Car Corner
Car Shopping?

February 2, 2016
By Scott Lewis

OK, I did my income taxes and what a difference having two kids does to your return. I expected a pretty decent amount... I got twice what I expected. Whoo-Hoo!

I am getting enough back to clear up some debt, but more importantly, I am taking this opportunity to change my withholding status. Why have Uncle Sam saving money for me when I can get more money in each paycheck. Next year I will get a small refund, and that's fine. I won't plan on getting one at all.

This means I can afford a slight bump in my car payment. I have crunched some numbers and I can afford a car with a sale price of $20,000. In a pinch I could push that to $22,000. So I am searching for cars in the $18-22K range (and hope to negotiate it down to $20K if possible).

I am tired of big, long articles analyzing every bit of minutia about the cars. So... I did a simple search on AutoTrader:

Years: 2010 - 2013
Mileage: Under 75K
Style: Coupe & Convertible
Price: $15K - $22K

Let's get the bad stuff out of the way first:

Miata - I love them. I was a little disappointed with the interior of the new 2016 at the Auto Show. I don't think a Miata will hold enough photography gear. Plus as my only car... it might be a too small.

Mini Cooper - I love/hate them. I still remember the $5k in repairs for my last one (all in one year). I am not alone as I hear mention of reliability in car enthusiast arenas. Above 100K miles stuff starts needing serious repairs. If I bought one with under 50K miles I would get 2 years out of it and be looking to trade it. Do I want to plan for that?

Camaro/Mustang/Challenger - I LOVE Muscle/Pony Cars. All 3 have vastly improved interiors for 2015 or 2016. Unfortunately I can't afford the latest generation at $22K. Can I live with a previous gen? I saw an awesome Challenger R/T in Plumb Crazy with a manual. SWEET... except for the parts bin interior from the mid 2000's.

Accord/Altima - I like (a lot) these cars for great, reliable transportation. I want more. At $20K for a used car I want something... less boring. In the used market I prefer these closer to $15K. If I feel myself being jerked around by dealers while looking at some of the cars below will I consider these.

Nissan 370Z / Infiniti G37 - Meh!!!

Now for the good stuff (I hope):

2011+ Cadillac CTS Coupe - I can just barely afford these at $22K. It will be hard to get a low mileage one though. Definitely on my short list. A $25K budget would help get a low mileage car.

2012+ Mercedes C250 Coupe - I absolutely love the looks... in red!!! I have it on good authority that if you do all the scheduled maintenance these cars a very reliable.

2011+ BMW 3-Series - I like them a lot. I get worried about maintenance cost. I might look for one under $20K and get an extended warrantee. We'll see.

Audi A5 - Very scarce at this price range. Not sure why. And maintenance costs.

BMW 1-Series - I think they are going to be too small.

Volvo C70 - What? Yea... in that search above I saw a nice looking one of these. So I will be doing more research on them.

VW GTI / Golf R - The previous generation Golf R is in the mid $20K range. Just over my budget. While the GTI is right smack in the price range. I don't know. VW reliability is not known to be a much better than Mini. Hmmm.

That's it. I tried to keep it short. So the short list is most likely:

Cadillac CTS Coupe
Mercedes C250 Coupe
BMW 3-Series Coupe/Convertible
Maybe Volvo C70
Maybe Mustang/Camaro/Challenger ... because I LOVE Muscle Cars!

I won't be shopping until after I get my income tax check in hand. So I have a few weeks to mull this over.

As I proff read this article and filed my taxes... I realized that if I get a bonus this year (it really is an if), and April is a 3 paycheck month (I always budget to be able to save those) I could have a decent amount of money to look at buying a classic.

So... having written all of the above... I will likely wait until April to decide what to do.

In the mean time I will be scouring AutoTrader for cars from the list above... and checking Craigslist, AutoTraderClassic & eBay for classics under $10K.

I'll keep you posted.