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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: davidw on December 07, 2018, 06:58:04 PM

Title: Used car questions
Post by: davidw on December 07, 2018, 06:58:04 PM

First of all... jeez what a pain in the ass cars are. We've gotten by happily for 3 years as a family of four with one car for trips and things.

However, we have my wife's in-laws visiting from Europe soon, and our car doesn't hold 6 people. When they visit in the summer, it's easy - we just rent a car for a little bit.  Much better than having a second car.  Public transportation or biking aren't options for the activities we have planned.

Rental cars in the winter seem to be a different story: no snow tires, no chains permitted, which is kind of BS if you ask me. Don't know what you're supposed to do with them if it snows, which it does, here in Bend, Oregon.

So we're looking at getting a second car. We figure we might as well get something small and fuel efficient so my wife could use it for winter commuting rather than the RAV4 we have.

We're looking at Priuses, which we've heard good things about.  There's a used one that's not too expensive for like 140,000 miles, but my wife is leery of something with that many miles on it.  I'm a little more trusting of Toyotas, but.... it's certainly not low.  Our mechanic says they're great cars.

Speaking of prices, I've looked up a bunch of cars on Edmunds' "appraisal" thing and it seems to bear little relationship with reality.  What's up with that?

Any advice is welcome... thanks!
Title: Re: Used car questions
Post by: APowers on December 07, 2018, 08:33:24 PM
Tbh, 140k miles on a Prius *is* low. Five years ago, I was pretty skeptical, but about 99% of all reviews and reports I have read about them are glowingly positive about their reliability. I haven't even owned one, but I wouldn't hesitate if I needed a car and the price was right (imo, they're still overpriced compared to my econo-box vehicles of preference). I would expect a reasonably well-maintained Prius to last a good 300k at least.
Title: Re: Used car questions
Post by: davidw on December 07, 2018, 08:59:32 PM
I'm open to suggestions for anything else that gets good gas mileage.

This isn't a big town, so there's not a huge turnover of vehicles and I might not find any given make/model.

We'd like something reasonably reliable and as safe as possible for something small that gets good gas mileage.  The Prius seems to tick all those off, but I agree that they seem a bit hyped...
Title: Re: Used car questions
Post by: APowers on December 07, 2018, 09:21:31 PM
I don't generally buy for "safety", but a '90s Civic or Corolla will do almost everything a Prius will, except be cool, and will be a much lower total cost of ownership. My general price range for a vehicle is $1,000-2,500, and Priuses are usually double that, if not more. Also, I don't care about being "cool" nearly as much as I care about getting from A to B in the most cost-effective manner.  I've had a '95 Civic sedan and a '96 Civic hatchback-- I wouldn't have hesitated to take either of them on a 3k mile road trip, and they both got pretty great mpg (35 for the sedan / ~40 for the hatch). They were reliable, easy to work on, parts were cheap, and well past the bottom of the depreciation curve. I sold the sedan for more than we paid for it, and I expect to do the same for the hatch.

I don't know what your budget is, so you may be looking for something fancier than I would choose. For a more realistic guide on current price/value of a given vehicle-- check out craigslist in your nearest big city. You should see a whole range of condition levels, and get a pretty good picture of what price range you can expect to pay for that year/model.
Title: Re: Used car questions
Post by: Ecky on December 08, 2018, 04:15:56 AM
I second that 140k is low miles for a Prius. They're often used by Taxi companies now because they can rack up literally hundreds of thousands of miles with very little maintenance.

A Honda Fit is a popular choice on here. It's smaller than a Prius and doesn't get quite the same economy, but they're also dead reliable and cheap to repair when something goes. My girlfriend chose a Fit recently with 194k miles and I have every reason to expect another 100k miles of little more than routine maintenance.
Title: Re: Used car questions
Post by: JCGreen on December 08, 2018, 12:04:27 PM

I am a local to the central Oregon area as well (for about 2.5 years). I would just like to throw out there that if you don't want to buy a second car, you still have options.  First, have you considered renting a car from a mechanic? They often have longer term rentals available, are more likely to negotiate and probably wont mind if you want to put on snow tires. If you spend $1000 for a one month car rental you will still probably come out ahead with not buying. You could also consider posting on facebook/craigslist that you need a vehicle that fits parameters X, Y, and Z, for a month and would be willing to pay. There are many kind people in central Oregon that would happily give up there second vehicle for a month or two while there college/high school kid is home in exchange for some Christmas money. Check with your local friends as well, you never know what they will have.

If buying makes sense for other reasons, I have found the best place to look for a used car is facebook not craigslist, as the prices tend to be more affordable.  My current 2002 Toyota Camry has 275,000 miles on it, and my mothers 2001 Toyota Avalon has 250,000 miles, both have not had major maintenance expenses, although the Camry is nearing the end of its life. At this point I assume any Toyota or Honda will last to at least 250,000 miles with minimal problems.  Subaru's are pretty popular around here, but I don't have any experience with them, most have all wheel drive which can be nice, though some years have pretty bad head gasket problems. Do your research before you buy.

When I am looking to buy, I try to do a cost per mile calculation. If I assume that Honda's and Toyota's will last to 250K miles, and all other cars will last to 200k miles, what does the price per mile calculate out to for different cars of different miles and price points. I try to take into account fuel is $3/gallon,  and assume insurance prices and regular maintenance will be the same.  This is the formula I use, but feel free to make up your own.

Keep in mind that if you are getting a second car, you are unlike to put as many miles on it, as I assume you will not increase you driving more than 10% and the other car will still get driven in the snow or to the mountains.
Title: Re: Used car questions
Post by: radram on December 08, 2018, 01:25:02 PM
Could you expand a little more on your situation?

I read "my wifes in-laws are visiting, so I need to buy a second vehicle". Why in the world would you jump there?

How long are they here? Why not just rent anything, and take 2 cars everywhere? If it snows, stay home until it stops. Better yet, I have never traveled anywhere and expected travel to be provided for free. Why don't THEY rent a vehicle?

Buy the way, aren't your wife's in-laws your parents?
Title: Re: Used car questions
Post by: davidw on December 08, 2018, 03:00:09 PM
Hah, sorry, I was a bit tired when I posted.  They're my in-laws, from Italy.

>  If it snows, stay home until it stops.

Basically that means not doing a number of things we'd planned, including a trip to the other side of the mountains to visit my family, going to cut down a Christmas tree in the national forest, and several other things. 

Maybe not even getting around town safely, depending on conditions.
Title: Re: Used car questions
Post by: chemistk on December 10, 2018, 06:28:18 AM
My FIL's '06 Prius has somewhere around 225k miles on it right now. At 190k he got the battery replaced but other than that there's been no major service needed on any system other than just routine maintenance. The ICE is starting to consume a little oil now but that many miles on an engine will eventually wear down some seals.

I've said it before around here and I'll gladly reiterate it - a Prius with winter tires is one of the best snow vehicles you can buy, as long as you're driving through less than ~6 inches on the road. The narrow track on the tires allows it to sink deeper into snow and the weight from the batteries keeps the rear of the car firmly planted. I've passed stuck trucks going uphill through unplowed snow.

Edit: On the topic of the appraisal tool - like KBB and other online resources, it's using the average transaction and listing prices of vehicles similar to the one you're looking at, in your region. Think of it as an average number, and expect that there's going to be plenty of variation based on a wide, wide range of factors.
Title: Re: Used car questions
Post by: davidw on December 18, 2018, 09:55:30 AM
Just to wrap this up:

We didn't see any used cars that looked like a good deal, and we didn't want to run out and buy something, so we decided to give Turo dot com a shot.  It worked out pretty well - we got a car that did have winter tires and a snow-park pass, which was great.  We'll probably try and use it again for other activities.
Title: Re: Used car questions
Post by: Home Stretch on December 18, 2018, 02:50:49 PM
Come on you have to tell us the details! What did you get? Mileage? Price? Is it cool?
Title: Re: Used car questions
Post by: davidw on December 18, 2018, 02:57:04 PM
No, it's not cool - it's a car.  Bikes are cool, cars are 'useful in some circumstances' :-)

It was not quite as cheap as a 'regular' rental, but close enough. They kind of ding you with the insurance after you've already checked out the price of the car, so beware of that.  With a normal rental, you can be pretty sure your CC is going to cover it... I doubt it covers this, though, so I bought the insurance.

The car we rented was actually a Prius because it was cheap and close and available, so we didn't spend much for gas which was nice.