What are the best new or used car dealerships in Atlanta?
November 19, 2004 4:52 AM   Subscribe

My sister-in-law is looking for a low-priced new or used car, probably a Toyota, but she's also looking at a Kia or a Hyundai. We're in the metro Atlanta area [MI]...

and we're looking for good online resources for finding out:
1/ Customer satisfaction for models/makes.
2/ Local dealer ratings.
3/ Any other useful resources?

posted by jpburns to Travel & Transportation around Atlanta, GA (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
well, there is always kelley blue blook price (kbb.com). BUT--what you really want to check out is Edmunds (www.edmunds.com). They have editor reviews, a zillion customer reviews, extended road tests, fairly accurate local-pricing information, etc. I relied on the site quite a bit when getting my car, it was quite useful.

For even more accurate pricing info the way to do it is to check local classified papers and see what stuff is selling for. Dealer costs will usually be higher than buying from another private owner, but it might be safer.

hope that helps.
posted by jabberwock at 6:02 AM on November 19, 2004

I am the very happy owner of a 03 Toyota Matrix. I paid $15,000 for it (its a standard and I didn't get too many bells or whistles). When I was shopping for a car I was looking for something that got good gas mileage, had tons of storage space, and was comfortable for long drives. My car averages about 35mpg - with long highway drives at 38 mpg. I'm both an upright bass player and a field biologist with a ton of equipment - I have never run out of room for my stuff. As far as comfort goes, the seats are set higher than most cars, which is really nice on your back and the front seats have a ton of headroom. I have a friend who is 6'4" and he is perfectly comfortable in my car. Further they are really cushy. For a long time I was looking at a Subaru Impreza, but the seats felt like they were a slab of plywood wrapped with a thin piece of foam. If space isn't an issue, the Echo or Corolla are also great vehicles. Toyota has very attractive financing packages, but you need to have good credit.

My only disappointment is that the maintenance program means a $500 bill at the dealer every 15,000 miles.

I would stay away from Hyundais completely- I know those warranties lure a lot of people in, but the cars show wear very quickly and have really awful resale values.
posted by a22lamia at 6:21 AM on November 19, 2004

I love 5-8 year old Hondas. They run forever, and run great with very few surprises.

I recently had great experience with an independent auto broker here in Atlanta named Dale Edwards, (whose number is 404-787-6024), who acts as a go between between dealers, customers, and wholesalers, with very little overhead. He buys and sells about 75 cars/month. I saved about 1300 bucks on a '94 Honda Accord, which runs great. Very happy with my experience with him. Tell him Dave Wisdom referred you.

Other sites: Autotrader, Epinions (great car reviews from people like you and me), and for great used car reviews on just about every aspect, try Consumer Guide.

DITTO on what a22lamia said: Avoid the Kia's and Hyundai's, even with the warranty, they are crap.

I am glad I am finally to post answers on here! Glad to be part of the family.
posted by wonderwisdom at 6:36 AM on November 19, 2004

I really like my Scion Xa. It's made by Toyota, under $14k. Women tend to think it's rather cute.
posted by adampsyche at 6:52 AM on November 19, 2004

I'll second edmunds.com.
And I'll second the Scion too!
posted by spilon at 6:53 AM on November 19, 2004

A late model used Toyota can be a terrific deal. I bought a 99 RAV-4 with 50k miles last spring for about 8 grand. It is kind of a mini-SUV, as much room as you need but decent gas mileage too. Last summer we loaded it down with camping gear and 3.5 people and drove along the entire Lewis and Clark Trail with no problems at all.
posted by LarryC at 7:31 AM on November 19, 2004

I just bought a used car from CarMax. No haggling, a great extended warranty, excellent customer service, and the car looks and drives like a new vehicle. And you can search their national database and get any car shipped to your location. Whee! I feel like a total fangirl!
posted by naomi at 7:40 AM on November 19, 2004

I have a 2003 Hyundai Elantra GT hatchback that I bought new for about $15,500. The "GT" appellation is a joke (it's no grand tourer, it just has a slightly stiffer suspension than the standard model) but for that price, it came with leather seats, fog lights, sunroof, antilock brakes, traction control, alloy wheels, 6-speaker CD stereo, keyless entry, automatic transmission -- basically all the goodies I was looking for and more. Oh, and a 10-year, 100,000 mile powertrain warranty (5/60 on virtually everything else, including roadside assistance). The 4-door hatch body style is very flexible if you ever need to haul cargo, or like to go camping, or whatever, or the GT is also available as a regular 4-door sedan. I've got nearly 30,000 miles on the car now and I've been happy with it. In terms of what you get for the money, it's pretty close to unbeatable for a new car. Did I mention it has the most horsepower in its class?

It's also hard to go wrong, as others have mentioned, with a Toyota or a Honda, even used. If I hadn't wanted a new car with a new-car warranty, that's probably the direction I would have gone. Recent Nissans are also pretty reliable -- the Sentra is one of the few cars in its class with a timing chain rather than a timing belt, IIRC, eliminating a bit of costly maintenance you need to do on other cars around 60,000 miles.
posted by kindall at 8:30 AM on November 19, 2004

Avoid the Kia's and Hyundai's, even with the warranty, they are crap.

Do you have anything to back this up? I have an 04 Kia Optima that I've been very happy with. I did a lot of research before buying, and couldn't find anything strongly negative (I did read a few accounts of the Spectra not holding up well, but nothing about the Optima).

I also have a 97 Civic that has been a rock. It's pushing 200,000 miles.
posted by Otis at 8:32 AM on November 19, 2004

To follow up my own post, I see Hyundai has the hatchback in the GLS (standard) trim level for 2005. Used to be you had to get a GT to get the hatch. Oh, also forgot to mention that side-impact airbags are also standard.

"Kias and Hyundais are crap" is so very 1990. A friend's experience with a 2001 Sonata is what convinced me to go for the Elantra.
posted by kindall at 8:39 AM on November 19, 2004

I've had my '03 Matrix for just about a year -- I paid more (got the XRS), but I'm as happy with it as a22lamia. Loads of fun to drive. But if I were looking today, I'd look at the Scions. (They weren't available when I was looking before.) Why? Well, they're cheaper, and get better mileage, for one thing. Plus, I think the Xa looks pretty darn cool. And they're supposedly pretty peppy little buggers.

Toyota (and by extension Scion and Lexus) is very hard to beat for safety and quality, and I have always found their ergonomics to be excellent, if slightly conservative. The current crop are positively cavernous inside -- the Echo and the Scions are particularly surprising in this regard. You'll be amazed how big such a small car can feel from inside.

If you're into "buy America" (for whatever that means lately), GM is now assembling Chevy-branded Scions in the US -- I forget what the brand name is. But the Scions proper definitely look much, much cooler. Though I don't think I could have brought myself to buy an Xb...)
posted by lodurr at 10:00 AM on November 19, 2004

What is her price range? If it's around $5000 to $10,000 I'd definitely stick with the 94 to 99 Hondas and Acuras. But if she can afford $10,000 to $15,000 look for 1997 to 2000 Volvos. I really do not know much about Toyotas!

Do your research at KBB, NADA, Auto Trader, AJC, and even E-Bay to get an idea on average prices. Then try buying though a private seller(no sales tax in Georgia). Also look for used cars where the owners purchased extended warranties that can be transferred over to a new buyer for a minimal fee. And use a service like Carfax to run a vehicle history report on the VIN of any vehicle you consider buying. It's well worth the $20 to $30 fee.
posted by oh posey at 10:08 AM on November 19, 2004

Add'l info on the Saturns: The "L" series shares much, much more than an engine with the Saabs. The details of the space frame differ to accommodate Saturn's poly-panel system, but under the plastic, it's essentially the same Opel drivetrain/floorpan combo as the Saab 9x series. From what I can see, it's a stone bargain, if that's the kind of thing you're in teh market for.

That said, I really didn't like the experience of driving the Ion. It felt cramped through the shoulders (I'm a fairly big guy), a bit too low in the roofline (I sit like someone about 6'3"), and the pedals were too soft. I wanted to like it, because it's got a lot of cool engineering, but I just couldn't. But hey, you'll drive any of these things first anyway, so it doesn't really matter what we think about that...
posted by lodurr at 10:14 AM on November 19, 2004

Oh, final piece of advice: Pony up the $40 or so to get a membership on the Consumer Reports car guide site. When you figure the total cost of a vehicle, the extra cost for easy access to reliable information is trivial.
posted by lodurr at 10:20 AM on November 19, 2004

The Consumer Reports Web site sells monthly subscriptions for just $5, which is even more of a no-brainer (or less of a brainer). That said, I found CR useful mainly for assessing reliability. Edmunds and the other free car sites had plenty of factual information on the cars that was as good as CR's, not to mention reviews by actual owners.
posted by kindall at 10:56 AM on November 19, 2004

The Consumer Reports annual Buying Guide also has their car reliability ratings, which are very useful. And if I remember correctly, their annual auto issue (which you should be able to find at a library) has user satisfaction ratings. I assume that all of this information is also on their web site (for which you need a subscription, as kindall points out).
posted by klausness at 12:09 PM on November 19, 2004

Late-model Hyundais are the eqiuvalent of what Japanese cars were in the 80s: workmanlike, uninvolving cars that provide an exceptional value for the dollar. The days of the Excel are long over, and I recomment a Hyundai test drive to non-enthusiast friends looking for a cheap, reliable car without hesitation.

I still consider Kia to be a bit behind the curve, though. They're getting there, but they still seem to be "Hyundai for people too cheap to buy even a Hyundai". I see very little reason to buy a new Kia over a used car from a better manufacturer.
posted by jammer at 1:33 PM on November 19, 2004

Kia is now owned by Hyundai, and some of their cars have begun to be made on the same platforms. For example, the Kia Optima is a Hyundai Sonata with a slightly different body. This is not true of all of their models, however -- some are still the older Kia designs.
posted by kindall at 1:53 PM on November 19, 2004

Mazda3 wagon is supposed to be a much crisper, funner ride than the Scion, which is noisy.

The Chevy Prizm is actually a Corolla with cheaper trim. They cost nothing.
posted by mecran01 at 2:09 PM on November 19, 2004

Mazda3 wagon is supposed to be a much crisper, funner ride than the Scion, which is noisy.

It's a superfun ride. I got my 3 this spring, and I have no complaints. You'll wind up paying closer to 20k than to 15k, though, and the gas milage isn't as good as some of the more economy models out there.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:31 PM on November 19, 2004

I bought a 1993 Volvo 840 sedan directly from its owner a couple of years ago and I have no regrets. I bought owner direct using information I got from doing Click and Clack-based research. All the information people are encouraging you to gather is under one page there.

The reason I bought owner-direct is because I didn't want a car payment, and even used and certified was out of my cash price range (of 5--7k). I also bought my own major repair warranty for a few hundred more. It doesn't cover the small annoyances, but if anything ever goes seriously awry, I'm covered. I also wanted to be able to pepper the owner with maintenance questions and check the car's records with him, which is what I did.

The reason I bought Volvo: safety, safety, safety. I know two people who survived accidents uninjured only because they were in a Volvo at the time. Three, if I count myself. It also doesn't hurt that it drives so well, is comfortable as hell, and has seat-warmers that make your butt happy on winter days.

Hyundais and Hondas are great, durable, and cheap to maintain, but if your sister wants high-dollar comfort on the cheap, she can try this route herself. It all depends on timing, so if she needs something fast, this isn't a good option. But if she takes her time, she might be able to get something luxurious at a much lower price than you might expect.
posted by melissa may at 3:31 PM on November 19, 2004

I should add that I originally had a Toyota in mind when I started my search, but doing a lot of research helped me figure out a different car that I ended up being much happier with. That's the reason I went a bit off topic on my answer. Whatever route you decide, the Car Talk site I linked should be very useful. Good luck.
posted by melissa may at 3:39 PM on November 19, 2004

jammer, the 2005 Optimas and Sonatas are virtually the same price. From edmunds.com:

2005 Hyundai Sonata
MSRP Price Range:
$16,594 - $20,394

2005 Kia Optima
MSRP Price Range:
$16,460 - $20,455
posted by Otis at 5:01 PM on November 19, 2004

My partner has had 2 Hyundai Elantras in the past 1.5 years (first was stolen and totaled). The first was peppy, got gas mileage in the low 30s and was a joy. The second was identical in model, year and even colour. It is sluggish, gets gas mileage in the high 20s and the paint is deteriorating.

I have a 2004 Ion 2. The seats are very uncomfortable on long trips. Insurance is lower than any other inexpensive car I looked at. She can call her insurance company and ask about the rates for cars she is considering.

The EPA has a very useful web site on mileage, pollution and annual fuel economy at http://www.fueleconomy.gov/. You can put in your chosen gas price and the amount you drive in a year, and get a yearly cost. Adding that cost and the insurance costs gave me a better idea of which cars would be a better deal over the long run.
posted by QIbHom at 9:33 PM on November 19, 2004

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