I'm an older woman on limited income who is looking only for reliability and safety. No frills needed.
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That’s a tough one, at the cost much comes down to how well it was maintained. You might check with friends, relatives, acquaintances, etc. to see if any of them know of a car for sale they’d recommend.
You certainly can. I’ve found several at 3k and below. But there’s a certain amount of luck involved, and a certain amount of automotive savvy needed when looking. If you’re not very comfortable with mechanical questions, I recommend finding someone who is, and taking them along when you shop.
At that price I suggest looking for a Toyota Corolla or Geo Prizm (they are the same car). They will be about as old as the Camry you had totaled, but it may be the most dependable car ever built.
You’ll have better luck looking for a Buick, chevy Impala, or Ford Crown Victoria in that price range, maybe even a Taurus. Those will be your best bet to have the better maintenance history.
At that price, it’s more about maintenance than the badge on the hood
Is The $3,000 Settlement A Done Deal ? Have You Accepted The Check And Signed Off ?
For a $3k budget, I would stick to the domestic makes. You can get a much newer, much nicer, and much better maintained car by doing so (the elderly population tends to gravitate towards Buicks and Crown Vics/Grand Marquis, meaning gentle driving habits and excellent maintenance records). Many sellers think their Asian cars are a goldmine and price them accordingly, even if they are junk. The Prizm/Corolla twins are usually a good car and can be very reliable, but a lot of them (probably one in three in my experiences) have a serious oil consumption issue due to oil galley blockage and/or bad valve guide seals. The problem is fixable, but many times by the time it is found out, the owner has run the car either completely out of oil or dangerously close to it. Some people live with it and are content to drive on like that, but I wouldn’t want to drive a car that needs a quart or two of oil added every 300 miles or so.
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I made a comment on this last night but do not see it this morning! Here’s what I said. I will be looking for a small car as I’m a small person and feel overwhelmed in a large vehicle. The Corolla/Prizm option is a good one but I’ll have to find a 10 year old one. How can I determine if there are major problems with a used car before making a commitment to buy it? This whole thing is making me very nervous!
You’ll want to have a car that you are thinking of buying examined by a mechanic before you commit to the purchase. It might cost about $100 for the exam. Is someone that might help you with the whole shop/examine/buy process? Having someone with you at the dealer can be helpful. It is intimidating, no doubt!
I understand it is scary to drive a big car. And, if it is scary, you probably should not.
I will say my daughter was so tiny she needed a bunch of phone books on the seat of a small Datsun when she learned to drive. She ended up driving a big old Ford and had no problems. It’s all a state of mind. Though as I said, that state of mind cannot easily be changed.
The big old cars mentioned can indeed be very good cars at a reasonable price. And, older Corollas or Prizms is they were not heavily maintained can quickly become disasters.
Thank you for all your comments and suggestions. I will ponder them all…
Find other seniors that are selling their cars because they no longer have a need for it. Seniors often take better care of thier vehicles because they are on a tight budget and have learned through experience that good maintenance reduces overall expenses. My neighbor sold a 15 year old Accord a few years ago in near-showroom condition. He was fanatical about maintenance, and needed a car that he could get into and out of more easily.
Good advice, jtsanders. Now, how to find those seniors!
You start by looking at cars for sale. When you go to look at it, observe the seller and his home if yo umeet there. If the yard is sloppy and overgrown, he might not take care of his car either. If it is well maintained, then other aspects of his life, like his car, could be in top shape, too. If the seller is a senior and has a good reason to sell (loss of comfort due to age, don’t need 2 cars anymore) then so much the better.