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calteg
calteg Dork
4/8/21 8:08 a.m.

Another vote for the Prius. I scooped up a third gen Prius C right around OP's budget a few years ago. Put 20k miles on it, so far the entirety of maintenance has been 1 oil change.

mtn
mtn MegaDork
4/8/21 8:56 a.m.

Cars are one of the only things in my life that I can let logic take a back seat to fun. Otherwise I'd have been in a Prius years ago. Ya'll are making logic come back to the forefront. 

 

Thanks for all the suggestions. We'll see where we end up. Probably test driving a few vehicles this weekend. 

infinitenexus
infinitenexus GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
4/8/21 9:13 a.m.

In reply to mtn :

One of the reasons I'm looking at  a Toyota Matrix right now.  It's got that Toyota Corolla reliability and practicality with extra room since it's a wagon, but the cylinder head to the XRS model was designed by Yamaha and redlines at 8200RPM (8500 when installed in a Lotus).  I figure it's a good compromise between a Prius and a fun car.

Curtis73 (Forum Supporter)
Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
4/8/21 10:05 a.m.

first gen Scion xB.  Timing chain.  Toyota. Done.

Ex finally had to rid of hers with 250k because she wrecked it, but she did oil changes, I did one spark plug change, and we did front wheel bearings and a muffler in all that time.

35 mpg, huge back seat.

captdownshift (Forum Supporter)
captdownshift (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
4/8/21 10:45 a.m.

In reply to Curtis73 (Forum Supporter) :

I miss mine. Had it not been totalled (and also needed an ac compressor, crank position sensor and evap canister) I would've considered buying it back. The utility is nearly unmatched.

However side impact ratings on them are terrible. They fall on the list of vehicles I wouldn't put a child in the back of. 

Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter)
Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter) GRM+ Memberand UltimaDork
4/9/21 3:33 p.m.

Saturn SL2 or SW2, 1996-2002. Cheap maintain and great on gas. If it's using oil just add more and keep going. You're using so little gas and cheap buy-in it's worth it.

lnlds
lnlds Reader
4/10/21 12:44 a.m.

3rd gen focus in manual, actually safe, various stripper models you should be able to choose from

or whichever mazda6 clone fusion/five hundred/milan probably not in manual

Duke
Duke MegaDork
4/10/21 6:23 a.m.
MadScientistMatt said:

How about a Chevy Impala or other GM W body? They'll fit the MPG requirements, crude iron V6s that don't have much to go wrong, massive depreciation is good when looking through he bottom of the barrel.

I was going to make this recommendation, but it seemed bigger than he was looking for.

Even with the lowly 3.5 it moves well enough, and drives nicely for a commuter. And on longer trips at 70 mph it is literally turning 1900 rpm.

 

Indy "Nub" Guy
Indy "Nub" Guy PowerDork
4/10/21 6:25 a.m.
Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter) said:

Saturn SL2 or SW2, 1996-2002. Cheap maintain and great on gas. If it's using oil just add more and keep going. You're using so little gas and cheap buy-in it's worth it.

I came here to say this.  +1 on the Saturn.  DOHC and five speed manual make for an engaging and entertaining experience

dxman92
dxman92 Dork
4/13/21 12:27 a.m.

Nissan Versa Note hatchback or Versa Sedan. Available with stick shift in your range and back seat is huge. Honda Fit is another good recommendation. Not sure they are down in that range yet but a VW Passat with the 2.5 liter engine would work. You can find those with a stick.

zilla916
zilla916 New Reader
4/13/21 1:13 a.m.

In reply to NickD :

I'm on my second Yaris, and i'm bummed Toyota discontinued it.

tremm
tremm Reader
4/13/21 1:28 a.m.

I just skimmed through, but didn't see Elantra or Accent hatchback. Would second prius or note, don't know prices on mirage hatchback.

CarKid1989
CarKid1989 SuperDork
4/13/21 3:53 a.m.

OP mentioned needs to hold a car seat. 
With the Prius and a car seat in the rear does that eliminate all the front passenger room? 
or is it big enough to still fit comfortably?

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt UltimaDork
4/13/21 8:03 a.m.
Duke said:

I was going to make this recommendation, but it seemed bigger than he was looking for.

Even with the lowly 3.5 it moves well enough, and drives nicely for a commuter. And on longer trips at 70 mph it is literally turning 1900 rpm.

W bodies are bigger than the cars he was looking at, but fit the mileage requirements. And the size is a plus when dealing with car seats and safety - you can carry a rear facing car seat with the front seat all the way back.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
4/13/21 8:23 a.m.
CarKid1989 said:

OP mentioned needs to hold a car seat. 
With the Prius and a car seat in the rear does that eliminate all the front passenger room? 
or is it big enough to still fit comfortably?

All these are pictures of car seats in Gen2 Prius.  For me they worked very well. Sure, there are some ENORMOUS kid seats.  The baby bucket type seat seen here is a very typical size.  The black and pink seat is a little smaller than most.  But, there worked very well even behind my 6'1", 250# self driving.  

This first picture is to accentuate the optional stationary bases available for the baby bucket type seats.  I highly recommend these even though they are expensive.  Add then to your gift registry!

 

 

ProDarwin
ProDarwin MegaDork
4/13/21 8:29 a.m.
Gearheadotaku (Forum Supporter) said:

Saturn SL2 or SW2, 1996-2002. Cheap maintain and great on gas. If it's using oil just add more and keep going. You're using so little gas and cheap buy-in it's worth it.

The days of these being a good value are gone IMO.  They *will* have issues and need repair.  They are easy to work on, but the OP doesn't want to touch his car.

They are definitely on the 'unsafe' end of the scale of vehicles in this thread.

Also parts availability is becoming an issue.

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
4/13/21 8:33 a.m.

True story.  For one longer distance travel, my M-I-L said, "take my new car."  So, instead of Gen2 Prius we took her very new 2018 Ford Escape.

Net result, this Escape was far worse at holding these same two car seats.  I remember that it required my wife in the front passengers seat to have to sit with the seat a bit forward.  We borrowed the Escape that one time and then vowed to never use it again if a rear facing seat was needed. 

mtn
mtn MegaDork
4/13/21 9:07 a.m.

No size restrictions, honestly. I'm kinda leaning smaller, but I also stopped to check out a Grand Marquis the other day.

Baby seat can take up the entirety of the passenger seat if necessary. I can't imagine a situation where the 3 of us would be in this car when the van is available. This would be a strictly Dad-only or Dad-baby vehicle. Momma likes the van. 

 

It really is a sellers market though. I checked out a bunch of cars this weekend. This bottom end of the market is not pretty, and making me realize I didn't ask enough for the GS when I sold it. At a Honda dealership, a 12 year old Corolla with a stick and manual windows and doors and 180k miles is non-negotiable. Looked at a couple of Prius's. Both were so beat up it wasn't funny, between the 2 of them, they needed 8 new tires and 3 new wheels. I think that despite being registered in a swanky suburb, they'd been used as Uber cars by college kids. Everything starts to make more sense around the $5k mark, but that isn't in the budget and I need a car by Thursday night. 

John Welsh
John Welsh Mod Squad
4/13/21 9:12 a.m.
zordak
zordak Reader
4/13/21 9:12 a.m.

At $3500.00 and are looking for a trouble free ride you are looking more at the seller than the car it self. Any POS can be propped up to run for a 10 min test ride. The seller you are looking for is someone who uses a reliable mechanic and does what ever the mechanic says. This means the car receives regular oil changes and any thing broken gets fixed quickly and properly. Just my $.02 from a life time of driving low priced cars.

barefootskater (Shaun)
barefootskater (Shaun) PowerDork
4/13/21 9:25 a.m.

The current used car market has made dealers almost a complete waste of time at your budget. I'm sure you know that. It does make me curious if they're buying higher too. I know they're hungry for any inventory that can be had. There's a small network of us at work that watch the incoming trades very carefully, but the bosses flat refuse to sell to employees right now, unless we want to pay the same stupid prices. Almost not even worth going to work. wink
 

Still, I see accords and panthers in pretty reasonable shape on the regular. Or, because summer is coming, motorcycle. 

MadScientistMatt
MadScientistMatt UltimaDork
4/13/21 4:11 p.m.
John Welsh said:

True story.  For one longer distance travel, my M-I-L said, "take my new car."  So, instead of Gen2 Prius we took her very new 2018 Ford Escape.

Net result, this Escape was far worse at holding these same two car seats.  I remember that it required my wife in the front passengers seat to have to sit with the seat a bit forward.  We borrowed the Escape that one time and then vowed to never use it again if a rear facing seat was needed. 

My mother in law has an Escape like that. They manage to look reasonably large on the outside, but are seriously tiny on the inside. I couldn't get the front seat far back enough to comfortably fit behind the wheel on one occasion when I drove it.

dxman92
dxman92 Dork
4/13/21 7:20 p.m.

Miles are a little high on this Versa Note and price a little higher than $3500 but this looks rock solid and clean Carfax w/one owner.

https://www.simotesmotorsales.com/vdp/17358637/Used-2015-Nissan-Versa-Note-SL-for-sale-in-Minooka-IL-60447

Backseat is more roomy than it looks and Notes ride decent on rough roads. Mine was a good solid car when I had it.

03Panther
03Panther SuperDork
4/13/21 7:30 p.m.

In reply to dxman92 :

That actually looks like a heck of a good deal in these times. with the economy continuing to circle down the drain for at least several more years, that would be a good choice.

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