When your car has mechanical problems, don’t you wish you could fix it yourself? As a Floridian, the obstacles you’re dealing with could have to do with the insane traffic, high highway speeds, extreme heat and humidity, and more. So, if you’re tired of spending exorbitant repair costs on your highly-engineered BMW and paying out the wazoo for a mechanic to reset your computer every time your aging Merc needs a battery replacement (yearly… because it’s so darn hot out there!) - then your best bet is buying a car that meets those needs. At the end of the day, your wallet will be SO happy… and these cars are not without modification options.
If you get tired of seeing Honda make this list, stay involved… not all the cars are imports, we swear.
Honda Civic (The 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th generations)
By far the most affordable used vehicle for work-on-ability, this lightweight vehicle has been a tuner favorite for years for a few reasons. A used one under 100k miles will run you 5-10 grand, and you can use the extra money you saved to soup it up. While you could go ahead and pay a couple more grand for an Acura TL (Accord equivalent), you’ll sacrifice in weight - because the Acura Civic equivalent was only manufactured in Canada and is a relatively rare vehicle to find. Since your Acura branding during this era is basically just a Honda with leather seats, you’d be better off spending those 1-2 grand on aftermarket seats. The seats in a Honda Civic and Accord are extremely easy to bolt on and unplug, and a great set of seats will usually run you about $500… so you could save $1500 and have top of the line seats that far outrank the stock Acura seats that come with paying for that logo.
A Civic is built in such a way that most repairs can be done through the hood or the dash. You may need to jack up the car for oil changes and certain repairs to the underbody. Fortunately, most parts are relatively cheap and the only repairs that should run you more than a few hundred dollars are major repairs, such as the radiator, transmission, and any engine problems. These cars can run well in to the 200,000 mile range, and even to half a million if you really baby them.
The 350Z faces some reliability issues, depending on the model year you purchase. However, simple design and good components, as well as a very sporty setup, make this an affordable and impressive purchase option. Repairs come cheap and many can be completed on your own due to the simplicity of the vehicle. Also, this car is a gearhead favorite. What this means is there are many aftermarket parts you can use to improve the vehicle instead of paying the extra in taxes for a more expensive vehicle. Most 350Zs are manuals, but you can get an automatic if you look hard enough.
Floridians need to be prepared for potential insurance spikes, because this car is a 2 seater and has a reputation for being driven by car enthusiasts. By the same token, make sure you get a professional inspection on a used 350Z before biting the bullet. The previous owner may have driven it hard - and Carfax does not always have all the information on the vehicle. A quick way to check is to look for paint spots, inconsistent caulking in the vehicle, and most importantly: the wheels. If the rims have a lot of curb rash, odds are the previous driver was a maniac.
We had a few digs at Acura in the previous paragraphs, but it goes without saying that Honda’s luxury equivalent is one of the best bang-for-your-buck cars you can buy used. If you’re the kind of person who doesn’t want to do many aftermarket changes to a car, but you love the idea of being able to do small repairs in your garage to keep your expenses low and avoid the effort of finding a reputable mechanic, this is one of the best ways you can go.
The Acura TL is basically a beefed up Honda Accord - and you can get a used one under 100k miles between 7 and 12 grand. The sedan offers quite a bit of space, and a moonroof comes standard in many models. Also, depending on the model you purchase, you could get some decent speakers and enjoy modern comforts like anti-lockout features and keyless entry.
Jeep Wranglers hold higher value than most other cars because the brand has a loyal following and the car’s design has not changed in decades. This standardization makes the car extremely easy to work on. Car critics often compare its underbody to that of a lego set - easy to remove and replace parts. This is one of the few SUV-type and Truck-type vehicles you could buy and still work on, as SUVs tend to be more heavily computerized. If you like sitting high and getting your South Florida beach vibe on, a Jeep Wrangler may be right up your alley.
A used Wrangler under 100k miles will run you a higher cost than other makes we’ve listed - the hardware varies significantly in each. You’ll likely have to spend between $13,000 and $22,000 for a decent Wrangler. However, you will be hard pressed to find a vehicle that is easier to repair than this one.
Buying a used car can be risky, but it doesn’t need to break the bank. If you get a car that has problems, these 4 options can keep your repairs low and offer flexibility in modifications.
If you buy a used car in Florida, you’ll need to get registered in the State. Contact us to get quick, same-day registration and custom license plates for your new, home-mechanic-friendly vehicle.