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Nissan Altima or equivalent?

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
I'm just out of college and got a good job. Now I need a car. I'd like to spend not much more than $20k and get something that'd be reliable for a while. I can't drive stick. I'm looking at new or lightly used Altimas, Mazda3s, Ford Focuses, and Jettas. Anybody have any experience with these cars, or advice about what to get? I probably won't be commuting in the car, but I'd like to get something that will last a while and isn't completely boring.
post #2 of 20
Thread Starter 
Reading up a little more, the new Kia Optima is appealing. Does anybody have experience with it?
post #3 of 20
pre-owned lexus is250? Fits your budget and extremely reliable. Maybe it's just me but I never buy new.
post #4 of 20
Thread Starter 
Originally Posted by DJackson View Post

pre-owned lexus is250? Fits your budget and extremely reliable. Maybe it's just me but I never buy new.

I'd like to someday, but it's really too expensive now. Maybe I could find one for about $22, which is a tad more than I'd like to pay, but it'd probably have like 65k miles on it. Not worth in IMO when I can get a new Altima for that price.
post #5 of 20
I'd remove the Jetta from your list and add the VW Golf.
post #6 of 20
Considering your list, the Jetta or Golf are nice cars but an Altima may be more reliable. Is reliability your main priority? Sorry to continually recommend used but have you considered slightly used Accords / new Civic and ditto with Camry/Corolla? Those are surely reliable, not completely boring and easily within $20k range. Either way I say you start heavily test driving.

In case it is useful I drive rental cars every week and I'll say based on newer car experience stay away from smaller american cars because they still feel cheap compared to the competition. Midsize American cars are starting to hold their own. Honda does a great job with their throttle/ecu mapping which makes for a fun driving experience. Toyota Camry is a nice ride but I slightly prefer Accord based on what I just mentioned. I heavily prefer Civic to Corolla. Jetta is hard for me to comment on since I haven't driven a late model but I've heard lots of good things about it. Reliability - well who knows... I suppose Japanese is still on top and seems American is not far behind. I've actually heard most problems (electrical) with German cars vs this list. Honestly, cars today are simply not what the previous generation was looking at regarding all the problems with reliability to the point that you should be pretty pissed if you don't get 150k + miles from your car. Wish I had more to say about maintenance costs but maybe others will.
post #7 of 20
Also, if you have a $20k budget, and you want something nice, consider a $15k car with $5k of options. Leather seats, Air Conditioning and SatNav seem like small things, but believe me, you'll appreciate that extra luxury.
post #8 of 20
The only car mentioned that I haven't found completely boring is the VR6 Jetta. Although so many people have good things to say these days about the current crop of Hyundais as well...
post #9 of 20
Go get a used Accord . Very reliable and cheap for repairs and can probably be found in any area. It will be cheaper on insurance if you get the sedan as well.
Otherwise a Toyota Camry or ,like you mentioned, a Nissan Altima is fine as well. No need for new, get used and go for a higher option not more than 4 years old or more than 60k miles.

Something like this
post #10 of 20
+1 on used. Get a CPO. There is nothing wrong with pre-owned. Especially CPO. They're still almost new, low miles and you get the warranty. You also don't take the instant depreciation hit of a new car.
post #11 of 20
+1 for the CPO option. I know a guy that had an Altima, and he liked it a lot. This is a guy that had previously driven a Lexus IS350. Not saying that an Altima is the same level of car, just saying that after driving the IS, being able to drive and Altima and not think "I hate this" is significant.
Also, according to him, keeping the Lexus in its warranty meant getting serviced at their locations, which grew expensive/

I would definitely say look for a 2 or 3 year used model. You won't notice much of a difference and you've let some other guy pay for depreciation. More importantly, you did say you were on a budget. Now, a 18K new Altima might be in your price range but a 15K CPO Altima would feel about the same, and I'm certain you could find a use for that 3K elsewhere.

Since you mentioned the Focus, that's another car very worth considering. The hatchback versions are pretty trendy with the college crowd right now. (Probably because of the low price, good mileage, and the fact that its small enough to park anywhere.) A Buddy of mine just bought a Focus titanium and he loves it. GO to a dealership, check one out, especially the SYNC/My Ford touch features and you might really jump on it.

This is one concept Ford really got figured out just right. Ford has cracked the code on the fact that people are starting to go after these small, economical cars with good mileage, SO, somebody realized, if you take a fairly reliable 12,000$ car, and pack it with another 800$ in gee whiz gadgets and tech, to the average driver, the perceived value just elevated by thousands. It really sets the cars apart. Consumers right now eat that tech stuff up. That's why the compact, budget Focus and Fiesta (a 13K flea speck of a car) can be ordered with GPS, Voice commands, Satellite radio, and push button start. All the sudden its "cool".

LIterally (I think they even said this in press releases) when they worked out the steering wheel buttons and LCDs (my buddy's focus has these customzable LCDs and touch screens instead of regular dials, gauges, and cabin controls) the designers were like "hmmmm what are our buyers most enamoured with right now? AHA! Lets make driving this car feel like using their Iphone."
post #12 of 20
Ford Fiesta or Focus?

10 years ago, I would have recommended a Civic. But Ford is making some very good cars these days--and they are far more interesting than the Japanese competitors. The Golf is great and would be my personal pick, but not as reliable.
post #13 of 20
Go marketing guys.

On another note, here's how you can get a sweet deal if you did go with the Focus. There's an association called Mustang Club of America. Its like a Ford Mustang preservation and heritage society. Anyways, you go to the site and join. Members get to buy two Ford vehicles per year using the Xplan (Ford employee pricing). Membership fees are 50$ a year. FIll out the form, pay that first 50$, log into the site, and click the link to get issued your Xplan pin code. Go the dealer, tell him you have an Xplan code, and he automatically gives you the Xplan price. its a set number, no haggle, no negotiation.

I think the current employee price is (Vehicle inventory price + options) +4% + 250$(ish) adminstration fee. +you still get to add in factory rebates. You MIGHT be able to negotiate a better price on an off the lot vehicle if you are lucky, but definitely not on a factory order.

I did this for the car I just ordered and got a car that build and priced on the website at about 41K; I got mine custom ordered for about 35,500.

Also, go to the website (or call) and order a brochure in the mail. Some of the brochures come with a factory coupon for another few hundred bucks off.
post #14 of 20
Originally Posted by mafoofan View Post

Ford Fiesta or Focus?

10 years ago, I would have recommended a Civic. But Ford is making some very good cars these days--and they are far more interesting than the Japanese competitors. The Golf is great and would be my personal pick, but not as reliable.

Another +1 on the Fords. The Fiesta is a shockingly nice small car. Great gas mileage, a sturdy feel, and some surprising options for the class. Call it gimmicky, but it fills a niche.
post #15 of 20
the mazda 3 is a great car... its a blast to drive and the sedan version is under 20k... the hatchback is even more practical, but will be well over 20k...

there is a new 40mpg mazda 3 coming out early next year so maybe the prices of the older legacy models will start dropping... if you're willing to wait.

the jettas are good cars, but what vw did is actually made them bigger and less expensive, but sacrificed the higher quality trim and driving characteristics (no more independent suspension/cheaper interior/ect.). if you're new to jettas this is no big deal... but if you're buying from previous experience it can be a huge disappointment.

the golfs will actually run well into the 20k mark and nicer models are getting to the 25k-30K+ mark (for loaded or diesel models).

the focus hatchbacks are excellent cars and can actually be loaded with great stuff as mentioned before.

those are the different/unique choices...

but obvously you're really looking at civic/altima/corolla if you truly want a hassle free inexpensive brand new car under 20k.

a personal favorite of mine (from my past of renting cars a lot) is the jeep compass... its a small suv that looks decent and is around the 20k mark... and has options like 4wd for inclement weather...i've driven the mazda 3 a lot from rentals too... its a really really fun car to drive...
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