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Gotta pull the trigger

I’m heading into the final decision on a used car. You all have helped so much but I’ve got to get something now. After researching every day, I’ve found a 2003 Ford Focus ZTW wagon. It has a clean carfax with regular maintenance records from the date of original purchase, all performed at the same dealer. Engine looks clean, body/paint glossy, interior pretty immaculate. 151000 miles and the dealer is asking $4200. All accessories work. Does this sound reasonable?

151k is a lot of miles, I am comfortable buying used cars in the 30 to 80k range, It is just a matter of life expectancy. Low mileage does not guarantee a better car, but an independent mechanic inspection before any used car purchase can be worth it’s weight in gold, so to speak.

@murphygal any idea if those were freeway miles?

I agree with @Barkydog a 151K car may be due for major repairs relatively soon, no matter how great it appears to be right now.

How many miles do you drive per year?

May we assume that this car was recently traded in for a new one?

Here you go, for what it’s worth.

Having sold two cars with over 200k, I know there’s a healthy market for reliable used cars, even those with high mileage. With 151k, assuming the original owner did all recommended maintenance (fluids, timing belt, brakes, etc.), future costs are based more on age than mileage. For example, shocks and struts are probably better on that 2003 Focus with 151k than a 98 vehicle with fewer miles. With a purchase price of $4200, I hope you left some room in your budget for repairs, so that seems like a reasonable price. Buying from a Ford dealer is definitely worth a few extra dollars even with a very limited warranty.

Offer $3500 and see if they bite, then negotiate from there

Too many miles on a Focus for me to feel comfy. Even if you had to go 5k, I would look at some thing with half to a third fewer miles in a more reliable brand. I would advise to put the trigger on safe, reload and look some more.

Thanks, everyone. I didn’t pull the trigger. back on the hunt!

@Murphygal, how much are you comfortable spending?

The absolute highest I can go is $4000 with no major repairs needed imminently. Thus my dilemmas.

@murphygal, you are on the right track looking at the Focus. You might also look at late model Chevy Cavaliers. They stopped building them in 2005. Cars like the Cavalier and Focus are not as popular as others like a Civic or Corolla. They sell for a lot less. You can find a 2005 Cavalier LS with about 100,000 miles and auto transmission for around $4000.

@murphygal Like the other guys said, I urge you to find a car with under 100K, if possible.

Just wanted to share a little good news: my wonderful mechanic will look at any car I’m interested in at no charge!! However, I’m having little success in convincing private sellers and independent dealers to agree any arrangements for giving him access to the vehicle. I am willing to meet them there, pay $25.00 for their time and trouble, etc. but so far, no one is willing to do that. Any suggestions?

I hate to recommend it but a Saturn is a relatively reliable and repairable vehicle. My MIL had an 02 she passed on to my daughter, and it may be worthy of consideration. If they will not consider an independent inspection run do not walk away. You should probably put 1k inthe bag for maintenance, usually brakes, tires, timing belt, trans fluid change, coolant change, air filter, oil change, tune up etc.

“Any suggestions?”

Keep looking. If the seller won’t agree to the inspection, they very well may have something to hide. If you see some of these cars are still on the market in a couple of weeks, you might try to get your inspection again.

I could understand a seller not allowing a potential customer to drive off for an inspection because some people have done this with no intent of buying the car. They’re on a parts swap mission and may return the car with who knows what switched out. Not saying that you are even thinking of this but the seller might and believe me, it’s been done.

However, their not wanting to meet you at the mechanic’s shop for a casual inspection makes the seller look very suspect. Personally, I would pass if someone did this.

It used to be that a compression test was a requisite first step before buying a car as that could determine if there is excessive engine wear. Due to spark plug location, the feasibility of the plugs being stuck, etc a compression test may not be a viable process.

At a minimum, I would have the mechanic connect a vacuum gauge as that can reveal a lot of things about an engine, vacuum leaks, and so on. This process is easy to do, only takes a minute, and involves nothing more than plugging the gauge into a vacuum source.
The vacuum gauge is not the end-all but it can certainly point a problem out in seconds.

I agree with @ok4450.

It might also be a good idea to hook up a code reader or scanner to see if there are any stored fault codes.

A seller might be worried the car will disappear. If you offer to leave a sizable deposit, and a copy of your driver’s license and they still won’t release the car for an inspection - then tell them to keep their car and you’ll look elsewhere.

Uncle T, there is no way I’d leave my driver’s license with anyone. And I would strongly recommend that others don’t.

But I understand your point and agree. If I’m willing to leave a deposit and even something of value with them, and they still won’t agree, then I’d look elsewhere.

Willing to provide any feedback? 1997 Suburu Outback Limited, 155,000 asking 2995. I want to really narrow things down before I take to my mechanic. I need a wagon/small SUV for work and dog-hauling.

worth a shot. Try for $2500-2750 after mech looks at it.
How are the tires? A new set of tires will cost upwards of $400.