Are my standards realistic in buying a used car under $10,000 (CHANGE est miles driven to 8,000)

I’m looking to buy a used car under $10k, live in a county outside Manhattan and will consider cars within 75-miles which includes parts of NY, CT, and NJ. The car would be driven an estimated 18,000 miles/year and I’d like it to last at least 6 years. Car maintenance will be done by qualified people.

I’d appreciate a “yes” from you experienced car people if you think the following checklist is realistic as a cut-off before I make a call to a dealer … or a “no” with suggestions to make it more realistic. A P.S. request would be your recommendations for safe, reliable car makes and models. Thank you very much for your help in my search.



NOT FROM AN AUCTION (this is based on personal experience although some car rental companies selling their cars have a warranty that leads me to consider these cars)



IIHS “GOOD” RATING (“ACCEPTABLE” rating is OK if only 1-2 in unimportant areas)


NHTSA VIN# CHECK SHOWS (1) 4-5 stars (2) complaint types and frequency aren’t in areas like failing brakes and car stopping without warning signs)

Even with qualified service that is still optimistic.

Your list is exactly what used car dealers want in their sale fleet. A perfect-no-blemish car. Those are 2-4 year old creampuff cars usually showing less than 45,000 miles and selling for twice what your budget allows, especially in NY state.

The one owner will be almost impossible to find as a great deal of good used cars are leased and CarFax’s will show 2-3 owners even though it has only had the lessor driving it.

No accident car with 60K in NY??? Gooood luck with that one! It must be fixed correctly, though and an inspection by a 3rd party mechanic will confirm that.

A quick CarMax search in your area with those caveats will show you if anything is available that meets your criteria. In my area, that is a Nissan Versa or Chevy Sonic or Hyunda or Kia.


Consumer Reports publishes articles and sometimes buying guides for used cars - that could be helpful guide for you. Every April is their annual car issue. Won’t be long now.

April 2018’s issue lists many “best used cars” in the $5,000-10,000 range and the $10,000-15,000 range.

You will have a hard time finding that car in a reasonable amount of time. I think you should up the mileage to about 100,000 miles, allowing for older cars. A well maintained vehicle should last 200,000 miles, and that still gives you a lot of life left.

Also note that the IIHS offset frontal crash test evaluates what happens if two of the same cars hit each other. If a large SUV hits a very small car, the small car will not fare well no matter what the tests show. It is unlikely you will be in a serious accident, so that may not be as important as other things you want. You can’t afford something large enough to fare well in almost any accident, so get used to it.


Drive to Albany? If i broke down in New York City and had to go buy a car for 10k I might drive to Albany get this!

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Yes, they’re *pretty close to what I’ve used in buying several (pre-owned, ha, ha) USED cars, for less money and that have been run beyond miles/years that you’re seeking, however, I am pretty good at examining cars and determining their condition, mechanically, body-wise, and otherwise.

If you don’t feel competent in checking cars out then you’d be wise to rely on professional help prior to purchase.

*pretty close items

I have had some of my best deals in the 100,000 to 130,000 mile range that have gone way beyond the additional 110,000 miles you’re looking for. Some of these cars were purchased for less than half the money you are looking to spend.

I like one owner cars, that usually command a higher price, where I am speaking to the person who can answer any and all questions about the car. That said, I’ve purchased several cars with multiple previous owners, priced accordingly, that have been fantastic cars. The car’s condition is more important than how many owners/drivers it’s had.

I have purchased used cars with minor professionally repaired damage. No big deal, provided that the damage and repair can be documented. One car I’ve had forever had a fender, headlight, etcetera replaced, damaged by a deer hit and professionally repaired. So what? Cosmetic damage is okay, but I’d steer clear of an accident involving mechanicals.

Do what you’d like, but I would not use that as a deal breaker. I have several open recalls (silly recalls) on cars I own and the cars are well maintained and not neglected. Recalls generally run with the cars, not the owner, and usually don’t expire, but that has to be ascertained.

Buy the most recent model-year car that fits the bill. The car’s current condition is most important.


do a search for $10k and 60k miles. what do you find? bought a number of used cars for under $10,000; in fact I’ve never paid more than $9400 ( a 4 year old Nissan Sentra with only 35,000 miles) for a used car. At your budget, forget about 1) outstanding recalls (they’re free) 2) IIHS ratings, or 3)whatever the VIN says. Where the car was built should have no bearing on its desirability or reliability…

All cars now are safe and the difference between safe and a bad accident is only your driving ability.

You will need to buy from a private party and an older vehicle with low miles. Seniors who are downsizing are a prime source of good cars.

Our Sentra gave trouble-free service from 1996 till 2012! and logged nearly 200,000 miles.

Other used cars we had were a 1988 Caprice which was good for 11 years and 160,000 miles an a 1984 Impala which ran well from 1988 till 1996.

Recently I bought a nice car for a friend of my wife. A mint condition Honda Accord fully loaded with only 62,000 miles and dealer maintained . It belonged to a senior who gave up driving. We (she) paid $9200 for it. It easily passed DMV inspection.

So, keep looking for private ads from those seniors.


I’ve spent too much time trying to figure out how to correct my CarTalk message (“Are my standards realistic …”) so here’s my attempt to correct what I wrote:

THE CAR WOULD BE DRIVEN AN ESTIMATED 8,000 MILES/YEAR … not 18,000. A big oops on my part. Your replies are helping me to modify my search approach.

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Agreed. Please see my miles correction among the replies (I don’t know how to edit my original message).

Then you may be the perfect candidate for the lowest cost lease you can find. Full coverage warranty and possibly free oil changes.


Thank you Mustangman for your VERY helpful response. This has modified my approach.

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I’ll look into that issue unless I find and buy a car first! Thanks!

I checked out your link and see that the car was in an accident that hit the front center of the car. From what I’m learning this kind of accident can cause problems down the road with alignment, transmission, electrical wiring issues so I’ll pass on this one. Thanks to you and to Mustangman for the suggestion of checking out CarMax (unfortunately, the closest one is in Langhorne, Pa) – but I’ll keep checking.

Easy to change thread title. Open your thread. The thread title has “pen” logo on right. Click the pen. Select thread title text line. Save it

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VERY helpful response, common_sense_answer. I’m definitely incorporating your suggestions into my approach. Thanks!

I do find cars but, sad to say, once I follow up with dealers (at least in the NYC boroughs) I find they have fees (some required like DMV and tax) that add $3000 to their appealing car price. (Thanks too for your tip on editing cartalk messages!)

That is common almost every where. I don’t know of any dealer near me that does not have 'Documentation Fees ', some as high as 389.00 . Then the state gets almost 5 % of the sticker price plus a fee and tire disposal charges by size of tires.

And I have never seen a dealer ad that lists all those with the advertised price .

As I shop for a lower price used sedan, I see a fair amount of Hyundai Elantra and Accent and Kia Rio and Forte models. I don’t know if I should start a new thread to ask about whether I should drop them from consideration due to the engine fires recalls and lawsuits.

A related question to my purchase of a used car under $10k (again, should this be a new thread?) is whether I’m better off buying an old reliable make and model (Toyota, Honda) or a newer car that hasn’t yet been tested?