As some of you know, I’ve been casually shopping around for a new daily driver for a few months now. I have only been half-serious about buying another car, since my current daily (2009 Nissan Cube) has never given me any mechanical woes in the nearly 9 years I’ve been driving it, including a few cross-country trips. But as the miles click by, the problems are starting to go from purely cosmetic to now affecting the functionality.

Shifting into 3rd has always had a bit of a slight catch since buying it, but now it’s starting to make an almost grinding sound if I don’t very gently ease the shifter into gear. There’s also something up electronically, where applying the brakes at speed results in the car automatically turning off the traction control. Two of the power windows are starting to struggle, most notably the driver’s door unit. Finally, at least one of the TPMS sensors has recently bit the dust as well, leaving a constant light on the dash. With the aesthetic issues (cracked windshield, crunched hood from flying road debris, front bumper having about 2 million tiny rock chips, several little dents and scrapes all over) in addition to the new operational issues, it isn’t worth much money. In fact, I imagine that if I were to repair everything, it would wind up costing more than the vehicle is worth.

I’ve got a couple days ahead of me where I’m off work, and can devote some time to car shopping. I’ve whittled my list down to a small handful of cars to test drive. Already talked to my bank, and getting pre-approved for a loan with a good interest rate (at or below 4%) for something used/CPO and less than $30,000 will present zero issues.

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Here’s what I need:

  • Four doors
  • Not abysmally boring to drive
  • Reasonable gas mileage (combined 25+ MPG would be nice)
  • Comfortable for long drives
  • Nothing too massive. I like some of the full-size sedans out there, but realistically it’s more car than I need, especially since I live in an urban area
  • Something I won’t be terrified about street parking with.
  • Decent ergonomics. I’m 6'3" and a hair short of 200#. Mrs. Aardvark is about a foot shorter than me, and I’m too terrified to ask what she weighs, but safe to say significantly less than me. But I’ll need something both of us can drive and get in and out of easily.

Here’s what I’m not concerned with:

  • Transmission type. I like manuals, but since this is a daily, an automatic is definitely not a deal-breaker. I’ve yet to be convinced by any CVT’s though..
  • Depreciation. As long as it holds up, I’ll probably be keeping the car for 100,000+ miles, and at least 8 years. No matter what I get, it will probably be near the bottom of the depreciation curve when I eventually get rid of it.
  • Crazy performance. I’m keeping the C5, so I don’t need a high-end performance car or anything that will shatter my spine over every crack in the road.
  • Rear legroom. We have no kids, just a 40 lb doggo. We occasionally have people in the back seat, but not all that often.
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Here’s what I’m against:

  • Super low ride height. There’s already a few places I can’t take the Corvette without scraping, so I need something with enough clearance to make it in and out of shopping centers and driveways.
  • SUV’s and crossovers. Just not my thing.
  • Boring cars that I will see 15 or 20 of in my daily commute.

As for the cars I’ve got on my list to test drive, here’s the rundown. All are between $20,000 and $30,000, with less than 40,000 miles.

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2018 Jaguar XE Premium. CPO, with a warranty. I love the red exterior, but not wild about the light beige interior. I have yet to drive or even sit in an XE, so I’m not sure yet what to expect. 16k miles - $26k.

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2017 Subaru WRX. Always a hoot to drive, and of the cars I’m looking at, it’s the one I’d probably worry least about little scratches and dings. But I’m not 100% convinced it would make the ideal daily driver. Also, not stellar on fuel. But on the flip side, it would be great for my Lake Tahoe trips in the winter. It’s also the only MT on this list. 23k miles - $23k

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2016 Jaguar XF-S. Great combination of luxury and power. 380hp on tap, but with an EPA estimated 20/29 fuel mileage, it’s right on the cusp of what I’m looking for in that arena. The XE might be more appropriate, size-wise. 39k miles - $28k.

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2016 BMW 328ix. Also good for winter snowboard trips. I swore I’d never buy another 3-series, but it’s hard to argue with the overall fit and finish for the price. On the down side, I see a ton of these every day, and we already have a 1-series in the driveway. 34k miles - $21k.

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2016 BMW 328ix Wagon. The wagon version of the 3-series, for whatever reason, seems to hold way more value. That’s a shame, because I genuinely prefer them over the sedan. As it is, this one will be stretching the limits of my self-assigned budget. 32k miles - $29k.

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2016 Mercedes CLA 250. I really do love the Cocoa Brown paint. Classy and refined, but also different from what you normally see. I really wish it had a brown leather interior rather than beige though. I’m also curious why it has so few miles despite being over 4 years old. 5k miles - $21k.

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2016 Infiniti Q50S. I like the looks on the exterior from the front angle. From the side and back, it looks kind of generic to me. And the interior has never really impressed me. But it is a decent driving car. 20k miles - $26k

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2018 Mazda 6. My favorite Mazda paint color, the soul red crystal is super deep. Sleek lines, but I’m not convinced I want to drive one every single day. It’s also close to the top end of my desired price range. 8k miles - $29k.

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2016 Acura TLX V6. I was interested in A-Spec versions, but around here they have stayed just north of $30k unless they have accident history or a ton of miles. As it is, the TLX will eat up miles with ease. However, am I going to look forward to getting behind the wheel every day? I’m not sure. 30k miles - $21k.

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2017 Genesis G80. Never even sat in one. I’ve heard lots of good things. They look a little bland to me. The one I really like, the G90, is probably too big and definitely too expensive. I want to drive the G80 though, because who knows? Maybe I’ll love it. This one is the 3.8, because the 5.0 definitely will not return the kind of fuel mileage I’m looking to get. 38k miles - $24k.

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Other contenders that I have not found locally in my price/mileage/condition range, but would consider: Buick Regal TourX, Cadillac ATS, Alfa Romeo Giulia, Chevy SS (just kidding, the fuel mileage alone excludes it unfortunately).

So, Oppo. What say you? Have I missed anything that any of you think I definitely need to check out? Any of my choices here seem way off the mark? To be totally honest, the two Jags and the WRX are probably my front runners at this point, but that could all change entirely after some test drives.

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