Please share your used-car buying tips (I also a few specific questions to ask.)

My brother in law is looking for a crossover vehicle, he has convinced himself he needs one because supposedly it deals with snow better (even though we don’t get that much snow in NYC.) Far be it from me to challenge him on that. He’s rather inexperienced, and so am I but I think I know more than he does, so I’m going to try to help him find that used-vehicle that fits the following criteria:

  1. reliable. He hopes this will be his last car. He’s over 50 and he wants this to be his last car.
  2. Not over 10,000 dollars. He’s poor.

Basically, the cars in the running are the Honda CRV, Toyota RAV4, Hyundai Tucson, Kia Sportage, etc. (do you have other suggestions?)

I’m leaning towards the Korean-makes as I have learned that they are as reliable as the Japanese-makes but still suffer from a poor reputation (and so can be had for less money.) However, further research reveals that the Korean crossovers in the price-range all use TIMING BELTS and the manufacturer recommend change interval is… 60,000 miles!!! The Japanese crosssovers use timing-CHAINS which have no recommended replacement interval.

Ok, so, there’s that.

I am prejudiced against used-car dealerships and in favor of private sellers BUT finding them has been difficult (90% of the cars listed are from dealers.) Even Craigslist which has a section for private-party sellers only has already been invaded by dealers pretending to be private-party sellers.

I hope to find a car that has only 1 previous owner believing (perhaps erroneously) that such a vehicle is less likely to be problematic. What do you think of this? Also, how does one verify how many previous owners a vehicle has had?

Last question: what is the usual process for buying a used car as far as paper-work is concerned. How does one avoid being scammed?

Thanks in advance!

50 years old and wants to buy a car for 10000.00 and drive it for the rest of their life. That could be 20 or 30 years, not a chance.

50 years old and wants to buy a car for 10000.00 and drive it for the rest of their life. That could be 20 or 30 years, not a chance.

EXACTLY…This is unrealistic.

Subaru Forester or outback would be near the top of my list, but some years have reliability issues. The CRV and RAV4 also.

Get the latest consumer reports annual issue on autos and check every candidate against that.

Whatever you do, find a reliable independent mechanic you trust and have him check any car you are considering. If the seller or dealer refuses to let you do that, walk away.

PS, I agree that “last car” requirement is bogus. I’ve had 3 new cars since I was 50.


Agreed with the others and any used car is a toss-up as to reliability because too many of them are neglected from the day they were purchased brand new.

As to one-owner vehicles there would have to be an insistence upon a paper trail going back to the original date of sale, someone at the DMV verifying it to both the buyer and seller, or possibly Carfax. I’m not a fan of CF but sometimes that bit of info is in the records.

I can tell your brother in law is inexperienced with cars by the expectation that one can buy a $10,000 car and have it last 20 years. Being 50 and buying a car that will last the rest of your life is unrealistic for a brand new car, much less one that is over 10 years old.

Timing belt, timing chain, don’t let that factor into your decision making. Timing belts are routine maintenance. Timing chains have some sort of reputation for being trouble free, yet today I have a 2003 Accord in the shop with a failed chain at 144,000 miles.

Maintenance and repair needs on a car change as they get older. You can figure out a baseline for maintenance costs by looking at a schedule, but as a car gets older, things that are not mentioned as maintenance start to fail. These are repairs. Aside from tires and brakes, things like struts and suspension, alternator, power steering, electric windows and locks, seat motors, wiper motors.

For a car of the age and condition he can afford, I would suggest he budget a nickel for every mile he drives for maintenance and repair.

Asemaster: I suspect, living in NYC, he puts very few miles on his car. I would budget $500-1000 per year, but add 50% for high labor rates in the city. A lot of things continue to degrade even if the car is sitting in a garage.

Any All Wheel Drive vehicle for 10000.00 just means you are going to pay for a mechanics child’s college tuition.

Thanks for chiming in! I’ll relay those points to him, he’ll have to lower his expectations a bit.

Another question:

I have been using and, do you have other suggestions listing sites?

My dad bought his…last car…in 2007.
He is gonna be 86, still able in mind and body.
then again, he bought NEW, not used.

Perhaps it would be better if your BIL posted in. And unless he’s adamantly insisted that you pick a car out for him, than given the criteria he’s listed this relationship is very unlikely to end well.

He has unrealistic expectations… especially at NY prices… and I think we could better help if we could speak with him directly.

My BIL is old-school and not tech-savvy in the least bit. I will temper his expectations, being sure he understand that I am not to blame for anything that goes wrong. I am doing my best :slight_smile:

If your BIL lives in NYC, a.) he’s not poor and b.) he doesn’t need a car. If he leaves the city and needs a car I suggest something with the least amount of options. Less things to break and go wrong. Honda’s and toyotas are good cars for those who keep the hood closed all the time :slight_smile:

I think Zip car might be a good choice for occasional car users in NYC.

You have a good heart. But his criteria are unrealistic. Perhaps if you showed him this thread?

Perhaps your BIL should meet my uncle. He lives in Brooklyn, Riverside Dr. I believe. He also owns a car, and he simply has to take a train and 2 buses when he wants to drive it. It’s parked in NJ where he can afford a space.

I have no idea what it’s like to own a car in NYC. But even in the most car-friendly places owning and maintaining a $10,000 car is going to cost money.

I would recommend a Honda CRV. Here in Boston, $10k will get you a 2008 CRV with around 100k miles.

That’ll last your BIL another 15 years assuming he takes good care of it. But as others have pointed out, no $10k vehicle is going to last him until the end, unless his demise is sadly premature.

If you can get him away from a crossover, you can’t get more cheap, reliable, and non-technical than a Toyota Yaris (only one wiper!):

Most vehicles these days are reliable enough. As an example,Edmunds estimates 5 year costs for maintnance and repairs. 2010 Chevrolet Equinox LS would cost about $5000 to maintain and $3200 to repair over the next 5 years. A Honda CR-V would cost $5300 for maintenance and $2600 for repairs over the next 5 years. So, $8200 for the Equinox or $7900 for the Honda, about $600 more each year for the Chevy. But he would have to buy a 2008 CR-V, and M&R costs will be higher, decreasing the $600 spread. Rather than concentrate on brand, I would look at the newest low mileage CUV in the best condition available that is around $10,000. It probably won’t be a Toyota or Honda because their reputation for reliability increases their resale value dramatically. Since BIL is a buyer and hopes to keep it for a very long time, resale value at end of life is of little interest. He should also expect to pay about $100 for a pre-purchase inspection when he finally finds that really great CUV that meets his price point. That and high standards during his inspection and test drive will reduce the likelihood of making a big mistake.

Do not trust anything except documentation, and mechanic inspection.