Retired Girls Just Wanna Have Fun

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Oct 07, 2014

Dear Tom and Ray:

I am newly retired. I have always purchased the cheapest car sold by each brand (Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla). I now find myself with enough money to purchase a more upscale, fun car for the first time in my life. I love the Miata, but my back just won't take the lack of height of the sports car. I am thinking of a slightly used upscale car like the Lexus ES. But I know I'll be upset with the high cost of repairs. Help me find my first fun car.

-- Lana

TOM: You're pulling in two different directions here, Lana.

RAY: On the one hand, you want something fun. You're tired of driving a boring automotive appliance.

TOM: On the other hand, automotive appliances are nice and reliable!

RAY: So we'll give you two different kinds of suggestions.

TOM: A used Lexus is certainly a fine choice. While "fun" wouldn't be the first word I associate with Lexus, it is quiet, comfortable and reliable.

RAY: You will pay more for repairs, because the coffee is better and the carpet is thicker in the Lexus waiting room. So you have to be prepared for that.

TOM: As an alternative, instead of an entry-level luxury car, we often recommend that people get a completely decked-out version of a non-luxury car.

RAY: For instance, instead of a Lexus ES350, you could get a loaded Toyota Camry XLE (on which the Lexus is based). You'd save some money on the purchase price, and you'd save money on repairs. When the Camry is loaded to the gills, the cars are very comparable -- and comparably equipped.

TOM: So one suggestion would be to look at a fully loaded Camry, Accord, Altima or any other car you like from a non-luxury manufacturer. But get every option you could possibly want on it to make it luxurious to you.

RAY: If we disregard your concerns about repair costs and just focus on "fun," then, Lana, I see you in a British Racing Green Mini Cooper convertible.

TOM: That's as much fun to drive as the Miata, but it's more than just a few inches off the ground. If you're of a certain age and you get a Miata, you also have to get the optional winch to lift you out of the driver's seat.

RAY: The Mini is reasonably upscale. You can get it with leather seats, a navigation system, heated seats and all that. And it'll cost you about 35K brand-new.

TOM: Chances are, it won't be as reliable as your Civics and Corollas have been. But it's got a four-year, 48,000-mile warranty, so you can drive it trouble-free for four years, and then decide if you love it enough to keep it for the long haul.

RAY: Or if you've had enough "fun" and are ready to back to a Civic. Enjoy whatever you get, Lana.

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