Use Vehicle Shopping: <$7K sedan/wagon that is reliable + easy to fix

Messages
556
Location
Canada
I'm going to be looking for used vehicle for a family member and the criteria is:

Price: <$7000
Type: Sedan, wagon, or hatchback that is good on gas
Drivetrain: Automatic FWD. I am open to AWD, but it's generally less reliable so I'd rather get them a FWD with winter tires.
I'll be doing all the work on this vehicle so reliability and something easy to work on are key. I don't care too much about mileage and year, but generally the newer and less km's the better for safety. I'm pretty confident in doing most work such as brakes, suspension and auxiliary systems, but I don't want to have to get too deep into the weeds when it comes to transmission and engine repairs.

I know this segment is beat to death by many car review articles and the top choices are Toyota's and Honda's, but they are also expensive for what you get. No one seems to talk about the "easy to work on" category which I think is pretty important and I'd like to hear more of your experiences on this topic.

The vehicles currently on my list are as follows. Feel free to critique, add to the list, or comment on what years to avoid:
Chevrolet: Cruze, Malibu
Ford: Focus, Fusion, Escape
Honda: Civic, Accord, Fit
Hyundai: Elantra/Sonata
Kia: Optima, Forte
Mazda: 3, 6
Nissan: Sentra, Altima, Maxima (as long as they don't have a CVT)
Toyota: Corolla, Camry, Matrix
Volkswagen: Jetta, Golf
 
Last edited:
Messages
145
Location
ct
My most reliable, easy to work on vehicles have been Honda (and Acura).

Nissan, forget it. Everything except brakes is 10 times harder than it needs to be.

My vote would be for any of the above listed Hondas.
 
Messages
342
Location
Michigan
Forget the Focus unless you can find one with a manual trans. My 13 Fusion has been great. Nothing but regular maintenance in 106,000 miles. I can't really speak to the "easy to work on" other than oil changes are a breeze, with easy access to the oil filter and drain plug. Transmission drain and fill was also pretty easy once I got a thin funnel to reach the fill point.
 
Messages
11,405
Location
USA
Matrix/Vibe

Kia Soul or Rondo (we only got the first-gen Rondo until 2010, while you got it until a few years ago)

The Versa and Yaris were both available with 4-speed automatics until recently

Since you're in Canada, you also got the Nissan Micra (it wasn't sold in the US). That has a 4-speed automatic, too.

The Sonic and Spark aren't bad, either.

There's also the Mazda 2

If you're willing to go a little older, there's the Echo hatchback (also wasn't sold in the US).

You could get an almost-new Mirage, which actually isn't a bad car in terms of reliability and being easy to work on. Since rust is almost certainly a problem where you are, you want the newest least-rusty car you can find.
 
Messages
3,366
Location
Outer Banks, NC
If Honda or Toyota is out of your price range, from your list I'd look for a low mileage Hyundai Elantra or Chevy Cruze that has a documented service history. Kia Forte would be a reasonable option too.
 
Messages
9,045
Location
Illinois
A Ford Fusion with a 2.5 liter engine. No, it's not hot and sexy, but my employer has a fleet of a couple of hundred of them, and has for about 10 years now. They just keep buying them over and over.

I have a 2011 Fusion 2.5 with 135,000 on the odometer, and it has proven to be a tough, reliable little car. The Fusion has quite a bit of Mazda DNA in it as well.
 
Messages
1,704
Location
TX, USA
For Camry 4 cylinder, you need to buy 2010 and up model year with 2.5L engine.
Before than 2.4L engine have some issues which most have been fixed but you don't want to take chance.

If you go for 2010 and before, buy the 6 cylinder.
 

nobb

Thread starter
Messages
556
Location
Canada
Matrix/Vibe

Kia Soul or Rondo (we only got the first-gen Rondo until 2010, while you got it until a few years ago)

The Versa and Yaris were both available with 4-speed automatics until recently

Since you're in Canada, you also got the Nissan Micra (it wasn't sold in the US). That has a 4-speed automatic, too.

The Sonic and Spark aren't bad, either.

There's also the Mazda 2

If you're willing to go a little older, there's the Echo hatchback (also wasn't sold in the US).

You could get an almost-new Mirage, which actually isn't a bad car in terms of reliability and being easy to work on. Since rust is almost certainly a problem where you are, you want the newest least-rusty car you can find.

Thanks for the feedback! I hadn't really considered the sub compact segment and I'm a bit on the fence with this one. Problem is most of them don't seem all that safe and are flimsy buzzboxes that are terrible to drive. It's almost better to get a full sized sedan that's older with more kms that will still feel nicer.
 
Last edited:
Messages
2,744
Location
pa
first off no DI or CVT, as noted most hondas + toyotas are more reliable + of course finding one at your price may be tough. shop on the net +be willing to go out of state, good luck
 
Messages
601
Location
Kevil,Ky
Get yourself a Mazda 5. Our has been dead reliable. I just change oil every 5K with synthetic 5-20 and filter. Only real problem is sometimes with my leadfoot I tend to scrape the tread off the front tires. Roomy little wagon and good mileage.
 
Messages
6,888
Location
Roanoke Virginia
Easy to work on: Escape with V6= no. I own one not a mechanics friend at all. I’ve been trying to get a little bracket off the front valve cover for 4 days now even my neighbor who is an expert mechanic been doing it for decades can’t get it because it’s so close to the radiator you can’t move anything down there. The engine is in there transverse and if they would of put it longitudinal it would of been much better. Reliable absolutely but I’d get one with a 4 cylinder just because it’s easier to work on. Rest of list is good except I’d never buy a Kia or modern Volkswagen but that’s just me. I don’t see many problems with Toyota, Ford, Honda. I’d stay away from modern Chevrolet too I’ve seen too many of those burn to the ground for me to trust them. And they are small too.
 
Messages
1,414
Location
Wisconsin
Cobalt are cheap and reliable
Easyish to work on

Mirage are cheap and reliable also easy and simple to work on several over 400,000 miles on the stock original drivetrain
 
Messages
5,530
Location
NJ
I find my Corolla and Camry easy to work on and repair. Sparkplugs in my I4 Camry is 15 minutes if you take your time. The more popular the car, the more likely you'll find a Youtube tutorial on whatever it is you need to fix as long it's a common repair. That is key for me as I learn as I go.
 
Messages
11,405
Location
USA
Thanks for the feedback! I hadn't really considered the sub compact segment and I'm a bit on the fence with this one. Problem is most of them don't seem all that safe and are flimsy buzzboxes that are terrible to drive. It's almost better to get a full sized sedan that's older with more kms that will still feel nicer.

Newer cars will have more safety features then older cars, and the newer car will likely have less rust on it (unless it's a Mazda). A new or almost new Mirage or Micra will be just as safe as a 10-15 year old bigger car. The smaller cars are usually simpler as well, so that also fits your top criteria of being reliable and easy to work on. And the rust on an older car will cancel out any safety advantage it would otherwise have over a newer non-rusty car.

The Kia Rondo is a little bigger than a subcompact car, but you should be able to get a reasonably new one within your budget. It's like the Mazda 5 but less prone to rust.

If you can get a 2013-17 Accord for 7k, that would be a great choice. Very easy to work on for a car so new, the CVT is reliable, and no problems with the DI, either. Lots of room under the hood, and very good fuel economy for a car of its size.

The reason Hondas and Toyotas cost so much more is that they are reliable and easy to work on and usually are easy on fuel, too.

If you can find a Prius V in your price range that's not too rusty, that is also worth a look.

For Camry 4 cylinder, you need to buy 2010 and up model year with 2.5L engine.
Before than 2.4L engine have some issues which most have been fixed but you don't want to take chance.

If you go for 2010 and before, buy the 6 cylinder.

🛑

Transverse V6 engines are impossible to work on, and Toyota is even worse in that regard! If you ever need to get to the back of the engine, to replace spark plugs or valve cover gaskets, forget it!
 
Messages
2,524
Location
WY
namethatford.jpg
 
Messages
996
Location
PR CA, USA
My most reliable, easy to work on vehicles have been Honda (and Acura).

Nissan, forget it. Everything except brakes is 10 times harder than it needs to be.

My vote would be for any of the above listed Hondas.
Nissan is more difficult? I think in the higher end models but they have some extremely basic cars/trucks too that are easy, cheap and reliable.
 
Top