Car for graduation; need advice please!

omizzle

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 5, 2009
209
11
Hi everyone,

I am graduating this May and am lucky enough to be getting a car as a graduation gift. I am not really a car person, so I'm definitely looking for some advice as far as what to be looking for.

Here are some criteria:
$20K limit
Sedan or SUV
Good audio system (this is important.. I really enjoy my music in my car and I really don't want to spend money on an aftermarket system)
Something fun/sporty/respectable
AWD/4WD
Decent MPG.. nothing that gets <15 mpg
Model year 2007+
<60,000 miles
Reliable, obviously
Not super expensive to maintain

The car itself will be a gift, but everything else (repairs, insurance, gas, etc.) will be on me. I have a job in finance that I will be starting in July.

I have been looking at 2007/2008 BMW 328xi, but I think I should get some other opinions too. Perhaps a jeep grand cherokee?
 

EricNau

Moderator emeritus
Apr 27, 2005
10,591
31
San Francisco, CA
A few random and quick thoughts.

- SUVs are costly. You'll spend significantly more on gas, and your insurance will be higher. Unless you need one, I'd opt for a sedan. ...Besides, SUVs really aren't as 'fun/sporty/respectable' as they once were.

- Is there reason you need AWD? Do you live in the snow? I ask because it sounds useful (who doesn't want the option of driving in the snow, once a year?) but it will also add to initial expense and possibly more expensive repairs. It also limits your sedan options significantly (especially if you're buying used).

- A Jeep probably doesn't meet your 'reliability' criterion, though I know some would disagree with me on this.

- BMWs will be 'super expensive to maintain'.

- And 15 MPG is not decent. ;) If you go the route of a sedan, you should be getting near (or over) 30 MPG.

If you need AWD, look into Subaru. Since all of their vehicles are AWD, it'll be easier to find a used one.
 

waloshin

macrumors 68040
Oct 9, 2008
3,172
67
A few random and quick thoughts.

- SUVs are costly. You'll spend significantly more on gas, and your insurance will be higher. Unless you need one, I'd opt for a sedan. ...Besides, SUVs really aren't as 'fun/sporty/respectable' as they once were.

- Is there reason you need AWD? Do you live in the snow? I ask because it sounds useful (who doesn't want the option of driving in the snow, once a year?) but it will also add to initial expense and possibly more expensive repairs. It also limits your sedan options significantly (especially if you're buying used).

- A Jeep probably doesn't meet your 'reliability' criterion, though I know some would disagree with me on this.

- BMWs will be 'super expensive to maintain'.

- And 15 MPG is not decent. ;) If you go the route of a sedan, you should be getting near (or over) 30 MPG.

If you need AWD, look into Subaru. Since all of their vehicles are AWD, it'll be easier to find a used one.
Yes, Jeep has been recognized as very reliable and have high customer satisfaction. I agree Subaru. Volvo would be decent too.
 

Tomorrow

macrumors 604
Mar 2, 2008
7,121
1,264
Always a day away
SUVs are costly. You'll spend significantly more on gas, and your insurance will be higher. Unless you need one, I'd opt for a sedan. ...Besides, SUVs really aren't as 'fun/sporty/respectable' as they once were.
Depending on the SUV, it likely does use more gas than a sedan - my Expedition averages a bit over 18 mpg. The wife gets about 21 mpg in her Flex.

The fallacy is insurance - my $38k Expedition costs exactly three dollars more per six months to insure than my old 1995 Hyundai Sonata, and that's simply based on the value of the vehicle more than anything. My liability coverage went way, way down when I traded up.

As far as being "fun/sporty/respectable," that's really up to the OP more than anything. The S in SUV does stand for "sport," after all. And while I hate driving in general, mine is much more pleasant to drive than my wife's Flex (she would disagree with me on that point).
 

GoCubsGo

macrumors Nehalem
Feb 19, 2005
35,743
142
What about going the Kia Soul or Scion route? Aren't they hovering around $20k handsomely equipped? The sound system can be improved later. You'll pay 5x the amount for a good factory system and still never have anything epic unless you're in a luxury car. Even then. I never finance upgrades like that, or try not to.
 

quagmire

macrumors 603
Apr 19, 2004
6,259
1,068
Chevy Cruze Eco, Sonic, or Ford Focus for new route.

If you want to go used, avoid the Germans. When things break, it will be costly. I find that to be a factor a lot of kids seem to overlook. They see they can get a BMW or Mercedes, etc for only $17,000, but forget the cost of maintenance and get pounded.
 

Abstract

macrumors Penryn
Dec 27, 2002
24,379
110
Location Location Location
You can get an AWD or 4WD car in the US for < $20,000???? That's incredible. Most 4WD or AWD cars are either expensive SUVs or wagons, or the upper-end model of cheaper cars (i.e. you'd upgrade a standard 2WD car with the AWD package or something), which makes them quite expensive anyway. I would have thought that this was true even after 5 years, but I suppose there are some brands that depreciate really quickly, and you could get a steal? :confused:

Unless it's Subaru. ;) If it's not a Subaru, then you won't have many choices. SUVs are expensive, and the small "soft-roader" SUVs are only a fairly new segment of the market, and typically only include 4WD on the highest end model

I'd just get a Subaru and end the search. If 4WD or AWD is that important for you, then go for it!!! :) The stereo won't be audiophile quality, but you're asking for a lot already.


Otherwise, I agree with the other suggestions. A 4WD/AWD car will always consume more petrol/gas, and there isn't much benefit unless you actually need it. Get a Ford Fiesta or something and enjoy it.
 

ucfgrad93

macrumors P6
Aug 17, 2007
17,586
8,221
Colorado
We looked at buying our daughter a Subaru Legacy a few months ago. It is nicely priced, has AWD and gets good gas mileage.
 

Naimfan

Suspended
Jan 15, 2003
4,669
1,996
Here are some criteria:
$20K limit
Sedan or SUV
Good audio system (this is important.. I really enjoy my music in my car and I really don't want to spend money on an aftermarket system)
Something fun/sporty/respectable
AWD/4WD
Decent MPG.. nothing that gets <15 mpg
Model year 2007+
<60,000 miles
Reliable, obviously
Not super expensive to maintain


The car itself will be a gift, but everything else (repairs, insurance, gas, etc.) will be on me. I have a job in finance that I will be starting in July.

I have been looking at 2007/2008 BMW 328xi, but I think I should get some other opinions too. Perhaps a jeep grand cherokee?
(Emphasis added.)

That instantly rules out the BMW 328xi. As much as I love BMWs (owning one and having owned several in the past), they are not the most reliable and are expensive to maintain and repair unless you are going to do the work yourself - and I'm inferring that's not you.

I'd look for a Honda Accord EX or preferably an Acura TL.
 

Jb07

macrumors 6502
Oct 31, 2011
433
1
Dallas
I would have recommended Audi quattro- the best 4-wheel drive system in a car. But, quagmire was right, maintenance will be expensive. So a Jeep Compass, Chrysler 300, or anything from Subaru would be a good car. Ford Fusion or Edge would be good too.
 

wordoflife

macrumors 604
Jul 6, 2009
7,559
32
Volkswagen Jetta, Diesel
Look at the consumption on that ... pretty good.

Other than that, I'd get a Civic ... but I don't really like what they've done with the new 2012 models or an 03-07 Accord based primarily on looks. Don't like the new ones too much.
 

zioxide

macrumors 603
Dec 11, 2006
5,725
3,711
Hi everyone,

I am graduating this May and am lucky enough to be getting a car as a graduation gift. I am not really a car person, so I'm definitely looking for some advice as far as what to be looking for.

Here are some criteria:
$20K limit
Sedan or SUV
Good audio system (this is important.. I really enjoy my music in my car and I really don't want to spend money on an aftermarket system)
Something fun/sporty/respectable
AWD/4WD
Decent MPG.. nothing that gets <15 mpg
Model year 2007+
<60,000 miles
Reliable, obviously
Not super expensive to maintain

The car itself will be a gift, but everything else (repairs, insurance, gas, etc.) will be on me. I have a job in finance that I will be starting in July.

I have been looking at 2007/2008 BMW 328xi, but I think I should get some other opinions too. Perhaps a jeep grand cherokee?
Your bold points rule out the cars you mentioned. Jeep's get CRAP gas mileage, a friend of mine just bought one and it costs him over $100 a week in gas. screw that. Buying anything less than 25MPG at this point is just a dumb decision.

BMW's are super expensive to maintain and are just generally overrated anyways.

I'm pretty much in the same position as you (graduating this spring and want to get a new car this summer).

I test drove a 2012 Subaru Impreza and it is great... that's the car I'm leaning towards. 30MPG combined, AWD, high safety rating, bluetooth audio & ipod integration.. base price around $18,000.

I'd also check out the Honda Civic, Ford Focus, or similar cars (Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla).


edit- The BIGGEST thing here isn't listening to what us people tell you online. Obviously, do some research online, and find a few (3-5) cars you like. Then GO DRIVE THEM! You can't really tell if you like a car until you actually get behind the wheel. (That's what sold me on the Subaru)
 
Last edited:

yg17

macrumors G5
Aug 1, 2004
14,888
2,480
St. Louis, MO
Why is a good audio system a priority over everything else?

I've driven many cars over the years, from rentals, to family members' cars, etc, and I've yet to find one that would have what I'd consider an unacceptable audio system. Besides, nowadays, most people are either listening to compressed MP3s or satellite radio (which also uses heavy compression). Garbage in, garbage out. I listen to Sirius in my car and I bet the only thing an aftermarket system would do is make the compression artifacts even more obvious.

Think about reliability, gas mileage, safety, etc first. Don't buy a crappy car because it's got a nice audio system?

If you've got $20,000 to spend, I'd get a new car. That takes the BMW out of consideration, but a brand new car with a warranty means you won't have to worry about repairs for awhile.
 

Gregg2

macrumors 603
May 22, 2008
5,839
355
Milwaukee, WI
Yes, Jeep has been recognized as very reliable ...
Not by Consumer Reports! That's my rating guide of choice.

OP, you consider 15 mpg or above as "decent"? Wow! With some non-hybrid economy cars now boasting 40 highway and nearly 30 in the city, 15 is far short of decent. Now those 40/almost30 cars get about 32 combined overall in "real world" tests, but still...
 

Tomorrow

macrumors 604
Mar 2, 2008
7,121
1,264
Always a day away
OP, you consider 15 mpg or above as "decent"? Wow! With some non-hybrid economy cars now boasting 40 highway and nearly 30 in the city, 15 is far short of decent. Now those 40/almost30 cars get about 32 combined overall in "real world" tests, but still...
It's not decent for a subcompact. It's more than decent for a full-size car.
 

quagmire

macrumors 603
Apr 19, 2004
6,259
1,068
Not by Consumer Reports! That's my rating guide of choice.
CR is a POS. They are supposed to be unbiased and objective. And yet they blindly recommended Toyota's without any reliability data. That isn't objectivity and unbiased.

When the 2005 Avalon was having electrical issues they brushed it off and stated they were sure Toyota would fix it. They recommended the 2007 Tundra and Camry and yet then they had transmission, camshaft, tailgates issues, etc.

Mention that you expect the quality of such products to be good due to Toyota's history of reliability, but don't recommend or say it will have good reliability based on history.

After those issues and the unintended acceleration issues CR has finally abandoned automatically recommending Toyota's.....
 

omizzle

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 5, 2009
209
11
A few random and quick thoughts.

- SUVs are costly. You'll spend significantly more on gas, and your insurance will be higher. Unless you need one, I'd opt for a sedan. ...Besides, SUVs really aren't as 'fun/sporty/respectable' as they once were.

- Is there reason you need AWD? Do you live in the snow? I ask because it sounds useful (who doesn't want the option of driving in the snow, once a year?) but it will also add to initial expense and possibly more expensive repairs. It also limits your sedan options significantly (especially if you're buying used).

...

If you need AWD, look into Subaru. Since all of their vehicles are AWD, it'll be easier to find a used one.
I'll be living in a place that gets a decent amount of snow/rain, so I'd rather be safe instead of sorry and get an AWD car. The car I have now is awful if it is raining or snowing.

When you put it that way, I don't think I NEED an SUV, I just thought it would be nice to have a larger vehicle.. the car I have now is tiny.

Chevy Cruze Eco, Sonic, or Ford Focus for new route.

If you want to go used, avoid the Germans. When things break, it will be costly. I find that to be a factor a lot of kids seem to overlook. They see they can get a BMW or Mercedes, etc for only $17,000, but forget the cost of maintenance and get pounded.
Haha, that was my logic. 17k-19k for a BMW was the hook for me... did not realize they were not very reliable in the long run.. strange because of how well respected they are.

(Emphasis added.)

That instantly rules out the BMW 328xi. As much as I love BMWs (owning one and having owned several in the past), they are not the most reliable and are expensive to maintain and repair unless you are going to do the work yourself - and I'm inferring that's not you.

I'd look for a Honda Accord EX or preferably an Acura TL.
Good thinking about the TL, I'll look into them

If I was getting a free 20k car I'd get a brand new focus, perhaps spending some of my own money to get some additional options which might push it over 20k.

Nice car, will last for a long time.
If I was going to get a brand new focus... I'd wait for the 2013. They look so tight!

Your bold points rule out the cars you mentioned. Jeep's get CRAP gas mileage, a friend of mine just bought one and it costs him over $100 a week in gas. screw that. Buying anything less than 25MPG at this point is just a dumb decision.

BMW's are super expensive to maintain and are just generally overrated anyways.

I'm pretty much in the same position as you (graduating this spring and want to get a new car this summer).

I test drove a 2012 Subaru Impreza and it is great... that's the car I'm leaning towards. 30MPG combined, AWD, high safety rating, bluetooth audio & ipod integration.. base price around $18,000.

I'd also check out the Honda Civic, Ford Focus, or similar cars (Mazda 3, Toyota Corolla).


edit- The BIGGEST thing here isn't listening to what us people tell you online. Obviously, do some research online, and find a few (3-5) cars you like. Then GO DRIVE THEM! You can't really tell if you like a car until you actually get behind the wheel. (That's what sold me on the Subaru)
I always hear people raving about the Impreza, perhaps I should check it out.. Why are they so popular???

Why is a good audio system a priority over everything else?

I've driven many cars over the years, from rentals, to family members' cars, etc, and I've yet to find one that would have what I'd consider an unacceptable audio system. Besides, nowadays, most people are either listening to compressed MP3s or satellite radio (which also uses heavy compression). Garbage in, garbage out. I listen to Sirius in my car and I bet the only thing an aftermarket system would do is make the compression artifacts even more obvious.

Think about reliability, gas mileage, safety, etc first. Don't buy a crappy car because it's got a nice audio system?

If you've got $20,000 to spend, I'd get a new car. That takes the BMW out of consideration, but a brand new car with a warranty means you won't have to worry about repairs for awhile.
The order of my list at the top is not the order of importance for features. I should have clarified that, sorry.

I am hesitant to buy new because of the huge hit in depreciation after the first few years. I think the best value would be a car a few years old.

Again, I'm so surprised by how unreliable BMW are (said to be)!

How do you guys feel about a 2008+ Cadillac CTS?
 

SDub90

macrumors 6502a
Nov 9, 2009
685
3
Long Island
You pretty much described a Subaru... You can probably get a used 2008 WRX in excellent condition for around $16k, and probably even less if you want a 5 speed over an automatic.
 

dukebound85

macrumors P6
Jul 17, 2005
18,087
1,266
5045 feet above sea level
You can get an AWD or 4WD car in the US for < $20,000???? That's incredible. Most 4WD or AWD cars are either expensive SUVs or wagons, or the upper-end model of cheaper cars (i.e. you'd upgrade a standard 2WD car with the AWD package or something), which makes them quite expensive anyway. I would have thought that this was true even after 5 years, but I suppose there are some brands that depreciate really quickly, and you could get a steal? :confused:

Unless it's Subaru. ;) If it's not a Subaru, then you won't have many choices. SUVs are expensive, and the small "soft-roader" SUVs are only a fairly new segment of the market, and typically only include 4WD on the highest end model

I'd just get a Subaru and end the search. If 4WD or AWD is that important for you, then go for it!!! :) The stereo won't be audiophile quality, but you're asking for a lot already.


Otherwise, I agree with the other suggestions. A 4WD/AWD car will always consume more petrol/gas, and there isn't much benefit unless you actually need it. Get a Ford Fiesta or something and enjoy it.
I bought my Subie for under 20k and it was for the tope end Impreza (OBS)

Another AWD car is the Suzuki SX4
 

quagmire

macrumors 603
Apr 19, 2004
6,259
1,068
Haha, that was my logic. 17k-19k for a BMW was the hook for me... did not realize they were not very reliable in the long run.. strange because of how well respected they are.
It's not that they are horribly unreliable. They are not the most reliable, but it won't break all the time. But, when things do break it will be costly compared to American and Japanese makers.

They are not exactly built to go problem free above 100,000 miles. At that point parts will start to break.

And the reason BMW has a good reputation is because most of their sales are leases which people get rid of as soon as the warranty expires.



If I was going to get a brand new focus... I'd wait for the 2013. They look so tight!
The new Focus is out now as a 2012. The only thing 2013 brings for the Focus is the Focus Electric model.

The Focus seems to be a good compact. The only complaint with it is that my ford is buggy and the DCT has weird programming.

In the compact market, I would personally go for the Focus or Cruze/ Cruze Eco with the 1.4T( avoid the LS model as it has the crappy 1.8). Corolla is blah. Not a fan of Honda's engines with zero low end power.


How do you guys feel about a 2008+ Cadillac CTS?
The CTS is a good vehicle. Not for me as it sits in the middle of the luxury car segments. It's too big for people who like the nimbleness of the 3 series( like I do, I love driving the 335xi), but it doesn't have the luxury/technology to compete against the 5 series.
 

MacRy

macrumors 601
Apr 2, 2004
4,248
4,971
England
I'd have to go for an Audi without a doubt.

A quick look on Autotrader here in the UK and I found a 2007 Audi A6 3.0 TDI Quattro with 48k miles on it for £13.5k which is about a grand over your budget but it has a massive spec and would be a no brainer for me. All wheel drive, heated memory seats, satnav, cruise control, climate control, full leather. Plus it does 48MPG (UK) and still has great performance as those 3 liter TDI Engines have bags of torque. They've got awesome sound systems in them as a friend of mine has an A4 and his is brilliant.