model a year older with 180K miles and it's still comfy to drive and just works. Starts in lousy weather, handles well, sticks to the road, and doesn't look like crap [his is showing small rust, mine almost not at all]. The cars are dull but bulletproof and if you maintain them they last forever. I moved from the funky Toyota to the Honda when I needed a reliable car for work and except for one gas-tank replacement [probably an existing condition when I bought the damned thing], oil changes and inspections I haven't had to take it in for anything in 15K miles. I used to drive a Saab and while I loved how it handled and how comfy it was, I never could handle the fact that I was always getting something fixed [even at lower milage] and parts were expensive.
posted by jessamyn at 8:24 AM on November 4, 2004

Second jessamyn: Don't get a Saab. I have one, I love it, but damn does it eat up money with maintenance. Also, no one here in rural Oregon has parts or is able to service it, so I end up paying for $60 an hour, crappy mechanics who think it's neat to charge me for gold plated sparkplugs on a tuneup. Cus you know, with a Saab, that's all very necessary.
posted by Happydaz at 8:37 AM on November 4, 2004

maximas, always the way to go, I got's a '93 which is too old for real luxury. But year the 2002 - 2003 are really nice and fun to drive.
posted by Divine_Wino at 8:58 AM on November 4, 2004

driving a red mid 90's volvo wagon right now. they just go and go and go. Our last one (an early 90's red volvo wagon) went for 250k+ miles before the suspension fell apart. The engine was still fine, though....
posted by jaded at 9:07 AM on November 4, 2004

Not a sedan, but I've been very happy with my 97 Honda Prelude (stick) that I picked up in 2000.

The good: nicely reliable, as fun to drive as a FWD car can get. The engine is VTEC, so as you're pulling up the on-ramp there's this point where the mild-mannered scooting-around-town engine suddenly shifts timing and turns into this snarling beastie that shoves you back in the seat. Heh. It's very comfortable for long trips; I regularly take it between D/FW and Florida or D/FW and Toronto.

The bad: it's small, and the back seat is a joke.

The ugly: it has big, kinda funny-lookin' headlights, but it's still kinda cute.

You'd want a newer one than 97; they stopped making them in 00 or 01. The coupe version of the Accord would probably be a reasonable substitute for a new car.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:10 AM on November 4, 2004

I will only drive Toyota's. Seriosly - most reliable cars out there,
posted by Quartermass at 9:26 AM on November 4, 2004

I owned a Chevette; it made a quarter-million kilometers of very abusive driving before I flogged it for about $1k. Horrible car, but by god could it take a licking. I'm certain that it's still on the road: the engines were nearly indestructible.

I own a Nissan NX 1600. It, too, is now at a quarter-mill of hard driving. It's a sportyish t-top that has been to the tops of mountains time and time again, and despite the wretched abuse I've heaped upon it, it's still going great.

But the consumer reviews et al seem to indicate that the best bang for the buck these days is in the Acura line. In Canada you can get the Acura EL, which is basically a maxed-out Civic. Superb handling, well-appointed, very nice, and inexpensive. The higher-end Acuras are receive rave reviews.
posted by five fresh fish at 9:32 AM on November 4, 2004

The old Cressidas are really solid and reliable, so I second jessamyn.

I am currently driving a basic Subaru Legacy. It is great fun to drive, heaps of pulling power, and it just goes where you point it, if you know what I mean. When this one's time is up, I intend to buy another one.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 10:29 AM on November 4, 2004

I dream of owning a BMW one day (I live in a third-world country, see) but quite a few people told me that they cost a truckload in maintenance and repair costs. Is this true?

Oh, and I want an M5 please.
posted by madman at 10:52 AM on November 4, 2004

Madman- I currently own a '76 BMW 2002, and have had E28s, E9s, E30s, and an E21 at my disposal over the years. These cars are not at all expensive to maintain, and, apart from some serious rust issues on the older ones, will last forever.

However, the moment you add "M" to any of these cars, the cost of maintaining them skyrockets. It's no M5, but a nicely sorted 535is is damned near as fun, for about 1/10th the cost.
posted by saladin at 11:55 AM on November 4, 2004

I've had my '90 CRX for a couple years now. It's got 178k miles, broken springs (from four-wheeling it), and a bad aftermarket steering wheel from a previous owner. However, even with 300 lb of tools in the back, it's a rocket that handles like a go-cart. I recently replaced the original exhaust, and put a new timing belt in it every 50k, but other than that, *nothing* has gone wrong with it. I also get within spitting distance of 40 MPG on the open road, and I drive *fast*.

Best two grand I've ever spent.
posted by notsnot at 5:12 PM on November 4, 2004

I love my 2000 Golf 4 door. Love it. We leased a caravan after our second daughter was born and I cannot believe the difference in quality and workmanship between VW and Dodge. I mean, I didn't expect the Dodge to be as well built, but I was really suprised at how wide the gap is.

Our local VW dealership is teh suck as far as I am concerned, but I have loved the car, and had great experiences with other dealerships when travelling. Go VW!
posted by Richat at 7:32 PM on November 4, 2004

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