I do want to buy a used car

Will Rickards

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#1
So my mazda lease is up in november.
So I've started looking at used cars.
This is a commuter car with 40 miles round trip each day.
I have a budget of about $3500.

What car would you recommend?

Where do I find good deals?
I've been tracking some stuff on ebay and autotrader.com and cars.com but they all seem priced high. I know I can negotiate them down.

I was looking at older acura TL's (2000/2001) but they apparently have a pretty serious transmission flaw. So out they went. Then I was looking for older subaru forester/outback sport but people who are selling them seem to expect quite a bit of money for them based on hitting ebay reserve prices. I would like the AWD, though 99% of my current trip is highway based. I like the look of the baja but those are all too new and pricey to be in my price range. Maybe I should just look at honda civics. I don't like the styling of any of the accords around 2000. There are a couple older volvo wagons for sale by owner around where I live currently. I don't know if I should even look at those.
 

Bozo

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#2
When shopping for a used car, I always go to a new car dealer. If a person traded in a ford for a new ford he must have been happy with the ford product. If there is a chevy on the ford lot, I presume the car gave the owner a lot of greif or he would have another chevy.
Independant car lots buy their cars at auctions (like Manheim Auto Actions). You have to wonder why these independent lots have cars on them that are only a couple of years old. There is a good chance they were wrecks that were totaled by the insurance company. Then bought from the insurance company for cheap by body shops.
IMHO on line shopping is a crap shoot.
 
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#3
That price range is difficult to understand, really. You'll end up with cars like mine (2003 VW Golf GL, manual, 184,000 miles) with plenty of dings and wear but nothing major. Or you could end up with something truly trashed internally that seems OK for an older car on the outside.

I'm not allowed to sell mine until we buy a house, but the part that would worry me is trying to understand the history of the vehicle.
 

Fushigi

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#4
Check the Buying Tips section. I'd also draft lists of your requirements/needs, desirable/wants, and things you not want/need to help narrow things down. For instance, on which lists do these belong:
- High MPG
- Low miles on the odometer
- Available warranty
- IIHS or NHTSA safety rating
- Good stereo
- A/C
- Sun/moon roof
- Manual v. automatic trans
- 4WD/AWD
- 4 cyl/6 cyl/8 cyl engine
- power windows/locks etc.
- must seat __, including __ child seats.
- must have __ cargo area because you occasionally haul __.
- towing capability
- timing belt v. chain
- nav system
- leather seats
- heated seats
- convertible
- coupe, sedan, wagon, CUV, SUV
- compact, midsize, full size
- Brand and foreign/domestic
etc.

For some, a moonroof is useless and/or they dislike the loss of headroom. For others it's a great feature that lets them get more fresh air. Some people need AC; others despise it.

The problem with Bozo's approach is that there's no real way to determine why someone traded in their last car. Some people buy a new car every x years regardless of how much they might like it. Some stay with the same brand with dogged determination while others change brands every time.

Cash for Clunkers has temporarily boosted used car prices by removing almost 700K used cars from the market, but prices should already be beginning to return to normal.
 

Will Rickards

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#5
- High MPG
Most of my miles are highway so anything about 20MPG highway or higher is fine. I average about 22-23 MPG now.

- Low miles on the odometer
I pretty much expect any car in this budget to be high mileage.
I was expecting around 150K, over 200K would be worrisome.

- Available warranty
Not on cars this old

- IIHS or NHTSA safety rating
front airbags would be nice, but not a dealbreaker

- Good stereo
I'm going to replace it more than likely so it doesn't matter.

- A/C
Need

- Sun/moon roof
Avoiding if possible. My experience with these is you leave them open in the rain at least once. And once can be enough for some real interior damage.

- Manual v. automatic trans
Auto preferred, but if a nice manual was available I'd learn.

- 4WD/AWD
AWD preferred, thus looking at the subarus

- 4 cyl/6 cyl/8 cyl engine
Not concerned, though I have a bit of a lead foot, especially off the line.
So maybe I should get a 4cyl to rein that in.

- power windows/locks etc.
NEED

- must seat 4, including 2 child seats.

- must have 0 cargo area because you occasionally haul nothing.
I would use the other car for hauling

- towing capability
None

- timing belt v. chain
I don't care as long as it was serviced when it came time

- nav system
Avoiding built in's unless it also comes with bluetooth support.

- leather seats
don't care

- heated seats
don't care

- convertible
Avoid

- coupe, sedan, wagon, CUV, SUV
I prefer the small wagons or small sedans.
Forester is considered small in my book.

- compact, midsize, full size
See above

- Brand and foreign/domestic
Reliable brands only, which mostly means honda/toyota/subaru
Domestics I would have to judge on a one by one basis.
Not excluding them altogether but I'm not looking for them.
 

Will Rickards

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#6
That price range is difficult to understand, really.
Indeed you end up with a very used car but hopefully not an abused one. But I'll be basically babying it with mostly highway miles and use as just a commuter car. The price range is determined by how much I can take directly from savings at this point in time. I'm not afraid of older cars. I had a reliable 1994 honda accord for a long time. I'm looking for something like that.

I can't have a car payment for the second car, no budget for it. Heck I didn't want a second car, but that argument didn't fly with the wife.

In truth I miss my 1994 honda accord. I sold that when I should have sold my 99 saturn. The trans went on the saturn and I decided to lease the mazda. But buying a 94 honda accord seems crazy to me at this point, though I do see them for sale.
 
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#7
Look at Consumer reports. They list both good and bad (for reliability) models of used cars for particular price ranges. so start there. Since you are at the bottom of the normal price range, seek private parties from classified adds. Dealers go through a process of categorizing the cars they receive and dump the worst to used car dealer auctions and you'll be buying the worst of the worst at that price point. At least with a private party it may be possible to get something that is above its normal class because it hasn't been categorized.

Whatever you do, have any potential vehicles fully checked out at a mechanic.
 

Fushigi

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#8
None of these are 4WD/AWD but here are a few to consider that would be in your price range.

Small wagons: Pontiac Vibe/Toyota Matrix (same car), Hyundai Elantra GT (01 or newer). I don't recall if Honda or Nissan had any small wagons at the time. The Vibe/Matrix duo are Toyota powertrains so should be reliable and have decent economy.

Small sedans: Many to choose from. Ford Focus from 2003 or so onward (the first couple of years had issues but they were mostly fixed from what I've heard). There's the Corolla & Civic, but ones that meet your price point may not be in good shape. The Elantra sedan (GLS) from 01 forward is well-regarded in general and, anecdotally, my wife's 01 has been almost trouble-free in 8 years & 71K miles. If you liked your Mazda then consider the 3.

For a mid-sizer, you might consider a Malibu if you get the previous body style which debuted in 03, 04, or 05 (not sure but sometime around then). Decent car and gets over 30MPG highway. The Malibu Maxx has more room (it's the wagon version) but for some the style can be off-putting (I find it different but not really in a bad way). My Galant's style ran from 99-04 and has been a very good car. It's a '99 sitting at 151K miles right. A Camry or Accord in the price range will be quite used. For the Hyundai Sonata, go with an '03 or newer. The lastest style debuted in '06 but the prior style is fine after 2002. Models prior to '02 had some subframe rust issues.

I'm afraid I just don't know enough about Subarus to have a good idea which models would fit your price point. When new they've always seemed expensive for what you get IMO.

Avoid anything European; even if you find something in your price range the maintenance on an Euro brand is almost always far higher than an Asian or even a domestic.
 

Will Rickards

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#11
That 2000-2001 subaru impreza 2.5 RS sedan from the article seems like a good fit. Found two on autotrader but they are both about 75 miles away.
The acura integra's are also not under 5K at least those year 2000+.
 

Will Rickards

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#12
2000 Subaru impreza 2.5 RS with 159K miles. Dealer was at 4200, I offered 3200, he came down to 3800. It is pretty far away (2 hours) so I'm going to have a local mechanic look at it for me. Looks good on outside, seems like some wear on the inside from the pics. PM me if you want the link to see for yourself.
 

Stereodude

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#17
That's what happens when the gov't tampers with the used car market. They took a chunk of the cheaper used cars out of the market and now the prices of what's left is higher.
 

Fushigi

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#18
CARS did not take cheaper cars off the market. The traded clunkers were in service and weren't on the market to begin with. Sans CARS a good portion would still be in service. Article:

Slate.com said:
Based on the types of cars being purchased and his assessment of purchasers, NADA economist Taylor believes that as many as 40 percent of the cars purchased under Cash for Clunkers were bought by people who would not have bought a new car in this calendar year.
Besides, the US has over 170 million cars on the road. CARS took just under 700K and junked them so the number of vehicles went down by less than 1/2 of 1 percent. Any effect this has on the used car market will be temporary. Prices on new cars, which did spike some during CARS, are already moving back to pre-CARS levels.

To try and stay on topic, if you look at the results the vehicles taken off the road would not be candidates for Will. Price-wise, perhaps, but from a fuel economy standpoint and also from a cost to maintain standpoint they would be very poor choices.
 

udaman

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#19
Bah! Still looking. Saw a nice 2001 subaru impreza outback sport. But it was priced so out of my range at $6950. That seems like a crazy price to me for a 9+ year old car. But you wouldn't believe the used honda prices.

The used car market seems hugely inflated to me.
If U wanted a bargain, U should have started looking earlier, when you had more time, say 6mo ago. Now U're going to have to settle for something less than you wanted...or find a way to increase you're budget to $5k or more. @$5k you'll find more options, lower mileage vehicles *if* U are willing to travel to get to them.

You'll still want a mechanic to give a check, and there are services available for this all across the country. $100 spent for a check, can save you thousands down the road. Got to think of possible future repairs Bcuz these can *easily* exceed the purchase price. Goes w/o saying U need to pay for a full a Carfax check 1st.

Other *issue* I see is the requirement for 2 child seat capability...implying children will be occupants in this car. If they are your own children, what price is the insurance you pay for a vehicle with greater safety features?

Can you afford the cost of any medical expenses your insurance will not cover should an accident happen, either your fault or not?

If you can up your budget to $5k and are willing to travel for the purchase, then you might still have enough time to find a 2003 or new model of something?

Going to $6,950 in your example, you could purchase a Ford certified used Taurus 2004, and get a limited warranty, with large extended mileage coverage, to boot. Other used options you'd have to buy a questionable warranty from a 3rd party.

Asian certified vehicles (they start only as far back as 2002) are out of your budget range, say >$8K.

I would find a way to budget $5k, so you can at least get a >100k odometer newer 2003+ vehicle, with better safety test ratings. There are a few Foresters at that price around the country, standard side airbags can save *your* and other occupants lives...or avoid serious injuries, in the rare occurrence of an accident...they happen.

A lot of pre-2006 vehicles fared poorly in side impact testing by IIHS, particularly the Hyundai Elantra, I'd not want one of those, save 2007 or newer:

http://www.iihs.org/ratings/ratingsbyseries.aspx?id=330

^2002 Foresters had an option for side impact AB's, as opposed to standard on '03's, good luck finding one on autotrader or other, same for optional side impact bags on other cars. They also score well in rear impacts/head restraint tests...newer models being better. Impreza's don't do so well until 2002 model year, avoid those made b4 Sept. 2001. Legacy's are also an option, as at your lower price range, you'll have to consider just about any make/model, and still end up with one >100k mi on it.

U can't afford the potential repairs on a Volvo. U will find people who never had much of a problem or repair expenditures, and then you might be one of the 'lucky' ones who need to spend $10k or more on repairs to a higher mileage Volvo. I read somewhere, a Volvo forum?, that trannies go bad on these Volvo's b4 100k. You'll spend $5k minimum to replace a tranny on a Volvo. Probably $3k on an Asian car. Repairs can kill you, do you have a budget for that, worst case scenario?

In the summer of '07 when I rented a Civic from a Toyota-Honda dealership for the weekend, I saw a Honda mechanic in near the rental desk, renting an Accord for the weekend. I asked which he would choose for the weekend---which would be less likely to break down on the road since I was going to and from LA to SF and back, Civic or Corolla. He said Corollas have fewer breakdowns in his experience. Anecdotal to be sure, but was his opinion. Keep in mind he was talking relatively *new* rental cars with <10k miles on them.

Read consumerguide.com, tips on buying etc, then review make/model years you R considering in their used car guide/reviews.

I'll assume you've also read Edmunds.com on used cars?

http://carbuyingtips.com/

^ read this, hurry UR running out of time.

Avoid Florida cars, older models probably got flooded out during hurricanes or other bad weather, will cause headaches w/continual electrical gremlins :p
 

MaxBurn

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#20
CARS took nothing off the road at all, straight up exchange only.

Anyway the cars your looking for are all popular so sure there are going to be higher in price, actually that subaru is looking pretty good pricewise IMO without checking the pricing sites.
 
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#23
Basically what I'm looking for is an AWD mud-capable station wagon with a decent non-manual transmission. From what I can tell they are only made my Audi. Subaru still thinks that 4 speeds are acceptable. The only exception might be the Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback with a dual-clutch. Crazy thing is, that S4 Avant is the same price as an Allroad 2 years older! This thing even has a warranty!
 

udaman

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#25
Basically what I'm looking for is an AWD mud-capable station wagon with a decent non-manual transmission. From what I can tell they are only made my Audi. Subaru still thinks that 4 speeds are acceptable. The only exception might be the Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback with a dual-clutch. Crazy thing is, that S4 Avant is the same price as an Allroad 2 years older! This thing even has a warranty!
S4 or an S line, will cost you 2x whatever the cost of the car is in repairs, regular wear maintenance that is *not* covered under any warranty. Do a search of audi forums, find out what it could "cost-to-own", ticket price has little to do with cost of ownership (<go read edmunds, U have HS net access, go do it!)< so how much more do U think insurance is going to be, or did U plan to be an "illegal" and not get insurance :p ? (SD won't tell U that, he's feeding on UR impulsive, consumerism speeding habits...hey SD, jump on it, the Nikon D3s will be announced in a week, pre-order it *now* :) ...did U buy UR s90IS @BB or get it online yesterday, lol?).

Is this an Audi certified (CPO) car? That warranty is only good for 2yrs or 50k which ever comes 1st...in UR case, given the miles UR drive, I'd say 50k will come 1st <2yr :). Mileage per gallon < oxymoron with an S series, expect <20MPG. Edmunds did a long-term test on the '06 A3 3.2L 6cyl S-line equipped model got, 18MPG, they were unimpressed with the performance, recommended to go with the 4cyl engine A3.

Better off with an CPO A4 1.8 or 2.0T avant wagon, those R about $25k.

Define "mud-capable"...need any additional ground clearance, or not?

4-speeds *are* acceptable when it comes to reliable trannies :).



UR a bad influence, catering to dd's impulsive, impetuous youthful character 'traits'...or R independently wealthy to not need fiscal responsibility
 
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#26
Now that I have a wife, my impulsive, impetuous, financially irresponsible traits are thoroughly trampled upon already, thanks.

That car only has 10k miles on it, so it still has 40k miles on the original warranty.

Getting a car with better mileage isn't a concern, it seems to have much more to do with driving style than the car itself. My wife averages over 30MPG with the 2.0T in our current Audi, if I'm driving and she is with me I can do almost 33MPG, if she isn't with me I average 16 ;)
 

Will Rickards

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#27
Bah! Found a 2.5RS, automatic though, in my preferred blue color. But by the time I got there tonight, someone already put a deposit down. And I offered $300 over what he was and they still wouldn't budge.

At least I know they exist I just have to jump on them faster.
 

MaxBurn

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#28
Couple random thoughts.

2.5RS is non turbo isn't it? You prepared to live with ~160 HP?

Mileage wise don't expect miracles from AWD cars either. My 08WRX gets around 23-28 on the highway 28 being a sucky cruise controlled 65mph, 23mpg is a pretty scary but thrilling ride. Even removing the turbo doesn't net you better MPG, the loss is in the drive train.

http://www.fueleconomy.gov/Feg/findacar.htm

In short don't expect 30+MPG from AWD cars.
 

Will Rickards

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#29
Honestly if it makes above 20MPG I'd be happy.
I drove one, it moves just fine for me. I can't talk horsepower.
I believe in zeroing in on a specific model and year and becoming sort of an expert.
If the RS doesn't work out by the end of the november when the lease is up, I'll start considering other cars like an older nissan sentra or something. Maybe the acura 3.2 TL which I considered.

The problem I have is there are like 5 different places to find these cars: ebay, craigslist, autotrader, cars.com, rs25.com, nasioc.com. It gets tiring looking through these multiple times a day. I didn't do it on saturday, missed this most recent car and am kicking myself for it. Plus dealers that take these as trades don't seem to keep them, they seem to sell them to used car dealers. And they list on just one of these places but often not the one with alerts - autotrader.com. I wish there was like one place for these listings that aggregated the others.
 

MaxBurn

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#30
Still sounds like you are all over the place when ranging from a nissan sentra to acura tl.
 

udaman

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#32
Honestly if it makes above 20MPG I'd be happy.
I drove one, it moves just fine for me. I can't talk horsepower.
I believe in zeroing in on a specific model and year and becoming sort of an expert.
If the RS doesn't work out by the end of the november when the lease is up, I'll start considering other cars like an older nissan sentra or something. Maybe the acura 3.2 TL which I considered.

The problem I have is there are like 5 different places to find these cars: ebay, craigslist, autotrader, cars.com, rs25.com, nasioc.com. It gets tiring looking through these multiple times a day. I didn't do it on saturday, missed this most recent car and am kicking myself for it. Plus dealers that take these as trades don't seem to keep them, they seem to sell them to used car dealers. And they list on just one of these places but often not the one with alerts - autotrader.com. I wish there was like one place for these listings that aggregated the others.
Going on emotion, rather than budget...'cost-to-own' ? dd can 'afford' to do that, in your budget range, you have to be selfless if children are involved. When you have more money, enough to cover all potential repair costs, or move up to a CPO with good warranty terms, then you can shop based on purchase price alone> purchase price is just the 'tip of the iceberg' to ownership. Not an option for you, unless you like to gamble both your and your children's fate like Russian roulette.

3.2L Acura won't give you fuel economy you're looking 4, nor safety unless you buy something 2x as much as your budget and go for late model, 2004 or newer that has decent rear head restraint ratings:

http://www.iihs.org/ratings/head_restraints/headrestraints.aspx?acura

Forester or Impreza. If RS2.5, then as b4, has to be made after Sept. 2001, model '02 or newer. If U can't find that, man up and get a more children safe older Forester. Be smart, safety b4 emotions. Indulge in emotional purchases when U can *afford* them. And by all means, don't listen to SD, he's the impulse, emotional :diablo: on SF :p

Look, if you had the money U won't need to tediously search for the bargain priced models you're looking 4, that's the nature of the game, no matter your emotions...people are homeless in this economy, don't B such a whiney p***y. Do the work, search and search, until and if you find a good buy, and get that mother checked by a mechanic. $100 now, saves you thousands later, thousands that U can't afford to blindly ignore.

Maintenance items, normal wear are *not* covered even on a new or CPO powertrain warranty. Like a CV boot, would cost dd minimum of $600 per boot in parts and *labor* to replace one at dealer prices. Double that if he's doing his usual high-speed runs and that CV joint loses all of the grease and then requires a new CV joint< not covered under any warranty.
 

Will Rickards

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#33
Uda, you're on my ignore list so I don't see your posts. But I read this one. The kids will 99% of the time not be in my car, it will be just me driving to work. Secondly any car built by a reputable manufacture this century is not that bad in safety tests. Sure side airbags would be nice. But I'm planning for the 99% not the 1%.
 

Pradeep

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#34
Basically what I'm looking for is an AWD mud-capable station wagon with a decent non-manual transmission. From what I can tell they are only made my Audi. Subaru still thinks that 4 speeds are acceptable. The only exception might be the Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback with a dual-clutch. Crazy thing is, that S4 Avant is the same price as an Allroad 2 years older! This thing even has a warranty!
I've been driving the RS6 quite a bit in Gran Turismo on the PSP. I have to say, this is a sweet handling vehicle. Any course with some dirt or snow/ice, and it's a dream to handle. Not too shabby on Suzuka either. Feels better than the Nissan GT-R.
 

Will Rickards

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#35
So after the second rs25 not working out, I'm moving on to other options like the subaru legacy and the acura 3.2 TL. I found a TL local to me here. Quite a few miles but it drives well and seems good when I looked at it last night. Only issue is that the 1999 to 2003 acura 3.2 TL's have a known transmission issue. This ones had the transmission replaced at 94K miles. I'm trying to figure out whether the new transmissions really fix the problem or not.
 

Fushigi

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#36
Dunno if the replacement trans were fixed or not. All I recall is that I think Acura extended the Tranny warranty to 100K miles. I'd suggest reading the Acura forums at Edmunds or another car site or search the recall/TSB database to see if there was a fix or just replacement.

I had a '93 Mazda MX-3 and it went through a trans at 38K and again at 76K. I ditched it before the next multiple of 38K came around as it appeared Mazda never actually fixed it.
 

MaxBurn

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#37
If you liked the RS you would love the Legacy GT, same drive train as the WRX in the Legacy sedan. I very much almost went with this but I decided I wanted the room of the hatch back. Rather hard to find used or even new though. I think the H6 engine offers less power and efficiency than the H4 turbo, way more common though. This is one car that all three of subaru's engines are available in so you can have your pick. Legacy trim/seats/style level are better than impreza.

http://cars101.com/
 

Will Rickards

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#38
The problem with the subaru's is finding them. They are rare cars to begin with though it is probably easier in the northeast where I'm at. Then add that you are looking for not the base model and it becomes harder. Then add the fact that people keep them a long time and you get the idea. Had a guy trying to sell me a legacy GT with 279K miles on the body but a new engine with only 75K miles.
 
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