Thanks to our baby-boomer parents who paved the entire country and decimated public transportation, today most adults in America need access to a car one way or the other. My wife and I went eleven years as a one-car family. But now with two kids at home and another due this June (yikes) we finally realized we needed to get another one. We'd prefer to rent a car when we needed one (like Zip Cars) but they aren't close by to our house. I also experimented with riding the bus to the train to get to work but after missing the bus a few times and then being stuck I knew getting a car was the way to go.
The big question was: what type of car? Currently our family automobile is a newer Subaru Outback and we're very happy with how it can carry all of us around with its all-wheel drive. But for my "new used" car all I needed was something that would take me 8 minutes over to the train station which I then happily take into downtown while doing some reading.
It became clear that what I should look for is: a Beater. Yes, I scoped out Craigslist to find the cheapest car I could that would still be basically reliable and decently safe. After just one day of searching I found a fantastic automobile that brings me great pleasure every time I get inside and drive it to the Max station. I love that: it cost me only $800, has 230,000 miles on it, has working airbags, looks decent, and does not require any washing. When other drivers ding my doors, I just smile and laugh. The windshield is cracked, the radio is terrible, and it makes squeaky noises when I drive it.
Overall though, compared to the "best" car I drove when I was a lawyer for a company in Silicon Valley - an Audi A4 - I get at least 50 times more satisfaction from this beater. Funny how that works. Here it is. (Not so bad is it!)