Help with buying first used car


One of the motivations to get AWD here in Calif is b/c when you drive to the ski resorts, if there’s a storm brewing, with a FWD vehicle you may have t stop and put on chains, which can be a pain. With AWD you may not be required to put on chains, so you get to the ski resort sooner and enjoy the skiing without mud on your ski pants from putting on chains.


Yes, please do go to a dealer. My family used to be in the car business and we always took care to help new buyers. Ask for the dealer him/herself and explain your situation. He or she will care most about you getting the right automobile, as their reputation depends on it. Salespeople come and go, so it is best to speak with the owner for your first time auto.


Thanks, I’m actually going to meet the owner of the dealership this week, since it is a small dealership! I will be looking at an 06 subaru outback with 190k miles, and an 08 legacy for 160k miles. Both are in my price range since they have higher miles! I’m either having my friend who is a mechanic come with me, or otherwise, meet the dealer at a mechanic in town.


Sounds good.

There are high mileage cars out there that have been well taken care of, with parts replaced as needed. Ask if there is a maintenance history on the car that you might wish to purchase.


On vehicles this old , the history is most likely so vague ( is there is one ) as to be meaning less . A mechanical inspection is the best thing to do.


I was planning to ask the dealer for a CarFax report!


Carfax only has what is reported to it and many shops do not do that. It might show you where it was first sold and how many owners but use it to look for red flags and not much else.


Due to the Gramm-Bliley-Leach privacy act all invoices left behind by the previous owner go into the shredder. Names, addresses, phone numbers and other information found on invoices are considered “non-public” information and must be kept from others.

Carfax is a source to consider however some people here have a low opinion of data services like that one.


Both of these years Subaru were prone to an expensive head gasket issue, moreover judging by the mileage, likely gaskets were already replaced.
Surprisingly, repair by non-warranty/non-dealer is more likely to last, given the shop has some reputation.
Dealers were routinely “taking care” of this replacement, paid by Subaru, and a part of Subaru-paid service they skipped on the machining the engine heads, which made for the problem to resuface, so look for the vehicles where repair was already done and done properly.
Having your own trusted mechanic to make inspection is a must requirement.


I have a mixed bad of results I’ve seen on CarFax.
I’ve got a good detailed maintenance record on my 2006 Pathfinder, when I was buying it 2 yrs back, but it misses an obvious accident repair done on the back side, good quality, so not done by a shade-tree ops team.
Helping to buy a car for a friend of mine, CarFax did not have an obvious serious frontal accident record with a structural damage, well hidden with paint and Bondo, but still visible for somebody knowing where to look, once again, done quite professionally.


The only thing a Carfax report, or similar “vehicle history report” is good for is determining how many owners the car has had, if it was ever stolen/repossessed/totaled out, and if the odometer has been rolled back. It will not tell you anything about the mechanical condition, or how well the car was maintained, unless all of the maintenance was done by shops which report to some vehicle history database.


This act applies to people BUYING and financing cars and the privacy of personal information that they provide to the dealer. Dealers are not prohibited from giving maintenance history to purchasers on cars that they sell. Dealers can protect the previous owner privacy by inking out the previous owner personal information or better yet, just rewriting a history based on the actual records. Dealers do not HAVE to give out maintenance information and I did not mean that Megan should not also have a qualified mechanic check out the vehicle that she might wish to purchase.


“On vehicles this old , the history is most likely so vague ( is there is one ) as to be meaning less . A mechanical inspection is the best thing to do.”
Agreed on both counts. Doesn’t hurt to ask for a history though. If available, nice to know how many years have passed since a certain repair was performed.


It is possible for used car lots to clip the heading off of the old invoices for their potential customers but for dealers it is much easier and less risk to push a button and produce a Carfax or dealer network history report that is void of any non-public information.


You have gotten good advice already. Since you don’t mention your budget, one can not give you suggestions but speaking from personal experience, do not cheap out on buying car. Pay up a little bit so that you can get best bang for the buck.

Take a look at Consumer Reports’ annual car survey edition. They list conditions for last 10 years of the car. You don’t want to buy a car with a lot of known/reported issues i.e. saving money should not cost you more in the long run.

ALWAYS pay a mechanic some 200-300 to get the car checked thoroughly. There are also services that show up where the car is located to check it. Only problem is, they can not put the car on the lift so they don’t get to check everything thoroughly.


If OP decides to become a diy’er this sort of problem becomes easier. We diy’ers will take a chance on an “iffy”-looking car if the price is a bargain. Say you buy a used car for a good price b/c it is looking a little the worse for wear, but your mechanic says there’s no show stopper problems. Then the radiator starts leaking the next day. No worries you just replace the radiator in your driveway. Takes a drive to the parts store & couple of hours of work is all.


Recommend looking at Consumer Reports recommendations for used car purchases, their recommendations for how to access used cars, and their reliability history reports on any car you’re considering. About Subarus: while they have some fine features and are very good in snow in mountains, they also can come with their own special set of very expensive problems. The head gasket leakage problem that affects many 4cyl engines and some 6cyl (my very well cared for 2006 Outback at 80,000mi) can run you $2500 to over $3000 for a proper repair, and some already repaired may not have been done well. 250,000mi. is quite high for a used car, except perhaps for a family car whose history you know, and even then… Personally, I’d look for a model with a good track record like a 7-10yr old Honda Civic or Toyota Corolla with maybe 100-120kmi., only one or two long term owners and a complete set of maintenance records. Be prepared to pass on a number of uncertain cars before finding a good one, and no matter how good it seems pay a competent independent mechanic to inspect it. Take your time.


thanks, i’ll definitely ask about the head gasket issue! I’ll also ask for the dealer’s records for repairs.


So I’m planning to buy an 08 subaru legacy tomorrow with 160k miles on it. It has brand new tires on it and a new engine that has about 5k miles on it. I took it to a mechanic last week and he said there was an oil leak so the dealer is fixing that, and we are meeting at the mechanics again tomorrow to confirm the leak was fixed. The dealer is asking 4900 but kbb says 4000 so I am hoping to get it for 4000, especially since a new motor means the car had issues beforehand (I will ask about that tomorrow). Any advice on price I should ask for or other questions for the dealer before I buy? Thanks, this forum has been very helpful!!


You can make an offer but you should be prepared that they will not lower the price.

Edit: You are buying an all wheel drive vehicle in Colorado in the winter so the dealer has the upper hand .