If you've been avidly reading my blog (what?!?), you have noticed that from time to time we ponder new cars (more than two years ago, I was pondering Priuses and more recently considered the Mini-E). After years of armchair pondering, we've (or at least I've) decided that we should actually move forward on doing something more concrete than just web surfing, which means the exciting adventure of attempting to buy a car...

What We Have...

First, let's set the context. We have a 1993 Geo Prism LSi, which is sixteen years old, but has less than 120,000 miles on it. The positive attributes of our current car are as follows:

  • It's a compact car, but with plenty of trunk space and room in the back for two (or even three if they're able to squeeze);
  • It gets good gas mileage (claimed 27 city, 34 highway; we get about 24 mpg for our very short daily commute and errands, and about 34 on road trips);
  • It has pretty good acceleration; and,
  • It's fun to drive.

Given all the good things about our current car, why replace it? Basically, it comes down to two things:

  • Increasing maintenance costs;
  • Somewhat outdated safety features (especially side-impact protection).

In other words, it's not urgent that we replace our car now, but we probably should replace it sometime and now is as good a time as any. Buying a new car is thus a good summer project, and because we're not desperate, we can walk away with nothing if we can't find the car or deal that we want, but hopefully we'll find something we want.

What Do We Want?

When it comes to replacing our current car, we don't want a car that's significantly larger than our current car, worse when it comes to gas mileage, or worse for reliability. That means no SUVs, and no full-size cars. Midsize cars are unlikely, too.

Also, given that we'll probably keep the car for some time, we're going to go with a new car rather than a pre-owned one.


There are many, many sites you can head to for research on cars. Beyond the manufacturers' sites, I've mostly gone to Consumer Reports or Edmunds.

Initial Candidates

As things stand, our current front runners are as follows (in no particular order):

I'd have loved to include the Mazda3 as well, but it gets such mediocre gas mileage that I can't really do so in good conscience.

Beyond the front runners, there are quite a few maybes, including

  • Honda Insight
  • Honda Civic
  • Toyota Corolla
  • Toyota Matrix
  • Toyota Yaris

Beyond these brands, poor fuel economy seems to rule out many of the other options, including the US brands like Ford and GM.

To know more requires looking at and test driving cars, which means a journey to various dealerships. I'll recount how that works out in the next few posts.