Best Used Car Under $30,000 [Ask Nathan]

2014 buick verano nathan adlen
Nathan and The Fast Lane Car team are here to answer your (reasonable) questions. Interesting and/or entertaining emails will be posted to this column. If it’s relevant in the automotive universe, there’s a chance we may know something about it. The author’s email address and name will be omitted – leaving your initials or nickname, your preference.

From day one, The Fast Lane Car has made it our policy to answer as many questions and comments as we can. We get thousands of emails and comments and feel that, as part of a tight-knit automotive community, having an open dialogue with you keeps things fresh and exciting.

In this edition of Ask Nathan:

  • $30 smoothness
  • Choosing one for ‘da ladies
  • Good looking, bigger duds
  • Muscle Car Bias

Normally, this question would be a tad long for us. Still, it’s a good question about getting the right car:

2014 Ford Fusion Energi

Q: I am a big fan of your videos and I always look forward to seeing what new car you will be reviewing. I am looking to purchase a used vehicle, budget is $30k. I have read so many reviews and done as much research as I can, but I feel like I’m stuck in making a choice. I live in New York, and we have terrible roads here. The pavement is really bad. I’m currently driving my wives 2013, KIA FORTE KOUP. I really dislike the ride of this vehicle, this car is very loud especially at highway speeds, if you’re having a conversation, you have to almost yell so that the other person can hear you. Also you feel every bump and crack in the pavement. And the seats are so hard and uncomfortable. This car has no insulation it seems. Yes I know it sounds like I hate the car, but honestly I do, laugh out loud. I can’t wait to get my own car.

I have somewhat narrowed it down to the following vehicles. My question to you is, what is your opinion on the vehicles below and maybe there is a vehicle that you might recommend that I have overlooked? I truly appreciate any help.

I am looking for a four-door sedan that’s:

1: Quiet/insulated.
2: Comfortable/good sound system.
3: Smooth over bumpy/cracked roads.
4: Entry level premium feeling.
5: Decent gas/reliability.

1: Lexus ES 350
2: Acura TL
3: Volvo S60
4: Jeep Cherokee

I was also seriously considering the very handsome and attractive used 2014 Mazda 6. But I just can’t get over that small & dated infotainment system. I was also looking at the Mazda 3, but I believe that it might have that Kia insulation, or lack thereof. I was also considering a 2013 Acura ILX. But I’m not sure that the underpowered 150 HP will satisfy my lead foot.

I understand I am asking for way too much for such a small budget but you are the expert, and you get to spend time with all these vehicles. I thought maybe you could point me in the right direction. Any help would be truly appreciated, sincerely a big fan.


From New York, NY

A: Boy, I’m glad your question is a simple one! All kidding aside, I totally get your frustration and appreciate your research for finding the best used car under $30,000. The Lexus ES and Acura TL are pretty good (although the TL rides rougher than the Lexus).

Roman and I completely agree about one car you might have overlooked: the Ford Fusion. Yep, it’s everything you listed and there are lots of options. Want something more luxurious? Try the Lincoln MKZ!

Used Volvos are great, but their maintenance bills tend to get pricey.

Have you considered a 2013 Toyota Avalon? Good power, quiet interior… an affordable Lexus in a way.

You’ll never go wrong with a Honda Accord – new or used. I’m a fan of the Chrysler 300 and Dodge Charger too.

Roman and I highly recommend looking at a CPO program (Certified Pre Owned) through the automaker.

Best of luck!


This next one is from a large viewer who wants to make a change:

2014 chevrolet impala chevy large sedan
2014 Chevrolet Impala

Q: Lots of “Chunky Monkey” love from Boston Roman and Nathan!!! I’m a husky guy like you Nathan. I’m six-foot five-inches tall and weigh about 300 lbs. I know you’re smaller, but between you and Roman, I thought you guys could help me with an odd question and a funny quote, “Does this Fat make me look Car?!” Funny, right?! We fat guys have to be funny, it’s the only way to prevent us from kicking pretty-boys to the curb. Anyway I wanted to know what your thoughts were on a affordable car [not a truck!] that will compliment my large frame.

You guys are the best and I love Nicole and Emmie!

J. T.

A: Thanks J.T. and I know our staff is appreciative of your email and compliments. There are only a few cars out there that are comfortable and look right paired with a manly-man J.T. Roman and I agree that the Chevrolet Impala, Toyota Avalon and even the Hyundai Azera are great for large drivers. They are all excellent cars to boot. The Impala stands out and would be the one I would recommend to a big friend.

Best of luck!


This one comes to us from a viewer/reader who is looking for something to impress the ladies:

2015 Volkswagen Golf GTI

Hey guys i was curious to see what kind of affordable cars that are still fun to drive that have a good modern look I’m 20 year old guy and ive really been looking for something fun that i can enjoy as my first car that wont crank my insurance ,but still have fun with some girls
T. M.

A: You, my friend have come to the right place! Well, I can’t help with the ladies, but I know what car car to pick and why. Check out the 2015 Volkswagen Golf VII with the panoramic sunroof option. Emme loves sun roofs, so that’s a good start.

Andre swears by the Golf in multiple languages.

The new Golf is Über fun, it’s comfortable, safe and should work out with insurance (unless you get the GTI).

Best of luck!


This last one is a comment from our YouTube coverage of Bad to the Bone: Dodge Celebrates 100 Years of Serious Muscle – he was irked:

Q:So you ignore the 80’s Daytona and caravan? Also I saw the dodge intrepid. I really wanted to see those no matter how UN popular they are. No regular k car? That was important to them. It saved the company.

K (From YouTube)

A: This is what I said on YouTube: “You’re totally right; however, during our limited time there I had to make a choice… ’68 Charger or an 80’s Daytona? A WWII Dodge 100 Command Car or an 80’s Chrysler Minivan? I totally acknowledge and appreciate the historic contribution of the vehicles you mentioned. I was weak and had one opportunity to drive some of the most amazing classics ever produced. Forgive me.”

There is another part to my explanation that holds true for any press event TFLCar goes to. We are always at the mercy of time, selection, space and elements when we shoot. We take our opportunities when they present themselves. One of the things that makes us successful is our work ethic, which helps balance our limitations.

With that said, if we get another crack at the Dodge museum pieces, we’ll try to get (some) contemporary, historically significant vehicles. After a few shots of espresso – they may even be entertaining.

Best of luck!


Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism - Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum.  His words, good humor and videos are enjoyed worldwide.
Easily amused by anything with four wheels, Nathan Adlen reviews vehicles from the cheapest to the most prestigious. Wrecking yards, dealer lots, garages, racetracks, professional automotive testing and automotive journalism – Nathan has experienced a wide range of the automotive spectrum. His words, good humor and videos are enjoyed worldwide.