Author Topic: New to the US, need advice for buying a used car  (Read 3423 times)

fortuity

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New to the US, need advice for buying a used car
« on: January 14, 2015, 01:05:28 PM »
Hello Mustachians,

another car question - I hope you are not bored by these yet… My husband and I just moved to the US (San Francisco) from Europe. We didn’t have a car back there and did the bike/public transport/car sharing thing.
Now our situation is different:
1. I am pregnant, baby is due beginning of June.
2. Shopping in the US without having a car is very inconvenient (especially when I imagine having a baby with me).
3. Our visa are valid until fall 2017 and at the moment we are planning to go back then. We would like to see a bit of the country while we’re here and plan to go on trips over the weekends or during vacation.

We have a garage space in our house that is rather small. We’d like a hatchback, it’s just more practical. Our budget is $7000 max.

So, what we’re looking for is a small family friendly, reliable and fuel efficient car that will get us around safely for at least 3 years. We thought that the age of the car should be no more than 10 years and mileage around 100,000. We are both not car savvy, so we’d like something with a clean title and some records for maintenance. Any advice for having a car checked before buying it?

These cars would be our first picks:

Honda Fit
Toyota Matrix
Pontiac Vibe
Mazda 3 (hatchback)
Nissan Versa

also considering: Chevy Aveo, Nissan Cube (if there were any)

And here is our problem: Where on earth do they sell these cars used for a reasonable price? Not on Craigslist in the bay area or near there obviously… Almost all the cars offered are way overpriced according to their worth on kbb even when I put in „excellent condition“ for a car that I would actually consider „good condition“.

What is your experience concerning bartering with private party car sellers? Back home I would expect people to have a margin for bartering of max. $500 in this price range.

Should we change our list of models to Sedans? There seem to be more on the market (Honda Accord, Toyota Corolla and the like), most of them also overpriced but maybe there’s a higher chance to find one for a reasonable amount? Or should we keep on looking hoping for a seller that checked his/her car’s real value before offering it? Maybe raise our price limit, consider buying used from a dealer and finance part of it?

Getting a little desperate and don’t want to make costly mistakes. Thanks for any thoughts on our situation.

Diana

I'm a red panda

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Re: New to the US, need advice for buying a used car
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2015, 01:11:12 PM »
Used cars in my city are ridiculously expensive. 

But there are all kinds of "used car" dealers (some can be kinda shady- it helps if you know something about cars), and most dealerships that have new cars also sell used cars.

I found craigslist prices to be about the same as these dealerships. The value of craigslist seems to be to the seller. They get the same price as the dealer does, so significantly more than what they would have gotten as a trade it.

Learner

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Re: New to the US, need advice for buying a used car
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2015, 01:14:38 PM »
If you consider the amount that you'd be spending on the car, if you only need if for weekend travel trips, have you considered renting or a car-sharing program such as Zipcar?

Assuming that you bought new at $7000 and could sell a few years later at $4000 or so, that should cover a fair number of rentals - and that's before factoring in the maintenance, tires, parking, etc.

Of course, you may need to balance this against alternative transportation with the child in tow, which may reduce the renting margin considerably.

Future Lazy

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Re: New to the US, need advice for buying a used car
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2015, 01:16:19 PM »
If you consider the amount that you'd be spending on the car, if you only need if for weekend travel trips, have you considered renting or a car-sharing program such as Zipcar?

Assuming that you bought new at $7000 and could sell a few years later at $4000 or so, that should cover a fair number of rentals - and that's before factoring in the maintenance, tires, parking, etc.

Of course, you may need to balance this against alternative transportation with the child in tow, which may reduce the renting margin considerably.

Came here to say this, but Learner beat me to it. :)

Tetsuya Hondo

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Re: New to the US, need advice for buying a used car
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2015, 01:17:48 PM »

And here is our problem: Where on earth do they sell these cars used for a reasonable price? Not on Craigslist in the bay area or near there obviously… Almost all the cars offered are way overpriced according to their worth on kbb even when I put in „excellent condition“ for a car that I would actually consider „good condition“.

What is your experience concerning bartering with private party car sellers? Back home I would expect people to have a margin for bartering of max. $500 in this price range.


I would expect that prices to swing by as much as a couple thousand dollars from private sellers. I wouldn't assume that the asking price is grounded in reality at all. Every seller is different of course, but I think that most people list high and expect lower counter offers. If you offer them Kelly Blue Book price, that will be more than they will get from a dealer or CarMax.

frugaliknowit

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Re: New to the US, need advice for buying a used car
« Reply #5 on: January 14, 2015, 01:42:29 PM »
If the primary need of the car is shopping with baby, then I would re-evaluate whether you really need a car...

A cab once or twice per week would be cheaper than the cost of owning and maintaining a vehicle.

neo von retorch

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Re: New to the US, need advice for buying a used car
« Reply #6 on: January 14, 2015, 01:56:37 PM »
Does anyone have an active Consumer Reports subscription? How is the 2004 Golf?
http://www.cars.com/vehicledetail/detail/625754291/overview/

I'd imagine the resale wouldn't be too wildly lower after 3 years, and initially you could probably get $300-800 off this price. Looks like mostly VW Beetles for sale under $7k in that area... *sigh*

fortuity

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Re: New to the US, need advice for buying a used car
« Reply #7 on: January 14, 2015, 07:51:23 PM »
Thank you all for your thoughts, and thanks especially to Tetsuya Hondo for the helpful reminder that sellers would probably get less when going to a dealer. I'll just try offering the kbb price and hopefully get something decent for $5000 or less.
@neogodless, I also looked out for VW Golfs but the offers are rare.

Regarding Zipcar: My husband looked into it and hopefully managed to get an account on a discount from his company. It's not so easy for foreigners who just got their CA driver's license to be accepted by car sharing companies. We tried getaround, too, and they wouldn't accept us unless we provide a letter from the DMV at home that we have held our licenses for XY years. That will take some weeks to get, I think. I don't have my CA license yet, practical test is in February. We will use Zipcar as soon as the membership card is here to get around until we have our own car. Like I mentioned before, we did car sharing at home and my husband said that he wants hassle-free driving with a kid, no carrying a baby seat around town, no fear of food stains or vomiting in a shared car etc.

So we decided that owning a car is our permitted luxury while we're here. It is a special time for us and we want to get the most fun and awesome experiences out of it. Having a car in your garage (for which we have to pay no matter what, and no, we are not allowed to sublet the space...) and being independent in that respect, helps with that goal. Which actually beats the financial goals for the moment. I'd rather have an unforgettable experience living in another country for a few years and have my retirement postponed for a few months... My husband does work he loves anyway and I do not have a work permit here (yet), so for now I have the luxury of figuring out what to do with my time as if I am already retired. :)

Again, thanks for your comments and all the best.