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Best used cars under $3500?

05-04-2006, 10:43 PM
My friend is looking for a used car, compact or mid-size, that's reliable and under $3500... and not one that is high on the list of most stolen cars...
Any suggestions?
We're in Los Angeles...

Tonto Kowalski
05-06-2006, 11:46 AM
Late 90's Cavalier Z24 or Sunfire GT. The 2.4 twin cam is very reliable. The cars are not favorites among thieves but I would recommend an alarm just in case.

05-08-2006, 07:42 AM
civic...end of story

05-08-2006, 01:16 PM
actually if you were looking for a car thts not high on the list of being stolen civic is the WRONG choice clearly...i'd agree with the sunfire or cavelier

05-08-2006, 03:29 PM
There were 14 different recalls for Cavaliers and Sunfires from 1995-2005. I'D stay away from them. The girlfriend use to have a 2000 Sunfire GT and the front struts needed to be replaced 3 times. My buddies 2001 Z24 had the same problem. And another friend was left stranded because the fuel gauge sensor malfunctioned and he ran out of gas without even knowing it.

Civic's get stolen so I'd take a Corolla, Geo Prizm (exactly like a Corolla), older Camry, Tercel, Nissan Sentra, Mazda Protege or Ford Escort.

Good Luck!

05-08-2006, 04:14 PM
many thanks for the replies, guys!
I'll look further into the ones suggested :)

05-09-2006, 12:07 PM
The GM J-body (cavalier, sunfire, etc) had one of the worst crash test results when it came out in 1982, and with only minor cosmetic changes its at the bottom of the heap these days. Multiple recalls, poor reliability record, and consistently makes Consumer Reports 10 worst list.

I might suggest any of the Toyota smaller cars. You should be able to grab a Tercel with 80k on the ticker for that much and it will pretty easily give you another 100k. Corolla, Camry, and others can be found for the same price with a few more miles.

Take a look on Ebay and Craigslist. You'd be surprised at how many $500 Kias with 90k and a few dents can be found. Early Kias weren't the greatest for reliability, but 2002 and later were on par with Nissan.

Ford Focus (unlike many of its Ford cousins) has turned in very respectable reliability. They're still not as long-lived as a toyota, BMW, or Mercedes, but very respectable to probably 160k or more.

For that much money you should be able to grab an E30 (1980's) BMW 3 series. They are known for 300k or more reliable miles. They are rock-solid little tanks, handle brilliantly, and the 4-cylinder sips gas. The I-6 is fun and torquey and still turns in respectable 25 mpg or so. Don't be scared of repair costs and maintenance. That's only if you do your repairs and maintenance in the most haphazard way. Repair shops try to charge you more since its a mystical premium brand, but its BS. Its a car. Period. Find an online parts source and you'll pay (literally) less than 1/10th what a dealer charges for parts.

Consider an 80s GM A/G body like monte carlo, regal, cutlass, malibu, el camino, etc. They used tried-and-true drivetrains that are reliable and dirt cheap to fix. They also make it easy to work on. Replacing an alternator is $25 and can be replaced in 10 minutes. Two bolts and two wires right on top of the engine. Try that on a Saturn which requires lifting the car and removing a driveshaft to replace a $130 alternator. A/G bodies are based on older technology so they aren't the long-life cars quite like you might expect. While you hear about 200k mile Monte Carlos, most start getting ready for a new engine around 150k or less. I might consider holding out for an automatic with OD to be safe. The three speed autos were often THM200Cs which were terrible. The ODs were THM200-4rs which are respectable.

Any of the Fox-body fords are pretty good bets. They are the 80s-early 90s Mustang, Thunderbird, and Cougar. Right now there is a 95 cougar with leather and 74k on ebay that's ending in 6 hours that is only bid up to $1900 with no reserve.

Any of the 90s japanese imports are a pretty good bet. Toyota, nissan, Honda, subaru, all good cars. A volvo in the price range you're considering won't be from a year that I can recommend. Avoid Saturn, GM FWD, or Dodge FWD. Dodge got their act together around 2002, GM is slowly getting their act together with the new holden and opel influence but I'd wait a few years on that. In general, American cars are catching up to the imports in build quality and reliability, but for a good used car, go import.

05-09-2006, 07:49 PM
HEY EVERY ONE I GOTA 1985 EL COMINO FOR SALE 170,000 miles but doesent matter cuz its a 4.3 straight v6 which can go littlery for ever. its in great shape all original sept the radio which was 280 car is very nice on out side inside could use a little work we did the break lines and such no major probblems runs beautiful msg me if u would like im in ct my e-mail is if u e-mail me just put on the subject line el comino

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