Author Topic: Car Totaled - Ideas on Good Used Car to Replace it?  (Read 175 times)


  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Car Totaled - Ideas on Good Used Car to Replace it?
« on: November 12, 2017, 06:44:22 PM »
Hello fellow Mustachians! I could use some help figuring out a good used car to replace my beloved (now likely totaled) civic.

Today was not a great day. My car was rear-ended by a hot-shot sports car, who apparently didn't think much of me stopping to let a pedestrian use the clearly marked crosswalk.  A sickening crunch and three hours later, I brought my beloved 2007 honda civic home, worse for wear.  I've had this car since college, it is paid off, runs wonderfully, is relatively safe, and gets gas mileage. 

For most of the last three years, I didn't use my car much, since I walk to work and my friends all live easy walking/biking distance. But as if the accident was divinely designed to mock me, I closed on my first home last week and my parents moved an hour south of me a few months ago.  While I anticipate riding my bike or taking public transit to work most days from my house, I work late nights leaving work anywhere from 8pm-11pm at night and I visit my parents frequently (no public transit out that way).  I could always justify keeping my car because (1) it was paid off and (2) my carrying costs were less than $75 a month (insurance, gas, and maintenance).  I had planned to keep using her for least three more years or until she finally gave out.

Now my poor car is likely totaled.  My car is likely not worth more than $3.5k (KBB puts trade in value anywhere from $2k-$3.4k and buying it from private party at $4.5-5.5k).  The damage is likely more than 75% of the value: (1) Cosmetic damage; (2) the air bag appears compromised, i.e. its bugling weirdly; and (3) the car makes weird sounds when the clutch is disengaged.

If my car can be fixed, I'd rather just keep it, but from my research that may not be wise from both a safety standpoint and a financial stand point.  Anyone have ideas on best used cars? Where to find them? What to look for? I wasn't prepared to even start this search for another three years.  I don't want spend much more than $10k (less would be better since I just bought a house).  In true Mustachian form, I will NOT FINANCE A CAR.  Honestly, I just want the insurance company to give me exact car back. I would buy my exact car used, but I worry about finding a good one, considering age and mileage. How do I know they've kept it in good condition?  I know that some on the forum have discussed great deals on used nissan leafs, but I worry about the range of the car for longer trips (maybe I should let that go).

Any help would helpful. Thanks to anyone who read all of this. I'm just a little emotional and bummed out. 


  • Walrus Stache
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Re: Car Totaled - Ideas on Good Used Car to Replace it?
« Reply #1 on: November 13, 2017, 03:20:16 AM »
Sorry this happened to you, but the important thing to focus on is that you're okay. The car can be replaced, much as it sucks to do so. Maybe look for a slightly newer version of your old car?
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  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Car Totaled - Ideas on Good Used Car to Replace it?
« Reply #2 on: November 13, 2017, 05:39:13 AM »
I am sorry about the accident. You were the good person, stopping for the pedestrian.

Normally used cars have a service booklet where you can check whether the previous owner had regular services. Usually the services are mentioned in the advertisement. Otherwise, if you would buy directly from a private person, you could ask to see the service book.

I think there are also places where you can have a second hand car tested for you. This might cost something, but could be worth it when you are pretty certain of the car you want to buy.

When I bought a second car some years ago, I tested the car alone without DH. He instructed me of how to test. Have some speed and take your hands off the wheel. Does the car drive straight ahead or not? Push the brakes hard. Does it stop as fast as you expect? Drive with the windows open. Do you hear a strange sound? Does the clutch respons like you expect. Put the car on a bridge, bring a flashlight and check whether it is not rusty on critical places like bars that support the car. I asked the car seller for this and he drove to a garage that he used, in the evening, as I was allowed to check the underside of the car.
This car turned out to be a very good purchase and has cost practically no maintenance. But the downside: it had only one key and buying a spare is expensive. So check how many keys the car has. Check also whether it has the accident triangle, the spare tire (modern cars don't have one, but have a spray instead) and other stuff that you normally get with a car.

If you buy a used car from a garage, they might offer you 50% guarantee. This is something vague. My DH once heard car company personnel discussing such a guarantee case which they thought was expensive. They solved the problem buy doubling the price for the customer. So maybe buying a car directly from a private person is almost as safe as buying from a dishonest car company.

I think you are able to find used cars on Graig's list.
Or maybe you could ask around at work or among other people that you know.


  • Handlebar Stache
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Re: Car Totaled - Ideas on Good Used Car to Replace it?
« Reply #3 on: November 13, 2017, 08:33:34 AM »
Ugh, I am so sorry this happened! We also recently had a car totaled in a hit-and-run while it was parked on our street. Just like yours, it was an older vehicle, fully paid for, and just a good vehicle--luckily ours is still driveable and the damage is just cosmetic, but we did get a $2,800 payout for it and are thinking we should start saving for a replacement.

I'd try to set a budget that's workable for an older model Honda, similar to what you had. Take a look at local used car dealers and on Craigslist--better yet, do you have a social network you can tap? Put out a call on Facebook or whatever to see if anyone is looking to sell a car.

You'll likely need to wait to have an assessor from your insurance company come out to look at the vehicle, and then wait for their determination and the check to arrive if it is indeed totaled.
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  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
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Re: Car Totaled - Ideas on Good Used Car to Replace it?
« Reply #4 on: November 14, 2017, 08:07:00 AM »
Thanks for all the useful replies! We won't know anything for a couple weeks since I no longer carry collision (since the car is not worth much).  The other driver was driving "his cousin's car" and wouldn't provide me information.  I let the police handle that as he was starting to act aggressively when I pushed him on providing information.  So my insurance company has to wait to see if they have insurance or if I'll have to make a claim under the uninsured motorist policy.

In the interim, it appears okay to drive. I hope to get it checked out shortly, but I think I'll likely do something like you rubybeth.  If its safe to drive, I'll continue to drive it (fix what needs to be fixed) and deal with the cosmetic crunched rear end.