My Car is on Fire with Passion and Love

Seriously. My car caught on fire on the 405 freeway. I was driving home from Orange County at about 10 at night and the engine seized up and it rapidly deaccelerated. I made it to the shoulder and as I was talking to triple A on the emergency call box I watched with dismay as my car gradually caught on fire and burned.

It wasn’t long after that the fireman handed me my ipod with the earphones melted on top. It still works, but the car itself wasn’t nearly as lucky. Just like the song says, “Nobody walks in L.A.” I’m afraid I have to get something else now, so I’m soliciting advice.

Here’s the qualities I’m looking for: reliable, fuel-efficient, relatively inexpensive, and yet something that will be fun to drive and make me feel like I’m not a boring lemming. We’ve already got a mini-van, so we have space for the kiddies covered.

Also is it smart to lease instead of buy?

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24 thoughts on “My Car is on Fire with Passion and Love

  1. Buy a used Civic and use the money you save by buying used to get a custom paint job and a nice stereo. Hondas drive forever without too many problems.

    Another fuel-efficient reliable car that can be cool is the Subaru Impreza.

    I can’t imagine buying new off the lot. It just feels like money down the drain. Leasing even more so.

  2. I had a 1987 Honda Accord in high school with 350,000+ miles on it. Can’t go wrong with a Honda. You don’t get a lot of bells and whistles, but it works.

    My favorite car was a Nissan Altima. I would probably buy another one down the road. But now I hear they’ve been catching fire as well–so maybe not.

    I don’t have any insider info, but I’ve heard good things about the Impreza, Jetta, and the Mazda6. Those seem to fit the mold.

  3. Missed the lease question.

    It depends on how many miles you drive as that’s how lease contracts are established. I currently drive a car with a 1,000 mile a month limit. After that, it’s 25 cents/mile plus wear and tear when I trade it in. That can be forgiven if the dealer is desperate enough.

    Leases do get you a smaller payment and you pay the sales tax on the payment only, not the entire price of the car–which can save you thousands in up front costs.

    So if you’re not driving a ton, and you end up turning your car over every 2-3 years anyway, I’d recommend a lease.

  4. Geo Prism. Same exact car as the Toyota Corolla, only you don’t pay the premium for the Toyota name. Find one for less than $1000.

  5. Agreed, it depends in large measure upon your budget and your miles. I think you are best off, all told, in buying a car that is 2-3 years old. A Honda, Toyota, or recent model Hyundai under warranty are all good bets.

    If you want something a little more cool, I’d consider a Scion Xb. We test drove one the other week, and it was roomy and fun to drive (and gets 30/33). They’re cheap, too — you can get them new for $17K, and a couple of years out they go to about $10K. Try your local Craigslist (seriously).

  6. Take public transportation!!!! You bastard suburbanites are the reason our earth is going to explode in three years!!

  7. Rusty, move to L.A. and say that.

    But yeah — I take the bus and sneer proudly at the commuters driving alone in their SUVs. Then a Prius will go by and my sneer fades a little.

  8. Get a Honda Civic hybrid.

    I would if I could afford it. (I think they’re $20-$25K.)

    I drive a Toyota Corolla ($14K, used but only 8,000 miles on it) and it gets great mileage.

    Honda or Toyotas are the way to go. (Scions are Toyotas)

  9. Rusty,

    Believe me if there was such a thing as public transportation in L.A. I would take it, and trust me, I’m not living in the suburbs.

    Of course, all those exclamation points are a good clue that you’re not entirely serious.

  10. This is all good advice. Keep it coming.

    I was leaning toward Honda and Toyota. My old car, may she rest in piece, was a ’92 Camry and before that I had a Toyota pick-up with like 250,000 miles on it.

    However, Toyota did issue a pretty big recall recently.

    I would have liked to have gone hybrid, but the extra 5 grand just doesn’t seem worth it right now. I expect maybe in three years the price might go down and there might be more models to choose from.

    The lease deal I’m considering is at a local dealership where they’re offering ’06 Corollas. The deal is $99 a month plus taxes, with like $3500 down and a three year lease, 12,000 miles per year.

    I’ve never leased a car before, or bought one for that matter, but I think it might make sense for me.

    Corollas though, they seem so ubiquitous and commonplace, and Scions are the boxiest.

  11. $99/mo for a lease is pretty cheap, even w/ $3,500 down.

    i have two honda’s which i bought new (’99 civic, ’04 element) and i have never had a problem w/ either, and they’ve both held their values well. the last thing you want is a car worth less than your outstanding loan amount.

    the one way that new can make more sense than used is that you can often get great apr’s on loans from dealers that you can’t get for used cars. i know that socal honda dealers right now are offering 2.9% for 3 years, whereas you’d likely pay 7%+ right now for a used car loan.

  12. Sounds like a pretty good deal for the Corrolla–which is a very good car. Common, yes, but also very good. THe other thing you can do is buy it after the lease is up, just make sure you get the payoff amount before you sign the lease.

    Leasing isn’t really as bad as people make it out to be. People usually end up trading in their car once its paid off, anyway.

  13. Since getting married we’ve ended up buying 2 or 3 year old Nissans and have been very happy with them. We kept a 1997 Maxima until last year and only sold it because it was a stick, and that gets annoying when trying to deal with iPods, phones, children, etc. For our commuter car we bought a 2003 Altima for about $14k and we’ve really liked it. Not as nice as our Maxima was, or as powerful (we have a 4 banger), but it gets reasonable mileage and has much more room than competing cars.

  14. I drive a 1996 Mazda Protege. It gets 31 mpg in town, 40 mpg on the highway. It seats five adults much more comfortably than a Civic or a Corolla. Yeah, I’m a boring lemming.

  15. hondas and toyotas are ok – but boring.

    For a real value – try a late 80s early 90s mercedes c class. Classic looks, marvelous enginering (nothing like the solid thud of the doors, and will go 300k easy), safe safe safe, and fun to drive. RWD is the way to go, nothing feels qquite as good as getting that locked in feeling as you go around a turn. And in So Cal, you won’t have any weather problem. Plus they have a little prestige, as in tasteful non-ostentatious car.

    This year is reliable – without the multiple electronics that have problems in later years. The requirements are you have to be willing to do the regular maintenance. If you are a drive it till it breaks only – forget about it. If you maintain the MB it won’t break! A good shop is a good idea, which are prevalent in so cal. You should be able to find one in good condition down there.

    I picked up my 98 c280 with 80k miles for less than 8k.

    SImilar analysis for the BMWs- but they don’t seem to be as affordable for similar years. And audis – I like too.

    Another great option would be a 1996 or 1997 vw passat. They don’t have the good looks of the 1998-2004 models, but do have good quality, decent gas mileage, and are a rreally good bargain. I recently saw a 1996 wagon in great condition with 60k miles for $6.

  16. Also – stay away from the lease!

    UNless of course you are strapped for cash, HAVE to have a new car, and the residual is a steal.

    Otherwise buy used.

    I am going to also add another plug for buying used BMWs and mercedes. It is something nice in your life, it isn’t that expensive, and the value is so much better.

  17. MINI Cooper! MINI Cooper! MINI Cooper!

    You can buy at MSRO at South Bay MINI in Torrance. They’re fuel efficient, fun and hold thier value better than any car on the road currently.

    I’ve had mine for almost three years and do not regret it at all.

  18. DO NOT LEASE. Unless you like throwing your money away and have to have a new car every two years. You are basically renting your car, and when the time is up, you give it back, they give you nothing, and you start over.

    Heaven forbid if you want to trade it in early. They will offer to purchase the car from you at the going rate for that model, and if it is (it will be) less than what you owe, you are responsible for covering the difference. We have leased two cars, and with the last one, we swore NEVER AGAIN. Car depreciate most drastically in the first two years, so you are driving their automobile, while they still own it, and eating that depreciation each month, then, again, since you do not own it, you cannot get any cash out of it like you would if it were yours and you sold it.

    DO go buy a car that is 2-3 years old- possibley a lease turn-in, it won’t have more than 24-36K miles on it, and someone else will have eaten the depreciation. Best deal, smartest move for the money. We did this when we traded in our last lease, starting with $0 due to lease, and purchased a three year old family vehicle for 12K- less than half what it cost new.

    As far as models, Honda’s are practically bullet proof- the epitomize reliable. I personally like VW’s- and the Jetta is a fine, well handling, economic and fuel efficient car. Plus, they’re kinda cool, with a little panache.

  19. I spend my life on the 405. I’ve actually started taking the 105 to the 605 to the 405 lately when all I see at sigalert.com is red and yellow dots on the 405. It took me 3 hours to get home the other night on the 405. It’s like Satan’s highway.

    You’re going to post pictures of your new car, right?

  20. I never heard of such a thing! What a terrible experience…

    I haven’t owned a car in 25 years, but I guess I’d buy a Honda.

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