Good first car

Theclamshell

macrumors 68030
Original poster
Mar 2, 2009
2,738
1
I have been thinking about a car for a while. I had in mind an old mercedes form the 80's or 90's. My dream would be a 94-96 Impala SS but a 4200 lb corvette engine car does not strike me as a good first car. What recommendations do you guys have?

I think the budget would probably be around 7000 but cheaper would be awesome!

So what do you all think?

P.S raced go karts for 5 or 6 years and i know the differences between the track and road so something that handles well and is fast would be a plus. I would definatley want to take it to a track often if it would be fast enough to not embarrass me :p
 

r.j.s

Moderator emeritus
Mar 7, 2007
14,926
35
Texas
You need to consider more than the cost of the car ...

Your idea of an old Mercedes sounds good on paper, but you'll soon see that maintenance costs will pile up. Old cars require a lot more maintenance, and maintenance on German cars is expensive.

The SS will be devastating for your insurance. You may end up paying more for insurance than for the car.
 

techfreak85

macrumors 68040
Jan 13, 2008
3,094
1
Places
7000 dollars? For an 80s car? You can get great late 90s/early 00s for that.

My car (which is my first car ;)) is a 2001 Civic. It runs great. 127,000 miles and not a (major) problem. (Gear box has some very minor problems. {And you should get a manual too BTW}).

My friends got Subarus. They are great for around here (Pacific Northwest). If you snowboard or anything, or just live in that type of climate they are great and run forever as well. Also have a look at like a 97 Camry. It's another one I considered. My my grandparents have one and it runs real nice.

PS. You don't need something that fast. Its your first car. Its a right of passage to not have a racer at first.:cool:
(Plus there is a good chance you might total your first car too:p)
 

Theclamshell

macrumors 68030
Original poster
Mar 2, 2009
2,738
1
You need to consider more than the cost of the car ...

Your idea of an old Mercedes sounds good on paper, but you'll soon see that maintenance costs will pile up. Old cars require a lot more maintenance, and maintenance on German cars is expensive.

The SS will be devastating for your insurance. You may end up paying more for insurance than for the car.
Yes. The thing is though we have a mechanic down the street and have had good experiences with Mercedes. And i thought the old ones were reliable but i will do a bit more reading on them. And yes i agree about the SS lol
 

Hrududu

macrumors 68020
Jul 25, 2008
2,193
471
Central US
$7000 will buy you a lot of car. The used car market is crazy right now with the economy in the crapper. You can easily find a late 90's BMW 3 or 5 series for that kind of money and it'll serve you VERY well. I guess it all depends on what you want in a car. Are you wanting something economical? Luxury? Power? Handling? Give us a little more info about what style you're looking for.
 

Theclamshell

macrumors 68030
Original poster
Mar 2, 2009
2,738
1
$7000 will buy you a lot of car. The used car market is crazy right now with the economy in the crapper. You can easily find a late 90's BMW 3 or 5 series for that kind of money and it'll serve you VERY well. I guess it all depends on what you want in a car. Are you wanting something economical? Luxury? Power? Handling? Give us a little more info about what style you're looking for.
I want something safe, reliable and something that has great handling. speed is not that important. I do love the old BMW's but are they reliable? Looks dont matter too much as long as its reliable and safe and handles well.

btw, i do love big American v-8 sedans like the SS or a Taurus SHO but i dont think they are good first cars.
 

ucfgrad93

macrumors P6
Aug 17, 2007
17,538
8,161
Colorado
I'd recommend a used Honda or Toyota. Great cars. If you go Toyota, make sure that it isn't on the recall list or that it has been fixed.
 

OzExige

macrumors 6502
Mar 9, 2008
438
1
Omnipresence
For your track work (AWD) I'd go for a Subaru Impreza 2.5
2000 to 2002 model should be OK.
Check the front diff for 'unusual' noises.
They're reasonably quick and can be made to go quicker
and it wont cost you 3 arms and both legs to replace a side window
as it did on my '83 Merc :(
 

quagmire

macrumors 603
Apr 19, 2004
6,255
1,063
With the SUV the market the way it is and the lack of popularity of the model, I am sure you can find a Powerstroke equipped Excursion( I think the Excursions had the diesels...) out there. You can get in some accidents and not worry about any damage to the truck( hey you're bound to make a mistake some time or later when you're a rookie which could lead to an accident).

:p

Now half seriously, you can have a look at the Lincoln Town Car. It isn't fast, but it fulfills your desire for a V8. :p

Full seriously, I would suggest a Honda Accord( avoid Toyota's until the mess is sorted out), Mazda, or Nissan.
 

Synchromesh

macrumors 6502a
Jul 15, 2009
578
48
SF
If you don't want to spend a lot of money on your car I would avoid anything European from last 15 years. If you don't feel like learning to fix your own car, I'd rule out American cars too. That leaves Japanese. Now take out Mitsubishi (aside from Evo and some Eclipses they make mostly crap). If you live in the snow belt you can look at Subarus. Problem is in your range you won't find many WRXs and ones you do find will be beat to death. So you are resorted to older Imprezas/Legacys and I'd avoid those since some years have problems.

That leaves you with Mazda, Honda, Toyota and Nissan. Toyotas are going to be very reliable but super boring. Anything above Accord level is going to be fairly expensive plus it will sip gas and usually parts aren't too cheap.

I wouldn't buy my first car for $7K. Chances are you'll probably damage it anyway. My first car was a hand-me-down from dad and was worth probably a whole $700 back in 1997. So I would cap it at $5K tops and just get an older Accord/Civic/Corolla/Altima.
 

Synchromesh

macrumors 6502a
Jul 15, 2009
578
48
SF
Now half seriously, you can have a look at the Lincoln Town Car. It isn't fast, but it fulfills your desire for a V8. :p
Joking or not, the last thing public roads need is a kid who just got a license driving 2 tons of steel and a V8. You can't imagine how many times I was thankful to my lucky stars that my first car was a slow one.

Full seriously, I would suggest a Honda Accord( avoid Toyota's until the mess is sorted out), Mazda, or Nissan.
The kind of Toyota he can buy for $5-7K will be quite unaffected by the recall. I think it reaches only as far as 2005 and even then only in some model lines. I doubt he'll find many 2005+ Toyotas for under $7K.
 

mac88

macrumors 6502
Aug 7, 2008
477
2
Boston, MA.
Something you won't mind mind getting scratched or dented. When I remember back to my moronic friends from high school they either accidentally spilt something, scratched or dented mine or their own cars somehow. Good luck with your purchase, be safe and enjoy! :D
 

comictimes

macrumors 6502a
Jun 20, 2004
874
1
Berkeley, California
I'd go with a Subaru. The only issue will be finding one without a ton of miles already on it, people tend to drive them into the ground- and there's a reason for it, they're awesome, super-utilitarian cars. I was thrilled to find mine with only 50k miles.

Mine is an Impreza wagon so can still hold a ton of stuff and is very zippy.
 

Jaro65

macrumors 68040
Mar 27, 2009
3,703
563
Seattle, WA
If you don't want to spend a lot of money on your car I would avoid anything European from last 15 years. If you don't feel like learning to fix your own car, I'd rule out American cars too. That leaves Japanese. Now take out Mitsubishi (aside from Evo and some Eclipses they make mostly crap). If you live in the snow belt you can look at Subarus. Problem is in your range you won't find many WRXs and ones you do find will be beat to death. So you are resorted to older Imprezas/Legacys and I'd avoid those since some years have problems.

That leaves you with Mazda, Honda, Toyota and Nissan. Toyotas are going to be very reliable but super boring. Anything above Accord level is going to be fairly expensive plus it will sip gas and usually parts aren't too cheap.

I wouldn't buy my first car for $7K. Chances are you'll probably damage it anyway. My first car was a hand-me-down from dad and was worth probably a whole $700 back in 1997. So I would cap it at $5K tops and just get an older Accord/Civic/Corolla/Altima.
What a great advice. I personally find Corollas and older Altimas very boring, so my preference would be for a Honda.
 

comictimes

macrumors 6502a
Jun 20, 2004
874
1
Berkeley, California
What a great advice. I personally find Corollas and older Altimas very boring, so my preference would be for a Honda.
Everyone does know someone who loves a Honda ;)

Seriously though I've heard some very good things about them, especially recently. Never owned one though, so can't really give any advice there.
 

Abstract

macrumors Penryn
Dec 27, 2002
24,378
110
Location Location Location
I'd buy a $6000 car and save $1000 for repairs. You never know.


And like many others, I'd go Japanese and buy a Honda. I'd aim for a Civic. You'd probably have to get a 1990s model of some sort, since Civics, and anything made by Honda and Toyota, may not depreciate as quickly as something from Nissan, for example.

Perhaps get an early 2000s (2001-2004) Nissan Sentra (I don't know US pricing on cars, mind you). That way, you'll have a pretty cool car and still get decent reliability.

Reliability isn't the only thing that matters. You want a BIT of fun with some reliability, no?
 

benflick

macrumors 68020
Jul 11, 2008
2,150
0
Cincinnati, Ohio
$7000 is far too much for a first car, IMO. You are going to wreck your first car, why not get something cheap at first? I don't care if you have go-kart experience, it doesn't compare to real life driving.
Like techfreak85 said, get a manual. It's definitely worth the headache of learning how to drive it, you might find it easy, I did.
 

optophobia

macrumors 6502a
Oct 26, 2007
879
24
Hudson MA
agreed.
My first car in 2001 was $2K, and served me well for 2 years.
It had a 350 but hey gas was only $1.15 at the time.
Then after the 2 years, I sold it on ebay for $2K !!!
 

Sun Baked

macrumors G5
May 19, 2002
14,874
57
Buick or Mercury, old names that reduce one of the most expensive parts of owning a car for a teenager ... insurance.

Pathetic and embarrassing performance and styling, with hardly any repair cost with the lowest insurance rates you can get based on the vehicle.

---

Save money on insurance and you will have more to spend on racing go karts.
 

prostuff1

macrumors 65816
Jul 29, 2005
1,484
18
Don't step into the kawoosh...
$7000 is far too much for a first car, IMO. You are going to wreck your first car, why not get something cheap at first? I don't care if you have go-kart experience, it doesn't compare to real life driving.
Like techfreak85 said, get a manual. It's definitely worth the headache of learning how to drive it, you might find it easy, I did.
Who says he is going to wreck his first car? I drove around a 1991 s10 blazer for 5 years as my first vehicle. It was not the greatest on gas nor speed, but it was super handy when I would need to move stuff around for the parents. Now I drive a 1998 s10 pickup with 65000 miles on it. I absolutely love this vehicle and the only thing I miss from it is the 4x4 I had on the s10 blazer.

I also drove a 93 Crown Vic around for a year or so. That car may look like a grandma car but that sucker could move. It was rear wheel drive, had a V8 in it and that sucker could move when you put the pedal to the floor!!
 

Synchromesh

macrumors 6502a
Jul 15, 2009
578
48
SF
Buick or Mercury, old names that reduce one of the most expensive parts of owning a car for a teenager ... insurance.

Pathetic and embarrassing performance and styling, with hardly any repair cost with the lowest insurance rates you can get based on the vehicle.

---

Save money on insurance and you will have more to spend on racing go karts.
I wouldn't buy an American car (new or used) unless you are looking at Corvette/Viper. My first car was an '87 Buick Skyhawk and I spent almost as much time driving it as I did fixing it. I know a few owners of more recent American cars and it seems like they haven't changed much until around mid-late 00s.

An older Honda/Toyota would be the best choice. I'd spend $4-5K on the car and keep $2K for repairs/insurance/gas.
 

quagmire

macrumors 603
Apr 19, 2004
6,255
1,063
I wouldn't buy an American car (new or used) unless you are looking at Corvette/Viper. My first car was an '87 Buick Skyhawk and I spent almost as much time driving it as I did fixing it. I know a few owners of more recent American cars and it seems like they haven't changed much until around mid-late 00s.

An older Honda/Toyota would be the best choice. I'd spend $4-5K on the car and keep $2K for repairs/insurance/gas.
My family has owned a '96 Suburban, '02 Suburban, '06 Equinox, and I personally drive a '07 Saturn Aura XR. All have given us trouble free use.

Getting an old Buick with the 3.8 V6 wouldn't be a bad choice. That engine has a reputation of being bulletproof and as long as it has a clean maintenance record, the vehicle itself should also be solid.
 

prostuff1

macrumors 65816
Jul 29, 2005
1,484
18
Don't step into the kawoosh...
I wouldn't buy an American car (new or used) unless you are looking at Corvette/Viper. My first car was an '87 Buick Skyhawk and I spent almost as much time driving it as I did fixing it. I know a few owners of more recent American cars and it seems like they haven't changed much until around mid-late 00s.

An older Honda/Toyota would be the best choice. I'd spend $4-5K on the car and keep $2K for repairs/insurance/gas.
I don't buy some of this FUD. The 91 blazer gave me no significant problems (except the tranny, which was a one time thing) and that car had nearlly 200,000 miles on it. The other stuff I had to do to that vehicle was just normal maintenance (struts, breaks, shocks, etc). I have only had the s10 pickup about 1.5 years but the ONLY thing I have done to it is replace the water pump. I need to replace the pins and bushings in the driver side door, but those are the only things I have had to touch on the truck.

As long as you pick a good vehicle to start with and keep up on the regular maintenance you should be fine with just about any vehicle.