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I will soon be getting my first car. I want something that is environmentally responsible, safe, reliable, and built by a company that respects its workers. Ideally I would want it to be union made and built in America.

Should I look for a used or new car?

Should I go for a hybrid? Factoring in the batteries and manufacturing process, is that the way to go?

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Comment Preferences

  •  step 1: never buy new; step B: consult CarTalk (7+ / 0-)

    aka Tom & Ray the tappet brothers

    Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

    by annieli on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 01:14:39 PM PDT

    •  what I'd buy (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Scheduled to sell for less than half the price of the current cheapest car in America, the Elio is a 3-wheeled "car" that hopes to shake up the automotive world. It eschews the trendy electric powertrain for a small gas system, but thanks to its small, light, aerodynamic design, it promises to keep drivers away from the gas pumps for as long as possible.
      More importantly, the small powertrain sips gas like it's using a tiny straw and a shot glass, delivering a highway fuel economy of up to 84 mpg (2.8 l/100 km) and a city fuel economy of 49 mpg (4.8 l/100 km). With just 8 gallons (30 liters) of gas onboard, the Elio can drive up to 672 miles (1,081 km) – that's a trip from New York to Detroit without ever filling up.

      Other Elio equipment includes disc brakes with ABS; 15-inch wheels; a 5-speed automatic transmission; and independent suspension with unequal length control arms, coil-over-spring and shock in the front, and mono-shock with coil-over-spring and shock in the rear. The car measures 160.5 inches (4.1 m) long and has a 110-inch (2.8-m) wheelbase and 66.8-inch (1.7 m) front track. Despite the car's diminutive package, Elio Motors claims that it can fit 95 percent of men and has even tested it with 6-foot 8-inch (2 m) and 325-pound (147-kg) occupants. It promises that trunk space will be at least 27 x 14 x 10 inches (68.6 x 35.6 x 25.4 cm).

      Warning - some snark may be above‽ (-9.50; -7.03)‽ eState4Column5©2013 "I’m not the strapping young Muslim socialist that I used to be" - Barack Obama 04/27/2013

      by annieli on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 01:22:02 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Unless you plan to keep your cars for (6+ / 0-)

    15-20 years like I do, don't buy a new car. They depreciate rapidly in the first few years.

    There are lots of good online resources for car buyers. The two primary maintenance recommendations are to change your oil at least every 5,000 miles, or six months, which ever comes first. And keep you car clean. It's the dust, dirt, and grit that damages the finish of your car. Keep it washed.  

    "let's talk about that"

    by VClib on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 01:22:46 PM PDT

  •  What's your budget? (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Other than that, VW or Mercedes. And definitely used.

  •  There is no single answer to this Q (6+ / 0-)

    Are you Rural, Suburban or live in a city? How long is your daily commute? Is that what you'd be using it for? Not to pry, but, is this a tool for finding a mate? Do you see your use as a solo driver or will you be taking a crowd with you? A dog? A surfboard? Are you male or female? How much do you like cars? Does style matter? Are you handy with mechanical stuff? Are you in the MidWest or Texas with long straight roads or New England with twisty little lanes? How experienced a driver are you.
    For most people, a first car is going to get nicked and dinged, maybe even demolished, so a used car with not much power and lots of safety features is a good starting point. Like a 10 year old Volvo wagon, a bank vault on wheels.
    If your daily commute is less than 50 miles round trip, go for a plug-in electric (don't bother with hybrid). If you are planning crosscountry explorations, electric is not there yet (For that kind of travel, I like small wagons that are good on gas and can function as a portable campsite).
    It really depends on your specific needs, wants and tastes.

    If I ran this circus, things would be DIFFERENT!

    by CwV on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 01:35:56 PM PDT

  •  Chevy Volt... (4+ / 0-)

    It's recommended by Consumer Reports and gets an above average reliability rating from them. It's an EV without the range anxiety. Made in the US by union labor. If I was in the market for a sedan, I'd be looking at it.

    Just another faggity fag socialist fuckstick homosinner!

    by Ian S on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 01:42:49 PM PDT

    •  The Chevy Volt is still priced pretty high (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      MarEng, lincolnliberal

      Almost out of the average family's price range. Not sure if the the Mitsubishi I-Miev is made by union members, but US produced Mitsubishi's are, so it's kind of a wash. Anyway, after incentives and tax write offs, you can pick up a four door EV I-Miev super cheap.

      I've seen some hardboiled eggs in my time, but you're about twenty minutes

      by harrylimelives on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 03:22:37 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  The I-Miev still has limited range like other... (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        pure EV's. If you can live with a limited range then fine. FWIW, Consumer Reports gave it a dismal 31 rating.

        Just another faggity fag socialist fuckstick homosinner!

        by Ian S on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 04:41:39 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  I didn't know Consumer Reports rated it that low (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:

          Most people commute less than ten miles away from their house, so in those instances the I-Miev works. The Volt is a spectacularly built machine though.

          I think the Chevy Spark EV will finally break the market open.

          I've seen some hardboiled eggs in my time, but you're about twenty minutes

          by harrylimelives on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 04:46:27 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  I think a lot depends on how much you can (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    budget for the car. My dad gave me sound advice...when shopping for a car, tell them what you can afford to pay monthly rather than total cost of car.  I insisted on that and got good deals because of it.  As my dad would say...

    Monthly payments are what matters, How much can you afford monthly for car payments and car insurance?  
    That was good advice. As what one can afford monthly in terms of payments, insurance, and gas consumption tells the whole picture of what car you can afford.

    Also Dad told me to shop for cars in the summer and fall because that is when the car dealers have best deals going as they have to get rid of inventory, both new and used, to make room for the new models that come in September.  

    Join PA Liberals at

    by wishingwell on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 01:43:28 PM PDT

    •  When I used to sell cars I loved talking monthly (7+ / 0-)

      payments. We were taught always stress "How much do you want your monthly payment to be?"

      Because if you get someone on the right payment, you can stick them with high interest financing, for many more years, and make tons of profit on the back end. Get them to finance the extended warranty, get them to finance the mag wheels, get them to finance the cheap radio, and above all else get them to pay way more than they needed to.

      I was taught how to turn a $7000 car into a $14,000 dollar one and send them away smiling so the refer their friends.

      I'm glad car buying has become more transparent, but it's still bad.

      “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

      by ban nock on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 02:02:12 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Absolutely (3+ / 0-)

        You need to do research not only on WHAT you want to buy but also how much you want to spend.  I always get my financing set up BEFORE I even start thinking about what kind of car I want to buy.  It helps me to stay grounded and to be able to say no when I need to. Then, if they come up with better financing, well and good.

        The best car you can buy is the one you can afford to by and maintain without too much pain.

        "I want to live in a world where George Zimmerman offered Trayvon Martin a ride home to get him out of the rain that night." Greg Martin, Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Central Florida

        by CorinaR on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 05:35:40 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Yes I always set up financing before hand and (0+ / 0-)

          that is why I keep a small amount of money in a certain credit card that Dad got for me over 50 yrs ago as a baby. They have the best financing rates around for cars and loans.

          I would use this credit union for everything but it is almost a 2 hour drive to that credit union with no online banking services.

          Join PA Liberals at

          by wishingwell on Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 04:15:25 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

      •  Dad also taught me to be aware of all that (0+ / 0-)

        you mentioned plus I would finance my car, new or used, through the credit union with a low interest rate.

        I drove car dealers nuts because it would take me weeks to make a decision and I would return several times and call them several times before deciding.

        Dad taught me, as a woman, I have to be extra careful as he worried his girls would get ripped off so he really educated us.

        Join PA Liberals at

        by wishingwell on Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 04:13:34 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  I was raised to buy only American made cars (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, lincolnliberal, BlackSheep1

    made by union workers. But that is just me, I do not judge others for not buying American cars.  I was just raised by union members and I come from strong union supporting grandparents as well. Union is in my blood.

    But I respect others who do not subscribe to that too but still support unions.

    In the end, it is important to get a dependable car that uses the least amount of gas , and affordable insurance.

    Join PA Liberals at

    by wishingwell on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 01:46:27 PM PDT

    •  Unions (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      If I don't end up buying a union made car, any advice on an alternate way I can support American Union workers? Besides voting for good candidates obviously.

      •  I would say by writing letters to the editor (0+ / 0-)

        supporting unions, voting for the most pro union candidates in primary,  when people bash unions online or in your presence, defend them. Let union workers that you may know, let them know they are not alone.

        If a union goes on strike, offer those on strike some coffee, beverages, food , an umbrella, etc

        Join PA Liberals at

        by wishingwell on Wed Jul 24, 2013 at 04:10:46 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Don't drive (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, lincolnliberal

    to the dealer's drunk!



    SECURITY, because ticking time bomb mushroom cloud of terror!!
    Shop Kos Katalogue

    by Words In Action on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 01:48:14 PM PDT

  •  Read Consumer Reports (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    ban nock, davybaby, lincolnliberal

    The April issue is all about cars, every year, and then they review specific cars each issue.

    The UAW website should have lists of American-made / union-made; the "American-made" is hard to define as parts are shipped all over the world.

    There are no simple answers to your questions, and certainly not ones that will fit in the Twitter-esque world of dKos comments.

  •  ecologically it's used (4+ / 0-)

    reduce, re-use, recycle.

    Also depends on what your use is. If you are thinking 3K miles per year, anything will do, if you are thinking 20K per year, newer is better.

    I'm not real impressed with the hybrids or electrics yet. When most new cars are some form of high mileage vehicle I'll feel better. Chevy Volt has a gas sipping diesel I like the sounds of except it's V6. Diesels resell higher because they run forever. They also get many more miles to the gallon. I'd rather see a 4 cylinder diesel.

    “Conservation… is a positive exercise of skill and insight, not merely a negative exercise of abstinence and caution…” Aldo Leopold

    by ban nock on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 02:06:47 PM PDT

  •  the most responsible choice is a quality (3+ / 0-)

    used car, the best you can afford.  Every used car kept on the road is one less new car that gets built.

    don't always believe what you think

    by claude on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 02:12:23 PM PDT

  •  Kudos for trying to buy ethically (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    I'm not a car guy so I don't have answers for you, but I do know one thing: one of the more environmentally-conscious ways to own an auto is to take a few minutes to plan trips out in advance, thus limiting the driving you need to do.  You save money, pollute less, and save yourself time and grief.

    I've put only 31K kilometers (19K miles) on my car in 5 full years of ownership, partly because of trying to plan things in advance.

  •  Depends what you want the car to do (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Is it mostly for short distance commutes?
    Long distance highway driving?
    Do you need to haul multiple people or will you mostly just be driving yourself?
    Do you need cargo hauling capacity?
    You also need to prioritize reliability, economy, performance, comfort etc.

    There's no one "best" car. It all depends on what you're trying to do.

    If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

    by Major Kong on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 02:57:37 PM PDT

    •  Response (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Probably a mix. I'll be a grad student in Charlottesville, VA, so that will be short commutes but I'll probably visit Baltimore and DC about every month. I'll probably be driving myself mostly and hauling is not important.

      What about a used prius?

      •  Seriously consider, for your uses, a used (0+ / 0-)

        but not abused (fleet maintenance is a good thing, here) car of the Caliber / Sebring class.

        Look for the 4-cylinder, look for the automatic, look for the ABS brakes.

        Don't buy without a drive.

        There should be no funky noises, smells, wet spots, or leaks under the car, under the hood, or inside the cabin. ASK for the owner's manual if you don't see it in the glove box. You'll want the AC and heater to be in good shape too -- you won't often face horrible weather, but when you do you want to be ready --  and on a straight level road you should not have to "catch" the car if you aim it straight and let go the steering wheel (NOT in traffic, mind) -- and if you can find one get one with the rear seats that fold flat forward, in case you want to bring home something from IKEA or an art gallery, or if you ever need to take a pet in a carrier to a vet, etc.

        LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

        by BlackSheep1 on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 09:05:59 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  Not sure about the Prius (0+ / 0-)

        I know a lot of people like them, but I don't know enough about them to tell you if a used one is a good idea. I might be worried about having to replace that battery pack at some point.

        I'd think about a used Toyota Corolla, Honda Civic or Nissan Sentra. They're all pretty reliable, economical and a grad student could probably afford to keep one running.

        If you can find one with a manual transmission even better, assuming you can drive a manual.

        You won't equal the Prius' city mileage but you might beat its highway mileage. Hybrids are odd in that they get better gas mileage in city driving instead of the other way around.

        If the pilot's good, see, I mean if he's reeeally sharp, he can barrel that baby in so low... oh you oughta see it sometime. It's a sight. A big plane like a '52... varrrooom! Its jet exhaust... frying chickens in the barnyard!

        by Major Kong on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 11:09:30 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Depends on what kind you need (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    If you're in the north, something with all wheel drive might better suit you. In the south, perhaps not. If you have kids, cargo hauling, all that jazz.

    Here is a friendly list compiled by the UAW of cars made by union members

    Union made cars

    Now, getting down to brass tacks, it's really about price vs. reliability. I love Jeep, but they're producing some real stinkers right now in their Patriot and Compass lines, along with their Dodge Caliber clone. A Toyota RAV 4 used will last quite a bit longer than a brand new Jeep Compass.

    With incentives, you can walk off a lot with a brand new Mitsubishi Galant or Toyota Corolla for around 16,000, and that includes the warranty. If you don't have kids, a Mustang will last forever. I've got two, and they're just bullet proof (The car that is), so I wouldn't hesitate about picking one up used.

    If you want something with more meat, Ford Escapes are pretty solid, but avoid Dodge Durangos, unless you can fix it yourself.

    A sleeper car that every dumps on, but is actually pretty great, is the Jaguar X Type. Mainly built with Ford parts on a Ford platform, you can pick up a low mileage AWD X-Type for about 11 or 12 thousand bucks.

    Hope that helps

    I've seen some hardboiled eggs in my time, but you're about twenty minutes

    by harrylimelives on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 03:18:47 PM PDT

  •  Tips (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    1--Go to the public library and get the "Consumers Reports" annual car buying issue.  April?  Anyway, it has their recommended cars of various sizes and types, as well as used cars to look for or to avoid.  Or look it up on line at the CR subscription web site.

    2--If you buy new, get the on-line subscription to "Consumers Reports."  They have a car pricing service where a local dealership will offer you a good price for the car you want.  If you want to buy at that price or better from a different dealership, have that offer on your mobile device.  I did that.  I found the car with options I wanted, went out for lunch,  used the CR price service, got the offer, then back at the dealership showed them the offer from the bottom up--dealership name, total price, the car with options.  This dealership beat that price.

    3--Never buy anything additional for the car except maybe floor mats and mud flaps.  You are guaranteed to get screwed with the extended warranty, glass etching, sealant for the paint, prepaid service, tire & wheel replacement package, etc.  In a very few cases such as prepaid oil changes, if convenient, it might be an OK deal intended to bait you into the service department to sell you more work.  New cars are low profit.  Used cars are good profit.  The service department is the gold mine.

    4--If you buy from a seller on Craigslist, be very cautious.  Take someone with you who knows something about cars.  Make prior arrangements with a repair shop to bring it in for an inspection that you'll pay for.  Use url=CarFax[/url].  Make very sure that the seller has good title, that the Vehicle Indentification Number (VIN) on the car matches that on the title, and that the person you meet is actually the owner listed on the title.  Demand a bill of sale, and get the form from your local motor vehicle licensing agency.  If the car still ha money owed, find out how the lender must be paid off.  Part of the payment must be a certified check to the lender to fully pay it off, not money to the seller with their promise to pay it off.  Find out how you get the title from the lender.  Do not hurry into a deal.  A great deal might be a really bad deal.  There will be more good deals.

  •  i used to sell cars (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    Buy a certified pre-owned vehicle. Do not buy new unless you want to own for 20 years.
    Put down as much as possible if you buy.
    Purchase an extended warranty and a service package.
    Shop around and treat the salesman like he is a member of your family. Be honest and do not get emotional.  There are a lot of good people out there selling cars and you will not get better treatment if you go in acting like they owe you something or acting like they are trying to rip you off. this is typical for first time buyers because they react out of fear. Do your research and do not fear. Negotiate!

    •  How do I find certified pre-owned? (0+ / 0-)

      Does that mean I should avoid something like carmax, or can I do it through them?

      •  some dealers offer this (0+ / 0-)

        but it varies by dealer and brand.
        Locally it could mean anything from "Yep, it's second-hand" to "we ran it through our service department to check for trouble and fix what we found".

        LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

        by BlackSheep1 on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 09:08:38 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  It's hard. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    lincolnliberal, BlackSheep1

    As RugbyMom suggests, there are no simple definitions these days for where something is "made" or "built". Every part could, in theory, be assembled in any one of many countries in the world. Even some parts are assembled from smaller parts built in yet another country. I don't know any way to determine what percentage of the labor that goes into a vehicle is done in each country involved. I've given up on making decisions based on who puts does the labor. :-(

    I'm not an expert, but I'm an engineer and think I have some sense of what's most important for "environmentally sound". Suppose that a car gets 40 miles per gallon, lasts for 200K miles, and costs about $20. Given those number you will spend about the same amount on gas and on the original purchase. Without a carbon tax, there is no practical way to get solid numbers on the carbon cost of building a car -- so I just make a rough guess: Probably $1 of car purchase price represents less carbon use than $1 of gas purchase, but probably not a lot less.

    Bottom line, making a car last 200k miles rather than 100k miles is probably worth as much as getting 40 miles per gallon rather than 20 miles per gallon. It's not hard to find a car that will last 200K miles AND get 35 miles per gallon AND cost less that $20,000, so those are my limits.

    As RugbyMom and etbac point out, Consumer's Reports is a good source for both the reliability information and the miles-per-gallon information. I commute about 25,000 miles per year on the interstate. At that level of use I find that 1) the highest reliability-rated cars easily get 200K miles with regular servicing, and 2) I get 2 or 3 more miles per gallon than CR's measurements.

    Hybrid? You ask the right questions. A few years ago I decided that I did not have any reason to expect the batteries to be especially long lived and did expect them to be expensive to replace, so when my wife needed another car we bought a used 36 mpg Nissan Sentra.

    It turns out that I was wrong. The Nissan has been great, but the history of the Prius has been much better than I expected. Last summer I needed a new car and did more research on the Prius. It has been getting a lot more than the promised 100K miles on a set of batteries AND the batteries have been cheap to replace ($1000? $1500? Double check my memory). We bought me a used Gen2 Prius for $20,000. I'm retiring in a few years and expect that it will last until I have to stop driving -- if I can just keep it safe from New England road salt.

    Oh, I didn't explicitly answer your new/used question. My wife and I are both 63. Taken together, we have bought only one new car in our 47 years as drivers. Old cars (~80K miles) have been trouble. Three years old and 36K miles seems to be the sweet spot, assuming a reliable dealer. They are a lot cheaper and just as long-lived as new cars. When we've moved, we've always been able to get good recommendations by asking several friends and only considering long-established dealers.

  •  My take (0+ / 0-)

    What are your needs? Where do you live? (City? Suburb? Rural?) What will you use the car for? What prompts you to buy? (Relocation? Job change? Out of town G/F or B/F?)

    Anyway, here's my 2 cents worth:

    1. Put it off as long as possible.
    2. Buy, don't lease.
    3. Buy used. (But don't buy a former rental or, worse, a former taxi.)
    4. Check the CARFAX report on the car.
    5. Buy something appropriate. (A small car if you live in a city, something good in the snow if you live in the north or the mountains, etc.)
    6. Unless you do urban, bumper-to-bumper driving don't buy a hybrid.
    7. Buy for everyday use, not for special occasions. If you need something bigger a few times a year, rent.
    8. While "If it isn't Jap, it's crap" was once true, all cars have improved. Still, check Consumer Reports for the specific model you are considering, especially the April Auto issue.
    9. Don't spend too much money--1/4 of your annual salary is a good rule of thumb.
    10. If you need to finance it, arrange it through a credit union first.

    Good luck!

  •  Thanks everyone, a few updates (0+ / 0-)

    My price range is up to around 25k. I will be a graduate student living in Charlottesville, VA but I will be making semi-regular trips to DC and Baltimore in all likelihood.

    I know that in something like this, you have to make trade offs. Ideally, I can find something that is Union made in America, environmentally sound, and cheap but I am not sure how easy that is.

    How does a used prius sound?

    •  Prius (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      Frankly, I wouldn't do it. The Prius is a car designed for urban, stop-and-go bumper-to-bumper traffic. Thankfully, that's not Charlottesville.

      If you're going to disregard my advice, I might mention that for two years, 2010 and 2011, an upgraded version of the Prius was sold under the name Lexus HS 250h. You should be able to find one in your price range.

  •  Since you seem determined on an EV, (0+ / 0-)

    have you looked at a secondhand Leaf?

    LBJ, Van Cliburn, Ike, Wendy Davis, Lady Bird, Ann Richards, Barbara Jordan, Molly Ivins, Sully Sullenburger, Drew Brees: Texas is NO Bush League!

    by BlackSheep1 on Tue Jul 23, 2013 at 09:13:33 PM PDT

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