How to find a reliable SUV with only exterior damage

Hi everyone.
It’s time to buy a new car. I currently have a 2008 Toyota Highlander. I would like to buy something more fuel efficient. To save money I don’t mind if there are some exterior scratches and dents. I live in Chicago and park on the street. So the car is going to get dinged up anyway.
Usually dealers only have clean looking cars and SUVs. Is there some trick to finding one that has exterior damage that will keep the price down but is otherwise in good shape?

No trick , just search on line places like Craigslist - Autotrader - Car Guru . I would guess Chicago would have areas where there are a consentration of used vehicle lots .

Some dealers here have a value lot where they put the vehicles that need a little TLC but would serve someone well. Or check the rental car sales lots.

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I hope you are aware that this is a lousy time to buy a vehicle . I would wait until spring if you can. Also I doubt if you will really get a big increase in fuel mileage by getting a SUV . Plus if it is beat up there is a good chance it was not serviced as it should have been.

I am aware that it is an awful time to buy a car. I plan to wait until at least spring, even longer if our current vehicle allows it.
Thanks for the advice. I was afraid that I would just have to go to car lots. I don’t relish the thought.

Most of the car dealers around here will not sell a car on their lot that needs help. You might be able to work with some dealers going for pre auction sendoff. How much a month in gas do you think you can save? Might be better to stick it out for a while.

Back in about 1978 when we had another gas crisis, the wife needed to commute to grad school. So we went looking for a smaller car with better gas mileage. Prices on small cars were sky high and I ended up buying a 73 Lincoln for $800. It was a fun car and paid at least a thousand less than for a small car and the mileage wasn’t that bad. Got a thousand for it on a trade a couple years later. Just sayin’ is all. I always try to do the opposite of the crowd.

If your Highland is running good then buying a new vehicle to save money on gas is a complete waste. You’ll be loosing money. No SUV is going to get great gas mileage that’s going to off-set the cost of buying a new/newer vehicle.

Wife owns a 2007 Lexus ES-350 with over 250k miles. We’re in no hurry to buy a new vehicle.

Be careful you’re not falling into the trap of trying to save on gas, vs saving money overall.

All things being equal…It makes no sense to pay more money for a new(er) vehicle that uses less gas. You may pay less at the pump…but you’re likely paying more for the new car. So it’s a breakeven at best, most likely overall loss.

I’v done the calculations and I think keeping your car or buying a used car/suv with reasonable gas milage is less expensive overall and better for the environment than buying a new one with great gas mileage. You will never make up the cost of the car at the pump and keeping a vehicle on the road longer and not increasing demand for new cars is more eco-friendly. That said, gas in Chicago is just a couple cents shy of $4. Ugh! So repair costs and gas mileage on the Highlander are becoming a bit of an issue. But we just gotta keep the ole’ girl running as long as possible.

Not sure just how good your calculations are since you are here asking how to buy a used SUV and thinking of gas mileage at the same time.

I think buying new with warranty and driving the vehicle until it becomes unreliable is the best way to go . With all the questions on this site asking what kind of oil - what tire pressure should I use - I put diesel fuel in my gas car and so on I just don’t want a used vehicle.

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I remember Henry Ford II joking that “people will pay almost anything for an economy car”.


That may be next to impossible at a dealership. But no harm asking at a few, maybe somebody can locate what you are looking for. Best bet though is a private sale, from a newspaper “for sale” section advertisement, Craigslist autos for sale section, Ebay, etc. Suggest to Google “how to find privately owned autos for sale”. While you are there at Google, search a search on how to actually execute a private auto purchase in your state. You want to make sure you are getting a clean title, not one that has thousands of dollars of parking tickets, and that it passes emissions and safety requirements, and you’ll be able to register it. Your local DMV office will probably be able to provide you some of this information as well. Best of luck.

Seems to me just south of the airport is a humongous auction site. Maybe gotta be a dealer to partake, I dunno. Need to know what you are doing too, when swimming with sharks.

I have trouble imagining a replacement SUV that gets much better mpgs than the Highlander.

Co-part has clean title vehicles with cosmetic damage only, but you’re only allowed to start the vehicle when you visit the lot. Depends on the auction but for some the average joe can bid on the cars. Couple of yards in Chicago, one with a RAV4 that has low mileage but has been through some things.

I was unclear. When I was looking for better MPG I was casting a wider net than just SUVs. I think the front runners now are the Subaru Outback and Forester. My car before the Highlander was an Outback and I really liked it. But when I was shopping for my next car in 2013 the I didn’t like the changes to the Outback and Forester still had zero backseat leg room. But since then the things I didn’t like were mostly addressed (although I still find the CVT a little weird).
Thanks for all your input.