Help me choose a gas saver please

Mar 19, 2022
Central Mississippi
Hey guys, as the post title says, I'm looking for a gas saver to drive 160-170ish miles a day between school-work-babysitters-and home sweet home

I have a few things too keep in mind
1: budget- 4-6k give or take a few hundred or so.
2: I am a college student, who works a full time job while raising a family. NO NEW CAR OFF THE LOT CRAP (my parents always tell me I should go buy a 2022 or newer tacoma or whatever I'm in the market for. NO)
3: I prefer a manual transmission over an automagical, but will go with an auto if I have to.
4: just a final reminder, I don't want to go finance a new car off the lot. New cars make no sense to me. They depreciate way too much, insurance is higher, and tags are too expensive. Not to mention, I don't want to be so worried about scratching up or accidentally spilling my mtn dew.
5: let's try to keep it with somewhat reputable manufacturers (Gm, Ford, Toyota, Honda, SOME kia) not really a mopar/chrysler/fiat person, as I've never been impressed with much that they've offered other than the cummins trucks.
I'm thinking something like a corolla, focus, caviler, accord, or civic. I'm open to all suggestions though, please let me hear what you think, don't hold back.
If you don’t live in a emissions inspection area and can do basic maintenance and modifications
the only option is a 2000-2006 Honda Insight manual . ~50-75mpg

The 2010 Chevy Cobalt XFE for me at least gets about 42mpg highway so long as I use energy saver tires aired up. Simple cars, simple repairs, moderately reliable and nothing expensive to break.

Similarly Modern Mitsubishi Mirages in 5 speed stick form net in the 40’s and like the cobalt are simple cars, easy to maintain/repair
In the budget range that you are looking the condition of the specific vehicle will be exponentially more important than make and model given that most will likely be 10-15 years old. Good on you for understanding what a waste of money new cars are. That mindset will save you lots and lots of money over the years!
Echo, Yaris, 1st gen Focus, scion xD, xA, xB, 2000s Civic if you can find a decent one.

Condition and maintenance will be the deciding factor. I have chosen these vehicles because in 2 years, they are likely to have similar value of what you bought them for.

You can find totally mint echos for $2000 and they are bulletproof. Incredibly cheap to maintain. I know they are hideous and they do have pretty bad crash test ratings, but they are a sure bet.
That's like 40,000 miles a year ... Define gas saver.
My 1995 c2500 gets about 10mpg and my 2002 silverado 4.8 gets about 18.... the silverado is getting the 4.8 taken out and put up for a future project I plan to start after I graduate. The rest of it is scrap due to the fact that the trans is slipping and the front end is shot. It has close to 300k on it so I won't complain.

Gas saver: anything that gets better than 10 or 18 mpg. 25+ would be awesome.
1. Gen. 9 Corolla or Matrix - look for 2005-08 models, with the 1zz-fe. It’ll be a tough find, but there are some out there with side airbags and curtain airbags. Just me, but I wouldn’t get one without those features.
2. 2007-2010 Hyundai Sonatas with the 4cyl - these are prior to the engine fiasco era and are quite reliable. You could also look at Azeras up to 2011 - these are V6s pre GDI.
3. 2009+ Buick Lucerne’s seem to be comfortable cruisers as well - but others here can chime in on the longevity of the GM3.9 and the 4T65E.
4-6k budget isn't much these days. You will likely have very old or high mileage vehicles to choose from.Choose a domestic vehicle as you may get more for your money and you can't be choosy. You are not going to get much with a Toyota or Honda to match your budget.You will have to shop based on mileage and condition to match your fuel economy standards. Good luck.
170 miles a day just M-F is 850 miles a week. Call it 900. At 25 mpg, $3.25 per gallon is $117 a week. $507 a month. Fuel efficiency is key here. If you can get something that gets 40 mpg, that's $316 a month in gas. 50 mpg in a hybrid is $253 a month.
Well used Prius might work… might need work as you go, but, 50mpg is going to help recoup any upfront initial cost. That said, I’d probably avoid any other hybrid, more money up front, potential higher repair costs, and in the end, it’s all about TCO and cost per mile. And in this case, initial cost too.

Condition is nearly everything. If it’s rustfree though, you might be able to buy enough parts to fix up something worn out otherwise. Tires, struts, windshield are easy repairs. Gutting a smelly interior is probably awful but if you have time and ability, might be a path too.

I’d probably err on the early 2000’s, maybe late 90’s. Parts availability, low desirability. Thus leaving money in pocket for repairs.


Your 4.8L Silverado is shot because the trans is slipping? and the front end is worn out? If it’s not a rustbucket then I might disagree, those sound like easy repairs. Expensive and annoying, but, if it not rusted up, then fixable—as you are going to find out, replacing anything for $5k is an utter gamble, while fixing up something that has good bones may be cheaper.

18mpg is going to suck at your daily miles but if you buy some $5k beater (who thought $5k was ever going to be cheap!?), you need to make backup plans for when it goes down for some unexpected repairs.


As a Toyota snob I’d go that route, assuming you can find one that isn’t worn out. I’d skip the oil burning 1.8 Corolla years, along with anything with a 2.4L. V6 models (Camry) can eek out ok mpg but IMO not money well spent. A Camry with a 2.5 is a decent ride, if you find one, I expect they might be outside of your range and/or high miles. The much-prior 2.2L Camry is a bit of a workhorse, while lacking in safety and mpg, it might make a good beater to put miles onto. Then again, they’re long in tooth too.

Never tried Yaris/Echo for long trips, but they seem like good bets.

IIRC some of the Corolla and Matrix 5MT’s can have input shaft bearing issues. The MT is not always better, and here, might actually be a bit of a gamble.
Your 4.8L Silverado is shot because the trans is slipping? and the front end is worn out? If it’s not a rustbucket then I might disagree, those sound like easy repairs. Expensive and annoying, but, if it not rusted up, then fixable—as you are going to find out, replacing anything for $5k is an utter gamble, while fixing up something that has good bones may be cheaper.
The body is BEAT. I'll have to post some pics of her.
Now, don't get me wrong, if I have to up my budget a bit more , I can do up to 8,000 dollars if need be. I've been saving a little more than I expected. And I'll also get a wee little bit back from my tax return. The budget in this post was made my fiance and I about 3 months ago. We talked last night and decided that if we need to, we can do up to 8,000 to get a reliable way of going

And another thing on my gmt800 silverado, I just can't see spending hours of my time and 3k on a tranny and another 1k on a safe front steering and suspension when the rest is so beat up that I could only sell the truck for maybe 2,000 at the most.
You said no Chrysler but.......

2003-2005 Dodge Neon
Cheaper to buy, cheap to maintain, just change the timing belt every 100k. I used commute at 35+MPG and touched 39-40MPG on a calm highway trip with a 2004 5 speed.

The head gaskets haven't been a problem since 96.