Tips/Guide for buying a used car

Hey Guys,

I want to buy a used car preferably NOT from a dealership. And not on financing!

Since I am looking to pay upfront, my budget is 10K to 12K tops.

Any tips or guides on what parameters to look for when buying a used car would be very helpful and appreciated!

Which year, make, model, and miles I should stick to when zeroing in on a car?

I am saying this because I want a car that will last me a few years without any major repairs. Since I know nothing about cars! THIS WILL BE MY FIRST CAR!

Thank you all!

You are going to get pretty much the same answers as you got in your other 2 threads about buying a used vehicle.


I will give you the same advice I give everyone else. Assuming you live in a region where rust is not a problem, buy a used 1997 to 2001 Toyota Camry. Preferably a 4-cylinder model. I can think of no other vehicle which offers greater bang for the buck. Even nearing 25 years old, this remains one of the most common cars on the road, and for good reason. Find one which is in good condition, with low miles, and you will be set for many years to come.

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At that money the car will be several years old. Whatever you buy, take it for a prepurchase inspection by a mechanic you trust, even if the seller is a dealer. If they won’t let you have the car for a few hours for the inspection, walk away.

IMO you should look at compact cars with low miles. Don’t look at luxury compacts, that just makes it more expensive to buy. The newer the car, the better. Use the list of things the car needs to bargain down the price. It’s OK to share the prepurchase inspection report with the seller, but you might conceal the shop that did the inspection.

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That’s a good start. You have no idea how a car was cared for when it comes from a dealership.

Check out my list.

A list that only serves the Snowman’s Ego . Maybe 5 of them are actually useful .

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Step one get an inspection by a mechanic. I don’t remember the specific models, some have lousy transmission life and oil use issues. A hybrid in that price range be aware of expensive battery replacement. might be helpful narrowing your selection.


In addition to the all above excellent advice, a couple of other indirect considerations based on the virtues of a “GeezerMobile” …

  1. Old folks (like me) are more prone not to abuse a car and spend the money to do regular maintenance/repairs with their mechanic or dealer.
    Something about age makes you value the vehicle you have and spend the time and money to “keep it running right”.

  2. Younger drivers tend to total their cars in amazingly creative ways and a virtue of most Geezer Mobiles is their sheer mass, which will improve your chances of attaining Geezerhood as well as avoiding any crazy insurance upcharge.

  3. Hondas, Toyotas and Subarus are all great cars that with proper maintenance will run forever and accordingly command a premium but realistically you’ll be ready to dump your 1st car soon after you get your first real paycheck. On the other hand a well maintained low mileage Buick, Olds or Ford sedan will be cheaper, allowing you to more prudently spend your money with your friends on “Wine, Women and Song” and making memories. :slightly_smiling_face:

I’m assuming you’re fairly young (early 20’s or below), fairly responsible and if so now is the time for fun. Calling up your friends and loading up the Beast for a trip to the beach, mountains, party, concert, college road trip or whatever.

Grandma’s Old Beast sure took a beating but Lord did we have some fun!


It not magic. Used is always a risk with no warranty. Pick a model with a good reputation, with evidence that it has Been taken care of, and no major issues discovered in an inspection. Keep a couple thousand in reserve for fluid changes, new tires,brakes and so on to bring it up to date. If you get a bad one, dust yourself off and get rid of it. I have bought with both known issues and no issues. Just a question of who pays. I prefer a dealer though instead of Davy down the block that wants top dollar for his cream pie wreck.

Used Car Buying Guide -

Thank you!

thank you. This is helpful

Excellent advice above, especially securing a pre-purchase inspection and researching the car complaints websites. Consumer Reports Used Car Guide is another good, easy to understand resource for a used car buyer.

A couple of other suggestions:

  • If you find a car in a newspaper or on-line advert, and want to meet up w/the seller, do that in a public area with lots of other people around.

  • Take a visit to your local DMV (get an appointment or a time they aren’t busy) and ask for advice there what you should be looking out for as a used-car purchaser, which forms you’ll need, DMV requirements before allowing a title transfer, etc. For example the DMV may require the car first pass an emissions test.

  • If the seller insists you pay in cash, don’t do that unless you know & trust them. Tell them you’ll be happy to pay with a cashier’s check from a major bank instead. However, no check to them until they deliver a signed over title (with no liens) to you.

Be cautious, but don’t panic about the risks a used car buyer faces. One of my relatives bought a used car from a private party nearly every month. He’d find one that needed minor work, like a new alternator, then would fix it up, and sell it to finance his next month’s purchase, book a little cash profit along the way. He never experienced any serious problems in over 100 transactions.

As far as which car to buy, that’s up to what you want. Me, I prefer the big seller econoboxes, like Civic, Corolla, Mazda 3. Reliable, and when they break (which they will) replacement parts less expensive, and readily available for many years. Unfortunately I’m not the only one that likes those 3 cars, so they tend to be quite expensive used, especially in this Covid era. In general you’ll have fewer future repair bills w/a car with less gizmos and gadgets. Same goes for a manual transmission vs automatic, but manual trans used cars are very difficult to find, and modern automatics are pretty reliable these days.

Another thing came to mind. Is it worth buying a rebuilt title?

No …

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Re: Rebuilt title

I’d have to get a substantial discount before even considering that option. 25% or more. IMO definitely not for a first time used car buyer. If you want a super-reduced-price car, best bet probably is to buy one that is broken, but not too badly, and fix it yourself. This method would only make $$ sense if you do all or at least most of the work yourself.

If the car has a rebuilt title, and the buyer doesn’t plan on selling the car again, and the repairs were done well, what’s the issue?

My son and I went to look at an Acura that he had found. All was well until the guy brought the title out and “rebuilt” was stamped in red. We confered off to the side and I said no, but the kid was sold and pulled the cash out. What’s a guy to do? It actually turned out to be a very good car and we never had any problem with it except was seemed like a rear tire out of alignment but not bad. I don’t know how many years he had it but got him through med school. The problem was it was always getting hit in the front end and always unattended. It finally got hit from behind and it was totaled so never had to worry about selling it. Insurance never batted an eye on the rebuilt title and paid the full value. So yeah taking a hit trying to sell it can be a major issue, but if the price is right.

Worth? Are they charging extra for that now?

My neighbor has bought several rebuilt cars/trucks, doesn’t seem to notice the misaligned body panels. “Rebuilt” has not been a problem for him, these vehicles suffer from old age like any other vehicle.