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Help..buying a used car

I need to buy a used car and i have about 4000 dollars to spend. I also happen to love cars and am wondering if it is too much to ask for a car that is reliable and has some character? I am happy to maintain an older car but am trying to avoid the ones that have problems that end up costing more than the car. any suggestions?..

First steer towards manual transmissions if a choice. Repairs to automatics can cost “more than the car”.

My only other advice is stay away from all European makes as the repair costs as simply higher.

At $4000 buying domestic or Asian is your best bet. Domestic will turn into more bang for your buck due to greater depreciation. Asian be wary of Toyota/Honda in your price range as they carry a large premium simply for a nameplate with the illusion of infalliability. The only good part about that “illusion” is owners tend to pour money into Honda/Toyota to keep them going which in the end is why they keep going not the nameplate.

In the end its luck otherwise pure and simple on cost of ownership. Pay a mechanic for checking a good prospect to keep away from serious troubles.

Good luck $4k = the wild west of cars.

Any used car is a crapshoot. This can be true even of a vehicle that is being inspected and purchased for personal use by a good mechanic.
That situation becomes even worse if you’re not mechanically inclined and do not know what to look for.
I know that I have provided you zilch to go on here but your question, like a car, is a coin flip.

About all I can suggest is try to determine if the basic building blocks are good.
Make sure the car is not eaten up with rust.
Drive it (more than 5 minutes) and make sure the transmission shifts well.
Connect a vacuum gauge for a vacuum inspection and run a compression test. This will at least give you a general idea as to whether the engine upper end is good or not.

First, you have to be realistic. You have to realize that a $4,000 car is likely to have a LOT of miles on the odometer and/or to be at least 10 years old. These factors mean that reliability is not likely to be a strong point with the vehicle.

As to “character”, many people feel that VWs have character, despite their historically poor reliability record. Many of the most reliable makes and models (Japanese) are criticized for having less “character”. So, some research, “homework”, and–perhaps–compromise, will be necessary on your part.

I would suggest that you buy a copy of the Consumer Reports Used Car Buyers Guide, which is available at Barnes & Noble, Borders, and well-stocked news stands. That magazine/book will give you historical reliability information on everything available in the marketplace. There are lists of “Used Cars to Avoid”, as well as lists of recommended makes and models in virtually every price category. With that information as a starting point, you can then begin your search.

Ideally, you should try to buy from an individual, since you would have a better chance of obtaining maintenance records on the vehicle from its owner, as compared to buying from a dealer. A car that has been well-maintained will be far more reliable than the typical used car.

But, no matter where you plan to buy a car, be sure to have your “final candidate” checked by a mechanic of your choice. This will probably cost you ~ $100, but if it saves you from a car with a breached head gasket or a failing transmission, the inspection cost would be well worth it.

And, rather than spending your entire budget on the car, reserve at least a few hundred $$ for your car repair account. No matter what kind of maintenance it has had, and no matter how reliable that make and model may have been historically, there will be repairs needed–possibly within a few weeks of purchase. That is just the nature of a car in this price category, sad to say.

Good luck with your search!

The 3 posts say it all.
Listen to them or you will be SORRY