I'm An ICU Nurse That Needs Something Fun And Cheap With A Manual Trans! What Car Should I Buy?

Illustration for article titled Im An ICU Nurse That Needs Something Fun And Cheap With A Manual Trans! What Car Should I Buy?

Tracey is an ICU nurse who is also continuing her education. She has a little one on the way and likes to drive fun cars, but her current car got totaled and she needs a viable replacement without breaking the bank. What car should she buy?

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(Welcome back to What Car Should You Buy? Where we give real people real advice about buying cars. )

Here is the scenario:

My car was totaled! I was rear-ended at a traffic light on my way home from work. Right now I am using my fiancé’s Focus ST to get to and from work as an ICU nurse. I am currently doing an online RN to BSN program, we are saving for a house, and our first child that’s due in November so I can’t spend too much. It has to be a manual, but since I live in CO, I really do not want something rear-wheel-drive. Also, it needs to be practical enough to handle a car seat and baby gear, so four doors is likely a must.

While I only have about $10,000 to spend I can’t have something that is too unreliable as I need to get to work.

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Quick Facts:

Budget: Up to $10,000

Daily Driver: Yes

Location: Colorado Springs

Wants: Fun, manual, four doors

Doesn’t want: Rear-wheel drive

Expert 1: Tom McParland - This Is Very Colorado

Illustration for article titled Im An ICU Nurse That Needs Something Fun And Cheap With A Manual Trans! What Car Should I Buy?

Tracey, I’m sorry to hear about your old car and I’m grateful you came out okay. Hopefully, with this coronavirus situation, you can stay out of harm’s way. I know that is not easy for anyone in the healthcare industry right now.

The good news is I was able to find what I feel is the perfect car for you, which is a Subaru Outback. Yes, I know that every other person in Colorado drives an Outback, but this one is special.

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A local shop has this 2005 Outback XT with a manual trans, rebuilt motor and a bunch of performance upgrades. At one time I owned a very similar Legacy GT wagon and I still miss that car. These turbo long roofs are the perfect car for someone who wants a WRX but needs to do adult things. They are very quick, very comfortable, and can handle car seats, strollers and whatever else you need to haul with your eventual new house. Of course, it’s also an AWD Outback so getting to work in bad weather is no problem.

Expert 2: Raphael Orlove - What If The Same But Worse?

Illustration for article titled Im An ICU Nurse That Needs Something Fun And Cheap With A Manual Trans! What Car Should I Buy?
Photo: Craigslist
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Seeing as you already live in Colorado, there’s nothing that I need to do to put Subaru on your radar. And you have a Focus ST in your life already, so I don’t need to introduce that or the even more lovely Fiesta ST.

But I love this prompt, because jumping on a local Craigslist and searching for what’s affordable with three pedals is a hobby of mine. Normally this shows me things like this remarkably clean Saturn SC2 for $875. Given your budget, though, it’s also easy to turn up an impeccably restored Volkswagen, like this one asking $11,000. If I were looking for charming, trusty transportation, I would scoop up a nice old Bug, and indeed, that’s what I did! (How did that go? Nevermind!)

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But since you want something that has four doors and won’t spin the back wheels all through the winter, I would say you’d want to go find something else perfectly restored but otherwise overlooked. And in that, well, it’s not all that hard to find a vintage Scoobie, spotless inside and out, right around what you’re willing to spend. This $9,999 1978 in Boulder will brighten the day of everyone you drive past.

Expert 3: Jason Torchinsky - I’m Talking From Experience Here

Illustration for article titled Im An ICU Nurse That Needs Something Fun And Cheap With A Manual Trans! What Car Should I Buy?
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Hey, Tracey! I’ll admit, I love Raph’s suggestion there, and for me, I’d jump all over that, but for once I’m going to try and be rational (it hurts, but I’ll try) and suggest a manual, fun, reliable car for you that really isn’t an insane proposition. Here’s what you need: a first-gen Scion xB.

I’ve had one of these little charming boxes for years as our “modern” car, and I can honestly say it’s been one of the most useful and hassle-free cars I’ve ever owned. It’s shockingly roomy inside, extremely reliable—and, when I have had to fix things on it, that’s proven to be relatively easy and cheap, gets fantastic gas mileage, and, somehow manages to be fun to drive as well.

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I have a 5-speed manual one, just like this one here for sale in Colorado, and it’s a blast to drive. Light and nimble, and while it’s not a speed demon, it’s quick enough and, at its limit, can be a real hoot.

Hell, I had Tiff Needell fling my little refrigerator around a track and it was hilariously fun.

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I’ve hit a deer in mine, taken it on long trips, hauled a full-sized washing machine in it, used it with my kid in the car-seat era and beyond—it’s just a really well-designed do-anything car that I’m never unhappy to get into.

So, yeah, this is what you need, and this one here is only $4,000 and has new struts on all corners and looks very well maintained. Save yourself six grand and a lot of hassle.

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Expert 4: David Tracy - You Need Power

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There are certain rules in this life that just aren’t worth breaking. Perhaps the most important among them: Never go backwards in horsepower.

You’ve been driving your fiancé’s Ford Focus ST to and from work, and have likely gotten used to feeling 252 horsepower under the hood. Going to the 108 horsepower Scion xB that my coworker Jason is recommending will make you feel like you’re piloting a tractor-trailer. And the old Subaru DL that Raph suggested will make you feel like you aren’t moving at all.

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I can get onboard with Tom’s 250 horsepower Subaru Legacy XT pitch, but again, it technically breaks the aforementioned golden rule. So, to ensure that your life is moving in the correct direction car-wise, you should buy this 2012 MazdaSpeed 3. Its turbocharged 2.3-liter inline-four sends 263 horsepower (that’s more than 252, you may have noticed) to the front wheels, and drags around a car with lots of space for kids, strollers, pacifiers, oil filters, diapers, and whatever else one needs to maintain of children.

Sure, it costs $2,500 more than your budget allows, but maybe a bit of negotiation will get you closer to 10 grand.

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Tom is a contributing writer for Jalopnik and runs AutomatchConsulting.com. He saves people money and takes the hassle out of buying or leasing a car. (Facebook.com/AutomatchConsulting)

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DISCUSSION

eschoettle
GeologistOutWest

You’re an ICU nurse? Today, the question isn’t what car you should buy, it’s what car we should buy for you.

Seriously, thank you for your hard work.