Car Corner
Next Car - Real Possibilities

December 2, 2016
By Scott Lewis

It has been a while since I posted here. I have been busy with the new house and traveling, so sorry for the absence. I am currently broke, so that give me too much time to think about my next car, and no money to do anything about it.

My debt consolidation loan will be paid off in the Fall of 2017. This month I am going to show you what's on my short list of cars I am thinking about to replace my Ford Focus. I am also considering getting a classic (and keeping the Focus). Be sure to check out my Classic Car Watch article his month to see what other possibilities are running through my brain.

This month I want to do something similar to my past articles on Cars Worth Waiting For, but with a twist. The twist is this... I want to try and find cars I can afford now... IF... my debt consolidation loan where already paid off. I am paying $800/month toward this loan. I will not put $800 a month toward a car. I currently have a car payment just shy of $200. I believe I will be willing to go as high as a $500/month for a car payment.

Trading in my Ford Focus will get me minimum equity (which sucks). I might hold off on a car purchase to accelerate paying off my Focus (its loan ends in the fall of 2018). Either way, I am not expecting the Focus to put much of dent into the price of a car.

Crunching the numbers (and erring slightly on the side of the banks) I believe I can afford a purchase price of $27K. So I want to search for cars I really would like to consider in the $20-27K range.

What about new cars? There are very few new cars I would be willing to shell out and take the depreciation hicky on. If something for around $30K new was there I might think about it. But really... I could just wait until such a car was a year or two old.

What follows are cars I really want to think about. Let's see what's out there, and if I can afford one.

Miata - I really like these cars. However, I feel they are a tad slow. I have recently seen reviews of modified Miatas. Would I be willing to get a ND (fourth generation) Miata, and add a little to it? That is a hard choice. Would it be fast enough (especially considering some of the other cars below)? I really like the Miata. There is the new RF (Retractable Fastback) that looks great. But it is not a real convertible. It is a retractable TARGA. Maybe? And it will cost more I guess. I did find a really nice 2016 Miata Club with only 5K miles for $24,995 and a 2016 Grand Touring with 12K miles for $23,980. Not bad. Easy choices to make. I really need to drive these to see if I would like them. If I want to go back to the previous generation (NC) I found a 2012 with the power retractable hard top and 22K miles for $22K. I saw a video on a Miata Sport Recaro edition. I know it is NOT available here in the US. I wish it were. That is likely the only car that would get me to buy new.

Porsche Boxster/Cayman- Can I afford a daily driver Porsche? Let's find out. I think the nicest Porsche I found in my price range was a 2008 Boxster S with 42K miles for $27,995. OK, so slightly out of my price range, but a really nice car. I also saw a 2008 Cayman with 66K miles for $24,900. Both cars are good candidates. I could see driving either one. So... I can just barely afford a Boxster or Cayman. That's good to know. No 911s at this price range, though. However, I will have to plan for higher maintenance costs with a Porsche. We averaged around $1,000/year on my ex-wife's 99 911.

Corvette - I can't look at Porsches without considering a Corvette. What could I afford? Plenty. There were dozens of 2008+ Corvettes with under 60K miles in the mid-20K price range. Just pick the color and options that I want. If I can live with a two seater as my only car... this is my most likely option.

Cadillac - CTS or ATS Coupes. Are they available? You bet, but only CTS. The only ATS Coupe that showed up were the 2.0 4 cylinder. I want the V-6. I did see a few CTS Certified cars, which gives a bumper to bumper warranty up to 6 years and 70,000 miles. This was on cars with less than 30K miles. So plenty of coverage. Like the Corvette... at this price range just pick your color and mileage.

Camaro/Mustang/Challenger - Yes Virginia, you can get a 2015+ Mustang with a V-8 with reasonably low mileage in the mid 20's. Even Premium trim with leather. Nice. I could not find a 2016 Camaro with a V-8 for under $28K. However, there were plenty of 2015's leaving me to be hopeful for the latest 2016 by the Fall of 2017. As for the Challenger, I saw one 2016 Challenger R/T. So these are likely to be more prevalent in the Fall of 2017 as well. If I'm willing to add a couple of doors, there were tons of Chargers with the Hemi available.

Mercedes C-Class - This is an outstanding looking coupe. At this price range I could afford a C250 or even a C350. Currently they do not make those. The current model is a C300, and then you step into two AMG models, C43 and C63. Searching I could pick and choose C250s all day long, even in red, with less than 30K miles in the mid 20K range. There are even C350s (in black or white) in this price range. Worth test driving. AMG? Now there is an interesting dilemma. I saw a few used C63 AMGs... even Certified... for a good $10K less than the new C43 AMG. Oops. Granted, both are out of my price range, but if I had more to spend it would be a serious decision.

Mini Cooper - I know, this car has come and gone off this list many times. However, my youngest son mentioned he wanted one... if they were so unreliable. I was curious, and I was finding a respectable number of these available as CPO (Certified Pre-Owned). The Mini CPO cars come with one of two extended warrantees. One that takes the car to 6 yr/100,000 mi, and another that takes it to 5 yr/75 miles. With a 6 yr/100,000 mile warrantee on a car with say... less than 30K miles... I could see doing that. So it is in the cards, if barely.

Second String???

The next batch of cars are what I would consider second string. I am not 100% sure I would really want them. They are intriguing, but they have issues.

Golf R - I like this car, but the problem with it for me is that it uses a weak all wheel drive system. It is basically front wheel drive until it detects slipping then puts more power to the rear wheels. I live in San Antonio where it is hot almost all year round. If I get all wheel drive it is because I want the all wheel drive all the time. I want to know it is helping push me through a twisty mountain road, not catching me if the front lets go.

BMW 2 Series - I am most intrigued by the M235i. However, these are still a bit pricey. I do not know if I could afford one in Fall 2017. And they will likely be expensive to maintain (as would the Gold R... and Porches for that matter).

Audi TT/A5 - There were a nice selection of these when I did a quick search. Of course, I worry about maintenance cost with Audi (as well as any German brand). The A5 seems too subtle for me compared to a Cadillac CTS Coupe.


There you have it. Since I doubt I will actually get a Miata, I think we have 5 cars (well, category of cars since the Pony cars are being lumped together) to think about.