Buying Used with 100,000+ miles

Anyone have any informed advice regarding buying a use car in the $4,000 range (near San Francisco, CA) that has 100,000 + miles? Considering VWs ie. nice used cars. Don’t want to invest in something that will cost a fortune to maintain… Any brands/models folks can recommend? and alleviate my anxiety over cars with 100,000+ miles??

A used VW with 100+K miles in the $4,000 range might have a problem with your “Don’t want to invest in something that will cost a fortune to maintain…” statement.

If you have $4,000, suggest you buy a car for $3,000 so you have money for stuff like new tires, brakes, and some repairs. You can expect to spend some money on just about any used car you buy. Stay away from VW’s, Volvo’s, Chrysler products (Neon, Stratus), and European brands. They generally are expensive used cars to maintain and repair.

Ford Focus is worth a look, as well as some GM offerings. Toyota’s and Honda’s hold up in general, but are also more expensive. Meaning an even older and higher mileage car if you have to have a Honda or Toyota.

A Mazda Protege, well maintained, would cost considerably less than a Toyota or Honda. Also stay away from any Subaru in that price range. Even if well maintained these AWD cars cost a lot more to keep running .

Agree with uncle turbo that any Chrysler product or European brands should be off your list.

I suggest that you find the newest, best maintained small car that you can for $4000. You can find a 2004/2005 Cavalier LS or LS Sport for $4000 and the mileage could be less than 100,000. This is at the end of the model run, and all the kinks were worked out of it long before these cars were built.

Chevy Cobalt should be on your list at this price point.

Newbie, Some Cars Use A Timing Chain And Some Cars Use A Timing Belt For The Function Of Valve Timing/Operation.

Cars with chains often have them last the lifetime of the vehicle.

Cars with belts need periodic replacemnts of the belt, usually in 60,000 to 120,000 mile intervals, as specified by manufacturer. Some of these cars that are left to go beyond recommended replacement will break a belt and leave you on the roadside. Some will break a belt and leave you on the roadside with major engine damage.

A car with 100,000 miles and a timing belt could be ready for big problems. A typical belt replacement could cost $400 to $1,000 parts and labor.

Find out if a car’s got a timing chain or timing belt, documentation to show a current replacement, and know whether it can suffer major damage if the belt snaps (interference engine design) or not (non-interference design).

This information definitely needs to be factored into a purchase and purchase price. If you need help, tell us the car model-year, make, and model that you’re considering.

You can thank me later,

Jt makes good suggestions. If possible, consider a standard transmission which will cost less and may give you more buying options. Consider a car with as few options as possible. Base models have fewer things that can go wrong and possibly better bang for the “reliability” buck. Consider a pick up as well. $4k is the “can’t be choosey” stage and make, model and year are secondary to condition. For example, I don’t like Aveos either, but for $4k, it may make a decent buy used.

As a newbie car buyer, here are a few tips that have worked for me:

  1. Do your research. Look up the cars on Consumer Reports (buy an online subscription if you need to) for detailed reliability reports for the past 10 years. If the car is over 10 years old, can provide general reliability ratings.

  2. Take the car for a pre-sale inspection. A mechanic will check the condition of the fluids, battery, brakes, etc. This should give you an idea about how well the car has been maintained and how much money you will need to put into the car or if the car is about to fall apart. Firestone will do these inspections for $20 and take about 1 hour.

  3. Expect initial maintenance costs. Most used cars will need some maintenance work done. Common stuff is oil change, brakes, tires, and other parts that need to be replaced with general wear and tear. Also, be aware that you can use these initial maintenance costs to bargain down the price of the car. Deal breakers should be major engine problems (e.g head gaskets), transmission issues, or frames that have been bent in a wreck.

  4. Ford Escorts are a decent, fairly reliable older car that are common. Furthermore, repairs on them are fairly cheap since there are so many of them out there and spare parts are easy to find. Beyond that, stick to Toyota, Honda, and to a lesser extent, Nissan. Avoid GM, Chrysler, Kia, Hyundai, and VW.

“…stick to Toyota, Honda, and to a lesser extent, Nissan. Avoid GM, Chrysler, Kia, Hyundai, and VW.”

I disagree. At $4000, a Toyota or Honda will be significantly older than a comparable Chevrolet, Ford, Kia, or Hyundai. And those cars can be much more reliable than a Toyota or Honda that was poorly maintained. One example: a 2002 Corolla LE with manual trans is $4000 from a private seller. A comparable 2005 Cavalier LS is about the same price. At 12,000 miles per year, the Cavalier will have 84,000 miles while the Corolla will have 120,000 miles. Corolla and Civic are fine cars, but I think someone can find a much better deal elsewhere. I agree that a VW may not be the best car to buy, though.

Everyone is right! Friends who think that my opinion is better than theirs ask me to help them find a car and my best advice has been to discourage the European cars and then look at whatever appeals to them. I have come out looking like a genius after suggesting Isuzus, Hondas, Toyotas, Chevrolets, Jeeps and Fords to friends who liked those models. I just took the time to look closely at the vehicles and the weak points of each and recommended a model that had a good reputation and a specific vehicle that was well maintained and adult driven. And 100,000 miles is just a good break in on a good vehicle.

At a 100k miles (and often at far less than that) any car is a toss up because very very few cars are religiously maintained in spite of the owners protests that they are.

Use patience, a lengthy test drive, and a pre-purchase inspection and you can often do well.

A stick shift 4-cylinder pick-up truck…Or a Crown Vic at a police car auction…You want a highway patrol car, not a city car…