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Old 08-17-2015, 12:04 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Used car search.

I'm new at all of this so please bear with me. I've been researching vehicle choices for a few months and reading as much as I can. I realize that asking vehicle opinions is a bit like asking about the best beer but here we go...

My commute recently went from 8 miles one way to 35-70 one way depending on where I am working that day. Needless to say my full size Chevy V8 is killing my wallet. I have driven full sized trucks for the past 25 years and haven't owned a car since I was 17 so this will be quite a change for me. I'll be keeping my gas guzzler as I have a farm so it's needed. I'm looking for a pure DD. Standard transmission is a plus.
Budget: $7,000.00
My drive is 70/30 country roads/highway. Average speed on country roads is 50-60. Average highway is 70-75. On the country roads think rolling hills and curves not straight and flat. Some days could go 30/70 country/highway but they are more rare.
My wants (in order of importance): fuel economy,dependability (along with low maintenance, handling (fun to drive wouldn't hurt) insurance economy, comfort (decent seats and radio are fine, rarely use AC anyway), and way down the list would be looks.
Finally, I feel comfortable doing maintenance items (oil, plugs, etc) but I am no mechanic. I would find a hobby mechanic that specializes in the car I get.

Vehicles I'm considering:
Honda CRX, specifically looking at a completely restored 1989 SI model with a b18b1 engine with 4,000 miles. The good: I've wanted one since they came out, fun to drive, essentially a new-used car, modifiable for gas mileage. Bad: engine may or may not give me the fuel economy I'm looking for, but truthfully, anything over 20 is gravy since I'm used to 18 highway...

Another CRX, decent body and miles and pay for an engine swap when the time comes.

Early 90's to late model Honda Civic (prefer hatch or coupe). Good: easy maintenance, dependable, tunable, decently fun to drive, lots of aftermarket parts. The bad: hard to find an unmolested car without a ton of miles.

VW TDI. I've almost eliminated the TDI. I don't have the confidence in myself to have time or ability to perform the maintenance on a used TDI plus with diesel being higher the savings are a wash between 35 mpg gas and 40 mpg diesel.

Smaller Toyota (Corolla etc), dependable but very hard to find without tons of miles and questionable upkeep.

At this point I'm not willing to rule out anything. If there's a great car I'm overlooking feel free to chime in. Thanks in advance.

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Old 08-17-2015, 12:44 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Thoughts on a hybrid like an Insight or Prius?

Civiv VX is always a good choice. If you like the CRX, look for an HF as those had the smaller, less thirsty engine and taller gears. If you are dealing with lots of big hills and don't want to downshift, maybe a regular or sporty model would be better for you with it's lower gearing.

Thought about a Cruze Eco?
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Old 08-17-2015, 12:46 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Consider a 2014 to 2015 Mitsubishi Mirage. The uphill 75 mph parts will eat your MPG lunch but the rest should be very good. Used prices dropping rapidly but not as fast as your gas budget is rising.

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Old 08-17-2015, 12:52 PM   #4 (permalink)
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***Sorry, mind blown by that budget***

Here are some examples of what that kind of budget would net you in the Louisville area (since you didn't specify which part you're in I picked the one in the middle). I filtered between 3K & 6500 bucks, but at that high of a budget I'm out of my league:

CLEAN 2002 Honda Civic MANUAL 169k miles
_____ 2003 MINI COOPER _______ MANUAL -- RED -- 119K MI -- LIK NEW --
2008 HONDA CIVIC HYBRID 3000K WARRANTY
06 black Prius, hybrid, 45mpg, excellent condition, backup cam
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Old 08-17-2015, 12:55 PM   #5 (permalink)
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Welcome to the site.

What is your goal with the new car? Is it simply to save money, preserve the life of your truck, or something else?
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Old 08-17-2015, 01:16 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Only problem with the CRX is that it might be too much fun to drive. I don't know about the engine swap, though, but my stock one would get 40+, driving it like a sports car, and mostly in mountains.

Your commute sounds like a good match for a 1st Gen Insight. Shouldn't be hard to get around 70 mpg. Mine (a 2000 that I've had since '03 or '04) has been very dependable.
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Old 08-17-2015, 07:52 PM   #7 (permalink)
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If you want to save money, the EASY choice is a G1 Insight or Toyota Echo. Both come in standard, both easily under budget.

I love my Insight, so fun and nimble. Even abusing it and throwing it around, it easily hold 60+. They are fantastic. The Echo is basically the Toyota non hybrid version. I think the Insight looks way better, otherwise, I don't know too much on the Totota- other than reliability rivals the G1, and body shape can be more or less accommodating depending on what you may do with it.
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Old 08-17-2015, 09:22 PM   #8 (permalink)
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A big thing to look for on CRXes is rust. They really rust out quickly right above the rear wheels. The sunroof panels on the Si models often rust as well, and the standard rust-prone areas are there for any car that has lived in the Rust Belt.

The B18 swap can be fun, but it will tend to be more thirsty than the stock motors. There's a good chance the transmission has very short gears in it, as many of the commonly available B-series cable-clutch transmissions are geared for "sporty" performance.

Often the swaps are done by people with a whole lot more enthusiasm than knowledge or budget. Look carefully for hacked-up wiring, in particular. At least with a B18B you shouldn't have to worry about how VTEC (yo!) is activated, so that's one positive.

The Rex with the stock motor should be lighter, there is a good chance it will have taller gearing, and of course the engine is smaller. That should result in better MPG all the way around.

But rust is one of the biggest problems with these cars. Mechanical stuff can be dealt with more easily (it's just nuts and bolts, mostly, right?) but welding and bodywork can really kill a budget.

The HF models were built for fuel economy, but since they were the lightest of the stock CRXes, a lot of them have been converted to other drivetrains so people could brag about power-to-weight. (Ignoring the fact that their new parts are a lot heavier than the HF stuff.) The HF motors, while robust, are almost impossible to get bearings for now. Plus the relatively-few unmodified ones went up in price an awful lot the last time gas was over $4/gallon.

A Civic hatchback will be pretty close to a CRX, and will give you a back seat as well. Might be something to consider.

-soD

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