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Unread 05-25-2009, 09:35 PM   #1
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Default Used Car Purchase - Input on My Options

In late June/early July I will be purchasing my *official* first car. I've been browsing for a few months now and narrowed it down to a few options. First, here are my primary needs/guidelines:

- Live in Illinois, so I need something that can handle the weather. In particular, winter driving needs to be very solid.

- Reliability is key. I don't mind spending more to fix something, so long as these fixes are few and far between. Not afraid to try foreign if it will remain reliable.

- Need some space for moving back and forth from home to school.

- Ideally looking for a manual (Jeeps may be an exception here).

- Budget is $3,000, pretty firm in this regard as I'll have other expenses in the fall that keep this lower than I'd like.

- Buying used, probably from someone on Craigslist.


~~~~

So, here are the particulars I was looking at -


#1 1991-2000 BMW 325i (E36).

Positives: Decent power, should handle winter pretty well, excellent aesthetics (for me), bit more luxurious, I like german stuff.

Negatives: Unsure about reliability, and if it brakes down I'm assuming that BMW is crap-expensive to fix. Not a ton of room for cargo, but should be enough for weekend visits. Might be a bit harder to find on Craigslist, but I'm not in a huge rush.


#2 1993-1998 Jeep Grand Cherokee (ZJ) Limited.

Positives: Decent power, perfect for Midwest driving (should handle winter like a charm), tons of cargo space, cheap to fix (I've got a close friend who knows a lot about Jeeps and has experience working on them). Also quite easy to find in my price range.

Negatives: Dunno about reliability, I've been told they are solid but I'd liked more input. Fuel mileage isn't great, but not so bad that I'd feel like I was losing too much money. Aesthetically it make take a while to get used to; I've always been more of a sedan/coupe sort of guy, so an SUV would take getting used to. I guess I'd be slightly annoyed by it's acceleration, admittedly I do enjoy really putting my foot down from time to time and I feel like the BMW would be awesome in this respect.


#3 1991-1998 Volkswagen Jetta (ideally Wolfsburg Edition).

Positives: Love the conservativeness of VW in general, German, has alright space, easy to find in my budget, should be alright with winter.

Negatives: Same reliability concern as the Beamer. I've heard both great and awful things about VW maintenance. Power ain't great. Compared to the BMW, might just feel too boring.


#4 1991-1999 Volkswagen Golf/GTi (MKIII).

Positives: Same as Jetta, more space, love the hatchback, GTi should perform slightly better.

Negatives: Same as Jetta, might be harder to find something that really looks good in my price range.


~~~

I've also considered Honda Del Sol, Honda Accord, Chevy Camaro, and a few others. None of them appealed to me as much as these 4 main options. It's difficult because the Jeep is so entirely different from the three German cars that comparison is kind of funky. If I were leaning towards any of them, it'd probably be the BMW. My next-door neighbor has an E36 and I find myself looking out the window at it quite a bit.

Any/all help is greatly appreciated, thanks much.

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Unread 05-25-2009, 09:50 PM   #2
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Accord, Camry, Maxima

Those are my choices in order.

Hard to beat proven reliability.
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Unread 05-26-2009, 12:06 AM   #3
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Yeah, I second that. Though I've been hearing great things about Subaru and Hundai lately, as well.

Out of your choices, I would tend to try to talk you out of the WMW...yeah, it's a cool car, but unless fixing stuff all the time is your idea of fun, I'd look elsewhere. (And yeah, repairs are more expensive...a new MAF for my Buick is $150...it was $500 for my co-worker's BMW.)
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Unread 05-26-2009, 11:26 AM   #4
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I can personally comment on the ZJ, for the others I'm not really sure about reliability and things like that.

My Grand Cherokee has been through lots of deep, unplowed snow and slippery ice and hasn't been stuck on the road yet. I have driven through snow that big trucks have a hard time in.

If you get a 4.0 equipped ZJ it will be lacking in power at anything above 3k RPM's really, but you also get the great NP242 transfer case with full time 4WD which is amazing in Wisconsin's snow. Of course with a V8 model you could always do a transfer case swap, which is pretty common. The viscous couplers like to go out in the V8's full time 4WD transfer case so watch out for that.

As far as reliability, at 173k miles my jeep is as solid as a rock. The only replacement I have done was my serpentine belt because an idler pulley was on it's way out and I figured it would be easier to do both at once. I would now, and have in the past, taken 200+mile trips without the slightest worry.

One thing I must say, if you like to drive fast you would be better off purchasing a 5.2, or even a 5.9 if you can find one. Fuel economy city for a 5.2 ZJ is only 1-2 mpg lower than with the 4.0, but the power difference easily makes up for that. 0-60 is 11 seconds with the 4.0, and I believe it's around 9 with the 5.2, and 7-8 with the 5.9.

As for fuel economy, it depends on how you drive really. On the highway I get 22-23 mpg with cruise control on, and in the city I get anywhere from 10-14 mpg, depending on the mood i'm in and how hard I accelerate.

Overall a jeep easily fits every one of your requirements (except the manual trans) and if taken care of will easily last past 220k miles. ZJ's also have a very large following so there are always lots of people online willing to help with almost any problem you may have.

If you have any more questions just let me know and I'll gladly do my best to answer them.
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Unread 05-30-2009, 12:13 PM   #5
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Thanks for the suggestions fellas . Right now I'm going to target a 96-98 ZJ Limited 4.0 - I decided that ultimately I'd rather have the better transfer case over more acceleration. I imagine it would pay off in the long run.

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Unread 05-30-2009, 12:46 PM   #6
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Cmon, you know what you really want...deep down...is both.

You'll have to let us know when you get it, and tell us what you think!
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Unread 05-30-2009, 12:54 PM   #7
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If I had the money, I would be looking for the ZJ Limited 5.9L without a doubt and hopefully swap a 242 case into it eventually. That would be ideal for me.

My friend, who owns a 98 XJ and an 02 WJ, told me that 5.9's seem to get the crap beaten out of them so finding one in good shape may not be all that easy. I wonder if I could swap in a 5.9L motor into a standard 4.0L ZJ .

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Unread 06-18-2009, 06:09 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aura View Post
Thanks for the suggestions fellas . Right now I'm going to target a 96-98 ZJ Limited 4.0 - I decided that ultimately I'd rather have the better transfer case over more acceleration. I imagine it would pay off in the long run.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Aura View Post
If I had the money, I would be looking for the ZJ Limited 5.9L without a doubt and hopefully swap a 242 case into it eventually. That would be ideal for me.

My friend, who owns a 98 XJ and an 02 WJ, told me that 5.9's seem to get the crap beaten out of them so finding one in good shape may not be all that easy. I wonder if I could swap in a 5.9L motor into a standard 4.0L ZJ .
I know I'm a little late with the response but I figure better late than never.

I intentionally looked for a 4.0 equipped ZJ because I knew that with a V8 I would be dumping money into it to make more power and getting lots of speeding tickets in the process.

I'm just letting you know from an owner's first hand perspective that the 5.2 really is that much better of an engine for a ZJ. The 4.0 is amazingly reliable, but you just can't beat the V8's torque. And as you said, a transfer case swap is really the way to go with a V8 ZJ. Also, if you have a choice between a laredo and a limited, always spring for the limited even if it is a bit more, as It's usually worth the difference in price.

I've considered engine swaps, but it would require quite a bit of custom fabrication, and it comes out to being much cheaper to buy a 5.2/5.9 in the long run.

I've outgrown my 4.0 so much that I am now looking for something with more power, but with the economy the way it is I'm doubtful that I will be able to get a loan anytime soon.

Whatever you buy, just make sure to enjoy it and have fun!
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Unread 06-18-2009, 10:54 PM   #9
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Accords, as are all Hondas, are hit or miss. You get a good one, and she'll run forever and never have a problem. You get a bad one and you'll be dumping money into it hand over fist.
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Unread 06-21-2009, 09:36 AM   #10
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I'd like to comment on the VW maintence costs.

If you go to the dealer you can expect it to cost you a lot. Try to find a VW specialist in your area that does good work and at a reasonable cost if you are not car literate. I have had my 2002 Jetta for +2 years now I have only had to do one tune-up (belt, wires, plugs) and a few oil changes, which I all did myself. Parts are fairly cheap to find if you know where to look.

Good Luck!

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