How to buy a car (/ how to not buy a car)

I’m on my second EV, at this point can’t even consider anything else. The only reason I can imagine anyone actually preferring an ICE is that they actually for some reason like going to gas stations frequently. Have you ever actually paid attention to those places? They’re filthy hellholes that suck your money away. So: I recommend giving some serious consideration to an EV of some variety - there’s probably one that will suit your needs.

Another thing - most people think they need “something bigger than a sedan”, but the reality is that’s just a market generated need, and not something most people actually need. Think about the percentage of time you spend driving, not using much more than the drivers seat - for most of us it’s 90% of the time. Those few times you actually need to haul around more stuff than you can fit in a small sedan - rent a truck or van, you’ll save money in the long run. Something like 95% of us can get around just fine in something the size of a honda civic or toyota corolla.

So, another person in favor of an EV of some sort. I drive a tesla model 3 - no, they’re not as expensive as you think, check them out. I also considered a chevy Bolt, but the tesla is much more able to do long road trips without the charging hassle.

This is a tangential idea but I wonder if any of you have experience with smaller electric vehicles? (electric skateboards, scooters, bikes etc.) I live in a city where it does not really make sense to drive unless you are commuting from the burbs. My neighbourhood is up town, and I used to travel back and forth downtown on a skateboard. Since starting full time work I don’t nearly have enough free-time to do that.

Transit like a lot of public services has been rotting. Our government seems to be turing a blind eye in hopes to push the service towards private. So transit commuting is hell. It’s had me thinking of what alternatives are out there. I recently came back from Chicago where, electric scooters were littered about the city. Their convenience is undeniable but I am not a fan of the technocratic app companies involved in their operation. I went down a rabbit hole recently on DIY projects that utilize powerful brushless motors and large cell LIPOs. I found this project VESC which is open-source motor controller, has features like data logging and regenerative braking.

Bike seems like the most sensible option to mount a motor, but I don’t have the storage space and can’t always take a bike on transit (during rush hour) I used to skateboard but I’ve always found them to be precarious at high-speed in cities. Scooters seems like a sensible alternative. I also discovered that there are a lot of conversion kits on aliexpress. Apparently adult sized push scooters use the same frame as electrics, the mounting hardware, motors, electronics you just need to fill in the blanks.


this has been very helpful, thank you!

new thoughts:

  • we are the only folks in our friend group with a car that seats more than 5 and can easily load most furniture. we actually take advantage of this juuuuust enough every year to keep “not a sedan” an interesting option. to this end, CRV’s seem dope — it might take some time to heal the recent Honda burns, but when i was a kid/teen/early 20 something our ‘97 Accord was a blood relative.
  • i’m excited to see what being carless does for us. before two years ago, i lived 7 years without a car. whenever we can (time), we walk distances most chicagoans drive. i might biike again (i had a minor collision that sorta spooked me, plus winters). we really do love our public transit system for non-task travel. and while those electric scooters are everywhere they also have insanely inconvenient zoning, so you can’t actually take them to places where we would normally opt to drive lol
  • seems like EVs might be a good way to go! i had no idea how resilient they were, thank you all for sharing your experiences. a bit of research suggests like we could get a 2007 prius used for 6k. fwiw, we definitely can’t afford go to higher than 18-22k new.

A month ago I replaced my 1990 Nissan pickup that had finally accumulated too many issues with a 2019 Yamaha electric assist bicycle. My wife thought (and still thinks) I’m crazy, but I’ve hauled all the groceries for our family of 4, delivered my daughter’s saxophone to her school several miles away, run all my errands, and generally have done all the things I do with a car except haul kids, my PA system, and home improvement materials. We still have my wife’s car for those purposes, which may soon get traded or sold in favor of a used Nissan Leaf.

Internal combustion engines suck. I do most of my own mechanical work, and I’m tired of how dirty and annoyingly complicated they are.


an environmentally friendly option, not sure what the horse parking situation in chi-town is these days tho:

1 Like

I can ride a horse (sort of) but not drive a car nor ride a bike (though a pedal-powered trike might be an option). Great for trotting through the woods in places no wheeled vehicle could hope to go. The mini-market in town used to let people bring their ponies inside too, rather than having to leave them outside.

1 Like

Personally I like Fords, my current car is a Fiesta Zetec EcoBoost, my Dad has had a few models too. Usually pretty reliable although it does help that my Dad’s mate runs a local Ford garage!

It’s deffo not worth buying brand new, you can get used cars with low mileage for decent prices.

Don’t get a diesel if you want to be environmentally friendly, haha. I’ll probably consider going hybrid or electric when there’s more infrastructure in the UK.

Ask around for recommendations for local dealerships that won’t try to screw you over, and take someone with you to the dealership who knows about cars and can tell you if something is dodgy :slight_smile:


Completely agree with this. My most satisfying car purchase was getting a previous model-year car with 6k miles on it. Let someone else eat the thousands of dollars in depreciation just from driving it off the lot, as the saying goes.

My other strongly held car opinion is that internal combustion is bad, especially for short trips/urban driving.

Unfortunately these two opinions don’t work super well together, as there aren’t a lot of used electrics out there yet.

If I had to buy a new car in the next few months my first look would be the Hyundai Kona electric hatchback.

Another option depending on availability where you are is a car share. The car share in my town has several hatchbacks and a pickup truck. If I were not a gigging double bass player I would be able to get nearly everything done in my town just fine using the car share.

I’d also put in a word for Suburu, which doesn’t seem to be mentioned in this thread. Of my $1000 cars the Suburu wagons have outlasted nearly everything. Though a Honda CRV would be high on my list of things to see as well.

1 Like

maybe obvious but uber XL has worked well for car-less gigging needs and hauling art supplies. there’s some spooky aspects about turo but it’s pretty affordable and I could see it being handy for day rentals for those niche cases when u need to haul a bunch of stuff.

personally while living in chicago I’ve never felt the need for a car - seems like more of a hassle than convenience ! also kinda forced me to find some really lovely local grocery stores as opposed to like driving to whole foods

I can also confirm that dan & raquel put other walkers to shame in terms of walk distances oh my


We’re on our third Subaru.

In New England winter I’ve never felt safer, the all wheel drive is great.

We almost went with a CRV but it was a bit bigger than we wanted so we traded in the Forrester for a Crosstrek… it’s nice so far…

If we lived in the city I’d try to go carless, but it’s not much of a option for my 35 mile commute in each direction…

in the future, when all mechanical objects are sentient and humans have made themselves extinct (ironyyyyy eh?), racquel would for sure be played by a subaru in a netflix adaptation of this convo. it’s always been the dream vehicle, but i think IF we’re gonna get a replacement we’re gonna try to go used prius (found a sub-100k for $5k).

people who have winters and hills (chicago is flat, everywhere we’d wanna move next is not): prius thoughts?

yeh, we’re for sure on the fence about replacing. i def don’t think anyone under 30 should need a car in chicago. it would’ve been the worrrrrst for most of my time here. but i’ve actually never not enjoyed having a car for the two days a week max we use it. but we could also totally adjust our approach those two days. good stuff to consider.


It’s front wheel drive, and by all accounts drives like a typical front wheel drive vehicle.

It’s worth noting that the Prius is a favorite of taxi companies. They last and last…


Bought a year old certified pre-owned Hyundai a few years ago and it was a good experience. The certified part meant that the car was pretty much in new condition and the (v. good) factory warranties carried over. It’s a little more than just buying straight used, but you end up with the attractive part of buying new, and skip most of the 1st year depreciation loss.

The car itself, a 2013 Hyundai Sonata has worked out well, and not needed anything beyond normal maintenance.

can’t speak for hills, but i’m from the chicago suburbs and spent my high school days cruising around in my mom’s ‘05 prius through the winters… i’d say that it’s certainly doable! turning on ice can be real tricky and an all-wheel drive car will give ya more confidence, but just wanna let you know that it’s possible :slight_smile: miss that car! it’s so cozy and spacious

One other potential option — a station wagon. They aren’t popular in the USA these days, but in Canada and Europe they are still very common. I have one and love it… it’s the same footprint and gas as a sedan, but can carry way more stuff. I’ve used mine to travel with my old band—3 people and all our gear.

More cargo space than an SUV generally, and the size of a standard sedan for easy driving, parking, and gas mileage.

I have a 2012 VW Golf Wagon, I think it’s called the Jetta SportWagon or something like that in the USA. I’ve had zero issues.

1 Like

I rallied an ‘01 Corolla through a few years of ND winters. Got stuck a handful of times, but then again so did some of my classmates with big trucks!

You probably already do this but I would highly recommend winter tires no matter what car you eventually end up getting for the winters (all-seasons aren’t really that). Really makes a difference.

1 Like

I bought a 2002 Honda Civic from a used car lot and got quite lucky I guess. They’d just got it off the truck so didn’t know what condition it was in. Really cheap and turned out to be in great working order. I didn’t get it checked by a mechanic because I just wanted to snap up the bargain, but since it was so cheap I would’ve been quite happy spending another $2-3k on repairs if needed. I think newer cars can be more trouble than they’re worth. I also think the Reliability Index website is a great guide on what to buy.

A couple of useful tips I was told before buying a used car:

  • Make sure all the doors open and close properly and the windows wind up and down without getting stuck. If not, it could be a sign that the car’s been in a major crash.
  • Check how dirty the engine looks compared to the miles. The engine that’s supposedly done only 80k miles didn’t look nearly as dirty as my old one which had done 125k.
1 Like

I’ve got a Xiaomi M365 scooter, 4 of my coworkers did too. It’s amazing if you live less than 10km from work. Total range is 20km, so charge it at night and it will be enough for the roundtrip. 25km if you’re a lighter person.
It’s very compact and foldable too, so easy to store, fits into any car. Also cheap.
They also make a more expensive Pro model: better range, more power, but also more weight.