My family must be frugal, so cheap rides matter to us. What is a cheap ride? When you fill-up the fuel tank, you don’t need to break the bank. When you take it to the mechanic, the cost of parts won’t make you panic. And speaking of mechanics, a cheap car is one that doesn’t see the mechanic very often (only for routine maintenance).
When choosing a cheap car, I must keep an eye on the balance between spending enough that I don’t end up with a clunker, and spending so much that I end up with an empty wallet.
Getting great fuel efficiency generally requires some sacrifice of room, storage, and a smooth ride. But there are exceptions. When putting on so many miles in such a short time, a little difference in fuel economy can really add up. In 500 miles (805km), the difference between 15 mpg (6km/l) and 25 mpg (11km/l) is over 13 gallons (49 liters) of fuel. At $3/gallon, that’s almost $40 saved on a 500 mile road trip. The U.S. Department of Energy has an excellent resource for fuel economy.
Two things matter here. How often will your ride need repairs, and how much will it cost when it does? I value peace of mind when I’m on a road trip, so I’ll choose a vehicle with great automobile reliability, even if it costs more up front. And generally a luxury vehicle is much more expensive to repair. Visit MSN’s auto reliability ratings for some good information.
Rental or Purchase Price
Be careful. I believe that you get what you pay for when buying or renting an automobile. A vehicle is a huge investment, so finding the best value here is a big deal. Once, when I was young, I believed I had purchased a cheap ride. It was a Hyundai Excel, back when they were a cheap disposable car. It nickel-and-dimed me until I couldn’t stand it any more. It wasn’t so cheap after all.