Mid Week Match-Up: Another Daily For TinyFrogs?

It is Wednesday so that means another time for a Mid Week Match-Up (TM)!  DT reader TinyFrogs was the happy recipient of advice in a May 2014 episode of MWMU, but the car he picked up is now being daily driven by his wife.  Back to the drawing board.  Find something for under $4,500 for TinyFrogs to use a fun/reliable/daily driver. 

In TinyFrog’s words:

So I enjoyed the comments, tried to post too and still got stymied, then I took my own advice and got a Vibe GT. First year (lower rpm for “lift” and other goodies over later years), low miles, modest Enkei wheels and new tires, but a depreciated orphan with cosmetic issues (under control now) from a motivated doofus seller all stacked up to a great deal.

So why am I submitting again? We played musical jobs so now my wife is driving our best car, the Vibe, 60 miles round trip daily (second speeding ticket in 3…2…1…) and I’m stuck driving the handed-down Santa Fe from her parents, with minor cosmetics, nearly done tires, and a valve cover gasket leak, for my 3 mile drive to the commuter bus every day. I appreciate having a free beater for cold cycle commutes but I am not looking forward to doing that gasket change, or buying new rubber for $400-600. That’s a new stereo and a short throw kit or a final round of cosmetic work on the Vibe! That’s new rockers and exhaust or a fresh clutch or tires for the old Xterra! If I am tossing money and time at cars, I’d rather toss them at cars that I like.

So here’s my dilemma: do I sell the Santa Fe with needs to finance a really cheap ($4000 or so), fun, reliable commuter car purchase this fall? If so, what? I am SORELY tempted to find a cream puff NA Miata like I saw on Craigslist late last year. Several cars from original owner, C package, garage kept, low miles, roll bars, new tops etc under $4500 at a time of year that only weirdos consider buying convertibles. Slightly more expensive were MR2s with more miles but perhaps the added safety of a more solid top? Or do I look for something else with 2-3 doors, wrong wheel drive, a back seat for our toddler, and maybe a way back for the dog? Prelude? Celica?

Basically I again want something fun, reliable, safe, and efficient with less practicality and less cost than the hatchbacks of my last request. And if/when I land a real job we can sell it before the move for not much less than the purchase price. No trouble, right?



DT: In case you couldn’t tell from the pictures, the official DT recommendation is a clean, low mile A60 generation Toyota Celica, like this 1983 Celica GT offered for $4200 in  Burbank, CA via craigslist.  These are the last of the rear-wheel-drive Celicas and feature reliable power from a 22RE inline-4 cylinder engine.  What do you suggest for TinyFrogs? Comments below.  

Want to be the next contestant on Mid Week Match-Up?  Send us your driving needs and we’ll post up for the DT audience to make suggestions.