Where are all the mid-level used cars?

I need a new car. By new I mean I can probably peel off $12-14k for secondhand. My circumstances are modest.

I live in Durham, NC. I went to the big dealerships and the only used cars they have are shiny like-new jobs for shiny like-new customers. And the only ones that they have in my price range are the size of golf carts, because that’s what fits their scenario of an impoverished customer. I go to the indie lots and all they have are worn-out bottom-of-the-Consumer-Reports-Reliability-List dogs. Cars that exist between those poles don’t seem to exist at all.

Where the goshdarn heck are all the cars for all us people who aren’t either Upper Crust sissies or guys who expect to get under the hood every morning to get the thing started? I’ve always bought good solid cars with a few scratches and stains. That genre, if it exists here, is well-hidden.

If you have Durham-specific info, you shall be granted Special Gratitude.

Thank you kindly.

Cash for clunkers took many of the lower priced cars and so the people out there looking for a newer car had to step up a level. Eventually some got to the price range that you are looking for. Thus a lower stock of all used cars is the result.

Plus the fact that many dealers don’t even handle used…more than three or four years. Most that are trade ins go to auctions and are bought by dealers that only handle used cars.
You may search for used car sales in your area.


For that kind of money, you should be able to buy a 5-7 year old Camry

But I’m in southern California, so that may not be a valid comparison

I think you’ve been going to the wrong places, for what it’s worth

Have you been using search engines to look for these cars, or simply going to the new car dealers, to see what they’ve got

You’ve got to do your homework on your computer, before you head out

Here’s a thought . . . if you’re looking for a used Camry, don’t go to the Toyota dealer. Look elsewhere. A used Camry at the toyota dealer is likely to be sold as a certified used car, if it’s got low miles. And then it’ll cost more than you want to spend

If somebody trades his used camry in at the Ford dealer, for example, they won’t be able to gloss it up and sell it as a CPO. It’ll stay there, and be flipped as a regular used car.

Don’t take this next comment to be insulting. It’s not meant to be . . .

At all costs, avoid those “Buy here, pay here” used car lots. They’re selling high mileage, used up clunkers, for outrageous prices, to people with bad or no credit. If they get their hands on you, they’ll rake you over the coals

With all the web sites that auto dealers have why would you even have to leave the house to search for a vehicle? That said with all the air bag recalls, floods and so many people who take such lousy care of their vehicles there are a lot of new vehicles in the affordable range plus low interest rates. I don’t usually recommend a vehicle but for under 20000 you can get a KIA SOUL with a great warranty.

I had really good luck with cars that came from rental fleets. Usually, these vehicles have been reasonably well maintained. I know that there may have been a driver who may have driven aggressively, but this may be better than a one owner car where the driver always drove aggressively.

The like-new ones you’re seeing are likely off-lease cars, that can be sold as “certified” used cars. There are also people who buy and trade in after the warranty is up, this is more common with luxury makes. It seems that people with the kind of car you’re looking for tend to keep them, as they still have plenty of life left and people that own such cars aren’t interested in trading in every few years, so they don’t turn up as often as newer cars or older cars on used car lots. They do exist of course, but not in as great of numbers.

Newer smaller cars tend to have higher-than-you-might-expect prices because even though fuel prices have been down in recent months, people still remember $4/gallon gas vividly and fuel efficient cars still command a premium.

" It seems that people with the kind of car you’re looking for tend to keep them, as they still have plenty of life left and people that own such cars aren’t interested in trading in every few years, so they don’t turn up as often as newer cars or older cars on used car lots."

That’s the darn problem. Too many sensible people.

I started out by shopping cars on the Web, but my computer doesn’t have a button where it makes the car pass my drive test and appear in my driveway. I have to go out and get personal with the cars. I now know that a Mazda2 has an engine about the size of an electric pencil sharpener and the Nissan Versa is much smoother but the seats are like a city bus.

But I’m still eager for good ideas from you high-IQ Public Radio folk.

How about a Ford Focus for $13,999?

They have a Corolla for a similar price. Triadaq said he had good luck buying rentals, a friend of mine bought two cars from Enterprise and is happy with them.

You should be able to get a 2-3 yr olf Hyundai Sonata with ~30K miles on it for that money. Some are ex-rentals, some are off lease. I got one 2 weeks ago with 20K miles for a bit more. It comes with bluetooth too and the ride/braking is more solid that the Camry. Granted, might not last as long as the Camry, but at least I paid $3-4K less.

I looked on line at Mark Jacobson Toyota in Durham and they have 18 cars in your price range that are either compact (Corolla, Prius), midsize (Accord, Camry) or full size (Chrysler 300, Impala). That is just one dealer. If it is this easy to find cars in your price range, there must be other criteria you haven’t told us about.

All the used vehicle shopping I do is on Craigslist.org and that’s where you should look. I just peeked at the Craigslist of cars and trucks by owner in the Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill area and found lots of possibilities. There was a 2012 Hyundai Elantra with 71,000 commute miles for $10,300 asking, for example. That’s high miles but it could be OK. You should have a trusted mechanic check any car you are interested in, and checking things like Carfax.com might be helpful but isn’t perfect.

Craigslist makes it easy to find buyers for a car, but it has its issues as well, and you can read about them on here and all over the place, but with a good degree of caution and common sense you can find what you want.

Well yeah, there kind of is. JT, you busted me.
I need a back door. I never carry people, but often stuff.
I need something with a back door. And that doesn’t have a dreadful repair record.

I didn’t think that that would affect the initial question of where do I find mid-condition mid-size used cars, but if it did, I apologize.

Here in San Jose Calif as a course of running errands, going to the food store, shopping malls, etc I frequently drive down one of SJ’s “auto lanes” where there’s a dozen or more dealerships and used car places and places that sell rental cars along a road maybe 3 miles long. I see lots of cars in that price range, at least that’s the price they’ve got painted on the windshield facing the street. I noticed a lot of them are used Honda Civics, Toyota Corollas, Scions, Mazdas, Kias, Hyundai’s, & VW’s. I even see used BMW’s and Mercedes in that price range.

OP, I think you need to widen your search area. If there’s not a lot of dealerships in Durham, try looking in a town that has a lot of dealerships and used car dealers.

I think the post above about reconsidering your objection to the smaller “golf cart” cars, and visiting one of the Korean dealerships and look what they have in the line of new cars.

Everybody forgets that between 2007 and 2012 very few new cars were sold or leased…Maybe half the usual number…The small number of people who had the money to buy a new car in this period have just finished paying them off and they like the feeling. If they are decent cars they keep them themselves or in the family…If they are dogs, well you already know where those wind up…

If by back door you mean a hatchback or small wagon/SUV, consider the Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe twins, a Toyota RAV4, a Honda CR-V, or a Chevy Equinox. A 2008 CR-V LX or a 2009 Equnox LS will meett your price point. Edmunds estimates the maintenance costs will be the same over the next 5 years ($5300) and the repairs over that period will be about $2500 for the CR-C and $3000 for the Equinox. Both seem reliable. The Equinox will be larger if that matters one way or the other.

I happen to like small ( golf cart sized cars ) so that makes me an impoverished ( read undesirable ) customer. If I come to Rochester I will do so at night so as to not be seen.

Cash For Clunkers took a lot of good cars out of the used car inventory.

That in turn drove up the cost of the remaining vehicles.

Cash4clunkers took a lot of mid level used cars off the market, but I think the real root cause of the problem is a long term sustained poor economy, much weaker than the politicians’ statisticians make it sound. Combine that with the fact that cars last far longer now, and people simply keep their cars. They don’t trade every three years like they used to. And the more regulatory mandates are placed on manufacturers, the more the price will be driven up and the fewer people will have the necessary discretionary income to buy new cars. 300,000 miles is the new 100,000 miles.

"If by back door you mean a hatchback or small wagon/SUV, consider the Toyota Matrix/Pontiac Vibe twins, a Toyota RAV4, a Honda CR-V, or a Chevy Equinox. A 2008 CR-V LX or a 2009 Equnox LS will meet your price point. "

Oh, I’d love to find something like that. A friend has a CR-V which is very nice indeed. I sat in a Matrix or a Vibe (I forget which) and the posture was kind of awkward. Considering my experience, I wouldn’t buy a Chevy.

I dunno but for that kind of money I got a current year with 30K from a dealer but a rental for a year.