If you're a car guy or gal, you know how it works: one of your broke-ass, cheapskate friends needs a transportation car. It has to be under a grand and reliable enough that you won't be asked to fix it.

What do you tell this person, assuming you don't say "I recommend the Saab 900 Turbo convertible!" just to mess with him or her? These days, I always suggest the early-90s Nissan Sentra, because it's damn near as good as the comparable Corolla or Civic without the high price tag that comes with a car everyone knows will last forever. You can get a somewhat-battered-but-solid runner for a three-digit price, the junkyards are packed with parts, and the noninterference engine and timing chain means your friend won't trash the engine after he or she blows off the timing-belt replacement when it's due. Sure, it doesn't handle as well as the Civic and the Corolla has a slight reliability edge, but we're talking Point A To Point B here.

What do you suggest? Something from Detroit? Perhaps a- chuckle, chuckle- Volkswagen?