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Want A Nice Car For Dad But Only $10K! What should I buy?

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image: Raphael Orlove / Jalopnik

Tennison’s dad always drives cheap cars, so he wants to treat his dad with nicer and more reliable things. However, he has a max budget of about $10,000, in a market where used car prices are too high. What car should he buy?

(Welcome back What car should you buy?? Where we give real advice on buying a car. Do you want us to help you find a car? Submit your story on our form.)

Here is the script:

After years of my dad owning cheap or unreliable cars, my mom wanted me to try and find something interesting and satisfying for him. My dad hasn’t owned anything interesting since the 90s, when he had an 85 Monte Carlo SS for a short while until it got dangerously rusty. My parents both bought cars for under 5,000 each before I was born, and they limped for 5-8 years, fighting the check engine lights almost the whole time. My dad’s most recent favorite car is a Mazda 3 06, which we had to get rid of due to a computer problem that wasn’t worth fixing due to many miles of mileage and rust. His last car, the formerly smoked and scrapped 2013 Hyundai Accent lasted only a year after buying it, again due to an unusual, significant but infrequent and difficult electrical problem. diagnose. He is currently driving my project car while I search for his replacement. That was the last straw that made my mother decide to open up more savings to buy a car. He told me he prefers the newer 2010+ Camaro, but despite the KBB value, sellers are asking beyond our price range for any good one. Our target is under 10k, but we can go up to 12k if needed for the right car.

A manual would be great but an automatic is fine. We want to avoid German cars due to high maintenance costs.

Quick info:

Budget: Ideally $10,000 can stretch to $12,000

Location: Albany, NY

Daily driver: Right

Would like: Fun, reliable, slightly relaxed

Do not want: Something German

Expert 1: Tom McParland – WORLDWIDE

Image for article titled I Want A Nice Car For My Dad But I Only Have 10 Greats!  What should I buy?


It is very cool of you to treat your dad to something nicer after all these years, and while your budget might limit your prospects a bit, there are some solid options available. You are wise to avoid most of the European stuff at this price point, but that doesn’t mean your pop needs an econobox. I would suggest you target Acuras from the early-to-mid-2000s. I would argue that the cars of this generation were at the peak of Acura’s design and driving dynamics before the brand lost its way for awhile.

Not too far from you in Saratoga Springs, there is a private seller listed 2003 Acura TL Type-S only 94,000 miles . Under the hood is the awesome Honda/Acura V6 engine. The Type S model increases horsepower to 260 from 225 in the base model. These sports sedans aren’t on the same level as the BMW in terms of handling, but they do make for a bit more fun when commuting. You can also expect the usual luxury features like leather seats. This car looks super clean and looks like it has been very well taken care of.

Expert 2: Andy Kalmowitz – Thinking outside the box

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Tennison, my friend, has lots of used early 2000s muscle cars and Miatas for you to choose from. Any of these would certainly be a good answer to which car you should buy, but they’re not all that interesting. You know what’s interesting? A Dodge Caliber SRT-4. Specifically this one, located less than 100 miles from Albany.

This car packs 285 turbocharged horses under the hood, all being fed through a manual transmission, and it’s still practical enough to be an everyday driver. Is it the best looking or most well-built car ever made? Hell no, but who cares? It’s badass. You’ll certainly stand out from the crowd in your 2008 Caliber SRT-4, and that’s mostly because no one else thought to buy one. However, because you’re a man of taste, you did. Or will.

This particular car has under 100,000 miles on the clock and only one minor accident on its history report. That’s not too bad, is it? On top of that it’s a great value. This car is priced just under $11,500. It may be at the top of your budget, but it should also be a top contender for you. You can stop reading right now, this is the perfect car for your dad. And you’ll probably want to borrow it for yourself every now and then, too.

Expert 3: José Rodríguez Jr. – Hello, Old Friend.

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Tennison, a lot will come down to what your dad considers a fun car. He could have fun off-roading in something like this early Jeep Wrangler Unlimited (Wrangler at best), or he could happily bomb back roads in the fan-favorite game Mazda Miata. A small car, as sporty as a Toyota Celica could be great, and given your dad’s love of Mazda3, I wanted to put him in a Mazda6 wagonbut I can’t seem to find one with a manual transmission.

Really, steering your own gears will make any ride or drive much more engaging, but there’s no need to think too hard about that. Your dad needs a Monte Carlo SSjust a little newer than his beloved ’85.

this is a 2007 Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS that will stretch the budget a bit, but it has under 100,000 miles on the odometer, comes with racing stripes and five-spoke wheels. Not to mention the horizontal 5.3-liter V8! Yes, yes, I know. Power is transmitted to the front wheels.

I don’t think front-wheel drive is a good reason to dismiss the combination of the stout LS4 and the odd-looking coupe. The Monte Carlo has such a special design, and the interior of this car is modest but covered in leather. Most of all, the Monte Carlo SS and your father have a history. And what could be more fun than creating new memories with an old friend?

Expert 4: Bob Sorokanich – Why do anything else?

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Listen, Tennison. When your loved one tells you something, you have to listen to them. Your pops like the fifth-generation Camaro. Buy the man a Camaro!

Here’s the bad news: You’re not getting a V8 that fits your pocket. The good news is, the 3.6-liter V6 makes 323 horsepower – more than what you get in the V8-powered SS from the previous generation. And since your old man isn’t particularly upset with the automatic transmission, that gives us the opportunity to get him in a nice F body for a reasonable price.

But you will have to act quickly. This 2012 Camaro RS 1LT is located in Westbury NY, an easy afternoon drive from Albany. It’s listed on eBay for an instant buy of $11,000, or you can play your luck and make a slightly lower offer. It has less than 90,000 miles of shade, it has a nice two-tone interior and will provide your dad with years of dependable domestic service. Does it shake the window panes up and down the block every time I turn it on in the morning? No. But a father should show adult responsibilities. Get Camaro, and send dad our warmest greetings. Just, maybe get rid of the pink badges before you give this car to the old man.

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