Author Topic: How to buy a used car?  (Read 4168 times)

NestEggChick (formerly PFgal)

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 238
  • Location: Boston-ish, MA
    • Nest Egg Chick
How to buy a used car?
« on: September 27, 2013, 08:57:38 PM »
I feel like every major purchase mistake has been related to cars. I'm great with everything, but I just can't seem to get it right with cars, and I'm determined to do better this time.

Here are my questions:
-- Given what I'm looking for, how can I figure out a reasonable price?
-- Should I only look on Craigslist, or are there other places to look?
-- What should I be looking for to make sure it's a good deal?
-- What age/how many miles make sense for a given price? For example, how many years/ miles would you expect for a car that costs $5000? $7000? $10,000?

Here's what I'm looking for:
-- Compact sedan
-- Automatic (I know how to drive standard, but I have a bad knee and can't do the clutch anymore, so this is non-negotiable)
-- Working HVAC
-- Handles well in snow and ice (ABS, etc.)
-- Will run well for at least 3-5 years before needing major repairs (I have no idea how to figure this out.)
-- Must be safe, of course.
-- Clean title, of course.

I have a trusted mechanic who I'll pay to look over a car before I buy it, but I'm not sure how to figure out which car to bring to him. And if it matters, I'm in the Boston, MA area. Thanks for any and all advice!

Self-employed-swami

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1094
  • Location: Canada
Re: How to buy a used car?
« Reply #1 on: September 27, 2013, 11:14:45 PM »
http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2012/03/19/top-10-cars-for-smart-people/

http://www.mrmoneymustache.com/2011/04/19/how-to-come-out-way-ahead-when-buying-a-used-car/

I use Kijiji, craiglist and autotrader online when looking for vehicles.

Get snow tires for a small car, and it makes a world of difference
<- lives in the land of the ice and snow

Self-employed-swami

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1094
  • Location: Canada
Re: How to buy a used car?
« Reply #2 on: September 27, 2013, 11:16:41 PM »
And I think the lien-search that works best in the US is CarFax.  I use CarProof in Canada, and it costs me ~$50 to see the registration and lien history across all 50 states, and Canada.  If you are buying from a dealer, they might provide it for free (my last vehicle purchase did).

j90

  • 5 O'Clock Shadow
  • *
  • Posts: 10
    • The Savings Bot
Re: How to buy a used car?
« Reply #3 on: September 28, 2013, 02:44:07 PM »
I have a trusted mechanic who I'll pay to look over a car before I buy it

That right there puts you at a great advantage. As for miles/age, I always try to stay under 100k miles and 10 yrs old, but that's just a very lenient rule of thumb.

If you're in the $5,000 range, for example, find a car in that range then look it's value up on Kelley Blue Book and see if it's actually worth it. If it is, then go drive it and talk to the owner. After that, if you have no uneasy feelings (like the car didn't drive "right" or the owner was acting oddly), then you can take it to your mechanic and have him or her approve it.

The mechanic will know what to look for in the engine area, which is what most of us have no clue about. Good luck!

Self-employed-swami

  • Handlebar Stache
  • *****
  • Posts: 1094
  • Location: Canada
Re: How to buy a used car?
« Reply #4 on: September 29, 2013, 01:26:06 PM »
There is a lot more, safety and functionality-wise, that is important, than the 'engine area'.

Struts, brakes, frame issues, etc.  Those can sometimes be costly (less so the brakes, but if you want a ball or DV joint replaced, be prepared to cough up upwards of $500).

Any good mechanic, will check those things as well.

prodarwin

  • Bristles
  • ***
  • Posts: 302
Re: How to buy a used car?
« Reply #5 on: September 29, 2013, 01:41:02 PM »
-- Given what I'm looking for, how can I figure out a reasonable price?

Check it against Kelly Blue Book, NADA, Ebay, and Autotrader.  If most cars are in the same range, its probably a reasonable price.

-- Should I only look on Craigslist, or are there other places to look?

Ebay, ebay classifieds, autotrader, cars.com, etc.  Depends on the type of car you want.  The lower you go in price, the more likely you are to find it on craigslist and nowhere else.

-- What should I be looking for to make sure it's a good deal?

Something that has been well maintained, at a fair price, that isn't a time-bomb to begin with.  Possibly more important than finding the right car for sale, is choosing the right car to search for.  Figure out some stuff in your price range and research the hell out of it on the internet.  This will let you know if there are know issues with that model so you don't buy a timebomb - i.e. Odessey transmission problems, Subaru 2.5L headgasket problems, etc.

-- What age/how many miles make sense for a given price? For example, how many years/ miles would you expect for a car that costs $5000? $7000? $10,000?

Depends on the model.

NestEggChick (formerly PFgal)

  • Stubble
  • **
  • Posts: 238
  • Location: Boston-ish, MA
    • Nest Egg Chick
Re: How to buy a used car?
« Reply #6 on: September 29, 2013, 03:37:16 PM »
Thanks for all of the help! I really appreciate it! Keep it coming!

And if anyone has any suggestions of models to look into, I'm open to ideas. I've never really cared what I drive, as long as it's reliable, so I'm open to anything that meets the above criteria. I currently drive a Corolla and my last car was a Chevy Cavelier. I definitely don't need or want anything fancy.

Mr.Macinstache

  • Pencil Stache
  • ****
  • Posts: 923
Re: How to buy a used car?
« Reply #7 on: September 30, 2013, 10:52:18 AM »
I think it's pretty hard to go wrong with a Civic, Corolla even a Chevy Cobalt with the 2.4 eco-tec 's are nice. I've heard that even Hyundia's and Kia's are putting out respectable cars.

I would focus on finding one with lower miles and that has been well maintained. Dealers will offer a Carfax which is nice but once in awhile you can find a good private sale with someone who's cared for their car. Also, bring a friend. It's good to have another set of eyes on a car before you commit to buying it.