What I Want in My Next Car

Honda Fit

Honda Fit

The other day I wrote about how my 2002 Subaru is becoming old and weathered, so getting a new car is somewhat on my radar.

I want to clear one thing up though first. Although a new car is on my radar, I plan on driving Suby as long as humanly possible. A lot of comments suggested that it’s a way better to have no car payment than getting a new car. I couldn’t agree more, but after my car had major problems last year and I dumped 5k into it, it raises a red flag that it’s possible I could be soon spending more money on car repairs, whereas that money could be used for a down payment on a new car. Since my car troubles, I started a car fund which now has almost 3k in it. My ultimate goal is to keep growing this and hope my car lasts a long time, so that I can have a huge down payment, or pay the car in cash (my guess is I’ll have to take a small loan).

I also, as of right now, do not plan on buying a NEW car, but more like a new(ish) used car.

I have to say though, that ever since my car broke down last year, I tend to look around a lot more on the road and check out cars I could see myself in.

1988 Ford Escort

1988 Ford Escort. Packing up for college.

My cars in the past have included a 1988 Ford Escort, which I got brand new when I turned sixteen from my grandparents. Yes, I was blessed/spoiled, and no, I do NOT think it’s a good idea to give a 16-year-old a brand new car. I didn’t take care of it very well, and I think it started having major problems around 64k miles. Of course back in those days Ford cars kind of had a bad reputation.

In 1993 I bought a brand new Saturn. She was a pretty great car, but I never realized until after I got my Subaru how low I sat in the seat, and how I had to strain my neck for years to see over the steering wheel. You can see by the picture that on the day I traded her in, I was very sad.

Something I didn’t mention in my last post was that I actually bought my first Subaru Impreza TS in 2001. In Spring 2002 I was driving down a busy road in Seattle and had come to a complete stop in a traffic jam. I heard wheels screeching and thought, “oh no!” I heard several loud bangs until my car was hit from behind, then I hit the car in front of me. All in all it was a 7-car pileup (no one was seriously injured) and my first Suby was totaled. So then I got the 2002 Subaru Impreza TS.

1993 Saturn

1993 Saturn

One huge mistake I made with the two new cars I bought is not having a big down payment, and financing both with 5 and 7-year plans. OMG! I guess in my mind I justified it with having a steady paying job, but in hindsight I would have done things totally different.

So what do I want for my next car? 

I’ve personally always been a fan of smaller, economical-sized cars and either a hatchback or a sedan. I don’t like big cars and most SUVs intimidate me. I don’t even like moving my friend’s Ford Expedition on street sweeping days when he parks near my house because I feel like I’m steering the Titanic. The most important features to me are:

  • Safety
  • Reliability
  • Affordability (something under 20k)
  • Good gas mileage

I’m going to be looking at 2013/14 cars because in theory, those will probably be the year cars I’m looking at when I can actually buy a new (used) car, let’s say in 2016. Of course who knows what may change in two years!

Here are my top picks based on some basic research in what I’m looking for in a car:

Do any of you out there have one of these cars? What do you think? Anything else I should consider? 



Tonya is a video editor/producer and writer living in Los Angeles who enjoys beach volleyball, playing ukulele, and running. To get the latest updates, be sure to subscribe. To support her fundraising efforts to produce more video for this site, please visit her crowdfunding page!

Latest posts by Tonya (see all)

  • http://thefirstmillionisthehardest.net/ First Million is the Hardest

    I had an ’89 escort as my first car! It was such a piece of junk, but I loved it. :)

    My fiance drives a ’13 Ford Focus and LOVES it. I’ve gotta say I was impressed by it as well. It’s surprisingly fun to drive, great on gas and has a boatload of technology in it. My car is an ’07 and feels ancient after driving it.

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      That’s vote #2 or the focus! hmmm…

      • Barbara Bradley

        Hi! I bought a 2012 Ford Focus hatchback brand new and I love it. It was only my second car after my 2001 Toyota Corolla was on its last legs. My dream was to get a Toyota Matrix, but there weren’t any used vehicles in my area and the new models were pretty pricey. I spent about 2 weeks scouring the internet on potential vehicles and had narrowed my prospects down to the Ford Fiesta, Toyota Yaris, a Hyundai, and a Subaru Impreza. I decided against the Impreza due to cost. I test drove the Yaris and a Hyundai model but didn’t love them. Plus, I had a horrible experience at my local Toyota dealership which completely turned me off. Test drove the Fiesta and found it was just a little too small. Test drove the Focus and it was a dream. It’s not super spacious, but I am a single gal and don’t drive people around that much, so it works for me. The dash is really nice and it rides like a dream. The only downfall I had was that the battery died after about 10 months, but I live in a hot climate, so I guess it was bound to happen. The re-model is really sporty and I constantly get complemented on it. The gas mileage is pretty good, too. I would recommend it. I was wary about getting a Ford due to their reputation about being lemons, but I think that they have vastly improved. I never thought I would own a Ford and I have had the vehicle for two years and I love it. Thanks for reading!

  • http://practicalcents.com/ Raquel@PracticalCents

    Your list of past cars is very similar to mine. My first car was a hatchback too (an Isuzu). After that I also bought a Saturn Sedan (in the Plum color!) I now have a Toyota Camry. Three years ago we were in the car market again and we were seriously considering the Honda Fit for my husband but we ended up buying the Honda Civic 4 door because we could get a better deal on it. He loves it. No complaints!

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      Good to know! I totally remember the plum colored saturns!

  • http://www.budgetbloggess.com/ Michelle

    I’d go for the Ford Focus, they have really improved as an auto manufacturer. Unfortunately I’m a bit jaded towards Honda, their quality has dropped and the insurance costs are ridiculous. When I got divorced, I wanted a budget car instead of the gas guzzler V6 Mazda I had so I traded it for a new 2011 Civic, big mistake! I owned a 96 civic and loved it, best car ever! The new ones, not so much. I probably got a lemon but everything that could go wrong went wrong and the dealer refused to help…they told me I should deal with Honda Canada. The paint was peeling, it was rusting, the front drive axles came loose on the highway and the manual tranny was a mess.

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      Oh wow, interesting! I know Ford cars have improved tremendously!

  • eemusings (NZMuse)

    Is it weird safety has NEVER even been on my radar? It might when we have babies I suppose but affordability and reliability are my only two concerns.

    We’re from NZ so Jap cars are the thing here. Toyotas mainly. Americans seem to love Hondas but they definitely don’t have a candle on Toyotas.

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      Interesting! Toyotas are very popular here as well.

  • http://shopmyclosetproject.com/ Michelle

    So are you going to buy a new car but with a bigger down payment and a shorter term on the loan? I think having a car for 12 years is pretty good!

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      New used car probably. Yes I hope to have as big of a down payment as possible so it’s only a short term loan for as little money per month as possible!

  • http://insidiouslife.com/ Angella

    We have a Honda CRV and Civic and love them both. The Civic is a 2002 and runs like a champ. Gas mileage is awesome, which is why we bought it. We had a Ford Explorer that was costing $135/wk in gas, with the Civic it’s $25-30/wk. (We have 45 min. one way commutes.) I’m pretty happy with Honda’s. The only downside is when it needs a repair, Honda parts can be pricey. Thankfully I have a “in” with that through work, if I didn’t I’d be screwed! My sister has a 2005 Ford Focus and has had nothing but problems, I can’t offer specifics, I’d have to ask, but I know she can’t wait to get another. I also think Honda holds their value better than Ford, which could be good for resale down the road if that was ever a concern.

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      That’s too bad about the focus. :( I do think you’re right about Honda’s holding their value more.

  • This Life On Purpose

    I’ve got a Honda Civic, great car but probably a little more than I need since I mostly just use it to commute by myself. Also, not as economical as my Toyota Yaris that I had before the Civic.

    The boyfriend’s parents drive a Honda Fit and they’ve been very pleased with it, other than the fact that they didn’t upgrade to the air conditioner and cruise control package!

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      Cruise control I could live without, but no way in hell would I not have AC! :)

  • Erin @ My Alternate Life

    I have a Ford Focus and I like it okay. It’s nothing to write home about, but it is a good, reliable car. Personally, I just hate having a vehicle. I think it is just totally unnecessary in our case :)

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      Yeah I think Portland is much easier to get around than LA. I would never consider living here without a car!

  • cashRebel

    I really like the honda civic as well as the Prius C. A new Prius C sells for $20k, so if you buy one in a few years, it might be just what you’re looking for. It’s compact, super reliable, and gets 56 mpg! I’m pretty confident it will be my next car if my Suby dies in the next 5 years

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      Don’t hate me but I don’t love the Prius. Or maybe I’m just annoyed because every person in LA seems to drive one and bugs me about getting one. I don’t think I like people telling me what to do. lol!

      • cashRebel

        haha, no worries. To each, her own

  • brokeGIRLrich

    I have a Toyota Matrix that I LOVE. It’s 6 years old now with nearly 100,000 miles on it and (knock on wood) I haven’t had any issues. I even took out a deer with minor damage. When she’s finally run into the ground (hopefully 5-7 years from now), I’m planning to just get another one.

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      Ooh might have to add that to the list!

  • http://baconpayoff.wordpress.com/ Jocelyn/the Great Bacon Payoff

    hey, I have a Honda Fit! A red one, actually, like in your first picture. Except it’s a 2007, I think the first year it came out in the USA. I love that I can flip the back seats and reconfigure it to fit lots of stuff in it. Bought it new in 2007 and it’s only got 83k on it. Haven’t done much maintenance on it other than oil changes, new filters, tires and windshield wipers. BUT recently the check engine light came on, so I got the valves adjusted. Nothing catastrophic or crazy expensive. Yet. *knock on wood* love it!

    • http://budgetandthebeach.com/ Tonya

      Good to know Jocelyn! Thanks for your review. :)

  • Kim@Eyesonthedollar

    I’d pick the Civic out of those 3. We haven’t had Yertle for his full life span, but so far, he has started up every morning at 205,000 miles!

  • Janelle B

    I really had to count how many, but I think we have owned 8 Honda Civics. My husband still has a 1994 coupe and my son just upgraded to a 2005 hatchback, but we purchased all but one used with at least 120,000 on the odometer and ran all of them to past 200,000 and one well past 300,000 without major repairs. We do take care of our cars and ensure routine maintenance and inspections are kept up. My DH’s primary car is a 1996 Honda CRV and my daughter (owner of 3 of the 8 civics) upgraded to a new Fit in 2013 and she loves it.

  • alwayshungry4

    I love Honda Fit!! They’re so zippy to drive, but it’s not very fun for backseat drivers (I was getting a headache in the back, but maybe it was because of the driver). I’ve only had one car over the past decade (LA pretty much forced me to get my license) and it’s been a Honda, so I’m biased when I say you can’t go wrong with either the Civic or Fit. :) I don’t know much about the Ford option, though.

  • http://www.LisaVsTheLoans.com/ Lisa vs. the Loans

    Honda cars in general are so reliable! Currently, I have an Accord but when I was in high school, I drove around a used Civic. They will last you a long time!

  • http://everythingfinanceblog.com Tushar Mathur

    Honda Fit is a relatively new model, so I might avoid doing that, because who knows what defects will come out of the wood work. The other two are very well established. Honda is very reliable.

  • http://www.mechanicwaverley.com.au/ Total Car Care Center

    Interesting post.. At present I have Hyundai i20 and I think to buy a new model of Hyundai Elantra GT car this year but I want to sell my old car. I want dutch brakes in my next car. Thanks for sharing this post.