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I need to buy a new (used) car, do you have any advice?  RSS feed

 
T. Joy
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I've never had a car, never driven, but I took driver's ed this year and will go for my test in Sept. I need a roadworthy car that will hold up and not guzzle gas but I just don't have any idea what to even look for.  Got any tips for a total car noob? Whatever you can tell me will be gratefully received.
I have kids and we plan to travel a bit looking for a new town to live in, I'll need to take a small amount of gear with us (tent, sleeping stuff, clothes for 3, a cooler with food, etc) but I'd look into one of those roof pod things if necessary/advisable. I don't know how you figure out what sort of car can handle extra weight like that, how it affects gas mileage, etc., whether a trailer is a better option... And I have no idea what sort of questions to ask or what to look at when buying a car.

Thanks for any and all advice!
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
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Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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Boy, talk about opinions!!  We will have 1000 different ones on this subject.  I will just tell you what I have.

For my multi-use car I have a Nissan Cube.  35-37mpg.  It lists less gas mileage but most Nissans get better gas mileage than they list.  I had to go to NINE different dealerships before I found one that would sell me the basic model that didn't have a bunch of crap on it.  It cost about 15 or 16K (can't remember which).

Yes, foreign cars are more expensive to repair.  With Nissans I have found that if you keep up the preventive maintenance there is nothing to repair for a 100,000 miles or so.

The cube has TONS of storage room, a flat roof that I can put things on and I also tow a lightweight flatbed trailer with it.  It has been so handy that I got rid of my truck. 

I bought it new but I NEVER go to dealership for any kind of maintence or repair on any of my vehicles.  I have one mechanics shop that I trust for everything.  Before I buy a vehicle I always take it to them to have it checked out and see if they will be able to provide all of the service for it - and if it is used they can look at it to see if they think it is a reliable vehicle - before I buy it.  If a seller will not let my mechanic look at it I do not buy it  - lots more cars out there - I don't need that one. 
 
Steven Baxter
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From my own experience when buying a used car:

The inside of the car (interior) will tell you a lot about the owner, generally speaking. If the owner took care of the inside, clean, little amount of stains, fresh smell, no burn marks etc.

This usually means, but not always, they took good care of the engine, or at least got scheduled maintenance.

When buying a used car I look for cars or trucks owned by little old ladies. You know the ones who drive 5 mph in a 25 zone. Usually if they are selling the car it will be in good condition and low mileage. And they are at the point where driving is not the best way to get around, therefore must sell the car, they probably bought new and only put 30K miles on it.

Imports ( toyota, nissan, honda) can last for what seems like forever, but parts and labor are more expensive.

Domestic (ford, chevy, dodge, etc.) have cheaper parts, easier to work on, don't have quite the endurance, mileage wise that imports have.

Always take notice how clean under the hood is, if under the car leaks or if it looks like a big black grease ball (which is not good), always test drive with radio off so you can listen to the vehicle


Hhahaha, I have a feeling there will be some strong opinions on this thread. Good luck

 
Brice Moss
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Location: rainier OR
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more details needed how much can you spend? do you object to loans? any mechanical skills?

I drive vw diesels with the mileage I put in they save me  lot but the learning cure was steep and if I didn't do my own mechanical work they would cost as much as a late model because they take some maintenance

the best deal out there if you are taking on a payment is to find something you like about 2 years old at the dealer and roll a hundred thousand mile warantee into the loan, make sure its a full warantee though you would be amazed how much powertrain coverage does not cover
 
jacque greenleaf
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Location: Burton, WA (USDA zone 8, Sunset zone 5) - old hippie heaven
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I've always driven older cars -10 years or more! my current car is 23 years old, a Ford product, past the 200,000 mile mark, and very reliable. How an older car has been treated is far more significant than make and brand. Five years of mistreatment will trash any car. Invest some library time with Consumer Reports used car issues, but don't assume that you will be safe if you just buy what they recommend.

1) Never buy an older car without having it checked out by a mechanic (can be you if you're a mechanic), no matter how good it looks and/or sounds. The right mechanic will have a portable diagnostic unit.

2) It's possible to get a good deal from a used car lot, but the odds are not in your favor. Read Remar Sutton (http://www.dontgettakeneverytime.com/), and be careful.

3) Pay cash if at all possible - no payments!

4) I have a $1000 rule - that's what I budget for repairs the first year I own an older car. Once those repairs are out of the way, an old car will have it's second wind, and is cheaper to own than a newer car on which you are making payments *and* paying for maintenance and repairs.

5) Get religious about oil changes.
 
Steven Baxter
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jacque g wrote:
I've always driven older cars -10 years or more! my current car is 23 years old, a Ford product, past the 200,000 mile mark, and very reliable. How an older car has been treated is far more significant than make and brand.


Well said, on all points.
 
T. Joy
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Thank you thank you thank you all!
$1000 would be my top limit, I'd rather an older car because the newer things are, the more cheaply they were made in my experience. But I would like good gas mileage so don't really know how older cars stack up against newer in that regard.
Good tips about checking out the inside to get an idea how the owner treated it.
I'm looking around on kijiji etc but need to figure out how to get a mechanic to check a car over for me, I have no idea how much that will cost and if it's for more than one vehicle it's going to take a chunk out of my budget for sure.
I'm working on it!
 
Brice Moss
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Location: rainier OR
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Also can you drive a stick?
 
T. Joy
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I just took driver's ed so I can hardly drive anything at all right now. My mom has a stick and even though that's what she learned to drive, after years of driving standard she hates it so much. I'm pretty sure I want a standard. 2 kids in the backseat is as much in-car aggravation as I can stand, lol.
 
Ken Peavey
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A car with 100k miles, in decent shape, can be had for a grand.
A car with 200k miles, regardless of shape, can be had for $500.
Find a decent car, change the oil, keep it tuned up, and run it into the ground.

The single most important thing you can do to extend the life of a vehicle is to change the oil religiously.

A truck is a handy thing, you can haul stuff-couch, fridge, lumber, compost, a calf, a mower, hay, orchard trees.
In lieu of a truck, a towball and a small trailer, 4x8 or 5x8, will give you the next best thing.  A truck may be able to haul more weight, but most of the stuff you need to haul is bulky rather than heavy.  A trailer can be had for $500-$1k.  The towball kit will run you $50-100.  If you go with a compact car, a trailer is not advisable.



 
                                    
Posts: 147
Location: Anoka Sand Plain, MN Zone 4/5, Sunset Zone 43
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I just bought a used car & most cars with 100k on them will be closer to 5,000, sorry.
 
T. Joy
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Thanks Ken!

christhamrin wrote:
I just bought a used car & most cars with 100k on them will be closer to 5,000, sorry.


That totally depends where you are. Vehicles are typically at least $1000 more for the exact same thing on the coast than they are in the middle of the country here. Or so I am told by my friends from here who've moved out west!
 
Robert Ray
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My family has owned an auto parts store for many years from that experience I can say on the top of the list for cars that have been maintained the fewest parts in our area are sold for Honda, Toyota, Subaru, Nissan in that order.
I am a fan of VW diesels but as Brice said earlier if you are unable do your own mechanical work they can be expensive once it goes beyond routine maintenance. I've always liked VW air-cooled but I again think you have to enjoy tinkering.
I have a hard time thinking of an older (10 yrs) American made economy car I'd suggest, unfortunate but in my case true.
On the whole usually better gas mileage with a manual transmission over an automatic.  Safety rating might be a consideration.
If you have kids trust me 4-doors is the way to go.
 
Brice Moss
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Location: rainier OR
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Oh and one more thing to add

ugly cars have a lot of positives, if the clear coat is peeling or the car was in a minor wreck that left the lights intact or replaceable but some big scars you can count on paying almost nothing for the car, the chance of finding something that is excellent mechanically is a lot better if you don't mind it looking awful, and you can park anywhere with the doors unlike in an ugly beater and the thieves just walk on by
 
T. Joy
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I don't mind an ugly wreck, believe me. I'm going to drive it right into the ground anyhow! I think I might have a lead, a car that isn't actually that old but kids have drawn on the inside with permanent marker, lol. Not that I would ever care about a thing like that, we'll just add to it I'm sure.
 
Warren Nerraw
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I would suggest a Volvo 745 or 945. Both are wagons and can easily pull a trailer. They can be had for a few thousand dollars, in great shape, or less. They are simple to repair(Redblock 4 cylinder) and parts are pretty cheap. Support groups like the Swedish Bricks e-mail list are very active and helpful.
 
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