14 July 2008

Looking for a used commuter car? Let's see here:

Summary:
30+ mpg easily and less than $6000 from either:
1996-2000 Honda Civic (not the SI) or
1998-2002 Toyota Corolla (2000+ better)

My ideal car?
  • Under $5000
  • Less than 75,000 miles
  • 5-speed
  • No sunroof (heavy so bad on gas, less headroom, almost never used)
  • Hatchback if available (Civic)
  • HX if reasonably priced (high fuel efficiency Civic)

Details:
My car (1991 Toyota Camry Station Wagon, 4 cyl) was stolen this past Thursday (seen it anyone?) so I'm probably in the market for a new car. I'm inclined (as is my amazing mechanic, Nancy at Grandma's Garage) toward Hondas and Toyotas for both fuel efficiency and reliability. I'll have between $3000-$6000 to spend. Salvage vehicles are a last resort only, and not at all from private dealers (rather than private individuals). Also, there's not such thing as a "salvage title due to theft" ... it's due to "theft for joy ride resulting in serious damage to the car." Someone is lying about the title if they tell you otherwise. Salvaged vehicles may have had serious damage to the frame - though they'll drive great and be mechanically sound, modern vehicles have specifically designed safety mechanisms (i.e., "crumple zones" which are designed to withstand one serious accident. It is nearly impossible to know how a car will withstand another serious accident after it has been compromised. So, again, salvalage titles are only considered as a last resort and not from asshats who lie about them.

My priorities:
I'd like to get something with close to 100,000 miles (less is better, but more expensive, so we'll see) that gets over 35mpg on the freeway. Manual transmissions get slightly better MPG, but then the wife (yes, I'm married as of Saturday!) is not excited to learn to drive a standard so automatics are acceptable also.

Honda Civic: 5th generation Civics (1992-1995 = $1,800-$5,000) got great mileage, but they're a bit older and the MPG and some amenities improved in the 6th generation (1996-2000 = $3,500-7,000) which get between 31-34 on the freeway (under the current MPG estimates, more under the old standard). Self-reporting drivers find this to be accurate. With some hypermiling and modifications I understand a few more MPG can be squeezed out of them making 40 MPG a feasible goal for 65mph crusing. They take a Scan Gauge II which can read their MPG from the car's computer directly which is a big plus (older cars using OBD I cannot use such a scanner). The later civic models also get up to 35mpg on the freeway, but they're more expensive, the 2001 apparently has automatic transmission issues.

Toyota Corolla: Does about as well as the civic in terms of MPG - the 7th generation (1992-1997 = $1,700-5,750) gets 27-34mpg on the freeway and the 8th generation (1998-2002 = $4,000-10,000) gets about 34. 2000+ have variable valve timing which apparently results in a slight MPG improvement.

Any thoughts folks?

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