If you can afford a fancy new car, go ahead and buy one. If you're tight on funds, but still want to look awesome, purchase a sweet old car and instead of thrifty you can be thriftastic.
If your idea of smart transportation for a recession is something cheap, reliable, and economical you can go ahead and skip this entire article and buy a slightly used Honda Civic. Nothing wrong with that. Nothing right with that either, but if you want to be anonymous go ahead. But you're hurting the economy.
See, one of the key measures of our economic woes is "Consumer Confidence" and, sadly, you people are about as confident as Mel Gibson at a bat mitzvah.
But how could anyone feel confident driving a new Toyota Corolla? Whenever I'm forced to commute in one I try to travel in the trunk, so when we arrive at our destination if anyone recognizes me I can pretend like I've been kidnapped and tortured. Because I was!
You know what I'd feel awesome in? This well cared for 1983 Audi GT Coupe. It costs $3,600, for which you could maybe get a poorly treated 2001 Toyota Corolla. And when someone sees you in it they'll know you're cool, they'll know you have ataste. They won't think "Hey, this person has just $4K to buy a car like the rest of us."
Of course, as the saying goes there's "nothing more expensive than a cheap [enter European brand here]," but that's just the point. Your newish Japanese econobox is full of electronics and made of plastic and if you try to fix it you'll probably just make it worse. But you can fix an old car with a screwdriver, duct tape, and zip ties. Skills for life, my friends, skills for life.
I'm not just tossing out random advice. People live the thriftastic lifestyle all the time.