My 2001 Toyota Corolla is coming to the end of its life - I may get a few more months out of it, but it's time to start seriously looking for another car. I bought my current car new in 2000, and it replaced a 1991 Corolla, which I aquired from a family member. Which replaced a Tercel I had bought used and also had for years. So I've been a Toyota girl for a long time. However, I've been souring a little on the company lately (mainly due to some recent service department shenanigans). Additionally, the reviews for the 2012 Corolla haven't exactly been overwhelmingly positive. So I'm willing to look at other brands this time around. Specifically, the cars I have my eye on are the Hyundai Elantra and the Mazda 3. For the purpose of discussion, I want to focus on these 2 cars only (no Crown Vics, sorry!)
I keep my cars forever, so I prefer to buy new and outfit them the way I want. I drive about 12,000 miles per year give or take, want something that has low maintenance costs, good mileage, good reliability, and is maybe marginally more fun than a Corolla to drive. I want an automatic transmission. And I would really like a nav system, alarm/immobilizer, and built in bluetooth so yes I will want some options, not just the bare bones model. I'm going to have to finance the car, but my credit union is offering up to 120% financing for 72 months for 2.99%, so I would likely only go with dealer financing if they can beat that (I have good enough credit that I would likely qualify for that rate). I'd like to keep the OTD price as close to $20,000 as possible, but I know that's going to be a challenge with both of these cars, since the options are going to bump the costs up, and I am tending to gravitate towards the higher end models. But if I can negotiate the final price down as close to that $20,000 point as possible, I will be happy.
At this point, with my car running reasonably well, as it is now, I think I can reasonably expect to get a $2,000 dealer trade in for it, and that would be my down payment. This is one reason I don't want to wait until my current car actually dies before purchasing the new one. OTOH, in case it does die, at least my credit union will finance 100%. But I'd rather get some kind of trade in value if I can. I don't have another car to use, so selling it privately before I purchase the new car would be a giant pain, so I'll probably just do the dealer trade in, even though I do realize I could probably get a little more if I did sell it privately.
I know the Elantra's price will not be all that negotiable since they are so popular. Will I have a better chance of negotiating a better price on a Mazda 3? I like Elantra's warranty, and I realize the Mazda 3's won't be as good or as long, but Mazda's 5 years seems reasonable. How does the Mazda 3 compare to the Elantra in terms of reliability and costs to maintain? I'm not finding a lot of comparative information on that on the web. Not for recent models, anyway. How does Mazda compare to Hyundai in terms of reputation generally? I know Hyundai has come a long way in the last few years. How does Mazda compare?
Which of these two cars make the greater amount of sense to buy - both in terms of driving experience, and financially?
My current car was the first one I ever bought new, and I probably did just about everything wrong when I bought it. The purchasing experience was horrible, and the deal took about 8 endlessly long hours. Luckily, I was very happy with the car. This time, however, I want to be a lot better informed beforehand, avoid the pitfalls I fell into last time, and have a good strategy to get a good deal on a car that will make me happy long-term.