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Used Car Buying - How much work should a used car need?

I am looking to purchase a vehicle that is new to me and I am running into a lot of vehicles with repair needs exceeding $2000 - is this normal? Is it normal that the dealers don’t want to negotiate? Should I expect this? Or are those the vehicles to run from? I am not sure what I should expect but I really haven’t expected to find so many with that kind of work needed at the outset.

Where are you looking? What is your price range? Do you have anyone to look with you?

And what kind of cars are you looking at? A $5,000 BMW is pretty much definitely going to need a lot of work.

These days, at least where I live, $2k gets you something that starts and runs, most of the time. It doesn’t get you anything fancy or particularly reliable unless you get lucky.

I am hoping to find a small SUV, my budget is up to $9,500 - don’t have a specific make or model in mind but I am not fond of Chevrolet’s, just from experience driving one. I do not have anyone to go look with me but I have a friend who’s been helping me to search and then I have taken the vehicles to my mechanic to be checked. I am looking in the Cleveland, Ohio area.

Why not stop at carmax? Not to buy a car, but walk around and see what you like. Then select the ones you like and test drive them. It’s all free. I wouldn’t necessarily tell the sales guy that you will not buy. The advantage is that you have many different brands and models to look at in one place.

Once you find an SUV you like, you can start looking around at your leisure…


It really depends on the dealer, I was in the used car market, and found dealers that sold the auctioned off vehicles as is, and others that said needed brakes, a wheel bearing etc. and will give you a 90 day waurentee, Now I was inclined to go with the used car dealer that bought the vehicles at auction and fixed what needed to be fixed, and yes it may cost a grand more, but a better value in the long run imhop

Sounds like the dealer is looking to unload the vehicle on someone who doesn’t have it inspected.



I have expected them to be good based on what the dealerships have said about the vehicles and they have all at least acted surprised about what was found by my mechanic.

If you weren’t cynical about dealers before, you will be now. So far as I can tell, every car is perfect, nothing bad has ever happened to any of them, and reports that repairs are needed is treated with shock.

Dealers selling used cars generally know nothing about the car, except it is beautiful, you look great in it, and “what can we do to make it yours this afternoon.”

Good luck.

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I have bought all sorts of used cars. The amount of repair needed would only change the amount of money you should pay for the car. You also add to the fact that a car that needs a lot of repairs was not well maintained by the previous owner and so the repairs needed estimate might be too optimistic.

The other problem is, if you are not doing the repairs yourself, then $2000 does not get you much. Just brakes and suspension might get you there.

– I am hoping to find a small SUV, my budget is up to $9,500 - don’t have a specific make or model in mind but I am
– not fond of Chevrolet’s, just from experience driving one.

You can definitely find a reliable vehicle in that price range.

I got a 2009 Mazda CX7 for 8K.

It had 80K miles.

I would highly recommend a foreign car.

They last much longer than American cars in my experience.

what does 9500 budget mean? you have 9500 in cash? you can afford a 9500 loan? in 36 months payments? 72 month payments? maybe a better way to say it is how much do you want to spend each month on a loan? 200? 400? a 9yr old car in rusty cleveland ohio probably has rust. in 3 yrs it will have even more rust.

Cavell, that means I have $9500 cash to pay for a vehicle - I would not like a loan and I will not take a vehicle with rust.

Why does it matter? They guy has an x-amount of budget to purchase a car and it’s none of our business where the money comes from.

Not sure what to think about that statement. I doubt the average person could tell the difference if they did not know what they were driving. Just possible you drove one that needed work.
If you drive less than 12000 miles a year you sound like a candidate for finding the least costly lease of a vehicle.

For 9500 dollars (and hopefully less than that…) you should be able to find a car that needs nothing or very little. Of course that statement would not apply to a used Benz… :wink:

Ignore what a dealer says about a car. A salesman is telling you how great a car is; a car that if he has even driven at all has only been driven across the lot. And you’re supposed to believe him when he says it’s a great car?

I have to respectfully disagree that a very good used vehicle cannot be had for a few grand. I’m currently driving a very clean, non oil burning Lincoln that I bought 8 years ago for 1800 dollars. Recently I bought a low miles, clean GMC Sonoma truck for 2500. They’re there; you just have to be patient and know what you’re looking at.