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

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Yeah, it's hit or miss. Some timing chains simply won't go the distance, and then they tend to be harder to change. A TB job means one tends to get a new WP and thermostat, and then the engine never deals with worn guides or whatever. If it wasn't such a pain on traverse engines I'd lean towards the TB.

Not sure how Honda rates on it the job, from what I've seen and read, it's not bad--except for the crank bolt, which needs a stout impact and a special socket as the bolt tends to need 8 bajillion foot-pounds to break it loose. Mechanics seem to think nothing of this job but then again, if I did something once or twice a week I'd probably think it easy-peasy too.

Oh: adjusting valves should be thought about too.
 
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How are the 2000-2004(ish) Volvo V70's? I have fond memories of my Jetta Wagon, wouldn't mind another but the doors were always hard to open and eventually the rear axle took a bend to it. In a few years I'd like to move back to a wagon I think.
they’re good cars, you just have to understand that those cars are not compact or nimble like a jetta, at all.

it’s easier to maneuver a dually than an old S60/V70. U-Turns? not happening. people will laugh at you when you back out of parking spots.
 
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you have to understand that those cars are not compact or nimble like jetta, at all.

it’s easier to maneuver a dually in a city street than it is an old S60 or a V70
That's awful. Scratch that then. I don't need a big wagon, just something wagon-like.

Goes to show how little I know about the Volvos.
 
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That's awful. Scratch that then. I don't need a big wagon, just something wagon-like.

Goes to show how little I know about the Volvos.
The V50 is a smaller car that's more jetta-like. Until the great car purge most of ford and mazda's compact sedans, hatchbacks and CUVs rode on the V50's platform.

Very cheap and the 2.4 5-cylinder is a good little motor.
 
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How are the 2000-2004(ish) Volvo V70's? I have fond memories of my Jetta Wagon, wouldn't mind another but the doors were always hard to open and eventually the rear axle took a bend to it. In a few years I'd like to move back to a wagon I think.

What is your price range? You could possibly get an Mk5 Jetta/Golf wagon

There's also the Mk1 Focus wagon (2000-2007, but you should get at least an 02)

The best car for you would be a Matrix/Vibe, the most reliable most wagon-like car in your budget
 
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What is your price range? You could possibly get an Mk5 Jetta/Golf wagon

There's also the Mk1 Focus wagon (2000-2007, but you should get at least an 02)

The best car for you would be a Matrix/Vibe, the most reliable most wagon-like car in your budget
Not sure what it will be when the time comes. $4k? It'll depend on my mood, and if I have anything saved up by then. I figure, I'll need to be shopping in 3 or so years, not sure if I want to drive my Camry past 300k just yet or not.
 
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NO to the Volvo idea
YES to the 4-cyl Fusion

EDIT: I believe you should first decide what kind of car you want... midsize, compact, or something wagonish. I think 4-cyl midsize sedans are great - they are more comfortable and capable than compacts, but the fuel penalty isn't that big.
 
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See you have the same Juke that I do... have had it going on 7.5 yrs, just hit 80K and it still performs and looks like new. Great car for what it was designed to be no doubt.
Just passed 120k miles on ours. Plugs are easy to change at 90k. Serpentine belt was a pain without an extended box end wrench. Other than that seems great so far. Owned it since about 30k miles.
 
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I'm a bit conflicted on the timing belt vs chain thing. I'm not adverse to doing timing belts as long as it's easy to get at without special tools and it's a non interference engine.

Obviously lower maintenance like a chain is always better, but at the mileage I'm looking for I also hope to be able to run the vehicle to 300,000 kms with minimal drama so there's always a small chance of the water pump eventually going out. Having that easily accessible is beneficial so none of that internal water pump BS. But with a small transverse engine I'm guessing that's not usually the case. The easiest water pump I've done was on a Ford 3.0 Vulcan driven by the drive belt. So simple.
I think pretty much all cars after 2010 would be interference engines as there aren't many low hp/l engines left. For 300k highway km I would think almost any timing chain car would make that pretty easily and not all timing chain engines run the water pump off the timing chain. I like my focus with the water pump running off the accessory belt.
 
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May 21, 2020
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Honda's are generally very much reliable, but from a used car perspective, do avoid anything that is v6 that is mated to a 5 speed auto. Older Honda transmissions are built like AMT's (automated manual transmissions), and because of this, the clutch plates are smaller in comparison to the typical planetary auto trans. They are great, but really cannot handle the power of v6's for the long run (200K plus). Factor in known VCM (variable cylinder management) issues from MY 05-13, and it becomes just a time bomb waiting to go off.

On the other hand, I do recommend anything that has a I4. They are plenty powerful, are not affected nearly as much by the 5 speed transmission issues due to lower torque, and are extremely easy to work on. Parts are affordable, easy to access, and overall cost of ownership will not be prohibitive. Just know at higher mileage's, oil consumption may be an issue. Check and possibly replace PCV valve, and do refer to other threads around this forum for possible remedies.

In regards to CVT transmissions, I cannot say too much, and I will yield opinions to people who have more experience in this regard.

Best of luck in your search OP. I do hope that this helps.
 
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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
The reason that Toyotas and Hondas are expensive for what you get is because they are in demand, and they are in demand because they are more reliable and last longer (if they are not neglected or abused). The overall condition and maintenance history are very important on any car in this price range, even on a Toyota or Honda.
Sticking with your requirements, stay away from... any Focus with the DCT automatic (2012-2016), any Hyundai/Kia with the 2.4L 4-cyl engine, anything with a turbocharger, any VW with a 2.0L NA (normally aspirated) engine, and all other European makes.
I cringe a little on the Cruise but I know some people that have had reasonably good luck with NA engine versions of them.
Add to your list... Pontiac Vibe, Mazda Tribute, Mazda CX-5, and Mazda CX-7 (NA engine ONLY).
Stick with 4-cylinder engines on... all Hondas, Malibu, Fusion, Escape, Mazda 6, and Tribute.
The only Nissan cars that don't come with a CVT automatic are the low-end base model Sentras, Versa sedans, and older Maximas.
 
Joined
Jul 18, 2020
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The hidden gem is this category is the gasoline Jetta Sportwagen, 2009 to 2014. The platform is really robust, easy to work on and parts are inexpensive and easy to find. There is also great online resources for pretty much every repair you'll ever need. Yeah, there are a few annoying things; you need to change coil packs like they're spark plugs, and count on replacing some window switches, but the 2.5L is very reliable, and the 5 speed MT is solid--as is the Aisin 6 speed auto.

It also has mid-size SUV space on the inside. The only downside is that fuel economy isn't great, but since you mention wagon... I'd give this one a look. Absolutely loved my 2009 until someone turned in front of it--and it did its job on that day...
 
Joined
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How are the 2000-2004(ish) Volvo V70's? I have fond memories of my Jetta Wagon, wouldn't mind another but the doors were always hard to open and eventually the rear axle took a bend to it. In a few years I'd like to move back to a wagon I think.
Ive had 3 of the sedan variants and they are long-running cars once you get the typical volvo sins for the model line worked out - pcv valve, occasional evap leaks, occasional abs control module (that may be an earlier year range). They are insanely practical and fun to drive. If you get a t5 model, they will play readily. would be a gem to find a turbo model in a MT, (brown, of course...).
 
Joined
Nov 3, 2020
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Be mindful that:

1) antilock brakes may be optional on some of those in the years that fall in your budget.

2) side and curtain airbags aren't always standard.

3) IIHS.org crash tests on some of those you list will dismay you.

It's not a particularly exciting list. Lol. Given the above I'd only choose ones that have a timing chain. Of those I'd choose one of the largest with most comfortable seats.
 
Joined
Nov 20, 2013
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Eastern Wa.
As others have commented your best value would be a 4 cyl fusion at that price point. Most shoppers would be looking at camry's and accord's while a used fusion is a great under the radar value. I'd stick with the 2.5.
 
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