The perfect car

Hi All, I just posted a craigslist ad using all that I have learnt from the Gurus on this site. Please give it your good wishes, such that all that is required is achieved.


Hi All,

I am a PhD. student who is looking to buy a used car. Yes, I have done my research on the issue. No, my PhD topic is not ?car buying?.
Please feel free to email me and let me know about your great little car for sale. I know that you are Moving away/Having a Baby/Going to a new College and need the money/Wife doesn’t like it (trade in the wife I say!). It would be good if you had a reason to sell the car, apart from the usual ?I cant spend any more money on this piece of %^&^ . Karma works.
I prefer private party owners over dealers. I don’t like cars bought at auctions and then sold privately. I don’t like cars which are being sold because they have become money pits.

Please email me with : VIN number and details of the vehicle. You can include the best way to contact you too.

Expectations from the car:

  1. No accident.
    2.Title in hand. No existing lien or loan on it. Not looking for a salvage titled car
    3.Manual Transmission
    4.Miles: All miles accepted.
    5.Vehicle repair and maintenance history is a big plus.
    6.Low number of owners especially given that it is a stick shift, is a big plus.
    7.No modifications, should be stock.
    8.Models under consideration:

Honda Civic, Civic Si, Accord, Fit, Toyota Camry, Corolla, Mazda Protege, Protege 5, Mazda 3, Acura RSX, Integra. Pontiac Vibe, Toyota Yaris, Scion (any model), Nissan Maxima, Nissan Altima,
Hyundai Elantra, Sonata, Accent, Kia, Subaru (all), Mitsubishi (all).

Ford Taurus, Ford Focus, Chevy Cavalier , Geo/Chevy Prizm
Pontiac Vibe.

  1. Cars condition has to be good. Please have spent some money on repairs. Car has to be a reliable car.

  2. Pricing: I’m not looking to lowball anyone, nor do I like to cheat myself.
    Generally, cars close to and above 100K are priced by condition rather than by mileage; kbb value is meaningless then.
    Please do not ask for kbb private party , nor edmunds True Market Value, nor NADA value. Before making a price offer to me, please go through the thread in the references at and understand that in a recessive market, most prices are not what would be called top dollar.
    Then, run a kbb value on your car. See the trade in values of the car. Nobody’s getting that at a dealership! Dealers usually quote way lesser and give around 1000$ lesser than the kbb trade in. This reflects the true market demand of the car. Thus if kbb for a 175,000 miles Corolla is 4000$, please dont expect to get an offer of 3500 all done. That car is not worth 1000 bucks, let alone the hassle.
    A good rule of thumb is that for a dealer retail sale, as of October 2009, kbb private party would be a good price; for private party sale, kbb trade in would be a good price.

1.msn auto reliability,
2.true delta, reliability ratings. (bless them), user comments.
7 Edmunds:

manual ford honda civic, Civic si, accord, fit, toyota camry, corolla, mazda protege, Protege 5, Mazda 3, acura RSX, rsx, integra. pontiac vibe, Toyota yaris, scion (any model), nissan maxima, Nissan altima,
hyundai elantra, sonata, accent, kia, subaru (all), mitsubishi (all).

ford taurus, Ford focus, Chevy cavalier , Geo/chevy prizm , prism
pontiac vibe.

* Location: Rice University
* it's NOT ok to contact this poster with services or other commercial interests

My advice as I did not read the entire thing is make a summary paragraph in few words as possible including price range. Add the detail to end, catch a readers interest then have the excess detail if they feel the need to read on.

Too long for me.

I have seen “wtb” ads on craigslist where people lay out some big list of demands while looking for a yard sale price on something. I quite often scoff at those ads, and if I was selling something wouldn’t bother - or perhaps moreso would avoid such a buyer. This will be someone who is all about dumping a cheaper, older, high mileage car and probably wants to do it quickly and easily. No one is all that interested in negotiating issues as though it is the purchase of Manhattan real estate.

Why not just hang around on craigslist and scan the ads as they come up? The kind of things you’re looking for appear on the market pretty regularly.

When I was a graduate student, here are the questions I asked and did not ask when buying a used car that was in my price range:

Did not ask: Was this car in an accident?
Did ask: How bad was the accident?

Did not ask: Does this car burn oil?
Did ask: How much oil does it burn?

Did not ask: How much tread is on the tires?
Did ask: How many of the tires need to be replaced?

Did not ask: Is the interior clean?
Did ask: Can I keep the junk left in the trunk in hopes of finding something I can use?

You said you are a Ph.D. student. One of your best sources is the bulletin boards in gradute student residence halls, married student housing, and other campus locations. There is almost always a faculty member going on sabbatical who wants to sell a car or a graduate student that has taken a job and is leaving a car behind.

“There is almost always a faculty member going on sabbatical who wants to sell a car or a graduate student that has taken a job and is leaving a car behind.”…

A JOB??? Taken a JOB?? You mean something that involves actual WORK??

Ph.D. = $2500 15 year old beater??

Tridaq, You Could Have Been A Lawyer! Good Questioning!

Good luck. You’ll soon learn that buying a car involves simply searching, researching whatever info you might be able to dig up on what you find, getting it checked by a mechanic, and believing nothing anyone tells you.

Good luck. Let us know if you get any bites. I doubt that anyone selling a used, good car is going to want to jump through all those hoops. Anyone willing to do so is probably trying to dump a heap.

prof sabbatical is fine. But student run cars are not…time money family…all three motivating factors to keep a car in good shape are absent!

Thanks for the tip. I love you guys!!!

By the way:

apart from the Professor Sabbatical cars, I also have available two other sources.
One is a 2002 Yellow VW Beetle that I have myself driven for the past 6 months in Albany, NY. No problems except the starter going. This car is my gfs. 3000$ . Yellow VW manual transmission. (I’m 6 3 220 lbs…sniff sniff…waaaa)

I also know a person in a company, who can help me buy one of their used cars. They usually buy GM.(sniff) . These cars are company owned and maintained. Chrysler Sebring automatics etc, etc.

I think I shall continue my car search in Houston for a good Japanese Protege manual or a Honda Manual. Company car is my second best bet. (God I hate automatics at high miles), and VW my third best bet.

Questions , comments?

“I also know a person in a company, who can help me buy one of their used cars. They usually buy GM.(sniff) . These cars are company owned and maintained. Chrysler Sebring automatics etc, etc.”

I would sooner buy most GM models in preference to a Chrysler Sebring. Those Sebrings have little, if anything, to recommend them, including their frequency of repair.

You don’t mention if you preference is a timing belt or timing chain car and what point in the replacement interval you would accept a timing belt car. More is involved than just the belt when it is time.

On your test drive what will be your clutch check-out procedure?

Have you looked on any specific Forums for “early” known clutch replacement models? they exist.

You are getting into a area where we see evap,02 sensor,and catalytic converter work. I really wish these expensive,mandated systems had longer warrantys.

Make sure you do a “fill up” on any model you chose,we get tons of posts about fuel filling problems.

When you pick your model log on somewhere (library and EBSCO is good) and look at the TSB’s (not the recalls so much) for your choice.

the perfect car does not exist, atleast not for every single individual. You want a small stick shift car, I want something that sits higher up and easier to get in and out of.

Thanks for mentioning the timing belt of the car. I put that at a lower mental focus than I do the overall reliability and maintenance history of the car.

Youre right about all the electrical problems that can be had with older cars. There are two older cars that people are selling me for kbb price, both are Honda civics. I like the 1998 version with 135 K miles.
I am aware of the long list of things to do before buying any particular car, and I have done them. The sticking point is the price. It takes time to do all the rest of the things, and thats why I might just spring for a little more, if I find a well maintained car.

I would kick any cavalier off your list and only recent models from Kia should be considered.

I don’t know how anyone could drive a Calivier daily and not be in a bad mood. I have no experience with the Colbalt though.

How should the preminum that the Honda demands be looked at, is it deserved? I worked for Honda little under a year and my impression was very easy to work on but the words "fine automobile’ just don’t come to mind.

Well Sir, I do respect your opinion. I have to request you to find me a solution then?
You have taken a look at my Craigslist advert, and what I’m looking for. I believe, that my perfect car would be a Mazda Protege 5/ Mazda 3 manual for 2-6K $. Civic Si and Acura Rsx are also good. Please let me know more about the others.

What ever you chose, make sure to have it inspected by a mechanic before you buy it. Sometimes the most expensive vehicle to maintain was the least expensive to buy

houstonrice; are you doing graduate work in car owner economics??? If so, some of us will only want to give you so much free info before starting to charge you for it. If not, you are wasting a great deal of your time that should be spent on your studies.

If you just want good transportation to meet your needs and budget, we have already given sufficient information on this to you.

Thank you all. This is what happened in the end.