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Dependable Car to Last 2 - 3 Years
Old 11-13-2013, 11:27 AM   #1
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Dependable Car to Last 2 - 3 Years

We need to buy a dependable, new / used car for a child in college with ~6 hour drives to college and back. We want something safe and dependable with decent mileage that doesn't cost a fortune.

What kind of price point would you look at? How many miles on a used car would you look at? Is 100K too many miles to buy used?

We usually only buy new cars and drive them until they wear out, but in this case he will graduate debt free in a well paying major, so he can afford to buy the car of his choice once he is working. But we need something dependable but not too expensive for the interim years.
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Old 11-13-2013, 11:31 AM   #2
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Japanese (ideally Honda or Toyota) with >100K miles = no problem.
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Old 11-13-2013, 11:55 AM   #3
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Our 97 Camry has 200,000 miles on it. Still runs like new. No problems whatsoever. Our 2006 Honda Accord still runs like a new car.

I would avoid a domestic brand in favor of a Japanese or certain Korean brands/model years.
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Old 11-13-2013, 11:56 AM   #4
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Wait for Sarah to check in. She's the master at buying old cars and should have some great advice.

We've been doing some looking recently, but decided to just sell our spare car instead of trading it in. However, we spent some time looking at CarMax cars. They only sell cars that have been put through some rigorous screening. I'm not sure how their prices match up, but WYSIWYG. No haggling. Worth taking a look at.

By the way, our two current cars both are over 100K and very dependable. Mileage isn't as important as care. An older car with 100K would be more dependable than a younger, harder driven one with the same mileage IMHO.
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Old 11-13-2013, 12:05 PM   #5
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Japanese (ideally Honda or Toyota) with >100K miles = no problem.
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Old 11-13-2013, 12:56 PM   #6
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Wait for Sarah to check in. She's the master at buying old cars and should have some great advice.

We've been doing some looking recently, but decided to just sell our spare car instead of trading it in. However, we spent some time looking at CarMax cars. They only sell cars that have been put through some rigorous screening. I'm not sure how their prices match up, but WYSIWYG. No haggling. Worth taking a look at.

By the way, our two current cars both are over 100K and very dependable. Mileage isn't as important as care. An older car with 100K would be more dependable than a younger, harder driven one with the same mileage IMHO.
Yes, I saw CarMax mentioned in another thread and already sent the link to DH for us to look for a car there. He likes haggling even less than I do so he was all for shopping there first.

The former owner care part leaves DH not completely convinced about getting a used car. He is concerned that a used car might not be cost effective after paying for potential repairs. I think if we have it checked out and buy a dependable brand the odds are on our side that it will be a much better ROI than buying new, especially since we don't need it to last forever.
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Old 11-13-2013, 01:05 PM   #7
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Japanese (ideally Honda or Toyota) with >100K miles = no problem.
I second that. We bought a 2000 Toyota RAV in 2009 that had 110k on it for $5500.

It's been a reliable car, and cheap to maintain.
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Old 11-13-2013, 01:11 PM   #8
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The former owner care part leaves DH not completely convinced about getting a used car. He is concerned that a used car might not be cost effective after paying for potential repairs. I think if we have it checked out and buy a dependable brand the odds are on our side that it will be a much better ROI than buying new, especially since we don't need it to last forever.
If you don't want to buy used, go for cheapest new Japanese metal, i.e. Nissan Versa.
Not as good reliability ratings as Honda or Toyota, but if new, it's covered by 3/5 years (36k/60k miles) warranty.
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Old 11-13-2013, 01:13 PM   #9
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For this case, I don't see how you could justify buying a new car on the grounds of cost savings. It's very unlikely that a $7-11K used Accord/Camry is going to cost $10K+ for repairs over 2-3 years. With smaller/cheaper cars the gap narrows some, but is still there.

OTOH, if you just really want to buy a new car for other reasons, then by all means go for it!

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Yes, I saw CarMax mentioned in another thread and already sent the link to DH for us to look for a car there. He likes haggling even less than I do so he was all for shopping there first.

The former owner care part leaves DH not completely convinced about getting a used car. He is concerned that a used car might not be cost effective after paying for potential repairs. I think if we have it checked out and buy a dependable brand the odds are on our side that it will be a much better ROI than buying new, especially since we don't need it to last forever.
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Old 11-13-2013, 01:17 PM   #10
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Thanks for the endorsement, harley!
There is an art to buying older cars and keeping them running. A lot of creedence in the creampuff concept.

Here's what you need to do: start reading Craigslist and the local classifieds. Old folks use the classifieds way more than they use Craigslist. Be warned.

You are looking for a sedan, 4 door and VERY uncool. Something with fairly low miles AND that your kid will not like. Some examples from my own fleet: a Buick wagon, a Buick LeSabre, an Oldsmobile Cutlass Ciera, and the venerable favorite, the 4 door Saturn. These have mostly been purchased new by the old person now selling them, because no one in their right mind at 30 or 40 would buy one.

I also only buy from private parties. It actually takes a psychopath to stand in front of you in their own driveway and lie to you about a car. Whereas if they are trading it to a jockey lot somewhere, they can say "sure, runs great" to the trade in guy. Nope, private seller ONLY for me. I want them to tell me little things about the car, as if they know it. Like, sometimes in the cold, you get "x" when you crank up. Or "I got that battery up at NAPA last year, should still be in good shape". I don't care a rat's butt about some sophisticated car detail report--I'd rather see a car that was maintained by the owner, not a shop, though if they have maintenance records, that's okay, too.

Maybe we've been lucky, but I've loved all my old cars, and never spent more than about $3k-$4k on any of them. Most of the time, less.

Good luck--the old car has an added bonus of being cheaper, WAY cheaper, to insure.
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Old 11-13-2013, 01:20 PM   #11
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I second that. We bought a 2000 Toyota RAV in 2009 that had 110k on it for $5500. It's been a reliable car, and cheap to maintain.
I remember when I bought this car, one of my friends was horrified I would even consider buying
a 9 year old car with over 100k on it! Almost five years later, and it's still running.

The thing is, though, that if you know what you are looking at, you pay attention to reliability ratings, and
the previous owner is able to produce maintenance receipts, there are some good deals out there.
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Old 11-13-2013, 01:22 PM   #12
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I second that. We bought a 2000 Toyota RAV in 2009 that had 110k on it for $5500.

It's been a reliable car, and cheap to maintain.
That is good news. I think a car like that would be a good choice for what we need.
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Old 11-13-2013, 01:26 PM   #13
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For this case, I don't see how you could justify buying a new car on the grounds of cost savings. It's very unlikely that a $7-11K used Accord/Camry is going to cost $10K+ for repairs over 2-3 years. With smaller/cheaper cars the gap narrows some, but is still there.
Excellent points! We are too used to looking at product life cost. It is hard for us to think shorter term.
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Old 11-13-2013, 01:31 PM   #14
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Simple rule, mostly applies to New England - anything after 10 yrs old and/or 100k miles is prone to problems. Age is more significant than miles. We purchased two cars recently on for 23k, Toyota Prius, and a Chevy Sonic for $13k. Both are great! I have three college age kids and they enjoy the Sonic alot! Any good used car that is not old and has low miles is close to the price of a new one so I have not found any great deals and buy new.
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Old 11-13-2013, 01:31 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by daylatedollarshort View Post
We need to buy a dependable, new / used car for a child in college with ~6 hour drives to college and back. We want something safe and dependable with decent mileage that doesn't cost a fortune. What kind of price point would you look at? How many miles on a used car would you look at? Is 100K too many miles to buy used? We usually only buy new cars and drive them until they wear out, but in this case he will graduate debt free in a well paying major, so he can afford to buy the car of his choice once he is working. But we need something dependable but not too expensive for the interim years.
Daylate, just remembered that we bought a Honda Fit last year, a 2009, also manufactured in Japan, that
another one of my daughters drives. She gets around 30-35mpg in town, and it's been reliable so far.
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Old 11-13-2013, 01:41 PM   #16
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My mom's 2001 Saturn SC2 with 16,000 miles is going up for sale soon and I think we will list it for about $4,000. You know that story about a little old lady who drives only on Sunday to the grocery store?

I don't think I would trust the odometer if I saw the car being sold by someone else. The low mileage is pretty unbelievable.
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Old 11-13-2013, 01:44 PM   #17
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My mom's 2001 Saturn SC2 with 16,000 miles is going up for sale soon and I think we will list it for about $4,000. You know that story about a little old lady who drives only on Sunday to the grocery store?

I don't think I would trust the odometer if I saw the car being sold by someone else. The low mileage is pretty unbelievable.
You are just the kind of person I'm talking about. But even I've never bought one with 16k on the odometer. Lowest I ever got was a 10 year old Buick with 26k on it. Blue book doesn't really reward extreme low mileage in older cars, be warned.

So...where do you live, again? I miss our pair of Saturns. Got way over 300k miles out of both of them.
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Old 11-13-2013, 01:46 PM   #18
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.........
There is an art to buying older cars and keeping them running. A lot of credence in the creampuff concept. ..........
I'd second what Sarah said. I shop the seller as much as the car, preferring to buy from older, upper middle class people that had the money to maintain the car. They usually just want to get more out of it than the dealer offered, but aren't trying to wring out the last dime.
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Old 11-13-2013, 01:57 PM   #19
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My family has had great luck with Corollas, but Toyota's don't depreciate enough. If you are looking for a well depreciated car I'd buy a domestic brand. A Chevy Prism (98% Corolla) or front wheel drive Pontiac Vibe (98% Matrix) would do nicely. ;-)
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Old 11-13-2013, 02:01 PM   #20
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All great advice. Thanks so far.

Who even needs a paid by the hour financial adviser when I have you guys for free?
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