Help us figure out which used car to buy!
February 12, 2017 6:16 AM   Subscribe

Mrs. Molerats and I spent Saturday looking for a used car, and ended up with two we're considering: a 2-door 2012 Toyota Yaris with 27,000 miles for $10,700 out the door, or a 4-door 2010 Honda Fit with 60,000 miles for $9600 out the door. We don't have a "car person" in our circle so we're turning to Metafilter: would you get one of these over the other (or keep looking)?

We'd be taking either of these cars to our local mechanic before we sealed a deal, but we're having a hard time deciding which (if either) we should go with. The Yaris felt solid and had no cosmetic or mechanical issues that we could detect. I liked it a lot; Mrs. Molerats, who would be doing most of the driving, felt it was a little cramped but overall a car she could be fine with. The Fit, on the other hand, was wonderfully roomy and a touch more peppy to drive, but a) had some scratches all around that probably can't be buffed out, and b) has a tear in the upholstery on the back of the passenger's seat - we got the price down some because of these issues but need to assume they won't go lower.

Some factors in our decision:
- We're hoping to spend no more than $10K - $11K out the door - hence the older models. We are not interested in buying from a private seller.

- On the flip side of the coin, money is likely to be tight over the next ~3 years while my wife goes back to grad school, so we need something as reliable and inexpensive to own out the gate as possible.

- While nothing is guaranteed, we may be moving this summer, and could possibly be going to either Oregon (driving our car all the way from Pittsburgh) or Vermont. It's also possible we'll just stay in Pittsburgh.

- Mrs. Molerats is especially concerned about safety while driving in heavy rain; I'm concerned about snow - if you have either of these cars could you comment on how they handle in either condition?

- Re: the Fit, 7 years old seems like a lot but the price is tempting. Are 2010 Fits still reliable cars? Are 2012 Yarises?

- One other item of concern with the Fit is that the trunk latch had rust issues so it didn't open at first - the dealer IS going to fix this (and reviews indicate this is a trustworthy dealer), but is this a red flag for rust overall? Again, we will have anything we buy looked at by a mechanic we like (and would tell him about the rusty latch) but we'd rather not bring him something unless we were pretty comfortable with it.

- The Yaris comes with a 2-year manufacturer warranty and again, I really like it, but I wouldn't be the primary driver. My wife was hoping for something with a bit more pep, but says it feels pretty much the same as our current car to drive - so she's not uncomfortable with it.

- We're not in a HUGE rush, but our current car is really only drivable to the grocery store and back at this point (slipping transmission - per Mrs. Molerats' recent question ). We can wait to see if better deals come our way, but these two cars do seem tempting.

Based on this, do you have any advice? Given our parameters, would you go for the Fit, the Yaris - or just keep watching and waiting? Thanks for your help!
posted by nakedmolerats to Travel & Transportation (24 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Yaris. There's some expensive maintenance needed at around 60k miles and you might as well avoid it. I'd consider a used Prius C though, they're in about the same price range and need much less maintenance by design.
posted by miyabo at 6:31 AM on February 12, 2017

Do you have (or do you plan to have) any kids? If yes, any 2-door car would be a major pain in the butt re: car seats.

Otherwise, I think I'd vote for the Yaris.
posted by easily confused at 6:45 AM on February 12, 2017

The Honda Fit seems pricey for its condition. I've bought a couple used cars within the last year, and have found Car Gurus to be very helpful in finding what's out there and what the market looks like. Since the Mrs liked the Fit, there's a couple 2013 Fit Bases within easy driving distance of Pittsburgh that have 33k on the clock and are within your budget.
posted by bgroff at 6:48 AM on February 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

I currently have a 2007 Fit and also had a 2008 2 door Yaris. Both utterly reliable cars which never gave me issues. But there's a reason I kept the Fit and sold the Yaris: the flexibility and roominess of the interior. Re: driving in snow, I have snow tires on the Fit and have no problems at all driving even in heavy snow.
posted by zsazsa at 7:11 AM on February 12, 2017

On the safety front, some friends got really solidly t-boned in a fit of that generation and walked away from the accident. And while I don't have opinions of my own, there's a vague car people consensus that the Fit is a decent car and the Yaris is meh.
posted by wotsac at 7:46 AM on February 12, 2017

I'd suggest you figure out which model suits you best, and then work on finding the best deal on that model. Dealer asking prices on used cars have a significant negotiating margin built-in. I mention this because it sounds like you might be taking the sticker prices as if they were set in stone, which they definitely aren't. Neither of the prices you mentioned sounds very good.

We have an '09 Fit, though. Good car.
posted by jon1270 at 7:50 AM on February 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

You can probably do better than either of those, to be honest. I just bought a 2014 Corolla from a dealer for $12,500. That's a newer, bigger, more reliable car with fewer miles for only $1,500 above your budget. You should be able to find both Corollas and Civics in good shape from 2013 in that price range (especially if you don't mind cosmetic issues), and both of those are better options.

The Fit has a much better reputation than the Yaris, although I'm not sure it's two years and 33k better. You should definitely be able to find a better deal on a Fit than what you've found so far, I would think.
posted by kevinbelt at 7:55 AM on February 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

If you do end up moving out west, it's worth considering that roads here aren't salted nearly as heavily, so cars don't rust much. So what would be considered minor rust in the east and midwest can totally kill the value of a car in other places -- so the Fit, for example, might be harder to sell at a good price than you would like, if you ended up wanting to sell it.

Of the two, I would buy the Yaris (newer, lower miles, no mention of rust), but neither sounds like a screaming good deal, really.
posted by Dip Flash at 8:09 AM on February 12, 2017

If you really want to save money, consider a pontiac vibe if you can find one with relatively low km, it should be reliable and is thousands less than the fit, but roomier on than the yaris. I love mine, I bought (in Canada) a 2005 vibe with less than 45 000 miles for $6500 two years ago, it is older so I have had to pay for some replacements (serpentine belt, brakes just now after two years, new sets of tires, whatever is in the manual for maintenance I say yes to) but nothing crazy and it's good on gas, good in the snow with snow tires, I've put 20 000 miles on it since then. Spend $5-$8K on a car and put the rest aside for maintenance over the next few years (which should leave a lot leftover).

There was an airbag recall for vibes and that was annoying not using the passenger side seat so make sure that's been taken care of but really great used car imo.
posted by lafemma at 8:54 AM on February 12, 2017

I have a 2007 Yaris. I agree it is not very "peppy". It IS reliable and cheap on gas. We have had a pretty bad winter in my part of Canada, and I drive on unsalted/unploughed roads regularly and haven't had any problems except for when the snow is deeper than my (winter) tyres. The prices you quote do seem high to me through, and I am used to paying Canadian prices.

I've had no problems fitting my family of five in for camping trips and long road trips, however now I am almost 50 I am looking to upgrade for my own comfort. The Yaris will be passed to my daughter as it still mechanically sound (unfortunately it did sustain front end damage from my husband hitting some local wildlife but it still keeps going). The only maintence I have done is what is required (and even for that I go longer between synthetic oil changes than I should) and it is almost 400,000kms (250,000ish miles) on the clock.

I bought mine brand new and within a year a had a major personal crisis that lasted over five years. Having a new, cheaply-run reliable car not throwing me huge repair bills saved my ass. Most of the time, buying new is not a smart financial choice, but reliable used cars in my area are really holding their value (for the Yaris it sound like it has only dropped one third of the MRSP in five years, the seven year old Honda is only a few thousand less than new?) But in this case it maybe better for you to look at a newer car if the dealer is offering 0% or low cost loans to bridge between the cash on hand and the actual price.
posted by saucysault at 9:11 AM on February 12, 2017

I'm not sure about this particular Fit, but I've got a lot of seat time in that year and like all Hondas, they are engineered to be a simple pleasure to drive in a way that some other manufacturers' small cars may not be.

The Fit will want a timing belt at 105k miles, the Yaris has a chain whose life is indefinite. Neither car is likely to need any unscheduled maintenance unless it's been badly mistreated.
posted by ftm at 9:26 AM on February 12, 2017

We had a Yaris for four years. It was a 2008? model. It's everything everyone says here, small, cramped, not peppy. On the plus side it was very reliable and had very good driver visibility.

However, the major issue that my wife had with the car---she was the primary driver---was the mushiness of the brakes. We confirmed with both the dealer and an independent garage that they were well within spec, that this was just how the car drove. We got rid of it after four years as my wife did not feel the car was especially safe for that reason.

The Yaris is a very light car with modest ground clearance. It was a difficult car in the snow we get in Ottawa: up to 20 cm. It got stuck a couple of times.

We replaced it with an Elantra. My wife is much happier with this car.
posted by bonehead at 9:26 AM on February 12, 2017

If you're talking about moving to western Oregon, be aware that although that area technically has mild winters, they usually feature many days of horrifically icy roads. Ice in general is the big winter issue there. You're going to want a car that can handle that. And if you move to Vermont, you're probably going to be happy if you have a car with high clearance that can handle serious winter conditions. There's a reason that the Subaru Outback is practically the state car of both Oregon and Vermont. Have you looked at them?
posted by HotToddy at 9:42 AM on February 12, 2017

I'd vote neither. If the price were lower, I would say go for the Fit, but that price seems rather high for a 7 year old car with 60,000 miles and those cosmetic issues (which at the very least would affect resale value). I've heard Hondas retain their value pretty well, but I'd still be on the look out for a better deal.

I have an '08 Civic that I got new, and it is an a great car. I also looked at the Toyota Corolla, and although they're pretty comparable on most measures, the experience of driving the Civic was superior enough that there was no question. (I test drove the Corolla first and spent awhile with it, but then after about 15 seconds driving the Civic, I knew I'd be going with the Honda.) I think I've got about 50,000 miles on my car, and I had to replace the battery a few years ago and just recently replaced the break pads. Other than that, the only maintenance I've had to do is oil changes and tire rotation.

For all those reasons, I'm much more inclined to go for a Honda over a Toyota, but for being nearly the same price, that's a big difference in number of miles (the two year age difference would not be a major concern to me).

Now with that being said, the biggest complaint I have about my Civic is that it is not so great in the snow, and I live in the Boston area, so I've had ample experience to test this out. To be fair, I've made it through some pretty nasty snow conditions without losing control of the car or getting into an accident, but I've learned to be very cautious, and it can be a pretty stressful experience. I imagine you'd have a similar experience with the Fit or Yaris. (I don't have snow tires, so I can't speak to how much of a difference that would make.)

It's not bad enough for me to get a different car, especially since I suspect this is just standard for this class of cars, but I also have the luxury of living in a part of Massachusetts where they are very on top of clearing off roads, and I pretty much always drive on heavily trafficked streets. If I were planning on living in Vermont or even Western Mass, I would seriously consider getting something with higher clearance, as mentioned by HotToddy above.
posted by litera scripta manet at 11:56 AM on February 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Honestly you can get better value, even with dealers, both your options seem quite over priced to me.
posted by smoke at 12:18 PM on February 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Call your insurance agent and check insurance prices too. When I called to get insurance on my Fit, the agent said "Oh, thank goodness it's a 4 door, we consider 2 doors sport cars and they are way more to insure". That may just be my particular company but may be worth checking into.
I do really like my Fit and it does fine here in Denver.
posted by BoscosMom at 12:25 PM on February 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

A follow up: since multiple people have said that these sound like not very good deals, can anyone weigh in on either a) what they would expect to buy one of these cars for as a good price or b) what else we could expect to get for $12,500 max out the door?

To clarify, I'm wondering if people didn't see that the prices we were quoted WERE negotiated down and DO include taxes fees etc. We visited several dealers yesterday and the prices and "wiggle room" seemed pretty even across dealerships -- so I'm a little frustrated that if $9600 sounds pricey for this Fit, I don't see much else online suggesting that I can do much better in the Pittsburgh area.
posted by nakedmolerats at 1:39 PM on February 12, 2017

For example, as mentioned above, I cannot find a single Subaru outback near PGH that's anywhere near our price/mileage point.
posted by nakedmolerats at 1:44 PM on February 12, 2017

FYI, used Subarus are notoriously overpriced. You'll probably have to go way up in mileage and age for a 10k Subaru.
posted by serelliya at 2:42 PM on February 12, 2017 [3 favorites]

Yes, used Subarus are expensive AF. Subarus are great cars, but there's no chance you'll get one for $12,500 unless it's ten years old, has over 100k miles, or structural damage, even from a private party seller. You should probably limit your search to Hondas or Toyotas, or maybe Mazdas.

To see what the range was like, I just found a 2013 Fit on with 22k miles for $9,900 in the Pittsburgh area.
posted by kevinbelt at 4:09 PM on February 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

Is the Fit a base model or Sport? Stick shift or automatic?

Try filling in a car's specs on's used car appraiser, and see what it spits out. For a 2010 base-model Fit with automatic transmission, in average condition, color="blue sensation pearl," w/60K on the odometer, it spits out a dealer retail figure of $6562.

If you have the time to do a little reading, I highly recommend a book called "Don't Get Taken Every Time." Get the most recent edition.
posted by jon1270 at 5:48 PM on February 12, 2017 [1 favorite]

I think that both cars are overpriced. For example, check out this link to CarGurus.

$10k should get you a much newer Fit with about half the miles -or- a much newer Yaris.
posted by pdoege at 6:07 PM on February 12, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have a 2009 Fit, four door hatchback. I don't remember the mileage, but it's getting up there - definitely more than 60K, maybe close to 100K? I should know this! It runs well and I haven't had any trouble with it (knock on wood!). I've owned it since 2010 or 2011 and have done a very minimal maintenance, pretty much just oil changes.

I'd say the Fit is ok in the rain, it feels pretty typical to me for a car that size - not great, not terrible. I haven't driven it in the snow. I've never driven a Yaris so I have no idea how it compares though.
posted by insectosaurus at 5:45 PM on February 13, 2017 [1 favorite]

Mrs. Molerats here - thanks for the input, everyone! It's been especially helpful to hear from folks who have or had a Fit or Yaris. We're still a little stymied about the price/mileage/year stuff - yes, there are other cars in existence for better prices, but upon looking closer at most of the ones in the Pittsburgh area there were some serious troubles (flood damage, salvage titles - stuff we are definitely staying away from). So it truly hasn't been as easy as looking on or whatnot would have us believe.

We aren't in a huge rush so for right now we're continuing to look - shopping is a pain because we have to rent a car to get out for the day, but we're hoping to make another trek out next week to see what we can find. Most of our original deals came through USAA (well, found through USAA but we didn't use their pricing service - instead we printed out trade-in values to see how close we could get to those (plus a cushion for dealer profit, of course)) ... I suppose we'll try casting a wider net next time. Keep your fingers crossed for us!
posted by DingoMutt at 6:44 PM on February 13, 2017

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