The Money Mustache Community

Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: NeverLost on September 03, 2015, 03:40:07 PM

Title: Car Shopping - "Clean" titles only?
Post by: NeverLost on September 03, 2015, 03:40:07 PM
So I am looking at selling my car (I bought it a bit over a year ago and still owe $17,000) to get something less expensive as that was a really facepunchable decision in the first place since we have credit card debt.  I have been looking around at used vehicles in my area under $8,000 over the past week to see what my options are.  I am not super picky, although I need FWD and 4 doors and want something that isn't a dump.  We own a prominent small business in a small town and frankly, I don't want people to be talking... Anyway, I keep seeing cars that look like a great deal but with rebuilt titles.  Should I be considering these cars or should I run?  Thanks so much for your help!
Title: Re: Car Shopping - "Clean" titles only?
Post by: Paul der Krake on September 03, 2015, 03:55:38 PM
I have had a rebuilt title for now over 3 years. Bought it for $1200 and 160k miles, I put less than $400 of repairs into it during that time (mostly done by me). It's my first and only car. I would do it all over again in a heartbeat.

Don't rule them out, just have them thoroughly inspected.
Title: Re: Car Shopping - "Clean" titles only?
Post by: BlueMR2 on September 03, 2015, 04:04:39 PM
I second not ruling them out.

An older car can get a rebuilt title with minimal damage vs. a new car that can take significant damage and still be "clean".  Not to mention that a car could be crashed, then they fix it themselves, so it never gets reported.  ALL cars need thorough inspections before purchase.  My current daily drive had a bent frame, 15 years ago, the repair was done right, drives like it never happened (the line about it never being the same again is only true if repairs are not done the right way).
Title: Re: Car Shopping - "Clean" titles only?
Post by: lbmustache on September 03, 2015, 04:07:21 PM
Get a pre-purchase inspection at a mechanic you trust. If the seller declines, run. If the mechanic says it's okay, then buy it. :)
Title: Re: Car Shopping - "Clean" titles only?
Post by: russianswinga on September 03, 2015, 04:13:15 PM
Rebuilt titles are great. My parents have a Ukranian mechanic that rebuilds them, and they have always shopped with him. They buy cars almost new and run them into the ground.
Their latest purchase - Nissan Sentra, the highest model they make (SV?) with leather, GPS, bluetooth, rear camera, etc etc
They got theirs rebuilt title for $13,000 cash. It had 3,000 miles on the clock, smelled and looked brand new, and still had the dealer sticker in the glove compartment.
Sticker price on that car? $25,000 with all the options. As far as anyone is concerned, it's a brand new car.
Title: Re: Car Shopping - "Clean" titles only?
Post by: bryan on September 03, 2015, 06:26:01 PM
Bought an '85 300zx in ~2004 with around 90k miles for $500 with a rebuilt title. The guy lived about an hour outside of the city and was selling off all his nissans/datsuns projects. This particular one was in a rear end accident and was pretty much all cosmetic (which he had fixed).

It needed new tires, a paint job if you care about such things, and a flurry of other little things that maybe could become an issue down the road. Drove the car for 7 years until a hail storm totalled it and the insurance company gave me something like $1200, more than I had paid for it to the tune of 13% interest per year! (lucky I didn't realize I was overpaying slightly for car insurance by a few bucks at the time). I think the FMV of the car was actually higher..

In those 7 years I additionally had the timing belt/water pump/clutch cylinder/starter solenoid replaced, installed some number of rotors/calipers/brake pads, and put in my own sound system. Had issues with the radiator system too but ended up just replacing the radiator cap a couple times and inspecting coolant levels via cap every so often. Oh yeah, power steering didn't work either.

Now that I think about it, seems like a lot of stuff was breaking!

Taught me a good deal about repair and cars. I guess all the repairs/parts cost around $2000? So for a cost of less than $3000$1800, I got 7 years of mostly great driving. Seems worth it to me.

I took the $1200 check and bought a $1400 Mitsubishi lancer with a clean title. The lancer was a real beater with faded paint,dents, parts falling off, and some stupid "racer" modifications but after some new tires/alignment/balance it drove like new. No AC though, which kind of sucks in TX. Kept that a few years until I wanted to move into a van and had to sell it with a bit of a time crunch (and settled for ~$1000).
Title: Re: Car Shopping - "Clean" titles only?
Post by: FIRE me on September 03, 2015, 07:26:03 PM
I would not touch a rebuilt title. That rebuilt brand warning is there by law for a reason.

The rebuilder had every financial motivation to repair the vehicle as quickly and cheaply as possible. You'll never know if he did it right until the moment you find yourself in a major collision. Then you may learn the hard way, that he did not.
Title: Re: Car Shopping - "Clean" titles only?
Post by: NeverLost on September 04, 2015, 08:28:47 AM
Thank you all for your advice!  My husband and I are not mechanically inclined at all so I guess my takeaway is to make sure that if I pursue one of these I have a good mechanic advising me!
Title: Re: Car Shopping - "Clean" titles only?
Post by: Gone Fishing on September 04, 2015, 08:41:37 AM
We bought a repaired salvage title mini-van for around 35% less (maybe not enough?) than a comparable "clean" car.  It was previously totaled due to a rear end collision.  The rear frame was cut out and welded.  We have had no issues related to the repair.  When cars leave our house they leave as scrap, so resale value was not an issue.
Title: Re: Car Shopping - "Clean" titles only?
Post by: jda1984 on September 04, 2015, 09:40:35 AM
The car I drive is a rebuilt title.  Between my immediate family and my wife's immediate family we have had seven rebuilt cars.  We have had at least two of them for 10+ years with no unusual issues for the year and models.  We know the rebuilder personally and saw the damage before and after so we knew what we were getting (not just a story that the rear quarter panel, bumper, and trunk lid needed to be replaced etc.).  I second what others have said (get it checked out by a competent mechanic).

I would not be turned off by it directly, but do some due diligence and see what caused the title to become salvage in the first place.  If you can see the shop where the car was rebuilt that might help too (i.e. the frame was bent, but there's no frame puller--probably didn't get straightened out all the way).
Title: Re: Car Shopping - "Clean" titles only?
Post by: frugaliknowit on September 04, 2015, 09:58:08 AM
Besides what others have said (which I agree with):

If I were concerned about resale (if you think you will not hold the car "until near death or death"), I would NOT buy anything but a clean title.
Title: Re: Car Shopping - "Clean" titles only?
Post by: JLee on September 04, 2015, 10:14:35 AM
Also, avoid salvage / flood titles. That's a recipe for major electrical problems down the road.
Title: Re: Car Shopping - "Clean" titles only?
Post by: Syonyk on September 04, 2015, 06:13:12 PM
I owned many, many cars before I knew there was such thing as a non-salvage title. :)