No previously riced out cars please. I'm not going to buy your lowered Honda with "after market" exhaust
January 19, 2012 3:46 PM   Subscribe

Best cheap used car to buy in Southern California for under 3500?

I need to get a second car, but I don't have a lot to spend on it atm. What would be the best type of cheap used car to buy? It doesn't need to last forever. Ideally, I'd get two years of use out of it.

I'm looking at older Honda's right now, since my current car is a 1996 accord with 160k miles on it, and it's been amazingly reliable. However, for the prices I'm looking at, the Honda's seem more expensive and have far higher mileage than everything else.

There's a lot of used early 2000 Ford Focus's up on craigslist as well as a bunch of Saturn's. While the Honda's in my price point are all 92-98's. Are Saturn's or Focus's known to be reliable?

Any particular models or brands I should be considering? I have a local mechanic that I use and trust that I'd be bringing any car to for an inspection before purchasing.
posted by Arbac to Travel & Transportation around Irvine, CA (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
This recent thread has some suggestions, including the Ford Focus and (my recommendation) Ford ZX2.
posted by jabes at 3:52 PM on January 19, 2012

Also, check out your local library or their online databases to see if they subscribe to Consumer Reports. Or you can pay $5.95 for a month to use their online database to look up used car reliability.
posted by jabes at 3:54 PM on January 19, 2012

Lincoln Town Car / Crown Vic / Marquis
posted by The World Famous at 4:01 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

More important than the brand or model is the service record. A Ford with meticulously documented service is a safer bet than a Honda of equal mileage with no service records.
posted by COD at 4:54 PM on January 19, 2012

A 2wd compact pickup-nissan/toyota/ford ranger would be a good cheap choice. They aren't the most comfortable rides in the world but they get decent mileage are cheap and easy to work on and usually go forever if maintained and not abused. Finding a used one that isn't abused might be tough-if you go this route stick with a 4 cylinder and 5 speed transmission to keep it cheap, simple and gets good mileage. And if you aren't mechanically inclined definately spend the extra 100 and get a mechanic to check it out.
posted by bartonlong at 4:55 PM on January 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

The older Saturn's before GM started gutting Saturn and put them on the Chevy platform are really decent with the manual transmission. Focus has had reliability/qc problems. Nissan tends to be cheaper than Honda/Toyota at least on the East Coast.
posted by at 8:52 PM on January 19, 2012

posted by just sayin at 9:35 AM on January 20, 2012

Son of a......
posted by just sayin at 9:39 AM on January 20, 2012 [1 favorite]

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