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2003 Mazda Protege 5 vs 2005 Subaru WRX vs 2002 Lexus IS300


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I am looking at 3 different cars to buy as my first car that I plan on daily driving.

The first one is a manual 2003 Mazda Protege5 with 138k miles Price: $5500

I think this is relatively reliable, but lacks in power and it is fwd, which is not really my preference. 

The second car is a manual 2005 subaru WRX Wagon with 125k miles Price: $6500 (wheels included)

The seller says that the previous owner maintained it well, did an oil change every 3k miles, water pump and timing belt changed around 110k, says head gasket is ok, and it comes with 3 sets of wheels. I have always liked wrx's but I have been unsure of getting one because of the head gasket problems. I plan on getting the whole car checked out by my mechanic, if it is all good and I can change the head gasket will the car be a reliable daily? Also, how expensive would a head gasket change be?

The third car is a manual 2002 Lexus is300 with 224k miles Price: $5500

The mileage on this one is really high, and the seller doesn't want to go any lower than 5500. I know it is a reliable trans and engine, but still I am really offput by a car with that high of a mileage. How long would this last, how expensive would it be to fix things?

Let me know what you think of each car, and which would be the best option for a reliable daily driver. I know that the protege5 would be the most reliable, but the least amount of fun. Wrx could be reliable if everything checks out ok. The is300 I dont know for sure. 


2003 Mazda Protege5 138k miles $5500, 2005 wrx 125k miles (and 3 sets of wheels) $6500, 2002 Lexus is300 224k miles $5500

How long do you plan to keep the vehicle and how many miles a year do you anticipate putting on it?

I would like to keep it for at the very least 4 years, until I am out of college. I would say probably 10-15k miles per year

What engine is the Impreza WRX?

6 Answers

I’m not sure I like any of these options.  Have you also looked at a Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Toyota Matrix?

I have, but I don't really like fwd cars, I know those options are way more reliable but I want something that is fun


Pass, older Mazda quality is not great they tend to rust because Ford parts and tend to have transmission failures on autos because Nissan units and ragged out on manuals because people drive the heck out of them. I would pass on the WRX because they need good maintenance and not driven hard to last. The IS price is just ridiculous. I would keep looking. None of those cars are really worth more than $2500-3000,  and none of these cars will last if you drive them 15.000 hard miles a year. 5 grand can get a RWD Lexus GS (one segment larger) one generation newer with half the miles. I would just watch out for listings on craigslist and see what you find. Definitely have a mechanic check out the car like you said whatever you will buy especially on old rwd cars. Good luck.

This post was modified 2 weeks ago by jonathanthecarguy

Agreed with @daywalker Especially if you’re worried about $$$ repair bills.

My friends dad is a mechanic, if he checked everything out and determined it was in good condition would it be ok to buy?


All three of those seem overpriced. I would think twice about the WRX where it is turbocharged. 

Well the wrx comes with 3 sets of wheels, stock ones and 2 nice sets, so that price is justified. And it is the 2.0L engine, which is generally more reliable than the 2.5 right?

It is turbocharged and forced induction is less reliable than naturally aspirated.


Look more. If your friend’s dad is a mechanic, ask him to find a good car within his network. You will find a good one. 


Older Mazdas are rust buckets especially here in North America. Between the WRX and IS300, both are great vehicles, but it depends on whether u want AWD or not. If you want AWD grip and better engagement, get the Subaru, if not go with the lexus.