Help in researching/buying my first car

01-08-2016, 05:49 PM
Hello, first time posting here. I am getting ready to buy my first car (sometime around April or May of this year). I live in San Francisco proper so there never really was any need to have a car, but two things happened recently that allow me to “splurge” on a car: I got a better paying job, and I’ve become more serious about my photography which means that I have a lot of stuff (mainly lights) and it gets very expensive paying for taxis. So I had thought about buying like an SUV that can be good looking for just going out or carrying my equipment. Other than that, my requirements are—in the opinion of someone who knows very little about cars, me—very simple:

It need to be able to transport lots of equipment. In other words, I think I'm looking for an SUV.
It needs to have good gas mileage.
It needs to have manual transmission.
Be affordable (what’s affordable these days, $30,000?).
Last but certainly not least, it has to be a good car, reliable.

I can’t think of anything else. Of course, we all look for comfort and all that, especially since I’ll be making some road trips, but other than that, that’s all I’m looking for. (Air conditioning and heat are all standards these days, aren’t they?) All the other options (sound systems, interior, etc) will be considered only if they’re a good deal.

Please feel free to offer your own suggestions or point out things I may have overlooked.

Thank you.

01-08-2016, 06:36 PM
Consumer reports has a yearly publication that focuses on general quality, reliability and driving impressions of just about all of today cars,/trucks, it's a good starting point.

01-09-2016, 05:19 AM
$30k as a budget gives you a fair amount of options. If you want a brand new car you can look into some pretty decent imports.
From Japan, Honda has some damn good offerings. If you look into a Civic, you could get a fully loaded EX-L model for that kind of money, or less. Or if you want a sportier Civic, go back a couple model years and get an Si model. Or a well equipped Accord with a nice punchy V6 under the hood (still good on fuel) although if you want a manual transmission on a new accord you have to get the base model, you can't have it with a V6. Acuras are ok too, but you don't get quite as much value for money, just a badge and some extra chrome and sh*t you don't really need.
Toyota has done a semi sporty edition of the Corolla with a 6 speed manual, but the engine only puts out 135 hp, which isn't much for a so called "S model"
There are a couple of cool options from Subaru. The impreza starts at less than 20k so you could really go crazy with the options list. The WRX is pretty cool, you can have a sedan or a wagon and the turbocharged flat-4 packs quite a punch, and of course a 6 speed manual with an available short throw shifter for like $200 extra.
Now for a quick stop in Italy. The Fiat 500 is definitely worth a look, especially the Abarth model. The base or "pop" model has 105 horsepower which is... adequate... I guess... but the abarth, same engine, but turbocharged. 160 hp in a car the size of a shoe with a manual transmission; sounds like fun to me. If the 500 feels too small, check out the 500L. More space, four doors, same engine as the 500 abarth, and yes, still a manual transmission.
Last, but not least, Germany. Volkswagen offers a slew of options well within your price range. The Jetta, the Passat, the Sportwagen, all very good, and VWs are historically reliable. From personal experience I would recommend a Golf. But with your budget, not just any Golf... a GTI. 2.0L 4 cylinders and a turbocharger get together to form 210 horsepower, and still manage around 35 mpg. It also is surprisingly spacious for both cargo and passengers, so it is plenty practical.
If you want to upgrade to an even more world class German brand, there is another way; certified pre-owned. Going this route $30k could get you a BMW or even a Mercedes Benz, brands that speak for themselves. It would be a used car, but specialty mechanics would have gone through it with a fine toothed comb and there's usually a warranty.

01-19-2016, 04:20 PM
$30k as a budget gives you a fair amount of options...Mike, thank you for your detailed recommendation. Perhaps I should have been more clear and said that I actually did prefer a SUV. Since one of the main uses for this car will be transporting a lot of equipment (i.e., boxes), a sedan or even a hatchback would probably not work.

02-07-2016, 02:38 PM
What do you guys think of these 4 models (

06-06-2016, 10:59 PM
I was gonna make a new thread about buying a used car and I found this.
Thanks macandal for the helpful tips...

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