Used Car Shopping - All Scoring Areas Out!


Hello, and welcome to a one-off, low-stakes experimental challenge, where I thought I’d try something a little different. This challenge differs from your usual CSR or whatnot in that, rather than design a car new for the client within their specific guidelines, you are building you’re brand’s car a couple decades in advance to eventually make a great used car for our client.

About the client

Nathan is a 17 year old kid living in the suburbs of Greece, New York, who’s been saving up money at part time jobs over the summer of 2019 and the following winter break. Now, as the year turns to 2020, he has accumulated just enough to achieve his goal, and buy himself his first car.

How much Money, you ask? Well, after we put some aside for insurance, potential fuel costs, maintenance, school parking lot expenses, and an extra rainy-day fund just in case… that $2000 left to cover the sticker price of the car; which may not be a lot, but Nathan is far too excited about this to wait until next summer. So to Facebook Marketplace, we go!

And what car does he want, you ask? Well… he’s pretty open minded. He doesn’t have a specific idea of what he wants, and is really at the mercy of whatever’s available. But he does have a list of what qualities he prefers out of it, and is ready to take whatever fits his needs and wants best.

Hard Rules:
  • Trim year: between 1990 and 2010 (inclusive).
  • Engine variant year: no newer than trim year.
  • Quality sliders: No higher than +3, no lower than -12
  • No carbon fiber on anything.
  • Engine stress on any component: No greater than 75%
  • 91 or 95 RON only (95 RON will incur a minor penalty; see below).
  • No cross-Ply tires.
  • No front drums
  • ET limit: 150
Final cost must not exceed $2000 (after being adjusted for depreciation)

Of course, I don’t mean the straight “approximate cost” value in the editor (I don’t even think it’s possible to get that value that low). Rather, I’m talking about the “approximate cost” after depreciation has been taken into account, using my Not-Necessarily-Realistic-But-Super-Convenient Depreciation Chart:

“Model Year” refers to the model year your car was sold under. “Remaining Value” refers to what percent of the original sticker price the car is still worth in 2020. Divide 2000 by the percent value for your car’s year, and the result is your cost limit.

(e.g.: The Remaining Value for 2007 is 12.40%. So if you make a 2007 model car, the cost limit will be $2000/0.1240 = $16,129.)

Soft Rules:

The following is a list of rules that your car should follow; but because things break overtime, and because people sometimes modify their cars, you don’t have to follow them. You’ll lose points for breaking these rules, but the potential gains from doing so might be worth it…

(List was recently reorganized to improve legibility.)

Very unrealistic/uncharacteristic engineering: -5pts

Invoked if the Car’s design is drastically unlike anything that would be found stock in the US, mechanically and visually. (note: I retain the ability to bin cars that are just too absurd or minmaxed, though it would have to be really bad to get to that point.)

Somewhat unrealistic/uncharacteristic engineering: -3pts

Invoked if a car has more than one mechanical or visual elements which wouldn’t be found stock, or visual design appears modified to an absurd degree or appears completely divorced from engineering.

Minorly unrealistic/uncharacteristic engineering: -1pts

Invoked if elements of a car’s visual design appears non-stock, or is not appropriate to the car’s type or time period; or a small/isolated element of mechanical design does not seem stock or appropriate. Does not apply to visual signs of wear and age (rust, dirt, dents, chipped paint, missing hubcaps, etc), in case you want to make your car look weathered.

Engine Stress > 50%: -5pts

Nathan, like most people, doesn’t want to be driving a car that’s falling apart at the seams.

Engine Stress > 25%: -3pts

This can lead to expensive repair costs in the long term, which is no-good with his budget.

Engine Stress > 0%: -1pts

This can lead to expensive repair costs in the long term, which is no-good with his budget.

Quality in up to 3 places < -9: -5pts

Nathan, like most people, doesn’t want to be driving a car that’s falling apart at the seams. Note that if more than 3 places have Quality issues, this and other quality penalties may be incurred multiple times.

Quality in up to 3 places < -6: -3pts

This can lead to expensive repair costs in the long term, which is no-good with his budget. Note that if more than 3 places have Quality issues, this and other quality penalties may be incurred multiple times.

Quality in up to 3 places < -3: -1pts

This can lead to expensive repair costs in the long term, which is no-good with his budget. Note that if more than 3 places have Quality issues, this and other quality penalties may be incurred multiple times.

No entertainment: -3pts

Nathan strongly wants his car to have a working radio, so he doesn’t have to waste his phone battery.

Engine loudness > 50: -3pts

Nathan may like a loud engine because it feels sporty, but if it gets too loud it becomes obnoxious, and starts to drown out conversations and the radio. Plus, his community probably mandates noise limits.

Safety < 30: -3pts

Nathan may be a teenager who thinks he’s immortal, but even he wants the car to at least be roadworthy.

No muffler: -2pts

They’re required by law.

No catalytic converter: -2pts

They’re required by law.

95 RON fuel: -1pts

Nathan slightly prefers 91 RON because it’s cheaper (and to be fair, the vast majority of US cars run 91 RON anway).

Scoring system explanation

This challenge will use an experimental point-based system that intends to numerically compare all cars submitted; whoever nets the most points, wins. Details below:


This part is straightforward; A car’s “coolness” will be ranked on a scale of -20 to +20, with 20 being the coolest possible, -20 being as uncool as possible, and 0 being true neutral (neither cool nor uncool, it just “is”). What qualifies as cool is explained in the “coolness” section.

All other areas

This is the more experimental part; cars are ranked on either a 1-10 or 1-5 scale, with the best car being assigned the highest value, the worst car getting the lowest value, and every other car’s value being assigned in relation (rounded to the nearest tenth).

Let’s use the following real-life cars as an example:

The Transsport has the best practicality, so it gets a score of 10 in that segment. The Seville has the worst practicality, so it gets a score of 1. And the Astra? Its practicality is 1/3rd the difference between the best and worst cars, so it gets a score of 3.3.

Now what if we add a 4th competitor?

Now, since the Eclipse has the worst practicality, it gets a score of 1. And since the bar is now been set lower, the Seville gets a score of 4 (2/5 the difference), and the Astra a score of 6 (3/5 the difference). The Transsport, still the best, still gets a score of 10.

Scoring areas

Coolness: ±20pts

The most important of any individual stat, Nathan wants his car to be “cool;” Below is information on what that means.

Cool Wall

To help visualize what he considers “cool,” I’ve built a cool wall using real-life cars from this period:

My how this wall has gotten tall…

The further right a car is on the board, the better a score it gets. The edges represent -20 and +20, with the white bars representing -10, 0, and +10 from left to right.

Each contestant can also request to have up to 3 cars of their choice publicly added to the cool wall, to see how Nathan responds to them. The car must be a real life car sold domestically in the US at some point, and I recommend (though don’t require) you stay within the years 1990-2010.

Each contestant can also ask privately about up to 3 questions about a car’s placement (both cars that are currently there, and cars that were added later). These can be general questions (i.e. why is car A placed where it is?), but more specific questions might be more useful (i.e. Why are these 2 similar-looking cars rated so differently?).

What influences his verdict
  • A big part of weather he considers a car “cool” is how good he thinks it looks; Between 2 equivalent cars, the pretty one will do much better than the ugly one.
  • He strongly likes luxury cars; A car’s prestige (stat) will have an impact on this.
  • He strongly likes sports cars; A car’s sportiness (stat) will have an impact on this.
  • Nathan is not a car person, and knows very little about cars, so he is very easily tricked by a car’s image and appearance; a car that just looks sporty, for example, will resonate just as well with him (if not better) than a car that actually is sporty; though of course, a car that looks and is sporty will do even better.
  • A brand’s history, or nation of origin, means nothing to him.
  • He generally prefers newer cars to older cars, all else considered.
  • Unless there’s something strong about a car to sway his opinion, he probably isn’t going to have strong feeling about a given car. Expect most Coolness scores to stay within ±10pts.
  • 3D Interior designs will not be considered for coolness (or anything, really).
Notes on specific body styles

Here’s some tips on how he generally perceives certain body styles.

He thinks of this style as the most basic and “normal” kind of car possible, and his perception of the car isn’t going to be influenced much by the body style; except, to him, sedans carry a greater sense of “sportiness” than normal, thanks to growing up in the SUV craze. Plus, he generally likes how this body style looks.

Nathan is not a car person; he thinks any 3-box design with 2 doors is a sports car. And he likes sports cars. Now, he can perceive the difference between something that’s really a sports car and something that’s just looks like one, and will prefer the former. But really, anything that he thinks is a sports car is going to get good marks.

He has this impression of hatchbacks as something you would only ever drive if you either lived in a city, or were too poor to afford something bigger; and would prefer not to have a poor person’s car (though he acknowledges his lack of choice in the matter). But he does think of some hatchbacks as actually quite cute and lovable, and might take a liking to them. Plus, he’s heard of this idea of a “hot hatchback,” and while it doesn’t sound as cool as a real sports car, it certainly seems like something he would like.

Nathan doesn’t actually know what a wagon is, thanks to how unpopular this body style is in the US; after all, the only wagons he sees often enough to recognize are Subaru’s Outback (which he thinks is an SUV) and Chrysler’s PT Cruiser (which he thinks is a hatchback). On one hand, this means he lacks the negative stigma that convinced the generation before him to stop buying this bodystyle. But on the other hand, (as long as he doesn’t misunderstand what he’s looking at) he isn’t necessarily going to like their shipping-container shape unless it’s been done really well.

Thanks to the SUV Craze that’s been going on his whole life, Nathan doesn’t think of SUVs as anything other than a regular, common car. Like the sedan, the SUV body style won’t have much of an effect on his perception of the car; except for how SUV’s are regularly driven by the older adults in his neighborhood; as in, People like his parents. Unless there’s something else to anchor its reputation, an on-road SUV has a strong chance of being associated with the parents and Karens in is neighborhood, and therefore appearing very undesirable to him.

Nathan has no need for a Pickup truck, and frankly they don’t make any sense in his situation. But the American enamoration with the pickup truck hasn’t completely escaped him, and he isn’t completely closed off to the idea of cruising around in those tough workers, especially if he thinks it looks good or intimidating.

NO! NO MINIVANS! PLEASE GOD NO! Minivans are the ultimate symbol of uncoolness to him! He has EVERY stigma against them! A minivan is the last thing he could possibly want even though it’s exactly what he’s asking for stat-wise. He isn’t unreasonable enough so as to not buy one if it ends up being the best car available; but it’s a real uphill battle to get him to not flat-out hate it.

Cargo Van
There is really no reason he would want this. They’re not sporty, not particularly good looking, and they have a somewhat negative cultural association with kidnappers. The only upside to these is that they don’t have the outright putrid stigma of the minivan.

He generally associates convertibles with sports cars, and a convertible top might make a coupe seem a bit sportier than it would have otherwise. But beyond that, he has no real interest in a convertible, and it probably won’t boost his impression of the car that much.

Practicality: 10pts

Nathan wants to meet up with and hang out with friends in his car, taking them to the beach and mall and Wendy’s and whatnot. He wants to be able to hold as many friends as possible, as easily and comfortably as possible.

Drivability: 10pts

Being pretty new to the roads, Nathan is not a very good driver. Worse, he thinks he is. The easier the car makes his job, the better.

Reliability: 10pts

In practice, Nathan will be using this car to go to school (later work) frequently, if not every day; and every time he gets in it, he wants it to just work, without him having to think about how or why.

Comfort: 5pts

As frequently as he wants to use the car, he wants the ride quality to be at least somewhat bearable (especially if he’s going to have friends in the car).

Safety: 5pts

Nathan will tell you that this requirement is just to satisfy his parent’s nagging. Inside, however, he is paying attention to how well-put-together the cars are a bit more than he would like to admit.

Cost: 5pts

Value pt. 1; if a cheaper car can do the job better than a more expensive car, he’ll go for the cheaper car. Leaves him with more money to do other things.

Fuel Economy: 5pts

Value pt. 2; He won’t be working during the upcoming school semester, so he’s stuck with the gas money he already has saved. The further the car can go on a tank, the more he’ll be able to use it.

Service Costs: 5pts

Value pt. 3: He has money set aside for servicing and repairs, but again; the less he has to spend, the better.

Naming Scheme:

Car model & Engine Family: UCS – [YourForumUserename]
Car Trim: Name of car
No requirements on engine variant.

Submissions are closed as of 14:00 January 10, UTC.
Despite the recent release of Automation 4.2 Alpha, this challenge is being kept in Automation 4.1.

Submit your car through the forum’s direct-messages. I will allow infinite resubmissions, as long as they are sent through the same DM thread as the original; the most recently submitted entry will be considered in the contest. I will only alert you once if I receive an illegal build.

Please let me know if you have any questions or suggestions! (:


Are you planning on using some kind of cost calculator to show the price an older car would be in the year of the challenge? Or just the approximate cost in automation

If you’re referring to inflation, I won’t be taking that into account.

A car’s value will use approximate cost; what the car’s cost limit is depends on what model year it is, which is found using the depreciation chart.

Where is the depreciation chart?

It’s an image under “Hard Rules” > “Final Cost Must Not Exceed…”

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What about the engine variant year? Must that be between 1990 and 2010 inclusive as well?

What is his opinion on retro designs?

I have a car in mind, I don’t know if it was sold in the US but I doubt it was. I have 2 questions: can it be added to the cool wall, and since the car is technically a “fastback coupe” IRL but the body in Automation is hatchback, would that affect what Nathan thinks about it or can we pretend it’s a coupe?

Ah, good point. The engine variant can’t be any newer than the car trim. I’ll be sure to add that shortly.

With what little he knows about cars, there’s a good chance he won’t even recognize that a design is retro to begin with. Even if he does, just the fact that it is retro is not going to have much of an impact on his opinion of it.

For an idea of his visual tastes, you can try looking at the retro designs on the cool wall, or adding your own.

A car’s body type in Automation has no direct influence on the coolness ranking, and those tips are just there to help explain how he generally views cars.

And yeah, the car has to have been sold in the US at some point. Don’t forget that the car you’re thinking of might’ve been sold under a different name or brand in the US, or that there might have been some similar cars sold domestically that could still give you an idea how he’d respond to that type of car.
(and if you can’t find anything very similar to your inspiration car in the US, that might be a signal that you’re on the wrong track).

Can Nathan drive a stick shift? Does he prefer automatics?

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Does Nathan have a preference for car color?

Does Nathan prefer sports car over normal cars

He’s open to a manual, but he’s also a novice driver with no experience in one.

Transmission type won’t affect scoring beyond how it impacts the considered stats.


From a coolness perspective, yes.

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Do I have to choose all three cars for the cool wall at the same time or can I take them one by one?

One by one. You don’t even have to use all 3 if you don’t want. (:

OK. Then I want to add the 1992-95 Taurus SHO as the first suggestion.


I’d like to throw the '99 Mustang at the wall and see where it sticks…

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The cool wall has been updated with 2 new cars! (original post has been updated as well).

Now in a dropdown menu, for faster scrolling! :D

New Additions:

  • 1995 Ford Taurus SHO
  • 1999 Ford Mustang

Where would a 1992 Camaro IROC-Z fit on that handy chart?


Can I have the '91 Honda CRX and '92 Lexus LS 400 added?