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Discussion Starter #1
Ok fellow FVers, I've finally committed to our total money makeover 100%, and have a little decision making to do coming up soon. We currently have 2 vehicles:

2005 Dodge Charger RT HEMI V8 @ $500/mo lease
2004 Chrsyler Pacifica Limited @ $290/mo loan

The Pacifica is staying, that's our family vehicle we bought and are paying down as part of our snowball. But the Charger is due to be turned in early in December this year. So, I'll be free of a $500+ payment, gas, and insurance on that money pit.

SO here's the question. I have some money saved up that I can use to buy a used car with. I want to buy a cheaper reliable car to replace the Charger so that I don't have to deal with another monthly payment. I want to keep it around $4000.

What kinds of cars would you all suggest I look at in this price range? It must be a 4 door (I have 2 kids still in car seats), but doesn't need to be a big car. I can fit them in a compact car if needed, but it should be a 4 door. What do you drive as your "beater" car? Has it been still somewhat decent and reliable, with decent gas mileage for you? I don't care about which car company, that buying American stuff is so 1990's.

Thanks in advance anyone that can offer some suggestions or advice.
 

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That's a tough one! Since I was combing Autotrader (and eventually the dealerships) for a few months when I decided to sell my truck, I'll tell you what I saw. Lots of Cobalts/Cavaliers and Saturn Ions. I don't know if either is any good, except I had a Cavalier which I sold to my dad in '00 and it's still running great with around 150k on it. It's a cheap car though and sounds like it and the seats are cheap and uncomfortable. But it continues to run great and looks very good still. The great numbers of those and the Ions for sale makes me think people don't want them, though.

The other thing I noticed is that people are paying a premium for 4-cylinder cars which get great gas mileage. They are insisting on much more than the vehicle's value because good mileage cars are en vogue. Do yourself a favor and do the math to see if/when you will be actually saving money by buying one of those. I ended up with a new v6 vehicle which averages 1MILE less per gallon than the 4-cylinder popular model used car I originally wanted. I'm saving $2600 in interest as well, as the new car had a great apr available. I know that's not important to you because you are paying cash-- I guess the point is that things are not always what they seem on the surface, so do the math in order to make sure you get the right deal.

The car I was really hoping to get turned out to be someone's attempt to scam people. A 96 Passat manual transmission diesel for 3200 bucks. 40 mpg would have been awesome! When I inquired, I got an email back about how they had shipped it to a buyer whose deal fell through, so now it is in a warehouse and could be shipped anywhere in the US- just send a check! Derr- let's not fall for that!!! What a disappointment.
 

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For reliability, in my personal experience, go for Hondas and Toyotas in the used category. My ex had a used Corolla she bought for about $5k in 1993. We drove that thing for 7 years and at least 100k miles, and the only thing ever seriously wrong was when the timing chain snapped and needed replacing, which was only a few hundred.
 
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Some suggestions:

Toyota Corolla
Honda Civic
Mazda Protege
Acura Integra
Ford Focus
Subaru Impreza
Subaru Legacy

For that price range, you probably will not find any car with side and curtain air bags, but that might not be important to you.
 

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Another thought- edmunds.com and yahoo autos have consumer reviews which I found to be very helpful when doing my research. I trust what the real owners have to say. Most vehicles will have trends that show up, whether it is a feature people love, something that's missing that they wished it had, or something that tends to break often.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
Hmm...there's something I guess I never considered... yeah I was going to shoot for a small 4-cyl vehicle, but I've heard the same thing about prices being inflated for those because of the gas price increase.
 

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I drive my very own beater I guess, I bought in 2000 a new Daewoo lanos, I will drive it until it dies because I was stupid enough to get a new car, not really that but one that would diminish in value so substatially so quickly.

It probably has another 5 years of life left in it and by that stage we will be starting a family so I will probably want something with 4 doors and I have promised myself that it will stay until it dies or needs repairs that are just not worth it.

At the monet it does me, I service it twice a year, it doesn't look so great but well it gets from a to b

On the plus side it costs next to nothing to insure and I only have third party property damage on it.
 
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