Thought I'd participate a bit after having used this site while researching my recent car purchase. Corolland was probably the most influential internet source I came across.
I've been driving a full sized 1993 Ford Van since I purchased it new over 117K miles ago. Although I have had nothing but good luck and lots of good times with it; its operation has been getting more and more expensive as it has aged. Gas mileage fell to below 10 mpg and I began to feel like I was personally contributing to this country's entanglement in the Middle East.
So it came down to Civic vs. Corolla and then LE vs. S. The LE would have better met my needs but I couldn't get pAssed the cheesy simulated wood dash accents. I also like the way the air dam looks with the fog lights verses the empty eye-socket look of the LE. Yes the spoiler is pointless...I guess I can hang wet towels on it when I go camping. (I'm going to miss my van.)
I used a local buying service called CarBargains. For $160 they saved me countless hours of driving from dealership to dealership to find the lowest price, not to mention having to haggle with salespeople. It took me the better part of a month of haggling to get my van back in '93; although it was my first new car and I was determined to get a good deal and I wanted it shipped to a dealer on the other side of the continent so I could drive cross country one-way and the first salesman quit while we were still negotiating and...well, you get the idea.
Still, I ended up paying over $500 over invoice for the van and I convinced myself that that was a pretty good deal considering the complexity of the transaction. This time: $600 BELOW invoice plus a $500 rebate with no extraneous dealership add-ons and only about a half hour at the dealership filling out the paperwork and saying no to undercoating and extended warranties and the like. I HIGHLY recommend CarBargains and there may be other good buying services in your area. (They're probably more effective in areas where there are a large number of dealerships competing for your business as there are here in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.)
The Corolla is an outstanding little car. Not a lot of personality but that's okay. The van has developed entirely too much personality in recent years. I've put 270 or so miles on the Corolla so far. Filled up for $1.67/gallon and achieved about 27 mpg on my first tankfull. I'm hopeful that the latter number will increase as the engine breaks in.
I'd be interested in suggestions as to how to best protect the painted, plastic and chromed (they're probably plastic, anyhow) parts of the exterior and interior. I used NuFinish on the van with pretty good results. Should I wait for the paint to harden before I apply a sealant. The car was built 12/13/04 in Canada. It's already got some road salt and mud splatters I need to rinse off. I've ArmorAll'ed the interior plastics already as I've had good luck with that product in my van.
I hope to put a lot of miles on this car. I haven't driven cross country since '94 and I'd like try it again in the Corolla.