Looking for a new(ish) car, what makes/models should I be looking at?
July 5, 2020 12:03 PM   Subscribe

I'd like to replace my car, but I'm not really sure what makes/models I should be looking at? I'm pretty car ignorant, so I don't even know where to begin when selecting a new (to me) car. Details inside.

Well, this morning I woke up to a sideswiped car. I reported it to my insurance company, then realized I cancelled collision insurance because the value of my car is too low to make it worth it (under $5K). And remembered that I cancelled it because I figured if something like this happened, I would get a new car. So, I'm starting to look. I'm taking the car in to get the alignment/suspension checked on, so it is safe to drive, but I'm not going to get the body work fixed, not worth it IMO.

I currently drive a 2007 Nissan Altima. It's fine. I don't really have any complaints about it. A car to me is literally a box with 4 wheels that will get me from point A to point B, so I'm pretty ignorant and I'm not sure WHAT I should be looking for. I've been a rough driver on my poor little Altima. It's the car I learned how to drive in, so it has various dents and dings from my early years.

I guess my "ideal" car is one that's "low maintenance" (does such a car exist?) and reliable, not much else. I'm more interested in another 4-door sedan. I'm not sure about an SUV, BUT I recently drove a rented Nissan Qashqai, which is a compact SUV, and I actually liked it. I thought that I had better visibility in that vehicle than my current Altima. I don't feel tied to any car brand, however.

I'll mostly be commuting to work and back in it in a city, but I will be doing some highway driving as well (if that matters).

Ideally, I'd like to probably spend less than $10,000 on a new (used) vehicle... I could probably go up to $15,000 if I must, but I'd really like to stick at under $10,000. Are there any makes/models/years that I should be looking at specifically? I'm guessing I should probably be looking at maybe 2015 models and earlier, as I got my Nissan in 2013, so it was 5-6 years old when I got it.

I kind of feel dumb about new car buying, because my father (who has since passed away) was the one who found/bought my current car for me! I'm not sure what to look for or how to make sure I'm making a "good" purchase. Ugh.
posted by VirginiaPlain to Travel & Transportation (14 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
There are a lot of ways to go into depth here, but the simple rule of thumb is that you should just buy a Honda or a Toyota and be done with it. I have a 2014 Corolla (comparable in class to the Altima) that I bought in 2016 for $12k, so you might be able to go a little newer than you think, depending on location. The Civic is the Honda model in the same class. The next size up is the Toyota Camry/Honda Accord. Any of those four would be a good long term purchase.
posted by kevinbelt at 12:15 PM on July 5, 2020 [4 favorites]

It is hard to go wrong with a Toyota Corolla of almost any year. There was a significant redesign in 2013 (eleventh generation, according to wikipedia), which is a little larger than the previous generations. You should be able to find a 2015 for around $10,000.
posted by coppertop at 12:23 PM on July 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Since you're referring to a Nissan Qashqai and using $ as a currency, I'm guessing you're in Canada. Is that correct?
posted by saeculorum at 12:38 PM on July 5, 2020

I have had two Toyota Corollas, both held up well. I always kept up on maintenance. Then a few years ago I wanted a larger vehicle because I have three dogs and I camp. I bought a used Honda CRV and I love it. It's considered a small SUV and gets great gas milege. I'm 5'5" and can put the seats down and sleep in the back and tote my kayaks on top.
posted by DixieBaby at 12:47 PM on July 5, 2020

Best answer: Here's my question, with answers, about buying a then one year-old Hyundai Sonata in 2017 from Hertz. It cost us around $10,500 all told. The year prior to that we bought a 2015 Nissan Leaf from CarMax for $11,000. Both cars have been very good for us. The Sonata has a minor issue in that the trunk lid had a subtle dent when we got it and we have realized that the dent lets water trickle past the mounting points for the spoiler - so when it rains hard the trunk can get damp. Not a major deal. Otherwise, the Sonata has been very comfortable and gets 41ish mpg on the highway. We've carted two adults, one tween, a German Shepherd and a dachshund on multi-hour road trips in it just fine.

My dad taught me how to buy cars, too, and passed away before I got the Leaf or the Sonata. As someone who has always been a bargain shopper for cars, but also someone who wants a reliable and safe car for my family, I would suggest that while Toyota and Honda are good and reliable, there is also about $1,000 or more in markup on them in the used market compared to other models that are just as good. I think that more and more the answer to "what's a reliable, no-brainer, used car" will actually be the South Korean makes: Hyundai and Kia. Part of that is that I think South Korea has been in a similar spot for the past decade that Japan was in during the 80s: trying to rapidly develop into a leading industrial and technological power and effectively enlisting its citizens in that effort.

So, I would suggest a Hyundai Sonata, Hyundai Elantra, or Kia Forte, all of which should be found in your price range with low mileage and in very good condition. Given that I bought a Hyundai Sonata with 40k miles for $10,500 that was only a year old in 2017, I think you could buy a 2018 or '19 Sonata now for similar money. There wasn't much of a price break in looking at Elantras or Fortes, either.
posted by Slothrop at 12:48 PM on July 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

CarMax, in my experience, also entails a $2-3,000 markup compared to other sources, but here's a 2017 Sonata that is practically new. I am sure I could get a very comparable car from a dealer for less, even more so if I am willing to buy from a private seller off of Craigslist, say.
posted by Slothrop at 12:52 PM on July 5, 2020

I wanted to add Kia Fortes or Rios are TANKS and very low maintenance.

Also seconding that although I used CarMax once (and financed through them) I was denied credit from outside lenders a second time recently because they mark up their cars way above blue book value. I was rather shocked.
posted by Young Kullervo at 12:57 PM on July 5, 2020

I have a Toyota Prius. Mileage is excellent. it is pleasant to drive, has plenty of power when needed. Low maintenance because it has both a gas and electric engine; Priuses frequently go 300,000 miles. When camping, it can be left 'on' and used to power my laptop, phone, music from the hybrid battery, and the gas engine will run occasionally to top up the battery. it's surprisingly roomy.
posted by theora55 at 2:41 PM on July 5, 2020 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Ya Canadian and American used car markets are very different. If you are in Canada don’t get too excited about the low prices you see listed above. A lot of people want to spend less than $10,000 so going to $12,000-$15,000 tends to get you a better bang for your buck. I agree with the Toyota recommendation, but also want to throw in Hyundai. I bought my daughter the Hyundai Kona (similar to the Qasqai) last year (priced just over $20,000 new) and it has been a great car with now 40,000kms on it. I had first been looking for a long time for used car for her her but the GTA car market tends to be shitboxes that can barely get certified for $5,000-$10,000 to much better used cars the same price as an entry level new car.

Looking at Autotrader.ca, $10,000 gets you a 2013 Toyota Corolla with 125,000 kms, Kijiji and Facebook tend to have more private sales. Everyone knows about the Toyota and Honda reputations and the used prices reflect that. I went new for the warranty and to have as many years of worry-free driving as possible. As a one-car family I find the stress of a broken down car and having to make complicated mechanical decisions in an area I feel no expertise in is VERY difficult. Good luck, I’m sorry your car got hit. That isn’t fair.
posted by saucysault at 3:08 PM on July 5, 2020 [3 favorites]

Response by poster: Thanks for the advice so far. And thank you saucysault for pointing out that the Canadian market is different than the American one. I completely forgot to mention the geography of the question! Based on how much I kind of enjoyed the Quasqai and the affordability of it, I'm a bit tempted to put it on my list as an option. I'm just a cheap person, so I'll increase my "budget" to between $12,00 and $15,000 based on that advice!

The city I'm currently listed has slim pickings for a decent sedan, anyway. Unless you want a truck, there's not much here. I might have to take some time off work and go back to my (bigger) hometown city to do car shopping anyway.

I think the brunt of the damage is cosmetic and I can live with it for awhile, so I'm not in a big hurry to replace it. Thanks to a previous question, I know how to replace my side mirror on my own. (I can't stress how glad I am that I followed the advice in that previous question and installed it myself, I feel less irritated already knowing that I can repair it myself for under $50. And also less annoyed at that damage because it didn't cost me very much for the new side mirror in the first place!!). There's also an investigation going on as I wasn't the only one with a damaged car/missing a side mirror on my block.
posted by VirginiaPlain at 3:52 PM on July 5, 2020 [2 favorites]

I'll just say that one thing that I wouldn't consider is a Nissan. The past decade has not been kind to them. Otherwise I concur with everyone here.
posted by wotsac at 4:39 PM on July 5, 2020

I guess my "ideal" car is one that's "low maintenance" (does such a car exist?) and reliable, not much else.

That profile *might* fit with a used EV: they require less maintenance than ICE vehicles because they have less to go wrong with them. For me, the qualifying conditions would depend on whether you are able to charge up at home and how often you make daily journeys that exceed the vehicle's range. If you look ahead to 2033 - which is a point as far ahead in time as your current car's origin lies in the past - and thus perhaps a target to consider for how long you might want to keep a replacement car - then I'd imagine an EV would be a better old clunker to have than an ICE vehicle.
posted by rongorongo at 2:56 AM on July 6, 2020 [1 favorite]

I am not sure if Canada law is similar, but in the USA your mandatory liability insurance includes coverage for hit and run with a $250 deductible (call your agent or dig out your insurance papers, called declaration pages here) and ask?

Otherwise, I highly recommend a new Hyundai kona. Great warranty, great car, would buy again in a heartbeat.

Good luck!
posted by kiwi-epitome at 7:33 AM on July 6, 2020

One thing to keep in mind, depending on where in Canada you live, is if all wheel drive would be helpful. For me, it is. And also, heated seats. Those will add to the price point but for me, they're worth it.
posted by Pademelon at 3:59 PM on April 18, 2021

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