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Author Topic: Buying a Used Car
TommySama
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I am moving to a house on the other side of the Twin Cities in the next week or two, which will require me to commute to work and school from my soon to be home. I have never bought a car before, but watching Matilda as a child has made me suspicious of salesmen, and I can't find any information that picks out one used-lot over the other (Craigslist is out of the picture as I have five 14-hour days each week, and two 5-8-hour days, which gives me virtually no time to shop around - or sleep). I'm hoping you guys can help!

If I buy the car this weekend I should have $4000, and next weekend I will have $6000, but I'm hoping to spend less than that.

This page provides some links I found useful for checking up on the history of specific models, however it can't tell me much about a specific automobile.

For the car itself I am looking for:
-Any sized car that has decent mileage.
-Reliable heater (Winter Is Coming to Minnesota).
-And preferably a chick magnet if that can be budgeted in [Wink] .

I know almost nothing about cars. Are there any signs that a person without much knowledge of automobiles can look for? Any particular models that are duds or losers? Milage? Anything else?

Any and all advice helps.

[ October 18, 2012, 02:31 AM: Message edited by: TommySama ]

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Chael
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A couple of pieces of advice:

1) Find a reputable mechanic and, once you find a car you like, take the car there. They can look over the car and tell you if it looks like a decent bet or not.

2) Sometimes general model information is helpful. Last time I had to buy a car (used of course), I bought a Corolla because at the time they had a great reputation for lasting. The price wasn't too bad because it was a manual (I like manuals). The car has lived up to its reputation so far, and I've had it for about seven years.

3) If you're short on time, don't buy a clunker to save money in the short term. Especially if you don't feel like fixing your car on the side of the road a few dozen times.

4) One of the things that I look for in a car is how sluggish it feels when I'm merging onto the highway. Can it get up to speed in a reasonable period of time or not? You'll want to drive the thing both on a highway and on smaller roads to get an idea of how it behaves. Alignment problems? Suspension problems? Suspicious noises when you turn the wheel?

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seekingprometheus
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Take some time to tool around at Edmunds. Read some of the articles for buyers and play around with the pricer and reviews to help narrow down the target cars you're looking for. Aside from helping you figure out what you want in terms of what you can afford, being handy with the bluebook can make negotiation a lot easier, and save you a good bit of money in the process.

[ October 18, 2012, 03:04 AM: Message edited by: seekingprometheus ]

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JoshuaD
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I bought a used '99 Honda Civic for $5,000 5 years ago. I've gotten 100,000 miles out of it, and it still looks and runs like a car less than half it's age.
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scifibum
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If you're thinking you're going to a used car lot, then all I can say is stay away from places that specialize heavily in offering credit to everyone.

There is no peace of mind in used cars at that price point, but the good news is that most makes are now decently reliable.

Just try for lower miles whenever comparing two similar seeming vehicles.

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G3
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You're very right, don't trust used car salesmen. They're scum. I don't know what it is about the used car industry - it either attracts the slimiest people or turns them into slime. Anything they promise, anything, get it writing. They're lying to you. They have no intention of backing up any promise. I have never met a used car salesman that wouldn't throw his wife in the back seat with you for another $100 on the deal (or at least promise you he would).

The used car market is just now beginning its rebound from 'Cash for Clunkers' but used car prices are still inflated so I'd suggest you wait until you have the $6000 in hand and be prepared to spend it all. That being said, deals can still be found - especially with someone that has cash in hand.

Do your research, Edmunds, NADA, AutoByTel and get a feel for market prices in your area. Search in nearby cities too; I've found cars for up to $1500 less in cities only 30 miles away.

You got a short list of things you'd like. I suggest a 'must have' list. Maybe MPG, large trunk space, electric windows. Whatever is important to you and make sure you see cars with those things. The salesman will run you around to whatever has the most margin for him if you don't insist on this.

I avoid the mom & pop car lots. Check out a few and you'll see why. Used cars from the lots of major dealers (Ford, Chevy, etc) tend to have better warranty support and are better processed in the trade-in. You pay a little more for that but it's always served me well in long run.

Once you have a car identified. CarFax. Many dealers will automatically provide it but get one if they don't. If you know of a mechanic that can check the car out, great. If not, LemonBusters or whatever similar service is in your area will do it. It won't guarantee the car is perfect but it will give you a general idea.

If you're not paying for it 100% from the get go, don't talk payments. When you start talking to the salespuke, he'll ask you what kind of payment you're looking for. They always do. This is a trap. They can dangle a great car in front of you that you really can't afford and get your emotion into the deal. Then they'll go back to the finance guys and pull all kinds of crap to hit that payment. If you said $375, it will be $375 and not a dime under if they can do it - even if they have to stash another $500 charge on the car somewhere in the fine print. Talk total cost, that's it. Once you settle on price, then you can talk terms.

If you are going to finance, prequalify with a bank or credit union. That way you'll know exactly what you can spend.

Don't buy GM.

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Greg Davidson
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Consumer reports on-line has comprehensive listings of reliability. It's worth springing for a subscription if you are really considering a multi-thousand dollar purchase. But he best assurance is to have a local mechanic look over the specific model that you are interested in.

Some local mechanics even have a list of used cars for sale on their bulletin board (but take such a vehicle to a different mechanic to check it out)

And Craig's list sellers may be as flexible as anyon else.

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Pete at Home
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Get a repairman that you trust to vet the car. Most used car places will let you drive the car to test drive. Drive to a repair shop and have your trusted repair dude check it out.
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G3
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And by the way, don't get locked into the idea of used car only.
quote:
Edmunds.com began to post lists of used cars selling at near or above new-car price. Last October, Automotive News, the weekly trade paper, weighed in on the phenomenon. Used-car columnist Arlena Sawyers reported on a list released by NADAguides, which enumerated 107 used models in "clean retail" condition, priced from 1 to 39 percent higher than a comparable new vehicle. Topping the list was an entry-level Nissan Versa sedan, with a "clean retail" price of $13,875. At the time, the price of a brand-new Versa (including destination charge) was $10,740. Judging by those figures, the used Versa cost 29 percent more than an equivalent new one.

Logic-minded readers had to wonder: Who would be so foolish as to pay even a penny more for a used car than a comparable new one would cost, much less thousands of dollars extra. In the real world, the answer is: probably nobody, except for isolated cases of restricted-supply models.


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Wayward Son
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Stay away from the small used car lots. They have small inventory and so need to jack up the prices to make a living.

You can also peruse the Car Talk site for helpful hints and suggestions.

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JoshuaD
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Try to buy a car from an Estate. Executors aren't usually in a position where they want to maximize value, and old people tend to keep cars in garages and not drive them much.
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Chael
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
Get a repairman that you trust to vet the car. Most used car places will let you drive the car to test drive. Drive to a repair shop and have your trusted repair dude check it out.

Every car place I looked at had no problem with a simple 'I want to get this checked over by my mechanic,' and they let me keep the car a day to do so. As long as it's obvious that you're doing this because you want to buy it if it pans out, no problem.

If they won't let you drive the car to /test-drive/, walk away. [Wink]

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Pete at Home
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quote:
Originally posted by Chael:
quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
Get a repairman that you trust to vet the car. Most used car places will let you drive the car to test drive. Drive to a repair shop and have your trusted repair dude check it out.

Every car place I looked at had no problem with a simple 'I want to get this checked over by my mechanic,' and they let me keep the car a day to do so. As long as it's obvious that you're doing this because you want to buy it if it pans out, no problem.

If they won't let you drive the car to /test-drive/, walk away. [Wink]

Amen!
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JWatts
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quote:
Originally posted by Greg Davidson:
Consumer reports on-line has comprehensive listings of reliability. It's worth springing for a subscription if you are really considering a multi-thousand dollar purchase.

I second this approach. The last 4 or 5 car purchases we've paid for a short term subscription to Consumer Reports. Their car section is good and highly searchable. It's well worth the $30-40 for good information and an informed decision.
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