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Thread: Buying a Used Car

  1. #31
    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geila View Post
    Thanks guys. I will keep looking. I've noticed that every single Honda Civic under $15k that I've been able to see the history on has had at least one accident or damage reported. And most of them have had very spotty and irregular maintenance service performed. I really don't get why people wouldn't service a new car. Maybe they figure it's new so it's not necessary?.
    I think that's part of it. I think it's also that cars have become so well built and service intervals so long that people either forget or don't get around to it. When you had to replace tires every 15-20,000 miles or get a tuneup every 30,000 miles, you had an incentive to do what was required to keep that expensive service at bay. Now, with tires lasting 60-80,000 miles and tuneups lasting 100,000 miles, some people will own a car for several years without having to do major maintenance on it.

    Tech has gotten expensive, too. My tech charges $115/hour (dealers charge more). Different manufacturers require different expensive diagnostic suites to properly troubleshoot and adjust electronically-controlled systems. Features which are expected today -- automatic transmissions, power windows, power-operated side mirrors with heaters and directional signals -- have gotten expensive to repair and replace, as well.

    Quote Originally Posted by Geila View Post
    On maintenance - since it looks like this lack of maintenance is a common theme - what would be the minimum that would be acceptable when buying a used car? Also, I notice that the only maintenance that shows up on the reports is done at dealerships, which leads me to believe that service at non-dealerships is not reported. How would you account for that? Or would you assume that it hasn't been done, since there is no record of it? Err on the side of caution?

    Ok, one more question. If you had to choose between body damage that has been repaired or lack of maintenance, which would you choose?
    I think it depends on the criticality of the car system.

    On my turbodiesel, for example, the timing belt is to be changed every 100,000 miles (or after five years' time, whichever comes first). If the timing belt breaks, havoc (and parts) break out inside the engine; a very expensive repair. The rule in buying a used VW TDIs is that if the TB has not been replaced at the appropriate time or by someone who doesn't know how to do them (say, the tech that is on retainer for the used-car lot), you should figure on having someone knowledgeable do the TB job again just to be sure. It's cheap insurance relative to the cost of its failure.

    Some other systems, though, are less critical. The tech down the street from me should have no issue repairing brakes or a switch on the dash that's not working properly. You also get some more warning when those components are failing (brake noise, switch works intermittently, etc.) and the failure generally is not as catastrophic.

    My experience is that there are Web forums for pretty much every make and model car. Those are good places to find out the design shortcomings that turn into frequent (or expensive) problems for any model in which you are seriously interested. The site for VW TDI owners has been invaluable to me in caring for my car properly and diagnosing issues before they cost $$$. The sites for DW's Kia Soul seem to concern themsleves primarily with how many horsepower racing stripes add to the car (but that's a good thing because it means there aren't expensive repairs to discuss). It wouldn't hurt to spend an hour or two cruising through the appropriate forum once you've got a car in which you're really interested, just to make sure of what "they all do" that you should check that could cause a breakdown or cost money later. Oh, and it's not like anyone other than the dealership is a screwup (on the VW TDI Web site there are plenty of horror stories about work done by dealership techs; they're not all great).

    As for the question about body damage and lack of maintenance, give me body damage almost every time. As I wrote earlier, I have zero interest in a car that's been banged up enough to be branded "salvage" or "rebuilt". But body damage for most cars is not rocket science and, over long-term ownership, a body panel that rusts early is far less of a problem than a transmission that's never had its filter or fluids changed or a half-a**ed timing belt job.

    Besides, around here, road salt eats up most bodies unless the manufacturer has put a lot of effort into preventing corrosion (not all do).

    Quote Originally Posted by Geila View Post
    ETA - thoughts on a 2015 HYUNDAI SONATA 1.6T ECO? Just saw one online listed at $12,600 with 40k miles. History unknown at this point.
    I'm not aware of any particular issues with that car in particular other than a situation that presents itself in most direct-injection engines (like my TDI and the Hyundai 1.6T). I'll avoid a long technical explanation (this post is long enough, right? ) other than to say the way the engine is designed for power and economy makes it vulnerable to buildups of carbon inside the cylinders, especially for engines that don't often warm up during operation. Good-quality gasoline (or diesel, in my case) with detergents can help keep things clean and there are chemical cleaners which can be run through the engine once the carbon builds up. In severe cases, some of the engine has to be partially dismantled and the carbon buildup physically removed (and then it's good as new). It's not a fatal issue and it is not an issue specific to Hyundai (or Kia, its sister company, or VW). It's the nature of the beast. You can help identify the issue if the car feels unexpectedly lethargic when you drive it. If it does, either move on (if there are many other choices) or negotiate the price knowing it may cost a couple hundred to clean things out.
    Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome. - Booker T. Washington

  2. #32
    Senior Member Geila's Avatar
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    Steve - I really appreciate all this info. Dh and I are clueless when it comes to cars. Our local tech charged $175 an hour several years ago and we never knew if we were getting ripped off or not.

    What are your thoughts on Mazda? I saw a couple of Mazda3 and Mazda6 in the $13-14k range. But I noticed that the two I looked at had both had the front and rear brakes replaced by the Mazda dealership to put them up for sale (they guarantee a minimum of 50% life left on the brakes and tires as part of their certified program). Both cars were 2015, one with 75k miles, the other with 50k. And I saw the same thing on a few other cars as well. I'm guessing the brake replacement is due to harsh vehicle use? I thought brakes lasted longer than that.

    And thank you for the info on the car forums. I will be checking out the Kia cars next - the Forte and Rio since I want a sedan. I really like Honda cars, especially the interior; I find them very comfortable and nice looking, but I feel like I'm getting priced out. It seems that if I want a decent Honda or Toyota I'll be needing to spend over $15k and by the time you add in tax and such, I can get a new car for just a few thousand more.

  3. #33
    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geila View Post
    I really like Honda cars, especially the interior; I find them very comfortable and nice looking, but I feel like I'm getting priced out. It seems that if I want a decent Honda or Toyota I'll be needing to spend over $15k and by the time you add in tax and such, I can get a new car for just a few thousand more.
    We are a Honda Fit family. (DH had one, as did DS, DD, and DDIL) They are small but affordable, and they are very versatile in terms of fitting stuff in it (true to their name). They are small and less comfortable than a full-size sedan for long-trips, but we've been really happy with ours.

    On the topic of plugging cars that I personally own and love, I do love my Prius, but looking at the mileage you're after for a specific budget, not sure it would work for you. But my 2007 been very reliable over 11 years of driving it, and I get 48-50 mpg.

    NOTE: DH no longer has his Fit. Since we've moved to VT he's been dying for a pick-up truck, so when he recently totaled the Fit, we decided to get a used truck. He did some research, not a lot, but we checked out a 2004 Chevy Avalanche. He loved it and we paid $4200 for it cash. Hoping it lasts a couple of years!! The mpg is terrible, but at least we'll be able to tote our garbage and firewood!
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  4. #34
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    Lack of maintenance before a accident. Even if maintenance not done at a dealership they should still have the bill to prove they did it.

  5. #35
    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Teacher Terry View Post
    Lack of maintenance before a accident. Even if maintenance not done at a dealership they should still have the bill to prove they did it.
    A lot of dealerships will "scrub" service records provided them by a conscientous owner -- that avoids all those ugly questions of how much (or what or how often) the car was repaired or why cars without solid service records don't have them.
    Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome. - Booker T. Washington

  6. #36
    Senior Member SteveinMN's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Geila View Post
    Steve - I really appreciate all this info. Dh and I are clueless when it comes to cars. Our local tech charged $175 an hour several years ago and we never knew if we were getting ripped off or not.
    $175/hour isn't terrible especially in a high-cost-of-living area and if the tech knows what (s)he's doing and (s)he's flexible with customers. I like that our guy understood that some customers were on a really strict budget so, if safety was not involved, he'd do an 80% job if that's all they could afford. He also wasn't stuck on using only original-manufacturer parts (we paid him to install a backup camera on DW's car rather than me try to dig through the interior and do it many months from giving her the camera). I doubt the Kia dealership would have said yes to that.

    Quote Originally Posted by Geila View Post
    What are your thoughts on Mazda?
    My take is that they're good cars. We owned a 323 maybe 25 years ago; I really liked that car. Fun to drive, useful, nicely-equipped, well-built. Mazda's build quality is not quite up to the level of Honda or Toyota, but still is quite good if you're reasonably attentive owners and keep up with preventative maintenance and chase down new noises.

    I would not be concerned about replaced brakes on a used car. Brakes are a balancing act, if you will, of how quickly they stop the car, how much effort they require from the driver/brake boost system, how much heat and dust they generate while in use, cost, and factors the manufacturer does not control, like the driver's method of driving or the kind of use the vehicle is given. I drive mostly in the city, so I have to slow down and stop much more often than someone who has a 30-mile daily commute on the highway to and from one of the fourth-ring suburbs here. And I think we've all seen cars in front of us where the brake lights are having a kind of epileptic fit from being operated so often. The brake pads on my car now are different from the last, which dusted like mad and weren't all that great ice cold; paying more for new pads should fix that (I hope).

    I'll throw this out, however: 75,000 miles in four years or so? I'd like to learn whether the previous owner had a long commute or if they were delivering pizzas or lab samples around town. That's 20,000 miles a year, which is getting considerably past average.

    Quote Originally Posted by Geila View Post
    And thank you for the info on the car forums. I will be checking out the Kia cars next - the Forte and Rio since I want a sedan. I really like Honda cars, especially the interior; I find them very comfortable and nice looking, but I feel like I'm getting priced out. It seems that if I want a decent Honda or Toyota I'll be needing to spend over $15k and by the time you add in tax and such, I can get a new car for just a few thousand more.
    My preference for Kia is http://www.kia-forums.com . It's a relatively slow forum, but they cover all Kias and the people there strike me as interested less in the car jewelry and more in keeping their cars going. There also, in my experience, are fewer of the hooyocks who don't understand it's not 1972, when they got their first car, and what they did to drive and maintain that car doesn't work any more (on the Kia Soul forum, one oldtimer from Florida kept busy trying to convince newbies that just letting most of the air out of the all-season tires was the key to winter traction ). Good luck.
    Success is to be measured not so much by the position that one has reached in life as by the obstacles which he has overcome. - Booker T. Washington

  7. #37
    Senior Member jp1's Avatar
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    I've never bought a used car, but I can present a somewhat non-standard situation as an owner of one. The details, it's a 2002 Accord with just over 40,000 miles. Dad bought it new and had maintenance done at the suggested mileage intervals but not the suggested age intervals, all at a non-dealer repair shop. For instance the timing belt has never been replaced. I'm struggling with when I should have it done. I know it needs to be done before it breaks because a broken timing belt will destroy an interference engine, which I assume this car has. I will probably get it done in the next year or so, especially since I've now committed to owning this car until the end of its useful life, as I'm about to explain.

    The car has also recently been in a low speed accident that required $5,000 in repairs because the bumper wasn't involved, which has resulted in it now having a salvage title. I had the repairs done because I intend to keep the car for several more years and don't care about resale. I just wanted to keep the car. Knowing how minor the accident was, and the excellent shape it was in otherwise, I decided it was worth it.

    I can produce a lifetime of repair records and pictures of the damage from the accident. I doubt I could sell it for more than $3,000 because of the salvage title but anyone buying it (if I were to sell it today) would be scoring a MAJOR deal. But a careful buyer would likely realize that and be comfortable making the purchase because, as mentioned above, I have all the records, I have pictures showing how serious/not the accident was, and I'd be totally upfront about exactly why the car's history is so non-standard.

    But without a good understanding of how to inspect a car yourself (every time we get it serviced the reaction of the service people is "whoa! This car is in great shape!") it would be tough to pick out the diamond in the rough. For instance, personally I'd be fine ignoring the lack of service at a dealer if the seller could produce service records from an independent shop that showed that it was maintained according to the recommended schedule. But I wouldn't trust someone who said "I do all the maintenance myself." They may well have, as a friend does, but I don't have the knowledge to verify that.

  8. #38
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    In the ten years before his retirement, DH always had a company car. At first, they were Hondas but then his company switched to Kias of all sorts because they cost less but still had great reliability. Have you checked for older Honda CRVs? There are a ton of them on the road. We bought a 2011 a few years back and it has been a great car.

  9. #39
    Senior Member beckyliz's Avatar
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    We had a used (2004?) Mazda Tribute a few years ago. It was a sturdy small SUV. I would definitely buy another one. We have two Subarus now (Forrester and Outback). I think they're a bit more pricey up front, but I am a fan of their safety and good repair history.
    "Do not accumulate for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and thieves break in and steal. But accumulate for yourselves treasure in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, your heart is also." Jesus

  10. #40
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    A couple more resources for confidently buying a used car: AAA and AARP. I recently sent my grandson to AAA, because, you know, grandma can't possibly know that much about cars... I think he did well with them; they explained the pitfalls of salvage titles from the insurance perspective, and steered him to a good used SUV.

    Not that SteveMN isn't sharing great info- I've learned a few things here.
    And thanks for the KIA link, I have a 2014 Soul, not much going on there, its a Great car!

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