Roadtrip Question

I am about to embark on a 2 month long adventure covering many miles out from San Francisco to Boston. I want to buy a used car that has the following features:

1) Is dependable and won’t break down on me

2) Has high resale value - I want to sell it when I finish my trip, and not lose a lot of money

3) I should be able to potentially sleep in the car (I also will have a dog traveling with me, so big enough of a space where we could both sleep, and that I could, occasionally, leave her in the car for an hour or so)

4) Gets good millage

My price range is flexible, but I would prefer something under 4000. What cars do you think I should be looking into? Any suggestions regarding buying a used car in San Francisco? Buying tips? Ways to avoid getting scammed?

Thanks a lot!

I would consider a Subaru Outback/Forester wagon. It meets your requirements and would have a higher resale value in Boston (where it snows) than in SF.


PS: Don’t leave your dog in your car during the hot summer for even a few minutes!

Your #1 depends on how the previous owner maintained the car. Even something with “low miles” like 20 or 30k can be a nightmare waiting to happen if the maintenance wasn’t done. But in your price range you’ll be looking at something with 100k + more than likely. So try to find something that comes with at least some kind of maintenance history. i.e. a private seller with all their receipts.

Check out Honda CRVs. One of those would probably satisfy requirements 2,3,4.

All of that being said, you’re going to be driving what, 6k round trip? Most reasonably maintained cars can handle that no problem.

Whatever you decide on, have it checked out by a mechanic of YOUR choosing before purchasing. Invest your time before you invest your money. Hope that helps.

If I were living out of a vehicle for 2 months, I’d want a minivan with lots of floor space for sleeping and for stuff. I don’t know of a reliable one for $4,000 though.

I agree with Goldwing.
The words “reliable” and “under $4k” are rarely heard in the same sentence.

The problem with used cars is that the second, or third, or fourth owner is at the mercy of the previous owner(s) who may not have maintained the car properly. I can tell you that, based on a many posts in this forum, there are apparently a lot of people who do not maintain their cars properly. The first owner will rarely suffer, but subsequent owners will pay the price–both literally and figuratively.

All I can suggest is to buy a copy of the Consumer Reports Used Car Buyers Guide in order to see the attributes of everything that is out there in the US marketplace–including historical reliability data. The guide also includes lists of recommended makes and models in every price category.

Once you have narrowed down the makes and models that appeal to you, then you can begin shopping. Although this will make your quest harder, you should only consider vehicles that come with maintenance records. This will limit your selection, but you will be left with vehicles whose maintenance you can verify, and that is vitally important. Then, once you believe that you have found a viable candidate for purchase, pay your mechanic to do a pre-purchase inspection.

None of this will guarantee a reliable vehicle, simply because your preferred price range means that you will be looking at vehicles that are at least 8 to 10 years old, and a vehicle of that age will break down on occasion no matter how well it has been maintained. But, if you follow my advice, you will greatly improve your odds of finding a decent vehicle.