CJ was fortunate enough to survive getting rear-ended by a big-rig. Unfortunately, his trusty Chevy made the ultimate sacrifice for him. He is on a short timetable as to what get next but he is totally lost. What car should he buy?
Here is the scenario:
Just totaled my car by getting rear-ended by a big-rig. I am fine but my car is not. Now I have a week to get a new one, looking to spend around $10-15k and I have between $1-2k to put down. But I have no idea what to do because I don’t know anything about buying a good car.
I commute 40 miles a day, occasionally drive like 80 miles on the weekend to see my mom. The commute takes a long time because of traffic so something comfortable would rule. Ideally, I would like something with low miles, an automatic but fun to drive, maybe with some modern safety features, those fancy mirrors with little secondary mirrors, the backup camera, remote start but I know that’s a stretch.
Budget: Up to $15,000
Daily Driver: Yes
Location: New Hampshire
Wants: Comfortable but fun, auto trans, safe
Doesn’t want: Something that isn’t great for sitting in traffic
Wow, CJ. Not too many people get into an accident with a semi-truck and walk away unscathed. Too bad about your old ride, but at least you are okay. Now you are looking for something that provides a balance between comfortable commuter car, but with a dash of fun when the traffic isn’t so bad. I happen to think Volkswagen makes the perfect car, but it’s not the one everyone will recommend.
Many of our lovely readers will tell you to get a used GTI, which is fine. I love the GTI; I even own one. But the problem with a GTI is that finding one for $15,000 would mean a lot of sorting through the ones that have been driven a bit too hard, so I suggest you find the GTI’s often forgotten relative—the Jetta GLI.
The GLI comes with most of the good stuff that makes the GTI fun like a 2.0-liter turbo motor with about 200 horsepower, a sport suspension, and some extra accents to make it look a bit more special than your regular Jetta. However, the GLI’s platform (though a bit dated compared to the current Golf models) will make it feel more comfortable when you are stuck in traffic.
The downside to the GLI is finding one in your price range with reasonable miles can be a challenge, but here is a solid example not far with about 45,000 on the clock.
The GLI is a good example of a “fun” car, in that it’s sporty. But that’s not the only kind of fun car that’s out there. All sorts of vehicles bring a smile to your face every time you get behind the wheel.
And one sort of fun is getting into the wrong side of the car, ensconced in absolute top-of-the-market luxury, and calmly gliding through Franconia Notch like you’re a foreign dignitary.
For that you want a Toyota Century. In the Japanese domestic market, this sits at the very top for Toyota. As one of the biggest and proudest car companies on the globe, Toyota really puts its all into the Century, the best-built, calmest, quietest, most refined vehicle you’re going to get. We can’t buy the V12 Centuries yet, but we can import the quad-cam V8 ones that are (I would say) easier to own and service.
Since your budget is substantial, instead of sliding around in a lower-tier Volkswagen, you could be riding in this practically new Century with 33,000 miles on the clock from Gary Duncan down in Virginia. I would.
When your car gets totaled in a big crash, your natural inclination is to look for something safe. Like a Volvo, or something else that’s built like a tank. How about riding in Swedish luxury?
If you want comfort, I can think of no better car than a good, late-model Volvo. Volvo S60s and V60s can be found all day long under $15,000, and they’re generally pretty fun to drive and extremely comfortable inside. In fact, I have been known to turn my nose up at cars that aren’t as plush as a Volvo, Fancy Kristen-style, just on principle. A Volvo is simply a nice place to sit. Anything less is simply unworthy, if we’re honest.
Here’s a 2013 Volvo S60 T5 for sale on Autotrader for $13,890. This one is orange, which is relatively rare and fun, but you can find less attention-grabbing colors out there with relatively low miles if need be. If you are so inclined, I recommend celebrating your purchase with your finest pre-dinner mayonnaise.
That seemingly fun new Toyota Corolla with a manual has been on my mind lately, so I was going to suggest you get something like that or a Yaris iA with a manual. That should be right in your price range new, but it doesn’t have the auto trans or comfort you’re after. I get the sense you do a lot of highway and city driving, so you want to be in something cushy that also gives you some security after your 18-wheeler wreck. I respect that.
I think you should consider a gently used Chrysler 300. We had a new one in Detroit this year and I was pretty impressed what a plush, get-shit-done tank of a car it is—it’s been around forever so it’s pretty proven. I hear from tons of people who love theirs and swear by them. The 300 HP V6 is plenty adequate too.
The good news is these things are pretty cheap when used. Here’s a nicely equipped 2012 300 Limited model with under 50,000 miles for just $14,995, for example. Not bad at all for what you get! Beats an economy car and something with questionable German or Swedish reliability, in my book.