Before I got the Mirage, I had been casually looking for a winter beater since the summer. The "winter beater radius" rule was in effect: I wouldn't travel more than 50 km / 30 miles away to see it.
These are the 3 cars I actually looked at:
1) 2004 Toyota Prius, $1200 asking price
^ Actual car. It had high kms (354,000 = 220k mi) and so much rust on it you could have dug a hole through the rear floor by hand. You can see rust in the rear rocker area in that pic. I had a Prius winter beater a few years ago that I fixed the rockers on, but its floors were fine.
It was probably fixable, but I didn't even bother test-driving it. I didn't want another big rust repair project (like I had to fix the floors in the Miata).
When I explained to the seller why I was taking a pass on the car, he actually said to me: "Aw, come on - make me a low-ball offer!" I have never had a seller say that before! Probably could have got it for 500 bucks.
2) 2008 Honda Fit 5-speed, $800
^ Actual car. 210k km = 130k miles.
It had a CEL and a stumble under light load (seller said it was the crank position sensor). Oh, and it had a custom HVAC mod (rear glass AWOL)! I test drove it and we agreed on $800, pending a quick inspection by my mechanic the next day. But without even seeing it, my mechanic said: DO NOT BUY THAT CAR. He knew the owner and said he whipped it like a rented mule and didn't maintain it. Sadness.
3) 2007 Toyota Echo 5-speed $1700
^ Actual car. 210k km = 130k miles.Owned by a small equipment mechanic - regular oil changes, mechanically perfect. Summer & winter tires, 1 year old. Drove great. Echos/Yarises are solid, well-made cars.
But I once owned a 2004 Echo, so I know this car's Achille's heel: They can suffer from terminal rust in the rocker area where the rear axle mounts to the unibody. Left unchecked, it can send these cars to the junkyard prematurely.
Unfortunately, the owner hadn't ever rust-proofed the car or looked carefully at the underbody. It was going to need cutting/welding work to make it last, and just didn't want the project at that price, despite it being in great shape otherwise.
^ Oh and it had the cleanest interior of any used car I've ever seen! Cleaner than most 1 year-old cars.
Anyway, I'm glad none of these candidates worked out, because I wouldn't have gone to Toronto to get the Fancy Metro when it came up.