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Car Corner
Current Thoughts on Next "Daily" Driver

November 5, 2017
By Scott Lewis

It has been a little bit since I wrote specifics on the cars I am looking at for my next "modern" or "daily" driver.

I put those words in quotes to emphasize that I plan to keep my current daily driver, a 2012 Ford Focus with 125K miles. It has largely been very reliable. I bought it with just under 36K miles (barely under factory warrantee). Over the last 4 years and 90K+ miles it has only recently had its first major repair. The Transmission Control Module had to be replaced. In a nutshell, the car would not start because the transmission did not know it was in park, and would not send the appropriate signal to the ignition to allow the car to start. It was not a cheap repair by any means. However, if this is the only thing I have to worry about I feel good keeping the car for a while longer.

When I get another car that will offset mileage on the Focus and it should run for a few more years. We'll see. I fully expect the next major repair will likely be the A/C compressor. I live in San Antonio where we use A/C pretty much all the time in our cars.

I have been doing a little soul searching. How much do I really want to spend on a modern car. By modern, I mean something likely from this century. However, the one exception is a 93-96 Camaro Z-28. I had a 93 Camaro brand new, and drove it for 13 years. I will someday want another one. If I found a nice, low mileage 93-96 Z-28 I will definitely consider buying it and driving it a lot. They are very reliable (as long as you are aware of a couple of small problem areas). Really, really nice examples can be had for $9-12K.

I have started to wane interest on some other modern cars on my radar. Mainly I don't know how much money I want to spend. I really like the idea of getting a modern car and a classic car. If possible my 2 car line up would be a 1966 Mustang Coupe and a 2002 Thunderbird. I have liked both for a very long time. Thunderbirds can be had with low mileage all day long in the $15-20K range. If I got one closer to $15K and then bought the nicest 66 Mustang I could find for $20K it would be perfect.

So far that's two modern cars... 93 Camaro Z-28 (in red!) or 2002 Thunderbird (in turquoise!!).

What else? For the moment I have dropped the idea of a Cadillac CTS Coupe. I really liked the styling of the 2011-2014 Coupe. However, it is starting to fade with me. Also, nice ones are just over $20K and would make getting a 66 Mustang difficult at the same time. I also cannot afford a CTS-V, which would totally change things. The ATS Coupe with a V-6 is just starting to fall below $30K. Unfortunately if I want two cars, I won't be able to get the ATS Coupe.

Basically I want to stay below $20K for a modern car. Ideally about $15K. That will hopefully leave me $20K for a classic. With down payments spread around I should be able to do this for no more than $500/month in payments.

This eliminated the BMW 6-Series. Good ones are over $20K and will require maintenance costs higher than normal. Mercedes E Class coupe and convertible are out because they are going to be over $20K and won't be sporty enough to justify their expense (to me).

Following the mood of the 2002 Thunderbird... I think I might want a convertible. I have been taking longer looks at BMW 3-Series and Audi A5 Convertibles. Since I would have to get somewhat older cars to stay under $20K, I have to be very careful of mileage and maintenance history. There is currently a 2008 335i Convertible with the Sport seats on my AutoTrader wish list for $14K.

I have also been looking at the Mercedes SLK Convertible. However, to stay under $20K means sticking to the 2008-2011 generation. The 2012 looks better to me, but will be well above $20K. The key with this car is to try and find a one owner car that has regular trips to a Mercedes dealership for maintenance. You know... a car coming off a lease.

Currently there are only two cars that I would consider going over $20K for. Corvette and Mercedes SL 550. Obviously the Mercedes is a luxury cruiser and will have higher than normal maintenance costs. It would mean putting a classic on the back burner for a while. The Corvette would be a performance car. A nice C6 Corvette can be had all day long in the mid $20K range. It's just a matter of finding a color (red or blue) and options (leather covered dash) that matter.

Conclusion

There you have it... 93 Camaro Z-28 in red, 2002 Thunderbird in turquoise, slightly older BMW 3 Series Convertible, Mercedes SLK, Mercedes SL 550 and Corvette. This is my current short list. I will be thinking about this for a few more months. I should be ready to start shopping in Spring 2018.

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