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Why can't I find a good used car?


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meddiefrac
Novice

Mar 9, 2013, 4:49 PM

Post #1 of 17 (3186 views)
Why can't I find a good used car? Sign In

I'm having a rough time finding a reliable used vehicle under $5000. I feel like the entire used car market is filled with people trying to pawn unreliable cars off, so that they can buy a new one that works better. People get all the good years and miles of a car, and once it reaches the point that the car is starting to cost alot in repairs they sell it on craigslist (without disclosing the fact that the car is on it's way out; they simply sell it as though the car is in perfect working order and ready to be driven another 100,000 miles.)
I live paycheck to paycheck, but I have $5000 to spend on a car cash. However, if that car breaks down on my within a year, and if it costs more than $1000 to fix, I will be in the streets or living in a tent...

I went to a used car lot to buy a car, but all 3 cars I test drove had obvious mechanical issues. The first car was a 1999 Toyota Solara with 188,000 miles for $4995. It was manual, but the transmission felt really sticky, and it had a really hard time going into 1st gear; it also smelled like burning oil in a really intense way. The engine felt like it wasn't receiving full power. I told the car salesman this, and he simply put the car on the lot to try and sell to the next person.
He then showed me a 1998 Nissan Maxima with close to 200,000 miles for $4995. It was an automatic transmission, but the RPMs went all the way up to 4000 and got stuck there before downshifting. The car was constantly lurching and stalling. I stopped by a small mechanic shop and they verified that this car was not worth buying. I took it back to the dealership and told the salesman; he put the car back on the lot to try and sell to the next guy.

He then suggested I test drive a 2000 Ford Focus Sedan with 170,000 miles for $4995. Automatic transmission. This car seemed in really great shape. The engine sounded fine. The car looked in better shape than the other 2. I was in desperate need of a car, and was hopeful that this was worth buying. However, when I test drove it (again, picking up my mechanic to drive with me) it again had transmission problems. Would stick at 3000 RPMS and struggle to downshift. I brought it back and told the salesman I was through looking at cars, and that the Ford Focus was no good. He put the car back on the lot to try and sell to the next guy, and told me to have a good day.

So then I tried to get a car off craigslist. I contacted a young man selling his fiance's 1998 Honda CR-V with 189,000 miles for $4000. He gave me a huge long back story to the car, and when he came to let me test drive the car his story started changing, and he couldn't tell me how long he's had the car. So I test drove the car anyway, and everything seemed fine: but when I asked if I could have the car checked over by a mechanic he balked at the idea, and said that the car is in great working order and that he has other people looking at it.

So I decided not to buy. On craigslist I then found a 1997 VW Cabrio with 113,000 miles, manual transmission. A mechanic was selling it outside his shop, and I needed a car so badly, I felt the need to buy it without having it independently verified by another mechanic shop. Luckily, my friend (who had drove me to see the car) talked me into having it checked out by a different mechanic: and low and behold, the car was leaking radiator fluid and needed hoses replaced, and also needed a new muffler. I declined to make an offer.

After this experience, I decided to talk to my neighbor. He scours craigslist all day, every day, looking for cheap used cars (under $1500) that have mechanical issues. He then talks the seller further down on their price, often fabricating a backstory to make the seller feel bad for him and cut him a deal. He prefers to target people who need to sell their car for financial reasons. He then fixes the cars as cheaply as possible, and sells them on craigslist for a ~$2000 profit (sometimes more). Often, to sell the car he will fabricate a backstory to give the car legimitacy.

I can't bring myself to buy a car from him, because I don't feel like I can trust his cars. He tried to sell me a 1994 Nissan truck with over 200,000 miles for $3000 miles. The car was in obvious disarray; the odometer had been rolled back and stopped working; he wasn't sure if it was the original engine; lots of rust and cosmetic damage.

I then decided to go to a few Dealerships, but I really can't afford the payments on a car right now.

So where do I go from here? Do I keep checking out cars from craigslist? Or do I keep checking out more used car lots and hope to find a car that isn't falling apart? Why does it feel like the entire used car market is a giant scam? Are there really so many people making a living off of unwary car-buyers that know nothing about cars?
No matter how I go about this, I'm going to get scammed...


Sidom
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Mar 9, 2013, 5:07 PM

Post #2 of 17 (3161 views)
Re: Why can't I find a good used car? Sign In

Well.....you're already doing what you need to be doing........You are one of the rare people to actually.........omg.....get a mechanic to look at the car before you buy it...

Too many times you'll see people who buy cars....for whatever reasons......Good salesman, thought it was cute, the guy swore it was good....etc...and then they are complaining after the fact......After they are stuck with the POS & sadly.....now it's their problem...

You are just going thru what is out there........There is a lot of crap out there people are just trying to dump.....BUT....There are some good one's out there..

While 5k isn't cheap....it also isn't in the new car range either.....So keep in mind,,,some little stuff isn't going to be a deal breaker.....Any car...you are going to have to spend money maintaining it......You just want to stay away from major powertrain problems....

Just don't get down......eventually you find a good deal.......and if you do get down......Just think of all those POSs that you would've been stuck with if you didn't get them checked out 1st.....

You're buying smart.....you'll be ok........just don't get impatient and keep weeding thru the crap...

Ask around.....There are some good lots out there who actually care about their reps......They won't sell crap and will take care of their customers....A lot of this is word of mouth......So talk to everyone you can.....


meddiefrac
Novice

Mar 9, 2013, 5:57 PM

Post #3 of 17 (3125 views)
Re: Why can't I find a good used car? Sign In

Thank you so much for your reply. It does make me feel better to think about the headaches I saved myself by not buying those POS cars.

But, life is extremely difficult w/o reliable transportation, especially when you have no family or friends to help you out.

Right now I am spending 3-4 hours a day on a bus getting to university and getting to my job. Taking buses is very draining; sometimes buses are early or late (and if you miss a bus, you have to wait an entire hour for the bus to come around again--causing me to miss classes and/or work.)

Its also near impossible to go around checking out cars (whether its on craigslist or at a used car lot) when you dont have a car to get there. When a car pops up on craigslist that is a reasonable price and in reasonable condition (I dont expect the world for $5k,) the car is often sold quickly before I can find a way to get there.

The only cars that stay on craigslist long enough for me to find a means to get there are the ones that are insanely overpriced or in very bad condition.

I've also been sick with the flu for the past 10 days.

Sometimes I finally get back in the evening, after having spent 12+ hours riding buses, waiting on buses, going to class, working a 4 hour shift, only to come home and realize I have no food in my house. So then I have to spend another 3-4 hours to go to the grocery store on the bus system.

My life is miserable.

If I had a car, it would save me alot of time every single day. It would leave me time to make friends in this town I have just moved to. I could get some sleep. I could work an extra 20+ hours a week that I would save from not taking the bus.

BUT... if I spend this $5k on a lemon, and it breaks down after a month leaving me STRANDED IN THE SAME SITUATION, I will never be able to get a car, and will have to quit school and/or work, because I CANNOT KEEP GOING LIKE THIS


Sidom
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Mar 9, 2013, 6:49 PM

Post #4 of 17 (3116 views)
Re: Why can't I find a good used car? Sign In

Yea i can relate to public transportation....Your at the mercy of their schedule..

And you're right about the good deals,,,they don't last long. That's why you always here the ole "oh yea....I've gotta a couple of guys interested in this baby...one guy is on his way back from the bank right now!!!"....They want to scare you into making a decision without checking it out........Problem is.....if it is a good deal.....Then there is a guy on his way back....but most of the time its' b/s....

I'm not trying to be a wise guy but would a bike fit into your schedule anywhere? It would definitely save you the waiting time....maybe make things a bit easier......I know the weather probably isn't right for it now but if you don't find a car real soon...it might be one time saving option......


(This post was edited by Sidom on Mar 9, 2013, 6:50 PM)


meddiefrac
Novice

Mar 9, 2013, 9:31 PM

Post #5 of 17 (3097 views)
Re: Why can't I find a good used car? Sign In

Thanks again for your reply.

I wouldn't know a good deal if it came up and punched me in my clueless face... I am so lost as what is a good car or what isn't a good car.

HERES WHAT IM THINKING (Somewhat inspired by your bike comment--I can't ride a bike much right now, b/c of knee injuries from the military)

The weather is just now starting to get warm here; WHAT IF: I buy a moped (scooter) to get me to school and to work, and also use it as transportation to go around and check out cars--Not actually buy any cars, but just for the next 2-3 months spend all my free time going around and checking out used cars (asking owners questions, getting a feel for the process, be able to tell when people are being honest about their cars) and going around and talking to mechanics and mechanically inclined people.

Heres the thing: Everytime I go and check out a car, I learn from the experience. I have learned from my experiences at used car lots. I've learned from my experiences using craigslist. I've learned from almost being high-pressure saled into buying a car at a dealership. But by not giving in and buying those cars (even though many people in a situation similar to mine would have given up long ago and just bought the first car their saw) I am light-years ahead of where I was just a few weeks ago when I first started the process.

2 more months of doing online car research, checking out cars in person, networking with people, picking the brains of mechanics, and I will be a knowledgable guy when it comes to the process of buying a car when you live below the poverty line and can't afford to pick a bad car.

BTW, I have compiled a list of the things I need mechanics to look at when I bring them a car I'm think about buying, can you add anything to this? :

Tire wear - how much life and any uneven wear.
Condition of wheel bearings, ball joints, axles, tie rod ends, and suspension bushings.
Brake pad and rotor life - how much longer before replacing? Is fluid dark (often indicating old), which may imply internal rust/ABS module failure pending.
Signs of chassis damage due to an accident. Over-spray, welds, fasteners removed and re-installed.
Chemical test (using test strips) of coolant, brake fluid, and battery fluid.
Test charging system to make sure alternator is putting out a full charge and that the battery can hold that charge.
Shine a flashlight into the oil filler to try and see if there is any gunking up of passages. Should be a uniform rich golden brown colour.
Transmission fluid should likewise smell like oil, and not smell burnt.
Do a compression test.That means pulling all plugs one at a time, and screwing on a gauge tells and spinning the engine - tell you if the cylinder has a reasonable seal.


meddiefrac
Novice

Mar 9, 2013, 9:41 PM

Post #6 of 17 (3095 views)
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In fact, just to spite this entire messed up system that's in place to take advantage of unknowledgable car buyers and SCAM THEM when they are at their most vulnerable, I'm going to take it upon myself as a personal mission to educate myself in every single facet of the car buying experience so that I can help people who live below the poverty line--people to whom buying a working vehicle is a matter of life and death, sinking or swimming, making it to work so that they can pay for food and housing. Buying a vehicle is not a game played between a salesman and a hapless victim, so that the salesman can make an extra $1000 while the victim drives away in a vehicle that has the potential to provide a means for him to better his life but will in fact crap out on him and cause major inconvenience in his life.

Selling cars should not be a system for morally-bankrupt lowlife buy-here-pay-here scum to buy cars wholesale and then sell cars that they KNOW ARE MECHANICALLY UNSOUND to make triple their money back by unloading them on unassuming consumers. Yes, people with mechanical knowledge need to be able to make a living, but not at the expense of others.

Having reliable transportation is a NECESSITY in our society. You cannot have a functioning life without a vehicle, unless you come from a priveleged background.


Sidom
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Mar 9, 2013, 10:39 PM

Post #7 of 17 (3090 views)
Re: Why can't I find a good used car? Sign In

Well you seem to have a good handle on things......Buying a used cars can be one of the happiest/scariest things a person goes thru...and sometimes while it seems like all places are out to scam you, there not, there are some good guys out there as well but I think I know what you mean....

Private party sales can be just as scary......Why are they selling the car???? Is it to dump a major problem on you or just the fact that this well maintained car just doesn't serve the family purpose any more & it's time for an upgrade.....This is where the "So....why are you selling this car????" question is so important...If the answer makes sense, body language, etc... If they have good service records on the vehicle that is a plus...You can tell when some one pencil whips one together real quick....

If you could get a moped for a good price and it would work for your schedule, then that might be the way to go....Just find the best ways to secure it so someone doesn't take it from you... If you can give yourself time....that would be huge....You could find a good deal & maybe even be able to add a little more to the budget & upgrade a bit... Just off the top of my head, for someone in your situation I would probably suggest a Honda, Toyota, Nissan or Hyundia in the mid ranges.....The ones I see are pretty good and the ones I see that have gone thru some severe abuse (lack of maintenance...gas & go) seem to handle that better than some other makes.......

You know....If you go thru this section....You'll notice, this question has been asked a lot lately.....I had been kicking around the idea of making a post and sticking it at the top on some of the basic things to look for when buying a used car...Over the years I've seen people buys cars with some pretty big problems that a simple 5 minute inspection would have revealed before they bought the car...

It might be good for someone to read a post by someone with little to no experience with cars who went out and bought a car while avoiding some of the most common pitfalls...After you do all your research, if you want to come back here and start a new post that would help people thru some of these problems, I would have no problem sticking it at the top of this section. It would be a good intro and then the other mod/techs could add replies on their routines and things to look for. It might help a lot of people...

Take the list you have it's a good list but does need a couple of more things but I would also split it into 2 lists....The 1st would be a qualifier list....This one you would want to spend as little money as possible on....This would just be for what you are going thru now....a good way to weed out the bad deals.. Once you found a car that you are ready to put money down on then you would do the more through check....Most items on your list a buyer could do him/herself. A compression check can be expensive so it's something you wouldn't do unless you were ready to buy...

I know it can be frustrating and may seem like no one is on your side.....keep the post objective and you'll reach more people


nickwarner
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Mar 10, 2013, 10:38 AM

Post #8 of 17 (3057 views)
Re: Why can't I find a good used car? Sign In

Your moped idea isn't the worst one in the world, especially where you live the weather is better than like me in WI. You can get a brand new 50cc around here for a grand. But you could also get a decent used motorcycle for that much too, and be able to get everywhere. I don't know if you know how to ride one or not, but you do know how to drive a stick so learning a bike wouldn't be too bad. Look for something in the mid-late 80's model year and 400-600cc engine and you'd be surprised the prices you can find. I scored an 1100 Yamaha for $800 with a new seat on it 5 years back, but it did need a bit of mechanical work and I knew that going into it.

Might be worth the thought. At least then you'd have something to get around on and that gets great gas mileage.


Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
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Mar 10, 2013, 11:15 AM

Post #9 of 17 (3049 views)
Re: Why can't I find a good used car? Sign In

Since we are actually neighbors, my advice is stay away from the bikes around here. They seem like a great idea in this weather but there is some unwritten rule here that people with blue hair can't see or in many cases think that anything with only one headlight is a lower form of life and they come first. Anything on 2 wheels is very dangerous around here.

The illegals don't have insurance or even a driver's license and they drive like that are on the dirt roads of their homeland. What do they car, their car is worth about $100 and has no brakes anyway.
A scooter that has a top speed of 50MPH will get crushed on an interstate full of lunatics in a hurry. They think you are just an annoying bug on the highway getting in their way.



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Sidom
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Mar 10, 2013, 11:47 AM

Post #10 of 17 (3042 views)
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Desi does bring up a good point......Even a moped can put you in harms way........I haven't riden that much but always pretend I'm invisible when I do.....Plan on that car turning right in front of you, pulling out in frt of you.....You have to have your head on a swivel and figure that you NEVER have have the right of way.......


I must of pinged his IP wrong.....I had him way North of you?


Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
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Mar 10, 2013, 11:50 AM

Post #11 of 17 (3035 views)
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Hahahaha............................ You're totally right Brian

I pinged my own IP ....................... duh



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We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



meddiefrac
Novice

Mar 10, 2013, 4:35 PM

Post #12 of 17 (3023 views)
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Friday I sent out some paperwork for backpay I am owed from the military, once they recieve it within 60 days or less it will be processed and I will have a significantly larger amount of money to work with, and maybe I will just wait to buy the car then. I could then work in the $10,000+ price range or more depending on how much I want to leave myself for future repairs, and I would feel significantly more comfortable with that.

Anyway, I am still doing alot of research into the car buying experience, and have started making a used car buying guide for myself. It is really comprehensive, because I go all out with everything I do. I catch on to things really quickly, and I have uncovered lots of unlicensed sellers on craigslist for my town. Basically 50% of the cars being sold for my town on CL's are sold by unlicensed dealers/backyard mechanics. Some of these are open about the fact that they buy & sell cars for a living, others try to play it off that their "wife got a new car and we just don't need it anymore" until you ask them about the 5 other cars they have sold on CL within the past 2 months, in which case they either get defensive or just hang up.

Some of those guys are new into the game, some have years of experience. But the fact of the matter is: although these guys tell you that the car is in perfect working order (and the car might truly be in working order) they have only had the car 1-2 weeks and couldn't tell you if something major has been breaking down every month in that car for the past year of it's life.

No matter who it is, if someone is selling a car that they have owned for less than 6 months then you must be wary. They could have a legitimate reason for needing to sell the car, but more often than not they have been having mechanical issues with the car and are trying to unload their problems on to you. If someone says that they have "never had any issues with the car whatsoever", be wary.

If the seller of the car on craigslist purchased that vehicle from auction, be wary. For a car owner with no mechanical knowledge, who can't work on repairs himself, these cars have the potential to be a huge headache! Again, you don't know the history of these cars. The benefit of buying cars from an auction is that you can buy a car for a very low price, often thousands and thousands less than it's value, so although you don't know the state of disrepair the car may be in, the money saved more than covers the amount you may have to put into repairs. HOWEVER, if you buy an auction vehicle from craigslist, you are not getting the benefit of an extremely low price! The seller is making thousands of dollars from you, and you inherit a vehicle with unknown history.

When someone is selling a car for less than it's Blue Book/Edmunds.com value: be skeptical! There are two reasons for pricing the car so cheaply; 1.) they just need to get rid of the vehicle quickly for whatever reason, but the more likely reason is 2.) there are mechanical issues with the vehicle. If the seller tells you that "if you don't buy the vehicle now, someone else will surely come along and buy it at this price" or "there are several other people looking at this vehicle and wanting to buy it": that very well may be true, but more often than not they are making it up to get you to buy the car.

Use your intuition; try to read the person. Slow down! No matter how excited you get, NEVER BUY A CAR IMMEDIATELY AFTER YOU FIRST SEE IT! Someone who knows alot about cars can buy a car immediately after seeing it, but we know nothing about vehicles and need to be patient! Get the vehicle evaluated by a mechanic! 9 times out of 10 the mechanic will find something minor wrong with the car that you didn't know about! Even if it's a very small repair, that will at least give you more leverage to bargain down the price. Every single time I've taken a prospective car to a mechanic they have found something small wrong with the car.

No matter if "someone else is on their way back from the bank right now to buy the car", do not act in haste! From when you first see the car, it may take several days to finish the deal. If you check out a car and have the car in your name an hour later, you may have some headaches down the road. Everything could work out perfectly, but for a mechanically disinclined person you may have just purchased a lemon.

DO NOT BUY from a buy-here-pay-here used car lot unless you have the car checked out by a competent automotive shop: the automotive shop needs to lift it up and spend at least 30-60 minutes doing a detailed inspection. They will hook up all sorts of electronics and check out the engine/transmission. This could cost anywhere from $50 to $100 dollars but it could potentially save you $1000's of dollars if it turns out the car is not in running order.


(This post was edited by meddiefrac on Mar 10, 2013, 4:49 PM)


Adam smith
New User

Mar 26, 2013, 12:32 AM

Post #13 of 17 (2923 views)
Re: Why can't I find a good used car? Sign In

Having been married to a dealer for several years and additionally worked lots within the automotive business myself, I can give you some hints you will find quite helpful if you wish to shop for a inexpensive used automotive that ought to provide you with good worth for your cash.

Don't choose a flashy model

Flashy cars that have a cool image square measure doubtless to possess had the heart thrashed out of them by boy racers and different pool life. opt for a build and model that will be bad and boring, however can in all probability are well and cared for correctly.


Discretesignals
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
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Mar 26, 2013, 7:32 PM

Post #14 of 17 (2906 views)
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Another words, scour the retirement villages for cars....





Since we volunteer our time and knowledge, we ask for you to please follow up when a problem is resolved.


nickwarner
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Mar 26, 2013, 9:17 PM

Post #15 of 17 (2901 views)
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Since that poster is in India, I doubt she is married to a dealer, doubt she is a she, and very doubt her name is adam smith. Thats like trying to find the korean named Charley my grandpa was always bitching about.


Hammer Time
Ultimate Carjunky / Moderator
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Mar 27, 2013, 3:03 AM

Post #16 of 17 (2896 views)
Re: Why can't I find a good used car? Sign In

I guess he/she was tired of using "Patel"



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We offer help in answering questions, clarifying things or giving advice but we are not a substitute for an on-site inspection by a professional.



carjunky
Enthusiast

Apr 3, 2013, 6:53 PM

Post #17 of 17 (2861 views)
post icon Re: Why can't I find a good used car? Sign In

Try this url: It Should show you used certified cars for less then $5000 from dealerships within 50 miles of you, or eneter in your zip code once there to tighten up the search.

http://cars.carjunky.com/...n-2,3/pricemax-5000/

Hope this Helps.






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