Cars: a necessary evil and bane of my existence

So, those of you who have been around a bit know that I’ve had some major issues with my car. If you don’t know, you can search and read all my woe-is-me posts if you want (not a recommendation). Long story short-ish, I have an 02 Altima that has been nickel-and-diming me for years. I’ve spent more money “fixing” it than I paid for it and way more than it’s worth. At this point, the roof’s rusting, the whole power situation never was really fixed, and it’s just time to let the thing die or push it off a cliff or something. I’ll never buy another Altima (or maybe any Nissan ever) after this hot mess.

My awesome sister and mom have offered to help me buy another car to get me through to graduation (in a year) and employment (hopefully not long after that if not sometime before). Between them and what I’ve saved I’ve got somewhere around 5-8K to work with. It’s not a ton and pickin’s is slim, but anything I get at this point will be better than what I have. It doesn’t have to be sparkly new-looking and full of fun extras, but it’d be nice if it wasn’t a total rust bucket (interviews and first impressions and all that) and it has to be reliable. I’m sick of being scared to drive my car and having to tell friends, family, and Abby that we can’t do stuff or go anywhere because I’m trying to hobble the POS along for as long as possible.

I’ve been scouring craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, autotrader, carguru, whatever I can find online. I’ve tried to research all the ones I find on places like edmunds to see if the make, model, and year got good ratings and reviews from people who have actually owned them. I’ve put together a list. What I’m hoping for from you amazing lot is someone who knows cars—what’s good, what’s bad, what they’re worth, common problems, etc.—who would be willing to help me narrow down what I should be looking for and tell me if I’m even going in the right direction. I have a local person who may be able to help when the time comes to check them out in person and test drive, but he’s a busy guy and I’d rather not take him a list of 25 cars spread out over 100 miles around my area. LoL.

Okay, that’s my spiel and plea for help. Any takers?


5000 / 36 months is 138 dollars/month. Go for a brand new Kia or Hyundai. That would cover you long enough to go to and from school and interviews.

Yes. A Honda Civic or accord may do just fine. So would a used Toyota. But you never know what the previous person did or didn’t do to the car.

Beyond that. Ask a local mechanic if they got a grandma car they know of. A reputable mechanic will know of some old lady who is giving up their car for 1-3k.


Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla.
Civic watch for drive belt change intervals. - Need to take it to a Honda specialist to have the belt evaluated.
Corolla uses a chain.
Never buy a used car unless you have a specialist (no friends, you pay for what you get) check it out.


@Chrispdx I don’t have a “regular” mechanic that I go to since I got yanked around by the last guys. I’ve been going to Express for oil changes and stuff. I may stop in there and ask them. They all seem like pretty nice guys. As for buying a new car, not having a steady source of income right now means it’s not really in the cards to buy new. Even the “bad credit, no credit, no problem!” types want you to have a job. :stuck_out_tongue: Soon, though…I hope.

@Brotherbob I’ll definitely do that before I pull the trigger on anything.

Good to see I’ve been looking in the right direction. Most of the ones I’ve bookmarked have been Corollas, Civics, or Acoords. I’ve found a couple of used Hyundai Sonatas and Kia Optimas but they’ve all had around 130K miles on them and for those makes I just wasn’t sure what kind of life span they had. I thought they were kinda regarded as “disposable” cars. Rav4, scion, camry, solara? They’re all Toyota, are they still good cars? Buick Lacrosse? Mazda CX-7? BMW 3/5 Series?

Thanks guys. :heart:

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Bmw’s Can be expensive to fix. Huydai at 130k would be disposable at that point. Buick’s may be the same as bmw in terms of cost to fix.

I would recommend sticking with civic/accord or Corolla/camary. Or a Toyota truck.


Provided it’s not A) on the East Coast or B) a Tacoma. If I recall, the Tacoma frames like to disappear after a winter’s worth of road salt.

@JoJo, as others have stated, steer clear of German cars if your cash is tight. As a lover of damn-near all things VW, the only thing that kept my Golf on the road was the fact that I had a good paying job. It hardly ever broke down, but when it did it was $$$$. BMW’s are worse, and Volvo’s even more so(OK, so Volvo is Swedish. Euro cars cost cash to keep on the road, dammit,) Toyota and/or Honda are great cars-therein lies the problem: Either people drive the wheels off or they’re looking to get top dollar for their used-but-babied set of wheels. Rav4 is a decent little vehicle, and if you’re in a snow-prone area, their AWD systems are pretty damn handy to have. Civic/Accords are also good. If you’re going private-party(ie: Craigslist) for your wheels, you might want to get a CarFax subscription. I know they have single-use, but if I recall, they also do a couple different packages like “unlimited one month” or “look up 10 cars for one low price!” Also to watch is a car that seems too good to pass up as it’s most likely a refurbished car from a flood(Gawd knows we had a few of those last year!) which is why the CarFax thing is a good idea: If the car was previously totaled, the carfax report will say so.

Lastly, ask around your friends, neighbors and teachers for a referral to a decent mechanic. They are out there, I promise! There’s always that “one” shop that everyone complains about, the rest of the time they guard the name of a good shop like it was the key to Solomon’s Temple! If you’ve not done so already, start hitting up the people you like and respect for the name of an honest mechanic. Once you’ve found a car, see if that shop will take a look at it. They might charge you a hour’s labor, but knowing what you’re getting into is worth it.


Anything Foreign cost more to fix. My husband has a Ford Store, I can have him tell ya price wise if its a deal when ya find something. He has helped find used cars for several friends , neighbors, and nieces etc, just cause hes a great guy - it had nothing to do with the delaership


Go honda as @Brotherbob said bring it to inspection, (could cost) belive me, i got a bad habit whit cars, i add more cars in my life than my age, Honda in average where the more reliable, many nissan’s i think yours is probably just over used! I remember buying a new nissan pickup that i drove pass 400000km befor selling it to a guy i know did another 3 years!
Thing is you have to find a good mechanic guy, that is a lot tuffer than finding a good reliable cheap car! Ho still runing nissan’ my wife as a juke, my son altima…im doing mechanics on both … they are not as good as they use to be still pretty reliable.


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Camrys are pretty long lived as long as they’ve been taken care of. Those little Toyota pickups are great as well. You just can’t kill those things. I would run in the opposite direction of any Fords. Especially the Focus. Something breaks down on these on a monthly basis (usually between pay checks) after 70K miles. Mine has been a nightmare for me for the past three years. Finally gave up and was given a 2010 Hyundai Accent. It’s an old-lady car that has been very well taken care of and I love it. I hope you find something that won’t keep you up worrying.

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I do my own wrenching on my P.O.S.s and both my current drivers have over 300k on them. I need two for emergency backup reasons.
Having said that, and having driven many cars to death slowely over the years, my vote would be Honda civic or the not-yet-meantioned Subaru. Subies are WONDERFULL in the snow and the doors on my 98 still sound like a tank when they close. Parts are a little more expensive but you don’t need to replace them very often either. I put an alternator and starter on the Subie…in 6 years with 300k on the clock. Not bad IMO. Oh, and a $30 fuel pump I could access under the rear carpeting. Forgot anout that one. If you drive one in the snow, your mind will be made. Good luck!

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then you got a lemon. My neice drives the wheels off hers with not one issue. One car cant tell a story )


True…but my story is based on two other Focus owners (all LX models) that I know personally and my mechanic who calls them the Bic lighters of the Ford line. Maybe the newer models are better built, but I won’t ever buy one from 2001 to 2007 again.
Maybe your niece is one of the lucky ones?

Thank you guys so much! Looks like I’m gonna avoid the BMWs and other Euro cars. That will have to wait until I have a job and can afford to keep it running. :stuck_out_tongue:

Snow isn’t an issue. I live in Alabama and snow is like twice a decade thing and when it does snow, everything gets shut down. LoL. I remember resale value of cars in CT was a lot lower for that reason…they’d tend to rust from all the salt.

@paingawd my sister said the same thing about the CarFax thing. Once she gives me the green light to start looking in earnest, I’ll do that. I’ll be looking for a good mechanic, too. You’d think if someone found one, they’d want to tell people. :woman_shrugging:

@Lexie3 Thank you. :slight_smile: I think that’s one of the biggest things is knowing if what I’m looking at is actually a good deal or even if it’s a TOO good deal. I know by now if something seems too good to be true, it is. LoL

@Jc113 yea, it’s got something like 170-180K miles on it, which is pretty high but not the highest I’ve seen. IIRC, the 02 Altima was the first year of a complete redesign and was notorious for having problems. Something I should have researched better before buying the car. Hindsight is 20/20 and all that. :stuck_out_tongue:

@Lostmarbles and Lexie, agreed. I think if I could afford a new car right now (and every two years), I might consider a Ford. I like the way the Focus looks and they’re on the more (initially) affordable side of things it seems. But I don’t think I’d buy a used one (especially for what is available in my price range; most are 120K miles and up) unless it was from someone I knew for a fact took great care of it and it didn’t have any problems.

Thank you guys so much. :hugs: I feel a little less overwhelmed now. This is pretty much the first time I’m buying a car on my own and it’s a little daunting, especially with the circumstances and everything I’ve got riding on it. (haha riding…see what I did there? :crazy_face:) I’m trying not to set my expectations too high, I know that having a good car isn’t going to solve all my problems, but its one of the two big anxiety-provoking things I haven’t been able to fix.


Your very welcome, and the offer stands. You can give him a call and pick his brains. He has been in th e business 25 yrs and knows used cars better than new lmao. If i want to ask anything about features of a new car I have to call one of his guys.

Anyway let me know and Ill send his cell #

Good Luck in your search!!

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I come from a long line of mechanics and have wrenched on most. For most foreign vehicles, many parts are going to cost MUCH more and be unavailable refurbished. Depending on where you live, certain disposable parts cost hundreds. Wheelspeed sensors on Infinity vehicles in particular. . .not as big a problem out of the salt areas.

I once had a Dodge that required a Bosch alternator…at $600 it was more than I spent on the car.

For your price range I would look at mid-model year domestic vehicles. First and last years of redesigns to be avoided in particular. In terms of working on the majority of a brand’s line, Chevy, Ford, Dodge in that order IMO…although each have particular issues. Parts for Chevys are dirt cheap. My wife removed the passengers side powered mirror from our truck…total cost for me to replace with new was $35…took 10 minutes. My neighbor had the same issue on his Nissan and got ont at a junkyard for $400.

IMO Toyotas in particular were never designed to be disassembled. UNGLUING the oilpan from a Camry is the single worst repair ive ever performed. I could rebuild an entire engine faster than that seal change.

Look at timing belt change intervals as well. Some cars do 60k…newer Fiesta’s do 150k.

Up here Subarus are the state car…but I know 5 people that have spun main bearings in them. If you buy a Subaru in particular, make sure the previous owner was religious with oil changes and maintaining the oil level…but I actively avoid them at any sale price.


I know-People are weird with sharing certain things. Recipes, restaurants and mechanics seem to be the ones that people guard with an almost reverential pride. I’m not too sure why, tho. When I find a good provider of service(mechanic, dentist, vet, cobbler…) I sing their praises to who ever will listen, as I want them to be successful and stick around. It’s only bit me in the butt once, and I apologized to my mechanic profusely while handing over a big box of brownies as retribution for a bad customer. (Longish story for another time…)

Good luck with the search, and congrats on the new wheels!

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I’ve just found this thread and this story seems to be about me :grinning: I also had a car I had to repair all the time. It was terrible. I spent so much money on the car that I couldn’t even drive far from home. I wasn’t married that time,so I decided to buy a bike instead. I bought a used motorcycle. I was so happy and could drive wherever I wanted. I still have it. But now when I’m married and have two children, I really need a car. I’m currently driving Toyota Corolla.