What the milage limit you would accept in buying a used car


#1

My sis is looking at getting a used car to get around town and such and not spending over $3000 on it. now that means she is not going to get something with very few miles on it, so what is the maximum miles should she not even consider? I have tried to convince her it is more on condition then milage overall, but to stay away from anything over 225,000


#2

At that price range I would stay around 150k miles tops.

225k miles is a $500-$1000 car.


#3

She doesn’t need to go over 125,000. Your sister could buy a 2002 Chevy Prizm with a 4-speed automatic and 100,000 miles for $3000. Why should she go for a higher mileage car? Sis should look at compact cars without a lot of options that are in excellent condition. With older cars, condition is more important than a specific brand. But the Chevy Prizm is an excellent car as is it’s twin the Toyota Corolla. But the Prizm will cost a lot less.


#4

Used car market is very expensive in this area, you won’t find a car with less then 125,000 for 3,000 dollars. Right now cars with over 150,000 are pricing out at over 2000 dollars in many cases. Not sure what is driving up the used car price market. I just bought a 2002 with 135,000 miles and had to pay $3500.


#5

Noticed the same change here in Northwest. Supply and demand is always the reason. Supply is down because folks are in tough times and hanging onto old cars. Demand is up because buyers are going for what will just get them from their A to B and back again.


#6

And because Cash4Clunkers took a lot of those nice old cheap cars off the road permanently.


#7

I would buy no car for $3,000 that I need to rely on that has anywhere near 225,000 miles. I’d put the absolute high end at 100,000 miles for this investment if the car is american made and a high quality car, 110,000 miles for Japanese made cars, excluding Toyota, which in my opinion is the best Japanese brand by far.
The biggest problem buying a used car cash is the assumption that it will require no expensive work soon after the purchase. In ANY car of advanced mileage, the most important information is the maintainence of the car. Many original owners keep all of the receipts, documenting every oil change and tranny fluid change and brake pad replacement. As a buyer, it is important to compare the maintenance requirements to the maintenance records. For example, if a car is being sold at 90,000 miles but there is no record of a timing belt change, that means the buyer will need to almost immediately pay to replace this part. The replacement costs at least $300, minus the cost of the new water pump that, again, depending on the car, might best be replaced every time the timing belt is replaced.
The truth is, some cars are just crap. Many are poorly engineered, or use substandard parts, or are assembled with relatively poor quality standards.

I am completely biased, but I recommend that your sister looks for and buys with her $3,000 a late model, high mileage Toyota Corolla. Look out for body rot, since that is the primary drawback, and make sure the exhaust system is sound. These are two areas in which the Corolla does not have a great long life track record, especially in the older models.
I own an 87 Corolla that has been very well maintained with now 135,550 miles on it, and I drove an 84 Corolla over 350,000 miles with one timing belt replacement and little else. When I gave up on the car it was due more to self image than good judgement.
For $3,000 look for a Corolla with around 100k. A Saturn at around 80k might also be worth the money.
Just my opinion, listen to all others.


#8

although the last one I bought was 86k, I would love the 36k.


#9
It is not the number of miles, it is the maintenance that it had or did not have that makes the real difference. 

I would much rather take a car with 225,000 and had proper maintenance than a car with half the mileage with questionable maintenance.

#10

You bought a 2002 car for $3500, but you did not say what it is. Lots of 2002 cars sell for more than $3000. I think you may make too much of the regional adjustment. Asking price is rarely what the buyer pays. Make an offer and see if the sell goes for it. If not, tell them you are still interested at your price, and if they can’t sell it to contact you. If Sis does this often enough, she will have a car at a good price.


#11

The most important factors are maintenance records and the results of an evaluation performed by a mechanic, or at least a mechanically inclined friend or family member. There are some cases where it is better to buy something with more miles on it, like if it has received better maintenance and was generally better cared for, or if most of the driving was done on the highway. I once did a brake job on a 2001 Chevy Suburban that was in perfect condition and drove like a brand new truck. I couldn’t believe the odometer, so I asked the owner about it. They confirmed that the vehicle did indeed have 481,000 miles on it, and also told me they only did scheduled maintenance on it, replaced tires and brakes as they wore out, and kept it clean. And to think that vehicle is probably about worthless due to the high miles…


#12

$3000?? She wants a 4 cylinder stick-shift P/U and 130K miles TOPS…In that mileage / price range, avoid anything with an automatic transmission or a timing belt unless there is PROOF the timing belt has been changed. At this point, ALL automatics are getting shaky and when they fail, it usually totals the vehicle…Keep it simple and repairable…


#13

Since everyone has covered the bases very well I will only add that the key to finding a good used car is patience and homework. Combine that with 3 grand and she should be able to find a very nice vehicle for that amount of money.

For what it’s worth, as a mechanic I’ve seen countless cars with 150k miles that were near flawless and many vehicles with 25-50k miles on them that were considering a love affair with a car crusher already.


#14

I bought my last car (a 94 Chrysler) with around 100K. It now has about 260K, and while it is getting kind of long in tooth, I see no reason that it won’t make it to 300K or beyond if I keep it.

I recently looked at two identical model cars on a dealer’s lot. One was a 2005 with around 60K, one was a 2006 with just under that. The 2006 was immaculate–it had clean fluids, perfect interior and exterior, and ran and drove like it just came off the new car lot. The 2005, despite being just a year older, had filthy oil (that the sales fool tried to tell me had just been changed), a dirty engine, dings on the body, scraped up leather seats, had a noticeable engine tick, funky brakes, and a pull to the right. It also felt like it had had significantly less power than the 2006 (same engine and HP rating)

So my point is, how the car is treated, maintained, and generally cared for makes all the difference in the world. I’d look at maintenance and overall condition instead of mileage, though I wouldn’t touch something with over 200K on it.


#15

Lots of good points have been made here. I wanted to add that often the best source for a very low cost used car is relatives and friends. Let everyone you and your sister are related to, everyone you’re friends with, and everyone you work with know that she’s looking. It just may be that an uncle, aunt or cousin has a good used car that they’ll pass on for a low cost.

Sincere best.


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