Car Strategies

I have a silly question and there is perhaps not even a straight answer to it.

But, what is the best strategie when buying a car.

Buying new or used?

Milagewise, 100K better sell?

Or drive it till it falls apart?

The market here is very different than lets say like in europe.

Usually people tend to sell their cars if they reach a certain point of miles. Only taxidrivers drive more then 250T Kilometer on a car.

So i wonder how do you plan to use, buy or keep a car here in the states.

I have a used one right now, but it has already over 100K Miles.

Or is it just really a wallet question. Like i was saying, it might sound silly, but i am just wondering.

Lot’s of Americans, and lots of differing opinions. I purchased an new '03 Honda Civic with the intention of driving it as long as either it or I last. So far 85K miles and still on that plan.

My other cars I purchased used. An '04 T’bird that was two years old with 24K miles. I paid about $24K for the car which originally listed for over $40K. At 55K miles now the car is still fun and I plan to keep it. Depreciation on the T’bird is lower than on many other cars, so it is holding its value much better tnan average.

I needed an SUV for towing and bought an '01 Toyota Sequoia in Nov. '08 with 89K miles. It was $10,500 and needed a timing belt immmediately. Just going to turn 100K in a week or so and no unexpected problems so far.

I’m perfectly comfortable with cars going over 100K miles. I’ve only had one that crossed the 200K mile barrier. If you can live with a few high repair bills and the inconvience of a car out of service for a few days then used cars are the most cost effective way to go. If you have one car and can’t handle taking it in for repairs then you need to keep a new car and trade it every 3 to 5 years. Not the best bang for the buck but in business lost time is lost money and then you need a newer car.

There is no universal strategy – what works for me may not work for you. I’m a car guy – bought and sold eight cars over the past seven years (for my own use, I’m not a dealer). Others hate buying cars and do it once every 10 years.

Personally, I buy 4 - 6 year-old one-owner cars, all maintenance records around 50k miles and pay less than 1/2 MSRP. I keep it for 5 - 7 years and sell it around 100k miles. I only drive 7k miles per year – a lot less than most people. I typically spend $12k – $20k on used cars (BMW, MB, Audi, etc.) and get about $6k - $12k when selling. My depreciation per-mile cost is pretty low. Most people, however, put on 10k – 15k miles per year and sell when the car becomes too expensive to fix and their car has virtually no resale value.

As with anything, you mileage may vary.


This cool old lady sure got her money’s worth (and still going strong).

It’s good to remember the final question that you will be asked: “What can I do to sell you this car today?” It all ends there. You have to figure that out eventually, so keep it in mind.

When you own a car, there isn’t any formula for getting rid of it. Once you can’t stand to keep it is when most people sell it, and the miles and age will vary immensely. If you had an 87 Taurus or Tempo I was recommending 140,000 miles because the newer cars were a lot better. Basic cars with bad reputations would get the same treatment from me but I’m not really familiar with all models now.

Different strokes for different folks. There is no “correct” strategy. You have to do what works for you. I currently have two cars, both of which were purchased used (I doubt I’ll ever buy a brand new car).

The first is a '97 Acura 2.2 CL, purchased in '98 with about 25K miles. It currently has 89K and I plan to keep it and drive it as long as possible. If I’m still driving this car ten years from now I’ll be happy. A friend of mine has a similar car with over 200K miles, and it’s still running well.

My second car is a '96 Subaru Legacy AWD station wagon, purchased in ‘03 with 78K miles. It now has about 125K miles and continues to run well. I don’t know how long I’ll keep this car. I have no plans to sell it now, but if it becomes troublesome I might sell it and look for something else. If it keeps on truckin’ I’ll keep driving it. The AWD is handy in the winter, and I like having a station wagon.

I’d say it all comes down to the person and the car. Some people take better care of their cars, and some cars are better to start with. As far as buying a car, I prefer used cars, as I said earlier. The depreciation on a new car is just too much to lose.

I have a silly question and there is perhaps not even a straight answer to it.

Not a silly question, but you’re right, there is not a straight answer.

It really depends on you and what you want. The most economical is to driver a car until it falls apart. I usually go about 150,000 about 15 years and then sell and buy new. That works for me, but it may not be right for you.

You are correct that there is not a straight answer to most of this issue.

My personal mode of behavior (which may not be right for you) is:

Research, research, research

Visit dealerships to do test drives of any models that seem promising.

Eliminate models that have uncomfortable seats, bad ride, poor handling, high level of road noise, or any other attribute that I do not like.

Visit online car purchasing sites to see what pricing they offer.

Revisit dealerships to see how they compare with each other and with online purchasing services regarding price.

Revisit the dealership that has the best combination of price, location, service reputation, and other benefits like free loaner cars.

Inform the salesperson that I will be paying cash for the car in question, and that I do not buy cars with a “dealer pack” (aftermarket tape stripes, chrome wheel moldings, pimp roof, add-on leather upholstery, etc–all offered at ridiculously inflated prices).

Sign the paperwork if I can get the kind of deal that I want, including the stipulation that no dealer sticker can be affixed to the car.

Maintain the car flawlessly and drive it for ~8 years/120,000 miles (At that point, new features mean that a newer car will be safer and possibly more economical, plus I am usually bored by having the same car after 8 years or so, and I have saved enough money to buy the next car for cash.)

When I purchased my present car, back in December '01, I found that a family-owned dealership approximately 5 miles from my home beat the “highway” dealers by a few hundred bucks, and was priced only $67 higher than an online buying service. To boot, I know that this dealership provides excellent service, with reasonable prices for maintenance, and they provide free loaner cars (for anything more extensive than a simple oil change) to those who purchased the car from them. They will service cars that were not purchased from them, but those customers do not qualify for a free loaner car.

If you are lucky, you will find a very good deal very close to home, as I did.

The best strategy depends on your main goal. If your goal is to spend the least amount of money on your car, one of the better strategies is to buy cars that are about six years old and drive them until they fall apart.

Today’s decent cars should be able to last 200,000 miles without any major problems. Yesterday’s 100,000 miles is today’s 200,000 miles.

If you would like to spend as little as possible on your cars and not have to deal with keeping an old clunker on the road, I would look for low mileage cars that are 4-6 years old, and sell them when they start to give you troubles, which might be between 200,000-250,000 miles.

Personally, I tend to buy new vehicles to make sure they get properly maintained from day one. Then I keep them until they aren’t drivable any more. I bought my current car new. It is a 1998 Honda Civic. I plan to keep it until it has at least 300,000 miles. This strategy might not work for you. Only you will know what works best for you.

People in many Western European countries (can we still say Western Europe?) have their car strategies dominated by much more intense vehicle inspection programs.

In Switzerland its every 3 years and it gets down to things like no oil leaks (I mean none,you don’t see those oil spots so in parking lots so common here in the States). You need a alighnment check (toe only) and things like wheel bearing condition are checked.

You are talking about tactics. Strategy is your long-term goal. It might be that a car is an appliance and should be as inexpensive as possible, yet provide required benefits, like commuting for 10 years. What do you want your car to do for you?

It’s hard to generalize. If you’re buying a car/truck you plan on hard use (plowing/delivery) and you need the warranty, buy new. Commuter cars like my son buys with 100K Accords and rides them to 200k plus. Can’t argue with a new Kia you dump at 75K and buy dirt cheap new.

Either new or used can be a good choice depending upon make, model, previous maintenance and use.

I’ve seen cars so well maintained, at 100k they feel like their barely broken in…what a great buy for the next owner. Compare that to a new Yugo/Fiat Strata of old.

My car is 17 yrs old and it just needs body work I think. Everything else seems fine.