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Cars Worth Waiting For (Annual)

September 2, 2013
By Scott Lewis

Each year I try to push this list to be cars I will look at when it is time for me to get another car. This year I had hoped to do just that... shop for another car to replace my 2004 Mini Cooper S. In fact, I started shopping for a car. Unfortunately, life has conspired against me.

The "fiscal cliff" took its toll to the tune of about $120 a month on me, my medical insurance increased $40 a month. My oldest son got his license... costing me another $100 a month for car insurance. To top this all off... my company froze salaries and I did not get a raise in 2013.

Of course, it gets worse. My son got into an accident with the 1995 Lexus ES 300 I bought for him last year, totaling the car. Since my insurance was already more than I could afford, and the car was paid for I did not have full coverage for it. So we did not get anything for it from the insurance company.

I helped him with the down payment on a replacement car. A 2002 Mazda Millenia with 109K miles for $4700. It was a real nice car. However, this time he was making payments. I helped him get his first car loan. This meant having to get full coverage insurance. So now my insurance is sky high and I can't afford it. Then someone backed into my son totaling the Mazda. After the insurance (the other guy's insurance) paid for the car, my son now has a 2004 Honda CR-V with 135K miles.

Back to issues of my own... the A/C in my Mini Cooper broke down... $2400. I paid $400 in repairs and replacing a tire on my son's Mazda (before the accident). Then my car's starter went ($800). This year has been the most costly year for me since I moved out and left my wife.

But that does not stop me from dreaming.

If there was any chance of me getting another car this year it would have had to be a low priced bargain. I tried looking for cars under $15K. Fortunately there are some out there. With that, I am going to show you a few cars that I seriously looked at... hoping to scrounge together enough money to buy one.

Then I will list the usual cars I like for those of you that are looking for cars when they get below $20,000 (which is the original premise for this annual column).

Chrysler Crossfire - I kind of like these. They are very close the the concept car that was presented to the public when Chrysler and Mercedes first "merged." This is basically a 1st Gen Mercedes SLK... with a much cooler body. I did a quick search and came across a 2005 Crossfire SRT-6 with just under 52k miles for $13,249. The SRT-6 has the AMG 3.2 supercharged engine putting out 330 hp. At the time this car came out it had the same power to weight ratio as the Corvette. Unfortunately, this 52K mile car was sold before I could do anything about it. That did not stop me from finding more. I found a Blue 05 Crossfire SRT-6 with only 36,645 miles for just under $15k. This was very tempting to take a loan for. If I didn't mind higher mileage I also saw a Black 05 with 77K miles for $12,888. I even talked with a guy at the local Cars & Coffee car show near me about them. He highly recommended buying one. He said they are a lot of fun, and very reliable with only a couple of out of the ordinary issues that are easily taken care of.

2006+ Mazda Miata - I have always liked these cars. I always thought they could use more power. But these are reasonable in performance to my Mini Cooper S. Like the Mini Cooper, they are like a go cart... but with rear wheel drive. On AutoTrader I came across a few nice examples. But the one that caught my eye the most was this 2006 Grand Touring edition with 47k miles for $12,995. It stood out as the best compromise between price, mileage and color. Yes color. And this car had a real leather interior. I was impressed.

2003 - 2007 BMW Z4 - This is the 1st generation of the Z4, with the soft top. I liked them a lot when they first came out. Then that appeal started to wane when I starting see too many of them. Now they are less noticeable, and I like them again. In my quick search for Z4's under $15K on AutoTrader I found a 2007 Z4 3.0i with 68K miles listed for $14,994. The one downside is that it had an automatic. The best compromise I could find in a 2.5i was a 2003 Z4 with 46K miles for $13,950. Of course, there was a downside here as well. I am not a fan of the gray roof it had. I kept looking and saw a Black 03 Z4 3.0i with a manual transmission and 50K miles for $14,799. Like the Crossfire above, this car makes me want to get a loan.

2003-2006 BMW 3-Series Convertible - I find these the cleanest looking 3-Series cars. I loved them when they were new, and prefer them to the Chris Bangle styled 2007+ cars. Staying under $15K might mean sacrificing the 330Ci for the 325Ci (like the Z4 above). I was able to find one. This is a 2004 330Ci with 69K miles listed for $13,899. It did have an automatic, but this time that is a plus. I like this for a cruiser. I think this car had the sport seats, which could mean the Sport Package. Hard to tell. But worth a visit to the dealer. I also found a White 2004 325Ci with an automatic and 70k miles for $12,950. That one definitely had the sport seats... and with that some pretty significant wear on the driver's seat.

Porsche Boxster - OK, hold your comments. This is a pipe dream, I know. Let me say this... while I was looking up the cars above, I decided to just see what was out there for a Porsche Boxster. I entered the following into AutoTrader: Porsche Boxster, 2000-2014, Under 75,000 miles, max $15,000, within 200 miles of San Antonio. I did not expect to find anything, but a few came up. The only thing wrong with this car... OK, there isn't anything wrong with this car... the only thing wrong with getting a Porsche is that they cost a bunch to maintain. I would have to assume at least $1,000 a year in maintenance costs (based on past experience with my ex-wife's 1999 911 Carrera). The Boxster is worse than the 911 because the engine compartment is completely under the car. You cannot get to it without a lift. So at-home maintenance is virtually out of the question. All that being said... this is an attainable dream. Here we have a 2000 Porsche Boxster with 55K miles for $13,995. I love the color, and it even has a manual transmission. Woo-Hoo! However, I would consider this car only if I had a backup car for when this car needed to be in the shop.

2006+ Audi A4 - Here we have a sedan I like that is old enough and new enough. Old enough to be in my price range, and new enough that it looks like a fairly new car. I really liked the styling change for 2006 in the A4. I found this 2006 A4 2.0T Quattro model with only 27K miles listed for $13,995. That is a deal. And while I was looking for A4's I stumbled on another sweet ride... a 2007 A4 2.0T Cabriolet with 66K miles for $14,995. Not bad.


Now that we covered the most affordable of my "Cars to Wait For" let's get down to the business of showing you new cars that I would like to wait until they are affordable like those above.

Mustang Boss 302: I had the opportunity to drive a 2013 Boss 302. I loved it. This is The Pony Car. I would have to get some seat time in its rivals, but I can't imaging a better experience. Everything I have read about the Boss 302 says it is a much better balanced car than any other Mustangs. The Shelbys are just brutal, and lose that delicate balance. Fine by me. I really want one of these. I spent some time at a couple of car shows and I am pretty sure I want mine in black. The bright colors are great, but not for me. The one I drove was Gotta Have It Green. On Ford's web site this shade of green looks pretty cool. In person it is very bright and a magnet for the police. The School Bus Yellow is kind of cool, but again... I think I need more stealth. Let's just stick with black.

2003-2004 Mustang Cobra - This is an example of a Mustang that we would have waited for. The 2003-2004 Cobra editions came with a 4.6 liter supercharged V8 that produced 390hp. Not bad. Consider that the Boss 302 has 414 hp. The Cobra edition also included an IRS (Independent Rear Suspension), something no Mustang newer that 2005 has. And yes... these are already available with reasonable mileage for under $20K. Go shopping!

Honda S2000 - I don't know why I never put this on my list before. When this car came out I thought it was an overpriced and overachieving Miata. The S2000 is the serious car to the Miata being a "chick's" car. I remember my 1989 CRX Si and its little rev happy engine. Low RPM torque was always missing. You had to rev it a lot to get good performance. The S2000 is a lot like that as well. When it first came out it had 240 hp in a 2 liter motor. That's 120 hp/liter. Try and see how many cars do that even today... and without a turbocharger or supercharger. Later in the S2000's life they increased the engine size to 2.2 liters and gave it more torque, with the same hp and a lower RPM redline. This is what I would look for. Not that later cars are going to give you V-8 grunt. Hardly. But a little extra torque goes a long way when you are commuting in traffic. Get this car on a twisty road through the Hill Country and downshift a couple of gears and enjoy the ride.

Cars from last year that are still valid:

2000-2006 BMW 3-Series Coupe/Convertible - Obviously, since I actually looked for one above to try and buy. I would love to look strictly at the M3 from these years. And I might be able to do that some day. The M3 is just getting under $20K.

Audi A5 & Cadillac CTS Coupe - These two cars are my "grown up" cars. If I can have a coupe as my daily driver (and back seat room is not needed) I want one of these.

2003-2008 BMW Z4 - Again... I actually looked for one of these when I thought there was a chance of my being able to afford a car. I think of this as a more mature alternative to the Miata.

Scion FR-S / Subaru BRZ - These cars are very viable. They should be under $20K in no time. I will think about them until I get some seat time in one and decide if it is a car for me.

Audi TT - I still like this car... in coupe form. I know it is close to the A5, but I will always look at them.

Miata - Yes, I am keeping it here. I actually came very close to going to the dealer where some cars were. But then the A/C on my car went out... and took my down payment with it.

Corvette - I will ALWAYS be a Corvette fan. Nuff said!

Cadillac CTS & ATS, Audi A4 & S4 sedans. These are still my favorite sedans. I already had a 3-Series sedan... so I want something different if I get a sedan.

Conclusion

This year's list got short changed. All the cars with pictures above I was actually shopping for... right up until the A/C in my car went out... and my son totaled his car causing my insurance to nearly double. The rest of the list is really just a quick recap of cars I like new that I will really consider the day I can go shopping for a car.

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