The average US tax refund in 2012 will come in at $2899. That's enough to score a set of wheels that will stave off the emotional death of carlessness. These are Jalopnik readers' picks for the ten best cars to nab with that refund check.
Quick note: Just about any car at the sub-$3000 end of the market is probably going to need some TLC to get back into really good shape. Don't be dissuaded. Consider it a bonding experience, and remember that you're still the beneficiary of a screaming bargain in automotive terms.
Welcome back to Answers of the Day — our daily Jalopnik feature where we take the best ten responses from the previous day's Question of the Day and shine it up to show off. It's by you and for you, the Jalopnik readers. Enjoy!
Photo Credit: DonkeyHotey-US Treasury (check)/Shutterstock (car & arrow)
10.) 1990-1997 Mazda Miata
Suggested By: Viperfan1
Why it's a choice refund ride: We're slotting the gleefully inevitable first pick of many of the faithful up here as a nod to its complete obviousness. If you want an old-school convertible with modern amenities, you really have no better choice. Miatas in this price bracket are going to be pretty well used, but they're still among the most reliable and durable cars of any kind ever built.
BMW E30s and Fox Mustangs are also obvious-category perennials, but either will likely be really rough at this price.
Photo Credit: HotrodII
9.) 1984-1989 Toyota MR2
Suggested By: Kiwi_Commander
Why it's a choice refund ride: If the Miata was a classic British roadster with modern engineering, the first MR2 was really a mid-engined modernist Italian with Japanese build quality. Early Mister Twos are among the most well-rounded and usable middie sportsters ever made. They went through a strange period where everyone seemed to forget about them, but their popularity is cheerfully recovering.
Photo Credit: IFCAR/en.wikipedia.org
8.) Subaru Justy
Suggested By: StreetsideStig
Why it's a choice refund ride: One part classic econobox, one part slippery-surface demon. The tiny AWD Subarus were often derided in their day but have proven to be endlessly functional. Seriously high fuel economy and bulletproof reliability set the stage; add in a strange but not unappealing backwoods sort of mystique and it's a winner.
Photo Credit: Rutger Middendorp
7.) Ford Crown Victoria Police Interceptor
Suggested By: mattp123
Why it's a choice refund ride: Buy American. Buy real American (even if it was assembled in Canadia). Buy a big body-on-frame sedan with a V-8 and an automatic and a live rear axle and bench friggin' seats. Buy a former police car, and get the most extraordinary combination of attitude and long-distance cruising comfort that any car can possibly possess, especially at the price.
(Don't buy a taxi. That's just completely not there.)
Photo Credit: Dipanjan Nath
6.) Volkswagen Beetle
Suggested By: tganno1292
Why it's a choice refund ride: The real one with the engine in the right place and cooled by the right medium. We really don't understand why Top Gear continues to dump all over the Käfer; they remain one of the most lovable cars ever produced in (immense) quantity. Everyone needs to at least drive a Beetle in this lifetime, and owning one is still both a low-budget bohemian rite and a great way to learn basic mechanics.
Photo Credit: Michael Gil
5.) Ford Ranger
Suggested By: Bullitt417 Picked Up his Mustang GT
Why it's a choice refund ride: The most direct American counterpart to the much-loved Toyota pickup from yesterday, the little Ford shares most of the positives while giving a distinctly American flavor to the proceedings. Drivable ones are available at a fraction of our price limit, and upkeep is somewhere between "cheap" and "bicycle." A quiet classic.
Photo Credit: Jerad Heffner
4.) Jeep Cherokee
Suggested By: johnnymc
Why it's a choice refund ride: A terrific vehicle even at twice their usual going price, XJs are still among the top choices for the off-roading set. This is what an SUV should be: a well-proportioned box capable of going anywhere without pretense or excess. Two-door models are rarer but may come in cheaper. Maybe the best value in utilitarian transportation today.
Photo Credit: datenhamster.org
3.) Honda CRX
Suggested By: Litrecola
Why it's a choice refund ride: Either generation of Honda's brilliant two-seater is a peerless combination of utility, practicality, and fun. Cheap ones may be slightly beat or subject to add-on indignities, but fixes are as straightforward as the cars themselves. There will never again be anything this elementally wonderful; grab one while you can before they're all used up.
Photo Credit: Mitch Barrie
2.) 1970s Ford Ranchero
Suggested By: dean_acheson
Why it's a choice refund ride: The El Camino gets all the attention, but Ford was there first and did it all just as well. There's something oddly endearing about these big Seventies Ameri-utes with their flowing sheet metal and muscle-car drivetrains and simple headlights flanking a chrome grille. We continue to wait for someone to do them here again. In the meantime, Rancheros are an underappreciated steal.
Photo Credit: Collector Car Ads
1.) First-Generation Subaru Impreza
Suggested By: Nibby4WD
Why it's a choice refund ride: Your significant other and your insurance company think it's a sensible all-weather economy car. Let them dwell in their agreeable naiveté. You know better — an Impreza, even the most basic model, is a covert rally runner. An extensive aftermarket will cater to your devious needs, and traditional Subaru durability (comparable to that of hand tools, some head gaskets notwithstanding) will keep that deviousness going for a long time. You won't outrun next year's taxes, but you'll have fun trying.
Photo Credit: Ninja M.