That’s right, bitches (I only call you bitches because I don’t know your names individually), Ask Bark is BACK! I have a gazillion emails sitting in my box, and I have this nifty website that I can use to answer them, so why not? Plus, since this site is not designed to generate anything resembling “clicks,” I can ramble on and on about whatever I want, and I’m not obligated to pick something “interesting.” Also, here’s a cool picture of a Bronco. Yay!
Let’s kick this off with a letter from an actual female reader who’s looking to replace her tired ‘Lude.
I’m attempting to look for a reliable car within my preferred ($8000 or less) budget, that’s a little sporty. I’m about ready to break up with my faithful partner of about 10 years, at over 200k miles, a ’98 honda prelude. A manual is a must, and a coupe is quintessential. Of course within my budget, the only cars I like (ie: have style) with less than 100k miles on it come with a sad salvage title. I’m having some trouble weeding out the ones that will last as long as my current partner without numerous major bills. And as much as I would love to own an s2000, I do need something with some semblance of a back seat. I live north of Sacramento, Ca in the Chico area.
Looking forward to your reply,
First of all, congrats on having a cool, unique name. Also, congrats on being a woman who drives a manual transmission and would love an S2000. Now, let’s get to the answer—it’s not as simple as either of us would like.
Your search is somewhat complicated in that you live in an expensive used car market. If I were looking for a car for you in, say, Lexington, Kentucky, we’d be able to swing a dead cat and hit dozens of good choices. In Northern California, it gets tricky. I did a Cars.com search for coupes with manual transmissions and less than 100k miles within 100 miles of your zip code, and the only result was a 2008 Smart ForTwo. I don’t think that’s what you had in mind.
So your choices are to either raise your budget a little, lower your expectations a little, or expand your search range a bit. If I go up to $10,000 and widen the search radius to 250 miles, we have a few more options.
From my searching, it looks like NorCal is where old RX-8s go to live out their lives. Let me save you the pain and hassle and tell you that you want no part of these, unless you’re gonna call our pals the Boost Brothers to do an LS swap on one. Horrendous fuel mileage, never-ending purchases of expensive, hard-to-find oil, and a ticking time bomb under the hood.
My rubber stamp in this case would be a Scion tC. Hey, like this one! Clean Carfax, manual transmission, 75,000 miles. It’s at a Toyota store in San Francisco—they don’t have pictures up yet, which could mean that it’s relatively new into inventory (or that the dealer sucks at taking photos), so I’d contact them directly and ask for some pics. It checks every box you have: coupe, a little sporty, an available manual transmission, and as reliable as the day is long. The thing you have to be careful with with tCs is any signs of ricer mods—like this one. But a good, clean unmolested tC is worth its weight in gold, which is why ten-year-old examples still fetch about 50% of their original sticker price. The big block four cylinder is a great engine, and the car drives faster than the stats would suggest. It’s a worthy successor to your Prelude.
But, let’s say that you don’t want to be sensible. Well, why not buy a 4.6L V8 Mustang? This one has less than 100k, is a real looker of a car, and has a clean service history. I’d want more pictures of the interior and under the hood before I’d make the trek to the dealer, but it’s compelling. These cars will run until the Earth stops turning, and there’s thousands upon thousands of pages of web forums dedicated to the maintenance and repair of these things. If you want to get your hands dirty, there’s virtually no platform that’s been as thoroughly investigated and modified as the SN-95 Mustang.
Whatever you decide to do, I’m kinda intrigued by the idea of flying to Chico and buying your Prelude to drive back across the US. Keep us in the loop—I’d love to run Ask Bark updates here in the future!
If you’d like more Ask Bark content here, then send me your emails at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’ll answer them. And since this isn’t a car blog, you can send me questions that are about cars or about something else entirely. K?