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It's That Time Again...

Cory Wolfe

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I'm embarking on yet another car search. It seems to be a yearly occurrence for me, though I still have a ways to go to reach the likes of Ocnblu's quarterly car purchasing spree. I'm probably not too far off at this rate...

While I've loved my Legacy Turbo, it's becoming a bit of a burden. It's hard on insurance, even harder on gas, and hasn't been holding up as well as I had hoped. It's a great car with a performance pedigree (if you ignore the soft suspension, anyways), and It's likely to be my favorite over time. With that said, it has some faults that I overlooked originally. The most notable has to be the aforementioned gas mileage with my average often hanging below 20 mpg. That's a pretty big sting when you've put alot of miles commuting to and from work. Bigger still, when you realize that's not regular grade gasoline you just filled the tank with, but the premium stuff instead. With my previous job as a delivery driver, I could often justify the gas mileage by the tips I received. Having quit that job, I'm moving up to regular 9-5 full-time job now. I'll be making much more in the long run, but I will no longer have the instant satisfaction of having my gas paid for by the customers I delivered to. It was never very practical for that job either, to be honest. The remaining faults are fairly minor and nitpicky, such as the lack of folding rear seats or its butt-breaking harshness over bumps (despite that soft suspension I mentioned).

This time around, I'm looking for something that's more refined, economical, and practical. I'll be keeping a keener eye on reliability, as well. I've learned that I can't really give up certain luxuries, however, so I'm keeping to fairly loaded vehicles. I would describe my ideal vehicle as a midsize sedan with 4 cylinder powered motivation and a high-grade interior full of luxury items such as heated leather seats. Due to my desire to avoid any mileage penalty from an all wheel drive system, I'm likely to return to the ever conventional FWD drive-train. As much as I loved the traction and balance my Legacy was endowed with, I've never had a problem getting around without it. I'll also be looking for a newer vehicle with 40k miles or less; such restraint I've only employed once before. There's that fine line between what I want and what I need in a car that I'll be trying to keep to. Price-wise, I don't want to extend beyond my means, so I'll be sticking around the $15k mark. It's a few grand more than what I got my Legacy for, yet still reasonable.

At this point, I have to ask... Why don't I just buy a new car? As much as that is probably the smartest thing to do, there's not much to feed my irrational desires of luxury. Yes, you can load up a Sonic, Rio, Accent, or Fiesta to gills with features that were previously left to a higher price point, but I won't find one like that at my price point. To peruse my curiosity, I build a Kia Rio (which was the cheapest car in America at one point, mind you) with all of the options I would want and suddenly I had a $20k car. I like those cars, but not at that price. With dealerships like Blue Knob Auto, a used car seems to be best choice here for the money.

I've already began researching different vehicles and have test driven a handful. My favorite thus far is a 2009 Mazda6i Grand Touring from Blue Knob. All the features I want, some I wasn't expecting and it was a fantastic drive to boot. The new model seems to hold up better via reliability ratings as well. I tried out a Malibu of the same year, but it seemed rather unrefined and cheap inside. Certainly competent, but Chevy's own Cruze was a much nicer drive. I also dropped any preconceived notions I had and also drove a 2011 Avenger. It was shockingly improved over the old one and was even a nicer drive than the Malibu. I have to doubt whether it will hold up as well as the other vehicles, not to mention the massive depreciation. I still need to test drive a few other vehicles, notably the Fusion/Milan twins, Kizashi, etc.

If you have any suggestions, feel free to add them.

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I would gather some VINs and get insurance quotes on everything as part of any search. It was a pleasant surprise to learn the Patriot is the 2nd-lowest cost to insure of any vehicle, behind the Sienna minivan. My insurance actually went down after totalling my Fiesta, I was in no way expecting that.

The new cars mentioned can likely be had with discounts and rebates. Personally, in a sedan bodystyle, I think the tidy Sonic is the best looking in the class, the others look like the trunk was an afterthought.

EDIT: 2012 Sonic LTZ sedan with no options, MSRP $17,460, Edmunds' "True Market Value" of $16,886. I know it's above the limit, but isn't it the only Sonic trim with heated seats?

2012 Sonic LT sedan with alloy wheel/foglamp package, MSRP $16,155, Edmunds' "True Market Value" of $15,780. No heated leatherette, but still a sweet car with a nice long warranty and no worries. Shoot, there's one at the dealer in DuBois just like this in black, according to Chevy's locator service.

Edited by ocnblu
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its butt-breaking harshness over bumps (despite that soft suspension I mentioned).

sounds like the suspension is bottoming out, to me.

It's not bottoming out, the struts are still doing their job. I'm talking about pavement seams, potholes... any little crater on the road is felt through the steering wheel and seats. Some of it has to do with the low profile summer tires that are starting to get fairly worn.

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