Buying a used car - any opinions?

Hi, I am getting a used car. Mine is on its way out of this world. I was considering a used Suburu or Jetta, but it seems that I cannot afford to get anything under 100,000 K

-Or- I could go the Honda Civic/Toyota Camry route which may be a little cheaper, but it is harder to find those in really nice condition it seems.

I am NOT good at this and don’t know much about cars, so any advice helps.

I don’t want to spend over $10,000, and truthfully should not spend more than $7,000.



You can get a very nice car for $7-10,000. If you concentrate on Subaru, Jetta, Civic, and Camry, you are overlooking all the rest – and might walk right past that bargain creampuff. Ain’t nothing wrong with a clean Mazda or Buick, for example.

My advice is to worry less about a particular make and to figure out how to tell if a car has been well-cared for, if it’s mechanically sound. You won’t be able to do this yourself. Get a knowledgeable friend to go with you, or at least ask the seller if you can take the car to your friendly mechanic to check it out for possible problems and repair costs.

He’s right about the Buick line of cars. You can get a nice LeSabre with the 3.8 liter engine and have a very reliable car that does get good mileage and has plenty of power, too. The old guys that buy these are on to something. Also look at the land yacht Ford Crown Victoria. You can get in cheap and have reliable wheels. If you want smaller, a late model Chevy Cavalier is a good buy, and you get the higher gas mileage as a bonus.

I agree; don’t dwell on the make as much. Since money is an issue you should be able to find something very nice for 5-7 grand. The key, at least to me,is do a lot of footwork, homework, and go slow in your decision making.

The Buick is a good suggestion for these reasons. Generally, older people own them and maintain them, keep them in the garage, etc. and it’s not likely they’ve been out playing Fast and Furious with them.
Buicks are reliable,and on average anyway, the repair costs of anything that crops up will be cheaper than the Subaru, VW, etc.

Buying one from an original owner would be the preferred option rather than a dealer.
(For what it’s worth, I’ve never paid more than 4100 dollars for any clean, late model car in my entire life and none of them has been a problematic vehicle. My 3750 dollar car easily went 420k miles so it’s strictly homework, preventative maintenance, and patience in the search.)

I think I understand what you are saying about researching the car. I appreciate that last comment too, because my current car cost me $2500 and has lasted me 6 years. From that perspective it seems unnecessary to spend $7000. Curious, what kind of car got you 420K?

Suburu is a good car but unless you really need the 4 wheel drive feature I think you’d be able to save some money and take the Civic/Corolla/Camery route. I’d avoid the Jetta.

I would avoid Toyota and Honda simply because of the price differential of $1500 to $2500 over comparable cars with other nameplates. In my experience, you will not recover this premium via fewer repairs. I like Mazda for that reason. Japanese quality without the price premium. I even have pretty good luck with Ford products and those cars are dirt cheap used. I have a '97 Protege and a '98 Escort both purchased for <$4000 and both virtually trouble free now for 4 years. I agree with the others that maintenance history is more important than brand. Most cars today will run for at least 200,000 miles with no major repairs. Take your time and find a one-owner car with maintenance records and for which the owner has a legitimate reason to sell. I also recommend a manual transmission if you can find one. Automatics require regular maintenance and inevitably lead to costly repairs if you keep you cars forever like I do.

On your budget, stay away from any Volkswagen or Subaru since they will cost more to keep running later. Your best buy would be a Hyundai Elantra, Mazda Protege, or Chevy Geo Prizm (Corolla-based). These cars have good reliability, reasonable repair costs, and are not as expensive to buy as Corollas and Civics.

The car that got me that far was a, '87 Mercury Sable I bought in '92. It was still running/driving well, and getting 24-25 MPG when I sold it in '05. My current car is a '94 Lincoln Mark VIII I bought in '02 and it’s got almost 220k on it. Should be good for another couple of hundred thousand from the looks of things.

When my son was a senior in HS we found a nice '88 Camaro with some minor body damage on the lefr rear quarter. A checkover showed this car to very solid mechanically so we bought it for 2200 dollars, I did the body work, etc. on it and this became his college car. He’s owned it since 1998.
He continued to drive this car until just a couple of months ago when a lady turned in front of him and smacked the right front up. We’re going to repair it while he drives his recently purchased Lincoln, but once repaired he’s going back to using it as his daily driver.
This Camaro has almost 300k on it, has never been a problem, and still runs like the day we bought it. I could see this car easily hitting 450-500k miles.

My other son has a '96 Camaro with about 225k on it. It’s been a solid, reliable car except for a couple of early water pump failures. These were easily repaired though. I’m not recommending a 4th generation Camaro or Firebird by pointing this out. Good cars mechanically, but the low seating, long swoopy nose, and the shoulder high door panel height makes you feel like you’re driving around in a 4 wheeled hole. :slight_smile:

not to mention the previous owners might have played fast and furious with it.

The Regal handles better than the LeSabre and the seats are more comfortable.