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Author Topic: Need to buy a car in the next week.#20, #25, #39, #41, #46, FINAL #59. New? #63  (Read 10674 times)

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Have you ever had to "hurry up rush" buy a new car? Without having the luxury of time to do the research? How did you handle the situation?

DDs were in a car accident today. Thankfully!!!! they are unhurt. DD#1 was driving and was not ticketed (DD#2 was passenger). The fault was the other driver . . . other driver blew a stop sign.

I do think that the car will be totaled.

Looking on Kelly's Blue Book I'm figuring (hoping) I'll get about 3-4K from insurance, that's what Kelly's said the car is worth in fair condition.

(Whine -- In the past year, I bought 2 new tires, back brakes and had a whole lot of other work done to the point where my mechanic said it should last for another 50,000+ miles.)

The second car, in our family, is very important due to work/school schedules.

Where do I start looking for a new, reliable car?

At this point, I'm looking at reliable. I really don't care what it looks like.

Any thoughts? Help? Advice?

« Last Edit: July 15, 2013, 07:14:58 PM by jpcher »

Harriet Jones

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Maybe try places like Carmax?


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Do you belong to Consumer Reports Online? I'd do some quick research into their recommended list of used cars, determine what you can pay, then peruse CraigsList and maybe a local newspaper if you have one with good ads. Do you have a trustworthy mechanic you can use to have the car checked out?


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I would suggest hitting up a library or friend for a copy of the Consumer Reports Buying Guide 2013 (or if you are on a tight budget, perhaps even 2012, or 2011). They list the best used cars by price range, year, make and model and give great advice on how to not get 'taken' by car salespeople.


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Firstly, check your insurance to see if there's an option for a hire car while the DDs car is off the road / until it's replaced.  If so, that will at least reduce the urgency factor and give you all a bit of breathing space.

Next, I'd google local car websites looking for your price range.  Once you've found a couple of options, look for online reviews on those models - it should at least give you an idea of reliability or common areas of concern. 

Considering you say you know nothing about cars, is there a friend, relative or colleague that could go along to car yards with you to check for things like repaired crash damage, rust, unusual wear on tyres etc?  Maybe even recruit your mechanic? 

I know in Australia we can also get a safety report and inspection done by the state equivalent of the AA prior to purchase.  Is that an option where you are?

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Oh and definitely take any car you are considering to a mechanic t look over - even if its not your usual mechanic. When buying our truck, DH and I took every prospect to a mechanic - some just random places near the car dealership - and asked them to look it over and recommend if it was ok to buy. This cost us between $25 and $45 to have done and took about 20 minutes. So yeah overall, it was about $150 in extra costs - but it was SO worth the piece of mind. One vehicle - a great deal by Consumer Reports ratings, was in terrible shape and pretty much on its last legs. Another was a truck with several open recalls - sure we could get those fixed ourselves, but we figured if the previous owner and the dealership hadn't bothered to get free fixes, what else had they neglected to do?

What we did was look up the dealership online. Then we googled for service stations nearby and we called them and asked "hi, I'm looking to buy a car, I was wondering can you look it over for me before I do to tell me if its a good deal? ... You can? Great, about how much will that cost? ... Great I'll be going to the dealership Saturday, do I need an appointment with you or can i just show up?"


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I second the recommendation for an inspection by a mechanic. 

The US is now being flooded with cars that were flooded in Hurricane Sandy last summer.  It is not possible to completely repair a car that has been flooded, but it is possible to cover-up the damage well enough that only a mechanic can see it.

White Dragon

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We just bought a used car yesterday for DDs. They need it for work (6 people, 7 jobs, no transit and down to two cars) and college in the fall.

Consumer reports is your friend! The magazine is only a few dollars and worth every penny.

Before you shop, you have decide a few things.
First, your budget. It's really easy to pay too much, especially if you are in a rush.

Second, how much car do you want? We wanted a car with an expected life span of 4 to 6 years before major repairs would be an issue. For us, that meant good body condition as Canadian winters are hard on cars. It also meant moderate mileage, as the DDs will be putting in some road time to and from school.

Is climate an issue for you? In our area, a car without a functioning heater is not drivable in winter, so that's a must-do repair, and cost must be factored in.  I'd guess other are parts of the US where A/C is equally a safety issue.

I'd start looking at used car sites, kijiji etc to get an idea of of used car prices in your area. Find something in your price range and then check the reports on that car. Decide if the down checks are something you can live with.
In our case, the brakes were rated a bit low, but we were okay with the idea that we'd possibly have to budget for repairs on a shorter lifespan.

Talk to people! Ask your friends and family what they are driving and what issues they are having.
We stayed away from makes we haven't been happy with and it reduced a lot of stress. I ran into a friend who is an apprentice mechanic and asked about his car. Based on his comments, we took that model off the list.
By the same token, we have family members who have had the same car for years and have been very happy. That car was also highly rated and wound up at the top of our list.

Listen to your instincts about the person selling you the car. Our salesman was so low-key it was almost off-putting, but he did not push. And he won huge points when we wanted to test drive one car and he said "I wouldn't sell you that car. It has a bad shimmy in the front end. You're buying this for your kids, and I wouldn't let my kids drive that car." Given that the car had a dead battery and the girls hated the body layout, we skipped it.

Get the car checked. We bought used from a dealer. We knew the price might be a bit more than on a private sale, but for us the trade-off was that we didn't have to worry about mechanical reports, safety inspections or doing the title search. All that paperwork was included and we didn't have the hassle. (Like you, we were in a hurry).

Don't forget a title search! It will tell you if the car has been written of and rebuilt (major safety red flag!) or if there any liens or claims against the vehicle.
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As for renting a car, many companies in the US won't rent to anyone under 24 or thereabouts, so you might end up driving the rental, and letting them drive yours, until you find something.

I was in the same position, only mine car just up and died of old age. Had to replace it quickly, nad thought i did my homework, but had major issues. I'd narrow it down by price, age, mileage, and then go from there. i can say Honda and Toyota are very reliable, but you'll pay more for that. and certain other cars, many luxery and imports, and I speak from experience, having owned 2 Volvos, are pricy to fix.

Also check out, they have a TON of great info, although it can be a bit overwhelming.


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Are you looking to get a replacement car for that same $3K-$4K, or are you planning to put more money into it?  If you're looking at above the $10K range, regular dealerships will probably be your best bet.  I recommend looking at - even if there isn't one in your area - because they do no-haggle pricing.  You can get a good idea of what you would actually be paying for that make/model/year of car, not what another dealership thinks they can *start* at and then deal down from.

If you're looking for less than $5K, though, check your local classifieds and  The dealer markup on cars in that range is a pretty hefty percentage of the total cost, so saving $1K by buying directly from the previous owner is a pretty big deal!  Do plan to get any car checked out by a mechanic you trust - arrange to meet the seller at the mechanic's garage, if you need to.  You have fewer choices in the under-$5K range than you do in the over-$10K, which means it's harder to compare individual cars.  ($10K will get you any of a dozen Ford Focuses in my area, so you can compare mileage and individual cars and get the best one.  $3K will get you one car of this make/model that is ten years old, one of that make/model which is almost 20 years old but was a fancier car, one of this other make/model that's only six years old but has a ton of mileage on it, etc.)


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Ask friends, neighbors, co-workers.  Look at their cars, ask for suggestions..


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I had to buy a car with short notice, little funds and no interest whatsoever in getting into a haggling situation.  I bought a car from Hertz.  Yes, the car rental company.  They sell their fleet - they're usually about a year old, a little heavy on the mileage for their age but you have the maintenance history to look over.  Price is set - no haggling - and fair (about 1,000 below blue book in my case).  Selection is kind of limited depending on where you are but I loved that little car....had to give it up when I had kids.

Google Hertz car sales (or Enterprise does it too).


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Lots of car dealerships now have the carfaxes online. I browsed them when used car hunting. There was one used car I liked very much but the carfax showed 6 owners in the previous 4 years and I decided that was a warning sign.

Nothing to see here.


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Once you've narrowed it down to two or three cars you're interested in, email all the big dealerships within a radius you're comfortable with (I've gone up to 100mi for a good deal). Tell them "I want X car, 2005-2009 (or whatever) with air conditioning and power windows." Then tell them "I'm looking to purchase by the end of the week so I'm emailing multiple dealerships for quotes. I don't have time to haggle back and forth so please send me your best quote and I will call to arrange a test drive. Thanks!"

We've bought our last two cars this way and we've currently got 2 dealerships competing for our business. We're down $4k under MSRP and still going! Also, if you've got a Costco or Credit Union membership, see if they have a service to help with car buying. Costco got us the initial low price on the first vehicle and even though the 2nd dealership doesn't work directly with them they were willing to match the price to lure us over. I think both places are about bottomed out on the new car so now we're negotiating the fees and our trade.  ;)


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If you have the time I can heartily recommend the book DON'T GET TAKEN EVERY TIME by Remar Sutton. I reread it every time I need to get another vehicle and it's got a lot of good advise.

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