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DPChallenge Forums >> General Discussion >> shopping for a new car, need advice/tips!
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03/27/2005 03:34:08 AM · #1
So my Ford Windstar broke down a couple weeks ago out on the LA DPC outing.. and it's pretty much fried. We just sold it to a mechanic today for hardly anything, but what can I do (the repairs were too much). Annnyyways, I'm coming up on my college graduation and my parents were going to get me a new [used] car for graduation. Someone told me to check out autotrader.com, and get a report from autocheck.com or carfax.com on the vehicle history. Is this the best way to go about this? My dad suggests we go to a local dealership and just see what they have there, but I'm convinced that I could save them some money if we go through a private seller. The major issue here is, obviously, whether the car will be in good condition.

Does anybody have any tips on what to do/where to look/etc? I think our price range is reasonable to give some flexibility, but I want a car that I can hold onto for awhile. I'm not really asking so much for tips on which car to get, as I already have a couple in mind, but as to where to look and what I need to check out/the best way to know if it's been taken care of. Any ideas? Thanks SO much!

Message edited by author 2005-03-27 03:35:30.
03/27/2005 03:50:23 AM · #2
Toyota or a Honda is my recommendation. I have had a crosica, bonneville, Taurus, Cirrus, Ram, Chevy Sierra, Expedition, and now a Sequoia. Out of all of them I am happiest with the Toyota Sequoia very reliable. I've put 60,000 on it in 3 years now and I havent even bought brake pads yet. My parents went with a Toyota Camry just recently and they are super happy. My sister went with a Honda Accord and now she is saying thats the car to get. So I would do a Honda or Toyota.
03/27/2005 03:57:30 AM · #3
There are a number of places to look, I don't think any one type of place is better than another. Auto Trader and the Pennysaver are good starts. They are available in every liquor store in So Cal. You local paper is also good. There is always at least one unofficial used car street in every city in So Cal. Location varies by tradition but they are often around the auto row or car pool lots. You can head down there and look.

When you find a car that interests you a report from carfax will give you insight into the history of the car but what you really want to do is take it to YOUR mechanic. Any person selling a car should be willing to let you have it checked out. It will cost you $50-$100 for a good going through but piece of mind is worth more than that. You can also use the information as a bargaining tool on price. I wouldn't give up on a car that needs a couple of repairs but I would make sure the cost of the repairs comes off the price. You'll also want to make sure you know what the Kelley Blue Book value of the car is. Finally, make sure the owner smogs the car before you buy. The smogging is the seller's responsibility not the buyer.

03/27/2005 04:21:09 AM · #4
Well common sense should tell you not to get another Ford. Toyotas and Hondas are the most reliable vehicles on the market to my knowledge and their resale value is also good.
03/27/2005 04:22:22 AM · #5
Originally posted by TechnoShroom:

Finally, make sure the owner smogs the car before you buy. The smogging is the seller's responsibility not the buyer.


What is smogging a car?
03/27/2005 04:56:35 AM · #6
Hope I can add some insight here from a professional standpoint.

First off, let me quantify my position. I have been in the automotive service & repair industry for 25+ years now, as a technician and as of the last 5 years, an shop owner.

* When considering buying a used cars/truck, have it professionally checked out. As much as a buddy "thinks" he knows all about cars, your professional mechanic does it for a living and will see things an amateur will miss.
* What looks good, can be a pile of trouble - never set aside common sense by allowing your emotions to get involved, such as "just having to have that red convertible".
* You need to know if it has a salvage title or not (stay away from it if it is). This can be something as simple as a theft recovery that was properly put back in service, to a totalled vehicle that could be 2 cars grafted into one.
* If your State requires an emissions test (most do anymore), make sure it has been done recently, and in the State of CA, this MUST be done by the seller - do not buy it "As is" and agree to get the smog test done yourself. In CA, there is a no cost limit to make it pass if it has been tampered with or things are missing/modified. This can be a very expensive mistake.
* If it's a 1996 and later vehicle, have the vehicles' computer scanned by your mechanic to see if there are and present or pending DTC's (Diagnostic Trouble Codes) recorded and if all the comprehensive self-tests have been completed (Monitors). This will prevent someone selling a car that has a problem that comes up once a week that turns on the check engine light/service engine soon light, and clears it before each prospective buyer comes to look at it. If the monitors have all been completed, the number of drives cycles has been completed and all is satidfactory at that time.
* Find out if there are any service history records available and hve the history looked over by your mechanic. This can be a huge asset to a buyer, and helps a seller get top dollar.
* Some things you can check yourself, is to make sure accessories all work. Does the A/C work? Lights OK? Wipers/washers OK? While driving it, does it pull to one side? Any shaking when braking (sign of warped rotors). Transmission shift OK? Is the Service Engine Soon/Check Engine Light on? (cna be an expensive repair)

As you can see, you really should rely on a professional's opinion of tehvehicle in question, as it's his world. He/She will know certain makes/models are to be avoided, and how often certain makes/models need repairs.

Of all the vehicles I service, I have to say that Toyota/Lexus (same parent company) seems to have the best service & repair history, with Acura/Honda (same parent company) being second.
What sets aside Toyota from the pack is their engineering in making their engines non-interference and having a stable valve train engineering platform. What this means, is that if a timing belt was forgotten about regarding being replaced at the recommended interval, and broke, Toyota engines free-wheel and do not allow the pistons & valves to contact if they getout of synchronization. An Acuras/Honda however, will sustain VERY expensive damage if that were to happen. Toyotas also need little to no valve adjustments due to their engineering stability, vs. Acuras/Hondas needing regular adjustments.

Well I hope this helps, and if anyone here ever needs a "in the trenches" opinion on a vehicle, don't hesitate to drop me a line.

03/27/2005 05:21:11 AM · #7
Thanks for the replies, and Brad thank you VERY much for the long and very detailed reply - especially from a mechanic's standpoint. I certainly would have a mechanic check out the car before I would purchase it - is it crucial to take it to 'my' mechanic? Our mechanic in the past has always been the dealership of whatever car we own.. and also, are these all things that I should mention to the mechanic (such as checking the DTCs/Monitors). I've found a load of cars that I may be interested in, and will give them a better looking over (as far as carfax/autotracker reports go) tomorrow I suppose, then contact any that seem promising. May have to update from there... thanks again for the help so far everyone, I REALLY appreciate it - as this is certainly no small purchase coming up.

edit: hdogg - i happen to have an acquaintance at school in LA with the exact same name as you!

Message edited by author 2005-03-27 05:23:06.
03/27/2005 05:39:51 AM · #8
With the way gas prices are going up check out the Toyota Prius. It gets like 50 something Mpg city. We test drove one and for a small car it drove better than most. It is cutting edge tech. Check it out.
03/27/2005 05:40:57 AM · #9
For a view from another perspective, talk to your insurance agent before -- not after -- you make the purchase. Since most states require insurance of some form, it is a regular cost of ownership that could well be more over a year than the cost of gas and routine maintenance.

Find out how insurable the car is. I didn't know to do this and after I owned my current car for about a year the cost of insurance went up. After talking with my insurance agent about it I learned there is a third-party rating system used for cars (from A-Z in this particular case, with A being best -- Z being worst) that takes in all sorts of variables from number of wrecks involving that car to how much damage is sustained during those wrecks. My car had gone from a S to a T over the course of the year and was responsible for my rates going up. If I had known the car had a rating as low as a S -- I probably would have passed on it.

David
03/27/2005 05:51:35 AM · #10
Originally posted by nsbca7:

Well common sense should tell you not to get another Ford. Toyotas and Hondas are the most reliable vehicles on the market to my knowledge and their resale value is also good.


Why would you say that? I have a Ford with 112,000 miles on it and no problems.

-Terry
03/27/2005 05:53:03 AM · #11
Hey I got a great idea... Buy My 1991 Nissan Skyline R32 GTS-t.. clear your throat because its going for a song...lol.

allthough my Skyline IS for sale really it needs restoring so not a good idea. I think the best suggestion was from BradP he is involved in the industry and a pro can see many things. In saying that, I live in Japan and I can totally reccomend a Japanese car they are well built full of extras reliable but get it checked out by a pro... thats the best way.

Anyone wanna buy my Skyline ;D
03/27/2005 05:53:25 AM · #12
Originally posted by FirstAid:

With the way gas prices are going up check out the Toyota Prius. It gets like 50 something Mpg city. We test drove one and for a small car it drove better than most. It is cutting edge tech. Check it out.


Remember he's looking at a used car... with the waiting list for new ones, used Priuses are very difficult to come buy, and when one does find them, they typically sell for very close to their original price.

-Terry
03/27/2005 07:37:11 AM · #13
Originally posted by ClubJuggle:

Originally posted by nsbca7:

Well common sense should tell you not to get another Ford. Toyotas and Hondas are the most reliable vehicles on the market to my knowledge and their resale value is also good.


Why would you say that? I have a Ford with 112,000 miles on it and no problems.

-Terry


My Ford has 163,719 miles on it...
Guess they aren't so bad after all...
03/27/2005 07:56:04 AM · #14
Consumer Guide is very good place to research and price used (and new) vehicles. It's a great resource! This section contains the ratings and reviews on vehicles.
03/27/2005 09:15:39 AM · #15
a car is just a car.. they all brake down in the end.. and all cars cost the same, the only difference is if you pay the full price upfront or only half price upfront and the rest for all the spareparts needed to keep the car running.

I´ve had Mecedes, BMW, Hyundai, Toyota, Honda, Ford, Chrysler, Mitsubishi, VW, and many other types of cars, I drive about 100.000 miles per year so I buy 2-3 cars every year to keep the milage below 50.000 when I sell them. and after about 50 cars I´ve learned that it is better to pay the whole price upfront and skip the garage part for the next 3 years, I have a BMW 318i now and after 60.000 miles I have only exchanged the front brakepads and nothing else, and the Hyundai I had went 45.000 miles before the first service needed, the toyota is ok.. rather simple cars so there´s not much to break, but they are overpriced.

go with an old BMW that´s under 100.000 miles and has belonged to an older man not a teenager, then you have a good car that will last a long time before service is required :)
03/27/2005 10:17:34 AM · #16
Originally posted by brianlh:

...is it crucial to take it to 'my' mechanic? Our mechanic in the past has always been the dealership of whatever car we own..


It should be the mechanic of your choice not the seller. That is unless you both trust the same mechanic. I personally distrust dealership mechanics. They have enormous pressure on them to make the dealership a profit. They also normally have a higher per hour rate. For example the Ford dealership near me has an hourly of ~$118 while other non-dealerships mechanics in the area have hourly rates in the $50-$75 range.
03/27/2005 10:21:31 AM · #17
"never set aside common sense by allowing your emotions to get involved, such as "just having to have that red convertible".
LOL That's just like me ,never make sense when it comes to buying a car.
Thanks for the great post.

Message edited by author 2005-03-27 10:21:53.
03/27/2005 10:23:42 AM · #18
One thing to bear in mind...Carfax.com is a great resourse to research the history of a vehicle, but it isn't infallible. I had a Corvette that had been wrecked by the original owner, who fixed it out of his own pocket. If insurance doesn't make a claim on the damage, Carfax doesn't get any info about previous damage.
03/27/2005 10:35:20 AM · #19
We bought a second new car 2 years ago..great price and super nice car/suv. It was a Kia Sorento. Have not had a "SINGLE" problem from it, great gas mileage (much needed now), v6, auto, fully loaded! It is one of the best cars we have purchased, and it has a 10 year, 100,000 mile warranty. Just my 2cents........... Good luck

EDIT: We also pay $510.00 monthly on this car, and another $400.00 on my truck... so be careful that you stay within your means!

Message edited by author 2005-03-27 10:40:14.
03/27/2005 10:36:21 AM · #20
Your getting some good advice here. My advice is keep it real, I mean dont buy a Mercedes or Bmw if cant afford a $300-$500 oil change and tune up. I see a lot of people financing vehicles outside there means. Brad is right on and always check with your insurance co. (I lend in Southern Calif. everyone whats a Mercedes, BMW, Porsche...so on) the best interest rates are with the Credit Unions.....ace
03/27/2005 10:59:10 AM · #21
I've have owned several fords in the past and currently drive one as we speak. I'm almost to the 100K mark. I've had good look with mine....as with any car...they need to be serviced regularly. I bought this last car through auto trader....the made a list of the things that were most important to me (low miles, AC, 4-doors, less than 5 years old) and then started searching autotrader online...and found one that a little old couple had owned and pulled behind their motorhome....bingo!

Toyota and Hondas are good cars...and if you have the money to get one that's fine.......I myself was not able to afford one within my range. (I paid cash, didn't want payments)

Good Luck!
03/27/2005 11:01:29 AM · #22
My advice is to buy a two year old off lease car. Someone else has taken all of the depreciation and the lease cars are very low mileage and generally in great condition.

The last two cars I've purchased have been off lease. I bought a 1998 Saab 9000 CSE $39500 new, I got it for $16500 with the balance of the factory warranty. Still have the car and will for a long time to come.

Then I bought a 2001 Saab 9-3 ($27500 new) I payed $17000. It only had 21K miles on it. Factory warranty was pushed out to seven years and 100k miles.

So, do think about a two or three year old lease return for a good bargain...
03/27/2005 11:15:21 AM · #23
I would make sure to check what ever model your wanting for typical gas milage and how many miles they go without major break downs. I drive chevy astro vans. They are really the only logical vehicle for us(I work out of one and need a wheel chair lift in another). The one I work with has 210,000 miles with no major breaks and gets 18mpg. We have another one with over 200,000 and have seen them go over 350,000 with no motor or trans work. We did have one that had to have a trans at 140,000. 2005 is the last year for the Astro so I guess we will have to buy used or change to something else soon.

Tim
03/27/2005 11:22:38 AM · #24
my father still has a chevy astro that runs @ 216,000 miles...
but not my recommendation for a car ... :)
03/27/2005 11:30:33 AM · #25
Brian,

My personal choice is a Passat. Absolutely one of the best cars I have ever owned. And the new Jetta is supposed to be equal to it. (Yes. VW does have some issues to overcome. But the reviews are great.) Also, if you are going to a new car dealership, I cannot recommend strongly enough that you visit this site and subscribe to this service: //www.fightingchance.com Not only did I get all the latest research on the two cars to which I narrowed my choice, but I also got an immediate return call on a question I had during the purchasing process. This absolutely works! The idea is to get you the very best price under retail- not only in your area but based on national trends as well.
The best of luck.
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