Should we buy this car?

We need a second car. We don’t have a lot of money right now, and we don’t have a lot of time to look.

Yesterday my husband and I looked at a 2000 Subaru Impreza wagon. It was being sold by a mechanic our friends knew and recommended. His wife drove this car, and he’s done a lot of work on it.

He’s asking 4000 but would take 3700.

We test drove it yesterday and it ran smooth, no apparent problems except a little rattle in the hatch back area.

It has 210k miles on it.

We’d like to trust that this is a good car, and a good deal, but with all those miles, I have no idea!

Is all the service/maintenance up to date? Have all the oil changes been done on time? Does it have all the service records? Has the timing belt been changed on time? Has a Subaru specialist mechanic inspected it? No history of accidents (check carfax).

If it passes all the above, clean trade-in according to NADAis $3,100 and according to Kelly Blue Book is $2,500 in excellent condition. Subtract the cost of any needed repairs from the above numbers. Do not pay more than trade-in value for any used car in today’s economy. I’d offer $2,750.


The guy selling it used to work for Subaru and now works for himself as a Subaru mechanic. He said he replaced the timing belt, put on new tires, and he didn’t see any evidence of problems with the head gasket, or evidence that it was in an accident. I did a report on Auto Check (not Car Fax) and it checked out okay (except for a weird odometer reading at one point, and it said the vehicle has been reported as used as a fleet, rental and/or lease EventCheck vehicle). I don’t know the history of service (I think it had 4 owners!)…

My husband just checked the Kelly Blue Book value and it said $3500-$4000…

“My husband just checked the Kelly Blue Book value and it said $3500-$4000…”

That’s RETAIL pricing and too high in today’s economy. I’d pay trade-in, but it’s your money. Something is worth what someone else will pay for it.


thanks Twotone! You’ve been helpful!

I think you are paying top dollar for a very used car that is desirable in places where it snows, but you really could get a much lower mileage car that should do quite well in snow for no more than $1,000 more. A 2000 to 2002 Maxima, Camry, Corolla, Accord, etc. with between 100,000 and 150,000 miles, in good shape, should be easily found and has a lot more years left in it. A 2004 Ford Taurus won’t cost you any more than that Subaru and should have half the miles.

The price is as if you are buying it from a dealer. Private party price is about $3000 for the L wagon with AT and cruise control. More options can increase the price slightly. The big decrease in price is mileage: $1450 according to Edmunds. Since the seller is a mechanic, a price in between is probably about right. If you split the difference between private party and dealer price, $3550 would be about right. BTW, this is for a clean car, meaning it needs very little reconditioning. If it looks like it’s off the showroom floor, then $3700 would be a reasonable price. And you said he changed the timing belt. What was the mileage when it was changed?

I agree with everything “wentwest” has said. Subarus are excellent cars and the two I’ve own gave me excellent service. But, as stated by others, I’d be more comfortable with a 2 wd Accord/Camry with fewer miles. A Taurus, well cared for, can be an excellent buy as well.
At 200+K miles major component break down can be anytime on any car and will cost as much as the car to repair.

“A 2000 to 2002 Maxima, Camry, Corolla, Accord, etc. with between 100,000 and 150,000 miles, in good shape, should be easily found and has a lot more years left in it.”

And for a lot more money, too. A Camry LE, Maxima SE or Accord LX would have to be at least 10 years old (1999) to be priced at $4000 for a private sale. The difference between a 1999 and 2000 is about $600, but the difference for a 2002 is about $2600.

Hello again. I want to thank you all for your invaluable advice. I’ve steered away (no pun intended) from the Subaru and am now looking at a 1998 Toyota Camry LE.

It has 157k miles but is really clean, drives smooth, aligned well, new tires, brakes, timing belt and water pump at 98k.

Autoland found this car for us. Its this car buying service. I’m really happy with them so far in the process. They have inspected it and all its parts and found it all in good running condition. They said there were no accidents, it was regularly maintained, and they know the owner (1 owner). They are asking $3988 (including a couple hundred dollar finders/service fee). It just passed DEQ and tags are good till 2011.

Oh and also, they said they have a 5 day/500 mile return policy. If after 5 days/500 miles we want to return it we can for a full refund!

Sound good?

One thing not to do is buy an old Subaru or you too can enjoy doing a lot of work to it. You would be out of your mind to consider $3,700.

I think that you are making a serious error by not considering more old line US brands. Used Toyota prices are too high. You can get much more for your money by buying contrary to conventional thinking.

Pontiac prices should be in the dumpster now as an example.

I just traded a 97 Chev Cavalier with 141k miles that ran like new but had a bad radio. You could have bought it from me for $1000 and both of us would have been happy. I would have $400 more than trade in value and you would have a reliable car if it ran for you like it did for me.

Consider saving thousands in initial price and gamble that you will not likely spend the difference in repairs. I would try to stay away from automatic transmissions if you are buying a high mileage car.

Consider US brands of course, realizing that previous maintenance is the big issue. But, a used Camry/Accord cost more than a like US brand because the longevity, repair and trade in are likely better. I would argue that a 141K Cavalier would potentially have significantly fewer trouble free miles than a like maintained Corolla/Civic.
Used Toyota/Honda prices are not too high if want to decrease your break down chances in the most inconvenient and unsafe times and places.
I spent years traveling many miles, late at night in freezing/stormy winter conditions and never considered doing it in a car/truck that just gave me the “best deal”. It had to have the better reliability record too.