Real Wheels Live

Aug 16, 2013

The Washington Post cars columnist Warren Brown and guest Lou Ann Hammond will discuss the auto industry. Plus, they'll give purchase advice to readers.

My daughter just graduated from college and got a job.  What used cars would you recommend for her and what can we expect in terms of the age of the car and the mileage on the vehicle?  Her budget is around $12K. Thanks for your comments. Love your chats.

I'd look at a Hyundai Elantra or Accent. Both certainly fit within your budget. And both are reasoably reliable an safe starter cars.

Both Warren and I are in Monterey this week. We've already driven the new 2014 Chevy Corvette stingray. Warren saw the unveil of the Cadillac Elmiraj and I was at the unveil of the BMW Pininfarina Gran Lusso Coupe and Concept, M4 and tease viewing of the BMW i8 that will be shown at the Frankfurt auto show in September.
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I am a 22 yr old male in the first stages of my credit history and I'm looking to buy a used car which will last at least 6 months. What is the best place to start, if I have $2,000?

Try Carmax, at the low end of the lot. You should be able to find something that will get you through six months to a year.

Lou Ann here:

You can also try the want ads. People selling their used cars typically sell them lower than a large group with overhead. Also look at craigslist - but be careful when you're looking at cars. Don't go into a person's house by yourself, meet in public places, always let people know if you're going to someone's house to look at a car.

I read last week's after the fact and noted that there were a lot of messages posted by "Clifton," and also complaints about the number of "Clifton" posts. I'm with the complainers. Warren seems to have bonded with "Clifton" in some way, but I have been reading this chat for years and have found Clifton to not only come across as rude and arrogant, but also, to be incapable of separating his opions from fact. Unless no one else writes in (and I have on occasion, but only when I had a question or to share my personal experience on a car someone was asking about), please do the rest of a favor and limit the comments from "Clifton" to the lowest possible roar. Thank you.

We hear you. We welcome everyyone, including Clifton. But we'll try to be more even-handed in fielding comments. Thanks for your notes.

I am currently driving a 2005 Audi A6. When it is time to replace it, I am thinking about replacing it with a VW Passat TDi. Moving from the Audi to the VW, what differences can I expect to find in ride, handling, quality of the interior and general workmanship? Would I be happier just waiting for an A4 TDi? Final question, when the new A3 sedan arrives in the US, will it be offered with a diesel? Thanx!

Audi is Vw and Vw is Audi. The actual differences in drive feel will be marginal, although marketers for both companies will try to convince you otherwise. Personally, I'd go with Audi primarily because Audi does such a good job on interiors.

Last week, there was a reference to the "Rule of 79." Should it have been the "Rule of 78s," which has to do with the calculation of interest and prepayment? There was also a discussion of prepayment penalties. The only reasonable answer to this problem is to read the loan document and ask questions, no matter what type of lender is involved. Herndon

Good morning from beautiful Monterey Bay Herndon,

(It might be 78, I was tapping my old computer brain)

It's easy to say you should read the fine print of every document. I saw the comment in last week's post that said that. I think it's a little harsh. I like to think that this is why the chat is here, so that people like you, Warren and myself can help the people who are starting out.

If you, or your child, was buying a car for the first time you would want to know the ins and outs of buying that car.

I'm not saying a person shouldn't be responsible for their actions, I'm just saying there is intelligence all of us can impart to the next person.

What is the best way to clean the windshield? Cleaning the outside seems fairly easy, but I seem to have some type of film on the inside that I really notice when I drive into the morning sunrise. I have tried various things, but they all seem to leave it cloudy. The sun also seems to reveal tiny specs in the glass which refract the sunlight.

Ah, yes, that film--evaporative residue from plastics used in the interior. I find that Windex does the job quickly and efficiently.

Hi and happy Friday! I've started shopping for a hatchback and there are so many options! Between the Mazda3, Focus, Impreza, Fit, etc. there's a lot to research. My friends have all had poor experiences with VW (none will buy another) so ruled out the Golf/Jetta. Love the Mini but with all the options the price goes too steep. There's also the Elantra GT. I know it was new last year - have you driven it? Have to say I at least like the look of it the best and the warranty is a big attraction too. So seems like a good value. Any of these you would rule out?

If you want affordable, safe, reliable reasonably fuel-efficient and something approaching fun-to-drive it is difficult to beat the Elantra, which also comes with one of the best warranties in the business.

We're stuck deciding between two vehicles. It's come down to the Volvo XC60 and the Lexus RX350 with the goal of keeping the vehicle as small as possible while comfortably and safely transporting 2 adults, 2 large dogs, assorted gear, etc. Which would you choose and why?

I'd go with the Lexus RX350 primarily because Rosa Parks Brown, our chocolate Labrador, absolutely loves it. Seriously. She's comfortable in that one and has ways of letting you know it.

Hi guys, love these chats & keep up the good work! I'm really impressed by the forthcoming BMW i3, seems like the future is here now with the new carbon reinforced plastic frame, electric (& the range extender model) propulsion & seriously cool interior. Living in KC, whenever I read about new e-cars my enthusiasm dampens a bit as we always seem to be left out as distribution favors the coasts. Any chance BMW is considering rolling out the i3 to all of the states?

BMW loves their "Electronauts" in the midwest and will be selling them to you as soon as they come out. I talked to Jacob Harb, the BMW i director, (video should go up today) and he said that California will not be the favored state, that BMW will sell this vehicle to anyone, no matter what state they live in.

It's a great vehicle - made better by the fact that all BMW i dealers will have solar panels and charging units at their dealership.

Warren, I admit to being a creature of habit. I was smitten by a BMW 318i years ago and have owned 5 Bimmers in a row. BMW still makes a great car but my last one 2008 535xi and later models I have tested have just lost their "driving" feel. Will I find relief in Audi, MB, Infinit, Lexus or are all cars now just a computer with four wheels?

All cars are becoming motorized computers. But, frankly, I still find it difficult to find much that beats the 3-Series BMW.

What is the best way to cool the car down after it has been sitting in the sun all day? In the winter, I always let the engine warm up before turning the vent on full blast. In the summer, I often open the windows to let the excess heat out but don't know if blasting the AC on high is the best way to cool the car down.

It's the way I do it, but I also cover my windows - back and front - with covers made for it. It helps and it saves some A/C time. 

I want to hand down my 03 Accord EX V6 (that you recommended some years back) with 194K miles that still runs well and get a newer car before my impending retirement. Considering a '13 Accord Sedan/Coupe, Optima SX, maybe a Verano Turbo or Acura TSX. Looking for quiet, agile ride with decent amout of bells and whistles and good supportive seats for aging back. Recommendations or suggested alternatives? Trying to keep cost in the $25-30K range. Would consider slightly used as well.

If you are looking for quiet agility it is difficult to beat the Buick Verano. "Quiet engineering" is becoming a Buick hallmark--some of the most quiet, best conceived interiors in the business.

Hey guys, this may be a good time to burnish the old CV. The Post is making it as difficult to find Real Wheels as a good Lindsay Lohan movie. What did you ever do to Jeff Bezos?

Our apologies. We're working on that, really. Bezos actually will help to make it easier to find Real Wheels and everything else digital. That's my hope anyway.

Based on extensive personal research and a fortuitously-timed review from Mr. Brown way back in 2004, I purchased a new Elantra GT in that year. A freak manual transmission issue (synchros between 1st and 2nd went at 9k) was fixed promptly under warranty with a smile by the dealer; 101k miles and 9 years later it's dated, but still taut and mechanically quite sound. The new ones look fantastic. Good luck!

Hyundai has come a long way. The wonderful thing about today's industry is that there are so many truley great cars to choose from.

Just a comment from the XXLT department: when I bought my Passat, I had considered the A6 but didn't have the dough to go that high. I looked at the A4 as a substitute, but the interior--and especially the seats--in the A4 were much smaller than in the Passat.

I toured the plant the Passat was made in - That new Passat is a great vehicle.Lots of room in the back, comfortable seating.

I appreciate that you stayed within your financial means and still got a car that you are happy with.

Lou Ann & Warren, What is your take on the Volvo C30? I realize it's the last year for the model, and wondering if I might be able to strike a deal on it. I may be one of the handful of people who like the way it looks. I also like its hatchback design. Should I go for it? If so, is there one version you recommend over another?

I think the reason the C30 hasn't done better is because it has so much competition and yet it's a great little car. It depends on what you want, base T5 or the sportier T5 R-Design. I always tend to go sportier because I have an option to put it in sport mode if I get bored :)

Warren seems to be really high on the brand. I have a cousin and a friend who both had them in the '90s and wouldn't take one if it was free. Have they really come that far? I'm looking for a new car and have ruled them out. Maybe I should revisit?

Yes, they have come that far. Their leadership is deep, John Krafcik has been with Hyundai for over a decade now and stability can mean a lot in the car industry. He's a great leader for the Hyundai brand.


Why did the chat start ten minutes early?

Because we missed you guys and were eager to talk to you

Hi Lou Ann and Warren.....Have you two checked out the Hybrid Avalon yet? Would love to hear your comments on it. Thanks!

I have. I have driven both of them. There's only about a $4,000 difference between the two. You'll give up some horsepower, but add low end torque. You'll go from 21/31mpg on the Avalon to 40/39 mpg on the Avalon hybrid. If you do a lot of in city driving that's a big jump up in fuel economy for the hybrid.Both take regular unleaded.

Everything else is the same on the car, so  I would consider the hybrid. Avalon has a history of appealing to older people, but this new Avalon is quite luxurious and I find it appealing.

Any thoughts on the 2014 Corolla yet?

I haven't driven it yet. Toyota had an unveil in LA a couple months ago,

It has a cool new design, something Toyota has lacked in the past. I will let you know as soon as I drive it.

Thank you, my friends, for joining us today. Warren is off driving the new 2014 Chevy Corvette stingray. What a value for the money car! Thanks Matt for all the help today.We'll see you back here next week, same time, same place.

And remember -

Never drive faster than your Angel can fly.

much love

Lou Ann

In This Chat
Warren Brown
Warren Brown has covered the cars industry for The Washington Post since 1982.

On Wheels Archive

Real Wheels Live Q&A Archive
Lou Ann Hammond
Lou Ann Hammond is the founder and owner of the first privately owned automobile website Recently Lou Ann has developed an automotive and energy issues related website,, that covers a broader range of subjects than solely the automotive or the energy industry.
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