Advice on buying a car



I formally drove a 1998 Honda CRV. I was under the impression that it was the perfect car. Decent millage, reliable, not flashy, and I was able to sit in in comfortably (I am 6'2") Alas my beautiful trustworthy, some would say loyal companion of a vehicle was taken from me. It was stolen out of my seminary parking lot by someone who could clearly see the diamond in the rough that was my car.

Here is my problem. I live in a metro area, but unfortunately public transportation leaves quite a bit to be desired when my internship involves home visits in harsh winter conditions. I do not want to take out a loan, and have $2000 to spend. I would just look for another CRV, but I would like it if my vehicle could not be started by anyone who owns a flat-head screwdriver. I would like something reliable, affordable. I would also like to be able to maintain good posture rather than pretend that I was on a deep sea exploratory mission with James Cameron. What would you suggest that I look for?


Sorry to say this…but $2000 and reliable/affordable do not go in the same sentence. You have to at least quadruple you budget.


Helpful and optimistic.


Look for a very simple car in the best condition possible. Car brand does not matter, it is condition you are looking for. @MikeinNH is correct, and it will take a long time to find something. Maybe you can network through church to find a good buy in an old car. Something like a Chevy Cavalier comes to mind as about the level of sophistication you should look at. Spend about $100 to get your most serious candidate inspected by a mechanic to see if there is anything it needs immediately.


Thank you


You most certainly do not need to spend 8 grand to get a reliable vehicle, however youre going to end up wanting to spend that full 2k to get as much vehicle as you can find, and that leaves nothing for repairs or maintenance. If you can scratch another 500-1000 it would really help you. I also reccomend reaching out to the church community, and stay up on the police to find that crv!

That all being said, see if you can find an older buick lesabre or century. Theyre quite reliable in my experience. A little old lady whos getting rid of it, somewhat low miles would be an ideal situation.


Me, I’d just buy another CRV, if that’s the car you like. I presume you have $2,000 to spend b/c that’s what your insurance company says a 1998 CRV is worth. So you should be able to find one for close to that amount. In theory anyway. If you can’t, complain to the insurance company. They’ve ripped you off, didn’t pay you the full market price for the stolen car. If you can find one for $2000, pay $100 to a trusted mechanic for an inspection, & if it is ok, buy it. Then ask the mechanic to make a modification to the starter and ignition circuits to deter theft. I did this one time on a 60’s Ford Galaxy, involved a hidden switch and a couple of inexpensive relays. There’s no way to make your CRV 100% theft proof, but you don’t need 100% theft proof. All you have to do is make it a little more difficult to steal than the next car on the block.


I think that you can find a decent reliable car for 2 grand. It will take a lot of footwork, patience, and in the lack of a pre-purchase inspection, a lengthy test drive which involves a gut feel and some luck.
The main thing with a test drive is that preferably it would be a minimum of 30 miles. That gets the engine up to temp and provides a bit of time which can be devoted to detecting noises, transmission shift patterns, and so on. Radio on the OFF position and the same applies to the person selliing the car; they should remain OFF unless it’s something vital. Gab detracts from the issue at hand; checking the car out.

Maybe set your sights on something like a 90s era Buick Century or something like that. They’re reliable, get good fuel economy, very serviceable, common, and in a word, bland. That blandness can translate to a cheaper price but the object is 4 wheels to get from A to B as reliably and as economically as possible.


if you can drive a stick shift, get one of those. Not very many thieves/joy riders will know how to drive or start one


Quoting @VicarKelly

"What would you suggest that I look for?"

The thief.

A recent article in my local fish wrap stated that only 22% of stolen cars are recovered by the police. I know two people who found their own.


When my daughter’s car was stolen, the police said that they doubted that they would ever find it. But we had OnStar, and within 45 minutes, the car was located. Even after, notification, it took the police at least another half hour to mozey over the the car.


Get a 02 Taurus w/125k for $1500. None will steal it.


I dunno @Cavell. I have a friend who had the world’s ugliest pickup truck stolen once. The thief or thieves drove it right through a wood fence, and onto the unfenced property next door. The truck ran almost as bad as it looked. The local cops found it six weeks later, and called him about 3:00 AM. Said they’d meet him at the truck. It was waaaay across town. When he got there 30 minutes later, the cops and the truck were gone. A couple of minutes later the cops rolled up. Seems they left for coffee and a doughnut. When they came back, the truck was gone, again. The next time they found it, my friend told the dispatcher the story of the earlier near-recovery. The dispatcher told the cops to stay with the truck, so it was there when my friend arrived.

Nice thing, while it was missing, the thief put another (possibly also stolen) distributor into it. It ran much better.


I think your best bet to find a reliable vehicle for $2K is to let all your relatives, coworkers, and friends know you’re searching. Hopefully you’ll have an aunt or uncle that has a no-longer-needed car and a good heart. That’s where reliable cars in that price range usually come from,

Don’t be shy. Pass the word through the family tree.

Re: the comments on old cars being less likely to be stolen… that’s a misconception. The overwhelming majority of stolen cars are stolen by joyriders, and they steal the old cars because they lack the security systems and alarms in newer vehicles. They’re simply easier to steal.


If you go by TV and the movies all cars are easy to steal. Just hop in at night in pitch blackness, reach under the steering column, yank out a handful of wires, and spark two of them together… :wink:


That’s what I get for only watching MeTV. In the days of Perry Mason and Cannon cars actually WERE easy to steal!


You will have to make a sacrifice. You can’t expect to get a decent car for$2k and restrict your pool of cars to CRVs. So, even though a CRV is generally reliable, an old one is at the mercy of maintenance and driving habits of it’s previous owner(s). For $2k, mathematically speaking using probability, you need to accept just about any car including Hyundais, Kias, Focus etc. that does the best job of passing the muster of a mechanic you can trust…and that is another charge. Buy a car buyers guide (another cost ) from CR and get a handle on cars that are the most reliable as they age, then expand your pool to include them. If you don’t like red for example, be prepared to accept a red car. ;)) I know some can say"just buy another CRV. Good ones for that money are near impossible to find…unless you are a great detective and can retrieve your old one.


I agree with the others . . . for $2000, you should EXPECT go get a car that was ridden hard and put up wet

In my neck of the woods $2000 gets you a pile that’s ready for the scrapyard

Raise the budget


Speaking of stealing cars. This gentleman has long since past away, but he related tis story to me. He had an old Pinto worth nothing that he agreed to have stolen to get insurance money on. Instead, before that could happen, some else stole the battery out of the car. He had to buy a new battery for the car and have an extra set of keys made before it “disappeared”. Sadly, this happens more often then you think with people who otherwise seem quite honest. It happened with boats and motors on our lake as well.

It seems unusual that some one so inclined would have to hire a thief when they seem so abundant. Maybe we just need a matching service like a dating forum. :wink: Really, IMO, it’s the prevailing thought that insurance companies are awash in monies when in reality, even if they do make big profits, they still hand their expenses on to the rest of us who live by the rules.

I listened to this guy’s story but I no longer had the same respect or trust for him ever again. Too bad.



Remember that Steve Martin movie . . . LA story, I believe . . . where people were lined up to use the ATM. Every customer had their own designated robber

Speaking of losing respect for people I know . . .

I have a few colleagues for whom I have lost a lot of respect

One of them had the snap on tool vendor generate a fake invoice for a $3800 scan tool. The guy included it in his taxes for the write-off

Another guy . . . perhaps not too bright . . . every year he claims he spent $5000 on tools, for the write off. Regardless of if he spent $50 or $20000. Yet he has no receipts

I like both of these guys, but I question their integrity to some degree