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5 Criteria for My Future Car

The following is a post by staff writer Crystal at Budgeting in the Fun Stuff. Her blog covers living expenses, saving for your future, and the fun stuff along the way.

Since my car has let me down majorly a couple of times in 5 years, I’m starting to think of my options. I won’t be rushing into a purchase since I hate car payments more than I despise my car, but here are the 5 main criteria on my mind:

1) Sales Price

I can never imagine myself buying a $30,000 vehicle. I know you should never say never, but the idea of spending that much literally gives me a small panic attack. Keeping that in mind, I will probably be looking for a brand-new car that is $20,000 or less or a used car that is $10,000 or less. I am only willing to raise those limits for a hybrid like a Toyota Prius.

For anybody who may ask why I’d even consider buying a new car since they depreciate so quickly, I simply dislike absolutely ALL car problems. By buying new, I can hopefully get about 5-7 carefree years out of a car that only needs oil changes, tire rotations, and maybe one extra set of tires. I put a high value on my time and silly car errands tick me off.

That said, I would consider buying a certified used car and selling my old one at a cash-for-cars place. My husband’s 2007 Prius hasn’t given us any problems in 2 1/2 years, so Certified Pre-Owned Toyotas are pretty high on my list.

2) Gas Mileage

Other than price, gas mileage is the biggest deciding factor when I buy a car. Again, I hate car stuff and errands, so stopping for gas every 2-3 days would drive me insane. My Aveo only makes 27-30 miles per gallon, but I can still usually get by on one fill-up a week.

The Prius is actually towards the top of my list since I’d only need to fill up every 3 weeks thanks to a semi-short 25-mile round-trip commute and the awesome 500 miles to the tank efficiency. I lust after my husband’s almost every time I park next to it in our garage.

Hopefully, cheaper electric cars will be on the market when I am, but if not; a hybrid or a super-efficient sub-compact is probably in my future. I’m currently leaning towards the Toyota Prius (47-52 mpg), Toyota Yaris (30-35 mpg), or the Hyundai Accent (28-34 mpg). We’ll see what’s available when my Aveo drives its last mile with me…

3) Dependability/Durability

I need a car that will reliably get me from point A to point B every time for years and years. I do not enjoy big spending like car purchases and rather not think about it for AT LEAST 7 years – preferably 10 – but I set the bar lower for my own sanity’s sake. Taking this into account, Toyota, Acura, Honda, and the most recent Hyundai models come to mind. The friends and family we know that own those makes are extremely happy with their cars.

4) Interior Room

As a short 5’2″ lady, I don’t need much headroom or legroom, but I would like my 5’11” husband to fit comfortably as well. I also need enough room in the back for a medium-sized dog cage since I take our pups to the majority of their vet visits.

I’m not asking for a stretch Hummer in this category, but it’s surprising how hard a rectangular cage is to fit into some cars. Hubby’s Prius definitely has enough room and it even fits surprisingly well into my Aveo. I’d have to take the cage with me to see if it would fit into any of the other cars I have in mind.

5) Overall Look

I don’t think I need something sleek and perfect with a convertible top, but I also refuse to drive something that makes me laugh (in a bad way). For example, please do not take offense if this is your car, but all of those square-looking things on wheels are not up my alley. I don’t want to drive a box. That’s my line. :-)

What do you keep in mind when you’re in the market for a new-to-you car? Do you have any ideas based on my criteria? Does anybody want to yell at me on behalf of their box-like car? ;-)



  1. I’m going to start looking for a new car next year, my criteria is:
    1. Price.
    2. Gas efficiency.
    3. Small SUV, I ski in the winter time and want to be able to pull a camper / boat in the summer time.
    4. Interior room, like you I’m 5’2” but my younger brother is 6’8” and I want him to be able to borrow it without any other issues than adjusting the seat and mirrors. Right now I’m leaning towards a Nissan or a Toyota.

    • @Jenna, Mr. BFS was falling for a Hyundai Santa Fe or Tucson when he “met” his Prius. He needed enough room for his teaching supplies and reffing stuff, so he was looking at smaller SUV’s before he realized that the Prius had enough room as well. His dad bought the Santa Fe 3 years ago and is very happy. :-)

  2. @BFS – I like Prius too, but I seriously doubt their capabilities of driving in the snow or unloading a boat…

  3. I’ve considered the Prius for my next car as the hybrid really appeals to me. Glad to know your husband likes it.

    • @Bucksome Boomer, we both do. I don’t even like automatics but I might change my buying habits for the Prius. :-)

      It really does get 46-52 miles per gallon (all the time) and it drives soooo easy. You can hear a little road noise, but it’s nothing compared to my Aveo (test drive one since you probably don’t drive an Aveo, hahaha). It’s scary quiet when you turn it on. I’d highly suggest getting one with the backup camera (it’s awesome with all the kids that run around our neighborhood). :-)

  4. My next car will have to be pretty nice! There is a good chance that it will be a hand-me-down to my son some day.

    So I’d like a small truck, small SUV or a sporty looking car. Perhaps a Ford mustang or even a Ford Escape. If not one of those, then perhaps a Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla.

    Based on your criteria, I wouldn’t recommend a Smart Car (way to boxy)! Perhaps the Prius, if you don’t mind having 2 of the same type of car in your garage…

    It seems like there are so many changes lately with car, I would kind of like to wait 5 years until the dust settles to determine which car I would go with. But that’s a long time, and my car is old (2003 chevy malibu)…

    • @Money Reasons, don’t tell your son I said this, but don’t keep him in mind too much. He will be happy with any moving vehicle when he’s ready to hit the roads. :-)

      I agree it’s hard to make too many decisions in advance since things change so quickly! Who knows what’ll be available when we’re in the market, right?

  5. Those sound like my criteria too! I also hate filling up the gas tank… I can do it about once every two weeks on my accent so long as we take the hybrid into the city when we visit. (City visit planned this weekend. Very exciting!) Three weeks if I let it go under half a tank.

  6. I love my box, I mean my Element. However, lately my husband has been saying he wants to trade it in for something else (we only own one car between us). We’ve owned it 5 years and it’s actually kept its value pretty well. Yet he really would like something with more torque (the 4-cylinder Honda can’t pull anything and can barely make it up steep hills) and he’s a little concerned about wear and tear on the car. Since it has low mileage, he thinks we’d be better off trading it in sooner than later. I’m making him wait it out at least another year since I really can’t stand the thought of taking on new debt. Yuck!

  7. Um, not to be a pessimist, but I’ve NEVER heard of a car going 5-7 years without something major happening. That’s not to say it’s devastating. But within 5 years, your brake pads or clutch may need replacing, for starters. Seatbelts can get messed up (and are surprisingly expensive).

    Of course, I should qualify this: I have only ever owned one car, it was a gift and it was 8 years old when I got it. And we did have to drive it 1,500 miles when we moved. That said, in the past year, we’ve easily put $2,000 in repairs as things keep cropping up — even with regular maintenance.

    I think you should expect no more than 2-3 years of no major problems with any new car. Maybe it’s still worth it to you, but I think that’s a MUCH more realistic expectation.

    • @Abigail, I must have a lucky family – all of their cars go about 7-8 years before needing anything…what cars have given you problems? Even my stupid Aveo made it 4 1/2 years before the 02 sensor broke.

      My mom’s Chevy Cavalier went 8 years before needing a belt replaced. Her Mazda minivan went 9. Dad’s Mitsubishi Mirage went 7. Hubby’s Prius is 3 years old and hasn’t had any issues yet. We’ll see.

      But I guess I’ll need to really look into whatever car I buy next…

  8. 1/10th rule is my only rule for car buying. Never spend more than 1/10th your gross annual income on a car! Hence, $20,000 car ya gotta make $200,000. If you only make $50,000 then stick with a $5,000 car!

    • @Financial Samurai, I like rules of thumb, but I don’t do the 1/10th for car buying. Someone who makes $200,000 a year may waste more than I do when our joint income is only $82,500. I will probably never buy a $8250 car, but we do pay our car payments to ourselves so that our $10,000-$25,000 car purchases will be covered in cash if at all possible. It’s not how much money you make, it’s how you handle it. :-)

  9. I am in the market for a car now, and my criteria are:
    1. Safety (got a teen driver in the house now)
    2. Size – I need room for all 5 of us and luggage to fit. None of us are taller than 5’8″, so ‘height’ is not an issue.
    3. Reliability
    4. Price
    5. Miles already on car
    6. Gas mileage (I know bigger vehicles just won’t get great gas mileage)

  10. My criteria have always been:
    1. It must be affordable.
    2. It must get good gas mileage.
    3. It must be easy to parallel park.
    4. It must be too boring to steal.
    Last year my daughter and her husband moved to Phoenix. She has a chronic illness and I couldn’t imagine her having to wait for a bus in 105-degree heat, so I gave them my car (with the suggestion that they remember this when they’re picking out my nursing home). I haven’t replaced it — I’m close to most of what I need and there are buses for everything else — but if/when I do get another car, those criteria will hold firm.
    Incidentally, that car was a Chevy Cavalier. It hasn’t been stolen in Phoenix, either.

  11. You forgot to mention the engine state. I just recently buy a 3000 used car. The interiors were ok the body of the car was obviously repaired. But the engine was in the best condition.

  12. $30,000 vehicle or not, the numbers do not matter as long as you’re comfortable and satisfied with your car. And of course, your tall husband should fit in. Well, that’s the most common problem for tall men and women. A friend of mine who stands over 6 feet drives a Ford Transit. See if you can work things out with that. Check other cars also. :)

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