Two weeks from now, I will on my way back from California in a new-to-me car. Here’s the thing - I need help finding it.

This car will replace the Crown Vic as my daily. Some criteria are laid out below:

  • RWD or AWD
  • Manual preferred, not mandatory
  • Decently reliable (have to drive 3500 miles home, for example)
  • A car, not a truck, not an SUV* (see below)
  • Budget is 5-6k, cannot exceed 6. Would like to do 5.

Here are some of the things I’ve been looking for (with little success) to set the mood, and some pros/cons, in my mind at least. They are in the order of preference for the most part.

Quasi-Normal Options

  • Lexus IS300, includes Sportcross - these are destroyed or super-expensive as manuals, though I’ve seen a couple nice auto sedans come across the LA craigslist that I’d consider. Sportcross would be best, but out of my price range.

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  • BMW e36 328IS - again, these are all beat to death, brought back, and trashed again. I just want a clean, stock one. Unicorns.
  • Subaru - I have seen a couple bugeye WRXs in the 5-6k range that look like viable options - this may be the best-fit for what I am looking for, either wagon or sedan. A vast majority are overpriced or broken, though. I suspect this is an unlikely-to-get pick based on my budget.

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Wild-Card Picks

  • NA Miata - might be easier to find, would be fun, not a very good daily for my area, where half the year is winter. Also would be tough for thinks like hauling lumber and getting my friends home from California. Prices and condition are all over the place. Would be cool, and I want one.

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  • Jeep Cherokee - the only not-car I’d consider, I don’t think I’d keep it for very long. They are all rotted out to hell around here, and for less than what a junker costs in Ohio you can get a nice one in CA. Would be fun for a little while, then could probably flip it and come out ahead.

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The Fall-Back Plan

  • Another police Crown Vic - not exactly hard to find, I would like a nice 2010 or 2011 in black. Being reliable, cheap, and practical this fits the bill, but it seems a bit silly to go across the country to buy a car I’ve already had two of (one of which I still have). This would be the fallback “can’t find anything else” pick, comparable with other “just to flip” options.

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So what do I ask of you, Oppo? I need help. No, not like that. I need help both searching for examples of the above cars as well as suggestions of other possibilities.

I will be landing (with some friends) at LAX mid-day on May 12th and expect to be in the area for a few days (with rental car to get around). Basically anywhere within a few hours of there is fair game.

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Huge bonus points for a car for sale by one of you or friends/family. That makes the time-crunch a little more manageable if I’m not working with a potential craigslist-flake. Also major bonus points if you go check it out for me a couple days before I get there (I’ll buy you lunch or something?).

I plan to update and re-share this post one or two more times as the date draws nearer - so let’s do what we do best, and start perusing the Craigslist (and other listings)!