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Old 11-21-2013, 11:12 AM
78 posts, read 516,977 times
Reputation: 63


So as you know I buying my first car and I don't have the slightest idea on the right car. I plan to do a little traveling across country next year, I also need it to get to and from school and work. But I don't know what model, make, nor year to look for. I've been browsing craigslist and I don't plan to spend more than $5,000 on a car. I'm going to bring either my step dad, grandfather, or uncles with me to look at cars, there not professionals but they know more than me about cars.

Should I buy a car who has over 100,000 miles on it? What are the basic things I need to check before buying a car? What other certifications do i need on the car besides having insurance? Do I need to take it to a Mechanic? What should I look out for when buying on craigslist? What other things do I have to pay for besides the car? (of course licenses plate, and registration) Do I have to get an inspection?

I would greatly appreciate the help thank you.
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Old 11-21-2013, 12:22 PM
732 posts, read 1,045,378 times
Reputation: 2738
Some will say you can't get a good car for 5,000 or less but that's not true. You just have to be careful to really check the car's condition inside and out. It's good you have some knowledgeable people to shop with you. Since you're looking on Craigslist, I'm guessing you will be buying from a private owner so here are some things to consider.

Ask questions over the phone before you go look at the car. It can save time and screen out cars that don't meet your criteria. Ask about mileage, condition, whether the car's been in any accidents or floods, whether the owner is the original owner. If you ask outright, most people will be honest. That's been my experience. If they fudge on the questions, or are hesitant on answering them, this could be a red flag.

Any car in this price range will have some problems but some things are worse than others so you will want to check things carefully.

When you go see the car, check the exterior thoroughly. Check the body for any signs of damage, dings, rust, scratches, paint or panel irregularities. Bring a flashlight and check underneath for signs of rust. Check the trunk for the spare and jack and for any signs of moisture infiltration. Check the interior's general condition. Check the floor and carpet for any signs of moisture. Check all doors to see if they open and close correctly. Check all power components like doors, windows, radios, AC, heater, defroster, headlights, blinker lights, to see if they work correctly. Check under the hood for general condition and watch for any signs of leakage for gas, anti-freeze or oil.

Then, start the car. Let it idle awhile, then check the exhaust for smoking and check underside again for leaking. Take it out on the road for a good test drive under all kinds of conditions. Don't just take it for a spin around the block. Get it on the highway and open it up. Drive it at highway speeds for awhile and continue to make sure all components work. Take it for in-town, stop and go driving so you can check the brakes and transmission.

When you get back to the starting point, check again for any leaks or smells such as gas or anti-freeze. If you like the car and it checks out OK, then make an offer somewhat lower than asking price and be prepared to negotiate.

It can't hurt to have a mechanic check it out. It likely won't cost too much. Ask specifically for him to check any signs of frame damage, accident repair or excessive rust.

As for the other issues, you might need an inspection to get the car tagged and titled. It depends on the state you live. After the purchase, you will get it insured for at least liability. Then, go to the DMV with the old title and they will charge sales tax and issue you a tag and registration and will process your new title and send it to you eventually. Some states have E-titles so if you have a lien, they may not send you the actual title until it's paid off.

Good luck and shop carefully.
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Old 11-21-2013, 12:35 PM
Location: East of Seattle since 1992, 615' Elevation, Zone 8b - originally from SF Bay Area
44,551 posts, read 81,103,317 times
Reputation: 57750
In that price range a well-maintained Toyota or Honda should be OK even with 150,000 miles on it, and that's about what you will find for $5,000. If you can drive a stick I'd go with that, automatic transmissions are expensive to repair and even a mechanic can't tell if it's going to last another 10,000 miles. I bought a 1997 Escort 5 speed for $950 with 146,000 miles that has gone another 2-1/2 years and is now up to 170,000. On the other hand I am lucky because they are not known to last that long.
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Old 11-21-2013, 12:43 PM
Location: Out there somewhere...a traveling man.
44,620 posts, read 61,584,987 times
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OP, here's a good informational site to read about buying a used car for beginners.
Buying Used Car: Beginner's Guide to Buying a Used Vehicle - Yahoo Voices - voices.yahoo.com
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Old 11-21-2013, 12:54 PM
Location: sumter
12,966 posts, read 9,647,406 times
Reputation: 10432
from what you want to spend is going to limit your choice here. if you are going to be driving it cross country then you will most definitely need something reliable and pretty good on gas . you wont have much of a choice but to get something with high mileage. I would start by looking at a 4 cylinder first but nothing over a 6 cylinder for the purpose of better gas mileage. if you are stuck with that price point then you have your home work to do here. something like a 2003 or 2004 ford focus with 120,000 might put you there but then you would have the question of how reliable. you would also need insurance unless your step dad or grandfather will be adding you on their insurance. also check out a early 2000 or 2001 Honda civic or Toyota camry. good luck
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Old 11-21-2013, 01:27 PM
Location: Central Texas
13,714 posts, read 31,162,494 times
Reputation: 9270
$5000 doesn't go very far today in the used car market. The typical car loses 50% of its value in the first 5 years. Since a typical car, even a compact car, costs $20K or more, $5K is going to buy a 10 year old vehicle with a lot of miles.

I would be shocked if you found a car with less than 100K miles. But that's OK. My Honda has 110K miles and is in perfect mechanical condition. I expect it to run for years to come.

Although I think Korean cars are good today, they were not so good 10 years ago. So I would stay away from them.

Some cars that are solid, easy to get serviced, and reasonably comfortable include the Ford Focus and Mazda Protege or Mazda3. Hondas and Toyotas desirable but have higher prices.
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Old 11-21-2013, 01:41 PM
1,218 posts, read 3,467,775 times
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Once you find a car I would invest 100 to 200 dollars in a PPI (pre purchase inspection)

It could save you thousands if something is found
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Old 11-21-2013, 01:49 PM
Location: MO->MI->CA->TX->MA
7,034 posts, read 14,476,279 times
Reputation: 5580
Do a search for used Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas in your area.

I'd filter further by the following:

Year: 1998 or newer.
Miles: 180,000 or lower.
Price: Under $5000
MPG: 25+

And see what comes up.

Edit: Here's an example (you should change it to your location).

Last edited by ragnarkar; 11-21-2013 at 02:01 PM..
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Old 11-21-2013, 02:21 PM
Location: New Haven, CT
1,030 posts, read 4,275,702 times
Reputation: 917
Usually the first cars I would mention for someone exactly like yourself would be a Civic/Accord, or a Corolla. Theyre just good reliable cars and theres millions of them.

But with a 5K ceiling I would definitely be looking at a VW diesel as well.

Any VW diesel after 1997 could be around your price range. VWs diesel are just everlasting engines and I know of one on the internet with about a half million miles in a late 90s jetta... He might be on CityData as well....?
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Old 11-21-2013, 02:39 PM
358 posts, read 886,336 times
Reputation: 462
Look for unpopular vehicles rather than traditional popular vehicles. You will get a better vehicle for your budget. Stay away form the hot brands of used cars especially Toyota and Honda. You will pay too much and not receive enough added advantage in exchange.

Total miles traveled are less important that how a vehicle was used and how well it was maintained. 100,000 miles is not a magic number after which something happens. Some cars are pretty well knackered by 90,000 while others are in mid life at 150,000. That is not determined b brand, but by usage and care. Some models will have greater longevity than others. Some are particularly trouble prone. However, even a 1994 Ford Taurus can go 180,000 miles with no problems despite most are done well before 80,000.

As far as what to check - check everything. Many things can be expected to be worn. Typically you will need new brakes, tyres, battery It is not uncommon to need a radiator, )2 sensor and a tie rod or CV joint. Those are all just a question of knowing the cost of replacement and negotiating your purchase accordingly. More important are the large dollar items like the engine, transmission or catalytic converter If your budget is $5000, you obviously need to avoid a vehicle that will soon need a $2000 repair.

Some brands (BMW for example) may need extremely expensive maintenance procedures at a certain number of miles. Be certain you know whether there is a costly maintenance procedure pending.

Yes. You should take it to a mechanic. If the seller does not permit this, move along to another choice. No matter what they say, or how much you like the car, if you cannot take it to a mechanic, do not buy it. You must choose the mechanic, not one recommended or selected by the seller.

When buying on Craigslist watch out for incredible deals. If a car seems really inexpensive for what it is, then it is likely salvage title or some form of trickery and even possibly an attempt to rob you or harm you personally. Meet people in very public very bus places. Never meet them at your home. Never go inside their home and never meet anyone in a secluded location. Bring someone with you who stays in your vehicle (but remains visible). Sometimes it is prudent to meet in the parking lot of a police station, but be certain to notify the policemen that you are doing so. When buying on Cragslist, do not accept as true any representation whatsoever. They may sya they are selling the car for an aging or deceased parent, sibling or aunt. This is usually untrue. Most of the time they bought the car to re-sell it at a profit. If a dealership tells you about the history of ownership of the vehicle, you are pretty much certain they are lying. Accept what you see before you and what you can verify through an independent mechanic selected by you. Assume all else is false.
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