Author Topic: Buying a used car  (Read 10759 times)

munchabunch

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Buying a used car
« on: May 04, 2016, 07:33:27 AM »
While I've learned a ton lurking these forums, I thought I'd ask for some input.  We recently brought one of our Subaru Outbacks in for minor repairs and it turns out minor repairs found major repairs to the tune of >$4k.  It's an older car and not worth that much, so we're thinking of scrapping it and buying a new-to-us used car.

However, I've only ever purchased used cars from my dad, and my family buys nothing but brand new Subarus.  I've never even had any other make.  What are the best things to look for in a used car? What's the most effective way of evaluating listings when many have limited information?  All the used Prius/Legacy/Outback models that I was looking at are $15k for a ~2013.  There is a used Prius advertised locally from 2007 with 160k miles for $7k with a solid maintenance record, but I'm not sure what I'm looking for.  My Outback (that I love, not on the scrap bin) is a '03 with 150k and it's got some... age issues.  I've never owned a car with that many miles, let alone purchased one.  It seems like the way to save money on a car purchase, but maybe this forum can help me outline some tips to better evaluate these decisions and not get swindled.  Thanks!

*EDIT* and I know MMM has a list of the "top Mustachian cars" but I think what's missing for me is how to evaluate those, not just take someone's recommendation.  I'm so familiar with Subarus (did they get the head gasket repaired?) that I'm more comfortable knowing what to look for.  All these other makes/models involves a TON of research, so I'd love some pointers!
« Last Edit: May 04, 2016, 07:35:22 AM by munchabunch »

VaCPA

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Re: Buying a used car
« Reply #1 on: May 04, 2016, 08:21:58 AM »
While I've learned a ton lurking these forums, I thought I'd ask for some input.  We recently brought one of our Subaru Outbacks in for minor repairs and it turns out minor repairs found major repairs to the tune of >$4k.  It's an older car and not worth that much, so we're thinking of scrapping it and buying a new-to-us used car.

However, I've only ever purchased used cars from my dad, and my family buys nothing but brand new Subarus.  I've never even had any other make.  What are the best things to look for in a used car? What's the most effective way of evaluating listings when many have limited information?  All the used Prius/Legacy/Outback models that I was looking at are $15k for a ~2013.  There is a used Prius advertised locally from 2007 with 160k miles for $7k with a solid maintenance record, but I'm not sure what I'm looking for.  My Outback (that I love, not on the scrap bin) is a '03 with 150k and it's got some... age issues.  I've never owned a car with that many miles, let alone purchased one.  It seems like the way to save money on a car purchase, but maybe this forum can help me outline some tips to better evaluate these decisions and not get swindled.  Thanks!

*EDIT* and I know MMM has a list of the "top Mustachian cars" but I think what's missing for me is how to evaluate those, not just take someone's recommendation.  I'm so familiar with Subarus (did they get the head gasket repaired?) that I'm more comfortable knowing what to look for.  All these other makes/models involves a TON of research, so I'd love some pointers!

What's the deal w hybrids and battery replacements? I'm no hybrid expert and have never owned one but have heard its pricey once the battery goes out and has to be replaced. Is that 2007 on its original battery?

munchabunch

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Re: Buying a used car
« Reply #2 on: May 05, 2016, 09:15:09 AM »
That's a good question.  Turns out that car already sold, but "original battery" is a good question for hybrids.  We are looking through a lot of reviews on various models and makes, but it's still been challenging to find a short, educational list of common issues or advantages of certain cars.  ("zippy" and "fun to drive!" don't count in this arena, so Consumer Reports has felt a bit... consumer-y, as MMM said).

innkeeper77

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Re: Buying a used car
« Reply #3 on: May 05, 2016, 09:28:30 AM »
Out of curiosity, what is wrong with your outback? I ask, because I have a 2000 outback with 200k miles..

rvg

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Re: Buying a used car
« Reply #4 on: May 05, 2016, 11:28:15 AM »
I'm curious what is wrong with the outback as well as I have a '04 with 104k. The only issue I had was a rusty CV axle that was $70 for the part + $50 labor from a local mechanic to replace. I got a monster deal on it else I would have bought a Honda.

zephyr911

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Re: Buying a used car
« Reply #5 on: May 05, 2016, 02:12:52 PM »
That's a good question.  Turns out that car already sold, but "original battery" is a good question for hybrids.  We are looking through a lot of reviews on various models and makes, but it's still been challenging to find a short, educational list of common issues or advantages of certain cars.  ("zippy" and "fun to drive!" don't count in this arena, so Consumer Reports has felt a bit... consumer-y, as MMM said).
Think of the hybrid battery like a transmission. It's built to last a long time, and typically does, but yes, it will probably run a couple grand to replace if/when it failis. Those are getting cheaper over time though, unlike most things, as worldwide cell production scales up dramatically and price per kWh drops. Not sure why starter batteries seem to keep going up at the same time.

jayholden

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chemistk

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Re: Buying a used car
« Reply #7 on: May 06, 2016, 10:25:11 AM »
I think you've got a good idea of where to start - taking a step back and not solely evaluating that individual car.

First thing to do is to figure out what kind of car works for you. Not necessarily one specific make/model, but a segment of cars (4 door hatchbacks, cars that get >30mpg hwy, etc.). Narrow it down to a list of cars that fit your criteria. Autotrader.com, Edmunds.com, etc. all have good tools for narrowing this down.

Next you want to consider how you're going to evaluate the car. How mechanically inclined are you? Have you repaired moderate issues or brought your car to the shop when something goes wrong? I ask because (as you know with the head gasket issue), the outward appearance of a car can easily mask issues lurking underneath. If you're not mechanically inclined (no shame! it takes a while to get a feel for what thing should look, sound, and smell like), you should consider having any potential purchases evaluated by a trusted mechanic. If the seller is not okay with this, you need to move on.

Take a thorough look at it. Walk around, open all the cubbies, look under the hood, look under the body. You probably won't know what you're looking at but if you find something that is broken or that doesn't look right, ask the seller about it. Take it for a test drive that simulates all the different conditions you drive regularly - leave the radio and climate controls off and listen for anything weird. Any oddities are things you can talk to your mechanic about that might help you make a decision.

if you have the time, I also suggest searching for forums for that make/model - there is a forum for just about every car. Lurk for a while and look at all the problem threads. You'll get a good idea of what other owners think. Search google for "<car you're looking at> problems" and see what comes up - often the most common issues will show themselves this way.

Run the carfax (or autocheck, etc.) but be wary of the information you get. You'll have to pay to do it but you might be able to uncover issues the seller isn't disclosing. Just know that the carfax is almost never 100% correct, and that there are things that can easily be omitted from it.

Finally, pricing - this one's easier but always important to consider. Get the KBB value for that car, look on ebay and craigslist to see what private sellers are listing at, check out dealers to see where they're priced. You definitely want to make sure that it's not priced too low, nor is it priced too high. It will give you a little wiggle room in negotiations if you can show comps.


munchabunch

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Re: Buying a used car
« Reply #8 on: May 06, 2016, 10:29:59 AM »
Out of curiosity, what is wrong with your outback? I ask, because I have a 2000 outback with 200k miles..

My '03 is in great (engine) shape and I love it, even at >150k miles, but my husband's is a used '06 with ~104k.  I didn't check the evaluation myself, but he said there's something cracked in the turbocharger and something else about the axle.  I didn't ask about details, but apparently it's ok to drive now, but basically doomed to engine failure without the >$4k in repairs.  They estimated not this week, but in a month or few.  Sorry I don't have more details.

I always wanted a Subaru/Outback because of how sturdy they've been, but this '06 one has not been good to us.

munchabunch

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Re: Buying a used car
« Reply #9 on: May 06, 2016, 10:50:04 AM »
I think you've got a good idea of where to start - taking a step back and not solely evaluating that individual car.

chemistk, this was the most helpful post.  Cars can be so overwhelming with the number of options, and I think that's what we've been struggling with.  When it comes to something like computer repair everything seems so much simpler!  I really even liked how it's "ok not to know what to look for".  I've changed fluids, headlights, minor things on cars, but nothing more than that.  Looking at a web site with 20 makes, 300+ cars, and every mileage under the sun (and every horror story of used car scams) was not a good way to start.

My mom forwarded me this link, and I found it really helpful slowly reading each linked article. http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/cars/used-cars/buying-advice/index.htm

We're starting with a pick-list of two or three models and just limiting it to that because it's been so overwhelming. We're starting where we're comfortable, Subaru Outback and adding Forester, Legacy, and Impreza.  Might add Toyata Prius, and just taking everything else off the table to start.  Maybe not the best plan, but it breaks it down to something more manageable.

Goals: visit the local dealer and test drive (don't buy) a few examples.  Do this at city and highway speeds, and go back to try it at night.  I'm bringing a coin to check the tire depth and prepping a list of maintenance questions (head gasket, timing belt) based on issues lists I can find online.  I'm sure others have done more and better, but I feel so much better having a starting place and a list.  If anyone has any other step-by-step suggestions for growth in this area, I'd love to hear them.

worms

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Re: Buying a used car
« Reply #10 on: May 08, 2016, 03:20:08 AM »
...he said there's something cracked in the turbocharger and something else about the axle.  I didn't ask about details, but apparently it's ok to drive now, but basically doomed to engine failure without the >$4k in repairs.  They estimated not this week, but in a month or few.

Then run it for "a month or few"!  Meanwhile I would get a second opinion from a back-street place that might find you salvage parts. 

Also, you are right to be doing the homework on replacement so that when it comes time to walk away from this one you have the plan in place.

LouLou

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Re: Buying a used car
« Reply #11 on: May 08, 2016, 08:54:58 PM »

Mr. Paws

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Re: Buying a used car
« Reply #12 on: May 12, 2016, 02:11:47 PM »
http://longtermqualityindex.com/

Extended reading: https://medium.com/@_jayholden/how-to-buy-a-car-the-right-way-277efff289c1

This was great.  I assume you are the author based on your user name.  I have never bought a used car from a private seller.  I was wondering about how taking a stranger's car to a mechanic, work?  I wouldn't trust someone i don't know taking my car, but at the same time I wouldn't want to buy a used car from someone without taking it to the mechanic.  Would another good alternative be to get a copy of their driver license if you let them take the car?

JLee

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Re: Buying a used car
« Reply #13 on: May 12, 2016, 02:21:45 PM »
Out of curiosity, what is wrong with your outback? I ask, because I have a 2000 outback with 200k miles..

My '03 is in great (engine) shape and I love it, even at >150k miles, but my husband's is a used '06 with ~104k.  I didn't check the evaluation myself, but he said there's something cracked in the turbocharger and something else about the axle.  I didn't ask about details, but apparently it's ok to drive now, but basically doomed to engine failure without the >$4k in repairs.  They estimated not this week, but in a month or few.  Sorry I don't have more details.

I always wanted a Subaru/Outback because of how sturdy they've been, but this '06 one has not been good to us.

Once the original one was on its last legs, I upgraded the turbo in my '04 Forester XT with a used STi take-off that I bought for about $350. There should be far cheaper alternatives than $4k.

Cwadda

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Re: Buying a used car
« Reply #14 on: May 13, 2016, 09:43:03 AM »
What I did was first figure out the type of car I was going to get, then researched mechanical and repairs specific to that make and model. I.e. I was getting a Mazda3 and one thing that stuck out in particular was wearing of the tires.

Generally things to ask about:
-Body damage (you can normally tell when panels have been replaced)
-Has the car been in any accidents?
-Ask the owner for any service records. You'll be able to feel out how well the person was taking care of the car.

I think I made a thread like this a few years ago, I'll try to find it.