In the next three weeks I need to purchase a car that is <= $18,000. I originally thought I would buy a new Ford Fiesta, a subcompact, and be done with this ordeal of finding a reliable vehicle for transportation but the truth is that since the Prius came out I've always wanted one and have decided that there is no reason - or excuse - to go against this desire. From searching through Edmunds, KBB, and Carmax I see that I can at least afford an 08 Prius, although if there isn't too much difference between this and an 01-07 I may as well save my money and get an earlier model. On the other hand if perhaps for each year there really has been drastic improvements I should attempt to get an 09. Here's some context. I've lived in So. California and for about three years I've done without an automobile using a bicycle, public transportation, two feet, and occasionally bumming rides with friends and family but demands on my time have forced me to the decision that I need to purchase a car, and for my needs before January 31. If you can try to shed light on what you think my best bet would be in purchasing a Prius in the price range aforementioned I would be very grateful.