Need a used car fast, should I buy this one?

I’m looking to buy a cheap, used car quickly. I’m trying to decide if I should buy a 2001 Volkswagen Passat Wagon that a friend is selling. He bought it three months ago with 175,000 miles for $3,300 on it and it died the day after they bought it. They replaced the battery and it was running fine, but roughly. They brought it into the dealership and found a recall on the engine coils. They replaced 3 engine coils and now it runs very well. They are selling it for $2800 (will go down to $2500) as they bought a new car.

I have a few concerns (and know nothing about cars), so hope someone can help me out here.

It has high miles, I’ve read that you need Premium gas (is this true?).

I need a second car (I currently have a 2001 Chevy Malibu that my husband will drive). I will be driving this one mainly to and from work and errands, I live about 4 miles from my job.


Just my opinion, but that sounds like a lot of money for a well into the six-digit mileage and going on 10 years old and you should pass on it.
It also sounds to me like this car may have a history of neglect, which is not a rare thing.

Do some serious footwork and I think you can find a better car for far less money. Getting in a hurry on a used car purchase can lead to regret later.

I bought this 96 Mark about 8 months ago for 1800 bucks. Clean in and out, runs and drives like a dream, burns zero oil, has ice cold air, and new tires/battery. It took me a month or so to run one down but see the point? Patience.

Explore Rip McCoy

Short of a mechanical inspection what you should do when buying a used car is take it for a long test drive. This does not mean the normal 1-2 miles; make it 40. Turn off the radio, tell everyone in the car with you to keep quiet, and concentrate on the gauges while paying attention to see if any strange noises, smells, transmission shifting hiccups, how the car appears to drive, etc. When you return let it idle for 5 minutes and make sure the temperature stays down, the oil light is not flashing, nothing dripping underneath, etc. Hope that helps.

Pass on this one. You can do better. They are selling it for a reason. Check out an old April issue of Consumer Reports (dubbed, “The Car issue”) and look at the list of “good bets” in your price range. VWs generally aren’t on the list .

Agree; if you “know nothing about cars”, stay away from a high mileage used Passat. There are many good used cars around, take you time and you’l find something just for yoiu.

The fact that it’s a VW has nothing to do with it. The fact that it’s a near 10 year old used car with 175k miles and a shaky maintenance history does.
This is applicable to any car no matter who manufactures it.

You’ll be sorry if you buy this Passat. It could easily become a bottomless money pit. It could also ruin your friendship. Find something else.

We don’t have enough information. What model (GLS, GLX, new GLS, new GLX) and what engine? Does it have an automatic transmission? A GLS with the 4-cyl, auto trans, and no options is worth about $2200 in clean condition.

175k miles is way too many IMHO even for a $2500 car.

Pass on the Passat.

It is possible to find a reliable used car in the $2500 price category. For the age of the car, look for something that has been well maintained, but may not be a really popular car. I remember back in 1954 when my mother went back to work and my parents needed two cars. My dad thought a Jeep station wagon would be great, but the Jeep wagons in his price range of under $500 (which is equivalent to your price range today) could have doubled as mosquito foggers. The Fords and Chevrolets which were the popular cars at the time were also over the hill. My dad finally came home with a 1947 DeSoto coupe that he purchased for $325. The maroon paint was faded, but the body was sound and not rusted and the engine and transmission worked perfectly and the interior was in good shape. I was in eighth grade at the time and I made some remark about how the car wasn’t “cool”. My dad put me to work with rubbing compound, auto polish and wax so that the car would be “cool”. I got the faded paint to really shine. The DeSoto turned out to be a real winner.
You just may turn a good transportation purchase in a “not so cool” Mercury Grand Marquis or a Buick LeSabre, etc. that hasn’t been thrashed.

First impressions count. When you have located what you think is a good car, be sure to have a mechanic check it over.

4 miles is bicycle distance. Ride a bike to work or put a bike rack on the car with your bike in case it breaks down. It really does not sound to terrible of a deal but spend the bucks to get an independent analysis of the car if you are thinking of buying it. You may find it is in need of an 800 dollar brake job or tires etc. If you want to keep them as a friend, well, friends don’t sell friends used cars is my motto.

Thank you all for your responses! We decided not to buy this car…because of the mileage, etc. We are still looking…and time is ticking away!

Also I wanted to add, four miles may be bike distance…but not when you live in Minnesota.

Why not consider a Buick? They’re reliable (especially the 3.8 versions), get great gas mileage, can be found for a reasonable price quite often, and most of the time they haven’t been beaten into the pavement by their owners.

Somewhat bland? Yes, but that description applies to a lot of vehicles out there. The object is good transportation to get you from Point A to Point B with as few headaches as possible and for as cheap a price as possible.

Look for a used Focus for under $3K…decent and really cheap as you go down in years w/o big mileage penalty according to CR listings.

Sorry to be off topic here, but there are many situations which would make it impractical to ride a bicycle 4 miles. Examples: If part of the road is a 45mph speed limit road with almost no shoulder where vehicles routinely zoom by at 65+mph. If you do physical work and would be too tired to pedal home at the end of the shift. If you work odd or long hours, it could be dark or raining (or snowing) by the end of your shift. Maybe you need to stop for groceries or pick up kids, etc after work and aren’t going directly home. On the flip side, maybe you need to look professional at work, and it would be difficult not to get sweaty and have “helmet hair” during the hot summer months.

I agree with the part about not selling a friend a used car. Although I did pull that off once, I gave him a great deal (wanted to get rid of it quickly) and told him everything I knew that was wrong with it up front. It perhaps worked out too well, he spent so much time bragging about how good a deal he got, it left me thinking, “Man, I could have gotten another $800 for that old truck.”

I agree with the Buick idea (again go for the 3.8 versions). The mpg is normally pretty good and are quite reliable. Not going to get a looker, but that helps with the price.