Car Time

It’s time to buy a new car to replace the Blazer. Yes, it’s time to leave the land of the SUV and get something that’s a little more fun to drive. The Blazer was good until it started having fun (and expensive) electrical issues. Apparently, they all do that. Why do they have to do that?\
I haven’t had time to go test drive anything, so my experience in other cars has been reduced to rentals on trips (Ford Taurus: bleagh, Buick Century: I moved down a class just to avoid you, Pontiac G6: more later, Ford Focus Maxx: you were kind of fun, but I think that’s because you were in France). Here’s my initial list, which will get pared down once I start test driving and doing “real” research. You should get some idea of what I’m looking for from the list. If there’s anything you think I should add to the list, please post a comment. It’s got to be under \$20k, have relatively low miles, get reasonable mileage, fit two boys in the back and be fun to drive. Here’s my initial list:

  • Pontiac G6: I rented one on my last trip to Mountain View, and it was actually a really nice car. It was zippy, comfortable and the controls were pretty well laid out. I kept trying to find things I hated about it because it’s a Pontiac, but I really didn’t find anything. Plus, I can probably get a 2005 and come in under budget.
  • 2003 Nissan Maxima: I don’t like the redesign. How is the Maxima different from the Altima now? But, I dig the 2003-2004 model. That’s a unique and cool looking sedan.
  • 2003 Volvo S60: I rode in a friend’s S80 a couple years ago and it was really nice. Plus, I really like the looks. I would go for the S40, but the review I just read says it’s cramped inside, which is bad (in case you missed it, I’m not a small man).
  • 2003 Audi A4: I love the way Audis look, especially the newer ones. If I had no budget at all, I’d get a new S4. But, I have a budget. The ratings I just saw didn’t look so hot, but I’m willing to dig some more.
  • 2006 Honda Civic: I read the “car of the year” review in Car and Driver in a waiting room, and it was compelling enough to check out. They’ve got a good reputation for reliability, and the new one looks good.\
    There you go… that’s the list. Anything I should add?

By Kevin Lawver

Web developer, Software Engineer @ Gusto, Co-founder @ TechSAV, husband, father, aspiring social capitalist and troublemaker.


  1. Woah, Kevin. You’re all over the map there, in terms of vehicle and engine size. What are your criteria for selecting a new car?
    I’ve also ended up with the Pontiac G6 a number of times at rental counters, but on a recent trip I got a Chevy Impala, which I was happily surprised by. Good handling, peppy engine, nice interior. Much better than the Cobalt (which is another popular rental) and the Malibu.
    Of course, I’d argue for the Audi S4 over everything else — don’t foresake fun and solid German engineering (Max will need a car in, what, 10-11 years?) for a budget. Kids will always remember the awesome cars that their parents own fondly… I still remember the Corvette Stingray that my mom had. If only she’d stopped having kids after me — she could’ve kept it! 😉

  2. I bought a 2005 Honda Civic coupe last May and I LOVE IT. The most expensive model came in at $18,600, and a year later, and I have had no mechanical problems at all. It gets good gas mileage, starts every time, and the stereo is pretty cool. The only downside is the road noise, but that’s why you have a stereo, right? Right!
    Happy car hunting!

  3. Kimberly, you nailed it… I’m not exactly sure what I want. Fun, four doors, good mileage, looks different. I rented an Impala about a year ago, and it was OK other than it felt too wide.
    I’d argue for the S4 too, but I’d lose (just wait till Jen gets back, she’ll tell you why).

  4. What, no BMW’s on the list? Heather must be really under the weather to let you get away with that. Keep me posted; I get to buy a car in a few months too.

  5. If you’re worried about the S60 being cramped, try taking a Civic out for a test drive. It’s a shoe box. Newer ones not so much as the older ones, but it’s still a small car.
    We just bought a Yukon, which we love, but clearly isn’t what you’re looking for. And you know I’ll only recommend GM or Ford products, or maybe a couple of European models, so I won’t be a whole lot of help. 🙂

  6. ’07 jeep compass. wagon thing they have coming out. worth a look. a potential replacement (for me) for the grand guzzlerokee (which has been a great car, all things considered). unfortunately i need a something that will truck a decent amount of cargo around… and it has to be awd, or i’d go smaller. i’m also looking at the patriot… but seems like it may be a little underpowered.
    i digress.
    have a look at the compass.

  7. Like Tim said, I normally would be pushing for a 1999/2000 BMW, but I know you won’t listen, so I’ll at least say this: I’ve known several people who have owned Nissans – both Altimas and Maximas – from that year range, and they’ve all had electrical problems, all across the map. So if you’re sick of your Blazer doing fun electrical things, stay away from the Nissan, no matter how nice it feels.
    As for the Honda, please, please, please, stay away. Just trust me. Go for the Audi, it’s at least German and not built out of a tin can.

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