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A short list of reasonable used cars

Thursday, 4 January, 2007
Plymouth Neon 1995-1999

Unexpectedly good American car, manuals preferred. No ACR package.

Mitsubishi Space Wagon
Mitsubishi Mirage Jet

  • Plymouth Champ
  • Plymouth Colt
  • Eagle Vista
  • Eagle Summit
  • Dodge Colt
  • Mitsubishi
  • Mitsubishi Space Wagon

These are all the same car
sold through different dealer networks. No AWD. Oddly, Ebay
has no category listings for any of these. sedan and wagon are very
different body styles

Ford Contour 1995–2000 Ford
, 99+ 5-speed
preferred. No
AWD. No SVT package
Mazda 323 Protégé 1989+ Mazda GLC/323/Protégé/MX3
, wagon available
1989-1999 Mercury
, wagon available
Mazda 626 1988-1997 Mazda 626/MX6
Honda Civic CVCC Honda


but not SI variants, and as long
as they show no signs of falling into the hands of “boy racers”. CVCC
engines preferred.
Nissan Sentra 1987-1994 Nissan
wagon available.
Nissan Stanza 1990-1997 Nissan Stanza/Altima
Chevrolet Metro by Suzuki 1985-2001 Chevrolet Sprint/Metro
or Suzuki Swift but
if meticulously cared for or mechanically restored
Suzuki Esteem 1995-2002 Suzuki Esteem
Suzuki SJ 1985-1995 Suzuki
and only
because you have expressed specific interest in this model, but not the
follow-up Sidekick/Tracker
Subaru Legacy 1981-1994 Subaru,
both standard chassis and Justy. Later Subarus are derived from GM
designs. rare. wagon available.
Toyota Corolla 1987+

with few “extras” but no AWD variants. wagon available.

Toyota Camry 1987+ Toyota
, sparsely appointed and I-4, manuals
preferred, V-6 with manual only. wagon available.
Toyota Tercel Any Toyota
but no AWD variants wagon available.
Volkswagen Golf 1983-1984 VW

1985-1996 VW

No automatics,
diesel strongly preferred.
Volkswagen Jetta up to 1992 VW
, No automatics, diesel strongly
preferred. The Jetta moved to the next generation platform four years
earlier for North America. wagon available.
Volkswagen Fox 1987-1993 VW Fox, the only “European” car I recommend
enthusiasm. Made in Brazil. rare. wagon available.

A list of vehicles or categories to avoid even if they give you the
vehicle and offer to pay the transfer fees:

  • Anything marketed by Ford, Chrysler or GM other than the
    models mentioned above. This includes Mercury, Lincoln, Merkur,
    Plymouth, Eagle, Jeep, Dodge, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Daewoo,
    Oldsmobile, Pontiac, Saab, Saturn, Subaru after 1994, Suzuki after 1996.
  • The only exceptions to this rule being the Canadian-built
    American/Renaults for Chrysler from 1988-1992: Eagle Medallion, Eagle
    Premier/Dodge Monaco, and the AMC-built Slant-6 powered 82-89 Plymouth
    Gran Fury and Dodge Diplomat but these are larger, older-style
    vehicles. You are unlikely to find any of these for sale.
  • Just to be safe: Any
    General Motors built vehicle.
  • No Acura, Lexus or Infiniti vehicles. Good base vehicles with lots of extra switches which can go wrong. Heavier interior and padding, soundproofing etc. adds unneeded weight.
  • Any Audi,
    BMW, Mercedes-Benz or Saab in your price range. Although some such
    vehicles may tempt you, the cars available surely need mechanical
    restoration. Prepare to put another $2000 into the car just this year
    to keep it on the road.
  • I don’t know if a $2500 Volvo could be inspected enough to
    satisfy me. I fear bent frames, rusty chassis, engines or transmissions
    ground into dust
    and other well waxed cars on
    their way to the scrapyard. Any Volvo under $4000 not sold through a
    Volvo specialist garage is suspect.
  • Any car suspiciously
    cheap and within 30 days of the month of state
    inspection. Note photos including the inspection sticker. These cars
    may require extensive work to pass our new emissions tests. Only
    pre-1982 (over 25 years old) vehicles are smog exempt, classic
    registration not yet required.
  • Any vehicle which has been “sitting for months, but runs”.
  • Any vehicle which “just needs” anything.
  • Any Kia, Hyundai and Daihatsu vehicles in your
    price range.
  • Any vehicle described
    “woman owned”.

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