Dear Tom and Ray:
I am a college freshman who commutes about thirty minutes each way. I need a dependable, automatic, small, easy to drive car that can carry all my junk! Sounds like a dream, huh? I also need it to be fairly reasonable in price. Right now, I'm driving a '78 Pontiac Grand Am which, needless to say, will soon need to be retired. Please suggest a car for me. Also, I really love your column. Is either of you married?
TOM: First things first. You leave out a crucial piece of information, Julie. You don't tell us whether or not daddy is helping with this purchase.
RAY: If he is, we suggest you look at the Ford Escort and Mercury Tracer--both of which will be brand new this spring. They were jointly engineered with Mazda, and share much of their technology with the Mazda 323 Protege. You might also look at the Geo Prizm--which is sort of a Toyota Corolla but with sillier commercials.
TOM: In the Small/Reliable category, the Honda Civic has a lot of devotees. We've never found that car particularly comfortable--although remember, you're talking to guys whose tastes gravitate towards Imperial Star Cruisers and lizard lounge chairs.
RAY: If daddy's a cheapskate like my brother, and all you've got is a few thousand dollars in savings, we suggest you keep your '78 Grand Am. You're probably better off spending a thousand dollars to fix up your car than spending three thousand dollars to buy someone else's unknown troubles. Unless it's literally falling apart, fix the Grand Am and save your money until you can afford a real car.
TOM: As for your last question, my brother and I have to assume that anyone who drives a '78 Pontiac probably can't support us in the lavish style to which we would like to become accustomed. So write again when you get out of law school, Julie.