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Advice for Buying a Car

I am a sophomore in college at Michigan State and I am looking into getting my first car. I was wondering if anyone has any suggestions or advice. My dad usually helps me with this stuff, but he is really busy at work so I figured I would try this out. I absolutely love Jeeps, but I’m wondering if I should stick to something smaller. Do you have any suggestions on American made cars that aren’t large, but not tiny either? I am definitely looking at used cars, since I will be paying for it. Where are some good places to look for used cars at? I have mostly been using craig’s list. I want to be able to use this car for at least a couple of years, so is there a good way to figure out how many miles on the car is too many?

What is your budget? Do you need/want all wheel drive (AWD)? Have you bought the Consumer Reports car buyer’s guide?

If you find a car that you like, the most important thing to do is to take is to a good mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection. There are no guarantees, but there’s a much lower chance that you’ll be stuck with a car with hidden expensive problems, so it’s money well spent.

Jeeps are not particularly reliable. Does that matter to you? What factors do matter to you?

How much driving do you need to do in snow?

Do look at the Consumer Reports ratings, as mentioned above.

Proper maintenance is very important in how reliable a used car will be, so any car that comes with maintenance records is worth a closer look.

Please explain what you mean by “American-made” and why you want that. That’s a very fuzzy term. Do you want the company headquarters to be in the U.S.? Do you want the workers assembling it to be in the U.S.? Do you want a high percentage of the parts to be sourced in the U.S.? Maybe you don’t understand how the auto manufacturing business works these days, but it’s not like the old days.

Unless you need or want something even smaller a Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix would fit your needs well. Based on the Corolla but made in a joint venture with GM in California. You still should have any prospective purchase inspected. Jeeps are attractive but not always very reliable.
The Matrix just went out of production last year so depending on budget you could find a fairly low mileage example.

You can find GM products made in Korea as well as Honda’s made in Ohio so it’s a little complicated when you refer to American Made.

@spartangirl You should get something reliable and “spartan”, like a low mileage Hyundai Accent; a great little car, comes as a hatchback or a sedan.

Equip it with a good set of winter tires and you can avoid the conplexity and cost of All Wheel Drive.

We’ve rented Accents many times on our travels and they always performed great. And the door pockets can hold a fullsize container of gatorade.

“You can find GM products made in Korea as well as Honda’s made in Ohio so it’s a little complicated when you refer to American Made.”

The following “foreign” manufacturers operate assembly plants in The US:
…and there are likely a few more that I have forgotten.

Then, we have “American” manufacturers that assemble cars for the US market in Mexico, Canada, and Korea.

The term “American made” is very nebulous nowadays, and the OP needs to clarify exactly what she means when she uses that term.

I recently got an older jeep Cherokee that I like very much. 4.0L in line six cylinder engine is the way to go if you do get a jeep.

C’mon Wes, tell her about the u-joint failure, the low oil pressure, the 15 mpg…

ok. my u joint on the front axle failed after 24 years and fixed it for less than 30 bucks. I don t have low oil pressure at all. in fact its great. the oil pressure sending unit was on the fritz when I drove it one day for hours in 95 degree heat. another 30 dollars to fix (even tho it wasn t really a problem at all) after I fixed the U joint and replaced a couple stretched caliper pins that caused my brakes to drag, my gas mileage improved dramatically. its much better than 15 mpg, wherever that figure came from.

one of the things that has impressed me most is the shape of the interior .its almost completely intact and the only thing that is worn much at all is the driver side floor mat.

so, the jeep runs great, parts are cheap and plentiful, and its comfortable still looks good and not falling apart or rusting away. I think it s a great vehicle and would buy another in a heartbeat.

of course some people beat their jeeps to death, so have any car inspected by someone before you shell out any money. by the way, I got mine for 1500 bucks and its a 1990 cherokee with 4.0 L straight 6 cyl

And some people have to pay others to have their jeeps fixed.

“…wherever that figure came from.”

Please don’t take this the wrong way, @wesw‌

But I don’t think a 24 year old vehicle is the best choice for a first time buyer, and a college student at that

I’m not restricting that to Jeeps, either

I don’t think ANY 24 year old vehicle is the right choice in this situation

There’s far too many variables, far too many chances to get a rusty car, poor maintained, too many miles, etc. when you’re talking about a vehicle that old

I’m sure most of us can think of a few college students who aren’t very handy, and don’t have a lot of car fixing skills. Not all of the college students have a mechanic big brother, dad, uncle, friend, etc.

By American made, do you mean GM, Ford, and Chrysler? Or are you willing to accept any manufacturer building cars in the USA? If you want UAW built cars, GM, Chrysler and Ford are the only ones.

We can’t suggest anything until we know the budget. I think Craigslist is great, as long as a knowledgeable person is there to inspect the car with you, and the seller is open to all questions, not lacking information.

Don’t worry about getting something amazing. It’ll get dinged up in the crowded parking lots anyway. I think a jeep Cherokee would be fine if that’s what you’re after. I’d try to stay below 150k miles. Around there and above you’re looking at replacing commonly failed components that won’t break the bank but also won’t be cheap, given the car was treated well.

A 1990 is way to old for someone with no tools or know how. The newer the better Id say.

I got my 2003 f150 for $4300 with 115k miles. Other then scratches and dings, it runs and drives like new. The cars today really do last longer, (when maintained).

I agree db, but…

if she has 3000 grand and really wants a jeep it might be feasible.

Cherokees can be had for 1500 bucks all day long, and if she paid a good shop another 1500 to bring it up to snuff, it may work for her.

depends on her situation, budget and desire to own a jeep.

young people are more likely to live an active, adventurous life than we older folks and you are only young once. if she really wants a jeep on the cheap, I would recommend a Cherokee with the 4.0L in line 6cyl. it seems to be the most reliable of the jeeps

If you like Jeeps and/or want 4wd, try to find a Nissan Pathfinder. Made in Tennessee.


I agree that the Jeep 4 liter straight 6 is a solid engine

My main concern is the age of the vehicle, and the possibly high mileage

I don’t think we know how much the OP has to spend but I’d suspect that the parents would prefer the newest vehicle possible. There are lower mileage Cherokee’s on the market around here in the northwest but you come close to $10K from a dealer for a nice low mileage example.

There’s also the Compass/Patriot twins but those are Dodge Caliber’s in Jeep style bodies. And the Liberty is much newer but also not really that reliable.

“the Liberty is much newer but also not really that reliable.”

That’s putting it nicely