What Car Should You BuyThe experts at Jalopnik answer your car-buying questions.  

Sam has some exciting news for 2019: He’s going to get the heck out of Ohio and relocate to Maui. It’s time for him to leave his old Honda Accord behind and get a nice island car to enjoy the sand and the sun. What should he buy?

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

Here is the scenario -

Hi, so I currently drive a 2002 Honda Accord that is starting to show its age. It is getting rusty and the repair bills have been increasing over the past couple of years. I also just found out I will be moving to Maui for work and I think that means this is the perfect time to replace my old Honda.

I live in Ohio right now and my job will pay to ship my car to Hawaii so I will be shopping around here before moving to the island. My wife drives a Jeep Patriot that will be coming with us so my car can be impractical and fun. Really looking for a change of pace from the generic sedan I’ve been driving for years. As for budget I have up to $20,000.

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Quick Facts:

Budget: up to $20,000

Daily Driver: Yes

Location: Maui (but will buy a car on the mainland)

Wants: Something fun for the sun, but reliable

Doesn’t want: A big SUV

Expert 1: Tom McParland - Be Like Magnum, Sorta

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Sam, I’ve got to admit I’m a bit jealous, but congrats on the move. You have obviously suffered enough in Ohio and now it’s time for sunny skies and warm beaches.

Obviously, if you are going to get an island car you need something with an open top, but you will want to keep in mind that living in Hawaii is expensive—like ridiculously expensive—so you may not want to blow your whole budget and keep some money aside for a rainy day fund.

Of course, if you want to be a real badass in Hawaii you get a Ferrari 308 like Magnum had, but those probably aren’t the wisest purchase if you want something reliable. But there is the next best thing if you like the idea of a mid-engined convertible: The Toyota MR2.

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I wanted to find you a nice MR2 with t-tops from the mid-‘90s but due to the Radwood Effect those are currently going for bonkers money. While the later MR2 Spyder from the early 2000s may not have the same exotic lines, it is a fantastic little car for blasting around an island. 

Here is a 2003 with around 50,000 miles and a manual gearbox for $8,500. These aren’t the fastest convertibles, but they are light and fun, plus Maui speed limits don’t allow you to attain super-fast speeds anyway.

Expert 2: Patrick George - Live The Beach Rat Life

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I agree with Tom that a droptop is the way to go here. But I also think that a Toyota MR2, while superbly fun, isn’t the best way to have a blast on the beach. Which you will definitely want to do from time to time! So how about an equally fun car that’s even more capable—a Jeep Wrangler?

I haven’t spent any time in Hawaii but on a vacation in Puerto Rico a few years ago, almost everyone had these things. It makes total sense why. You can pop the roof and doors off to enjoy the weather, they can scale any kind of terrain, and they’re tough enough to handle sand and rain and whatever else you run into. It’s a near-perfect island vehicle, and while the all-new JK Wrangler is a bit out of your price range, used Wranglers are easy to find.

Here’s a used 2013 Wrangler Sport for $19,995 near you. It’s not the most original choice, but hey, it’ll be as fun as you need every day.

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Expert 3: David Tracy - Get The Real Beach King

Image: Craigslist

Why give up off-road capability with an MR2 and on-road driving enjoyment in a tall, solid-axle Wrangler when you can have fun both on and off the pavement with the king of the sand: the Volkswagen Beetle-based dunebuggy?

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There were lots of different types of these things made, but they were all small, lightweight, relatively fuel efficient (probably), and dead simple and cheap to keep running. Plus, they’re rear-engine, rear-wheel drive, air-cooled, manual convertibles—that’s what you need in your life. ItThat’s what we all need in our lives, now that I think about it.

Here’s one for sale in your fine state of Ohio for only $1,200. It needs a bit of work, so it might not be the exact right vehicle for you, but the idea remains solid: get yourself a VW dunebuggy, and have a blast on the beach, on the road, or wherever the heck you feel like driving on that beautiful island.

Expert 4: Erik Shilling - The First Step Towards Miata Is Acceptance

Photo: Mazda

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You say you’re budget is up to $20,000, but anyone willing to spend $20,000 is surely willing to spend $25,730, the base price of a 2019 Mazda Miata. Why would you want to spend more, and not go with a certified pre-owned Miata of a prior vintage, all of which are also very good? Because the 2019 Miata finally gives the new ND model a decent power boost, and in small and big ways is just plain better than it has been in years.

It is so good, in fact, that we named it one of the best cars of 2018—I still have fond memories of me in the 2019 Miata, driving alone on the Pacific Coast Highway, going nowhere in particular. Because it’s just that pleasurable to drive.

Be sure to get the soft-top, too, which might have been a bit of a pain in Ohio’s trash weather but will fair nicely in Hawaii.

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Also, as a former Ohioan, congrats on the move.

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