Used cars

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diaperedteenager

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Okay, so i am looking for a car, but i have not much money to spend on one. Whata re some of the best car brands to buy from that are used and are VERY cheap, but also not gonna break down in like 100 miles? I am looking to spend no more than $1500.
 

Hans

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do your research. For that price I would recommend finding private sellers in your local classifieds section. If you, your parents, or someone you know has a subscription to Consumer Reports, they're ok for a general breakdown as to what to look for when buying used.

Generally alot of vehicles in your price range are going to be at least 10+ years old an have well over 100K miles on the engine, so look out for transmission issues, brake lines, pump problems, coolant leaks, etc. GM is especially notorious for these things.

VWs and BMWs will run forever, it's things like electronics that crap out. Avoid the Ford Explorer like the plague. Jeeps are pretty solid if you get an older Wrangler or Cherokee. With all of GMs issues, people I know have been satisfied with Grand Ams and '00 or later Buick Centuries/Regals. My grandmother drives.. I believe it's an '03 Oldsmobile Intrigue that runs like a dream.

If you're looking for more sportier vehicles, I know next to nothing about them, I can't fit in one comfortably and they are too small for my needs.
 

cation

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I've always bought used cars. Keep in mind the cost of replacement parts. You may have to do some repairs sometime and a car that sold off the showroom floor for $30,000 is going to have more expensive replacement parts than one that sold for $10,000. As an example BMW parts will cost more than Corolla or Altima parts.
The year of the car also affects insurance.
I've been driving a '93 Corolla for 3 years now that I paid $500 for and when it needs more than I care to spend for repairs I'll get another '$500 special.'
Good luck in the hunt.
 

diaperedteenager

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I've always bought used cars. Keep in mind the cost of replacement parts. You may have to do some repairs sometime and a car that sold off the showroom floor for $30,000 is going to have more expensive replacement parts than one that sold for $10,000. As an example BMW parts will cost more than Corolla or Altima parts.
The year of the car also affects insurance.
I've been driving a '93 Corolla for 3 years now that I paid $500 for and when it needs more than I care to spend for repairs I'll get another '$500 special.'
Good luck in the hunt.

I like what you said at the end...That is my plan too, i will be like a Hermit carb, once the old car craps out i'll scrap it and move on to a new one, lol.
 

Jeremiah

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How about a compact pickup?

I would look at an older 2 wheel drive pickup myself. A compact one such as a Ford Ranger, Mazda B series, Nissan, Toyota, Dodge, or Mitsubishi with a 4 cylinder engine could be a good choice. They get decent fuel economy (20+ mpg possible), last a while, and are usually cheap to repair. Look for one that runs good but looks less than mint. An old work truck is usually a good choice. These are usually better maintained but lack attention to appearance. Dents and dings happen, but don't affect the function. Value is determined by appearance and drivetrain condition. I choose drivetrain over appearance every time. Getting both is a bonus to me. The Chevy S-10 is usually regarded as the worst for reliability, but also the cheapest. The Ford Ranger with the 2.3L 4 cylinder and a 5 speed is reliable. The Mazda B-series is a re-badged Ford. Nissan and Toyota make excellent little trucks. The Dodge D-50 is a re-badged Mitsubishi. The V-6 engines get lower fuel economy and tend to not last as well as the 4 cylinder engines. Toyota may be an exception to this for reliability. Manual transmissions are less problematic, easier to function check, and provide better fuel economy. Automatic transmissions cause the vehicle price to be higher.

With the current economy, trucks and SUVs have lost value and are easy to find at cheap prices. SUVs are heavier, have more features, and are more expensive to insure. This makes them get lower fuel economy, have a higher purchase price, and cost more to own.
 

Kovy

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I would look at an older 2 wheel drive pickup myself. A compact one such as a Ford Ranger, Mazda B series, Nissan, Toyota, Dodge, or Mitsubishi with a 4 cylinder engine could be a good choice. They get decent fuel economy (20+ mpg possible), last a while, and are usually cheap to repair. Look for one that runs good but looks less than mint. An old work truck is usually a good choice. These are usually better maintained but lack attention to appearance. Dents and dings happen, but don't affect the function. Value is determined by appearance and drivetrain condition. I choose drivetrain over appearance every time. Getting both is a bonus to me. The Chevy S-10 is usually regarded as the worst for reliability, but also the cheapest. The Ford Ranger with the 2.3L 4 cylinder and a 5 speed is reliable. The Mazda B-series is a re-badged Ford. Nissan and Toyota make excellent little trucks. The Dodge D-50 is a re-badged Mitsubishi. The V-6 engines get lower fuel economy and tend to not last as well as the 4 cylinder engines. Toyota may be an exception to this for reliability. Manual transmissions are less problematic, easier to function check, and provide better fuel economy. Automatic transmissions cause the vehicle price to be higher.

With the current economy, trucks and SUVs have lost value and are easy to find at cheap prices. SUVs are heavier, have more features, and are more expensive to insure. This makes them get lower fuel economy, have a higher purchase price, and cost more to own.

Ah, I am going to inherit my dad's old Mazda B2200 compact truck when I turn 16. It's small and simple, but I like it very much.
 

Nam Repaid

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Avoid anything Chrysler Dodge Jeep. Go with a manual transmission if you can, fewer and easyer to fix it yourself problems. Staying with Ford or Chevy will allow you an abundance of cheep repair parts. There are some great foren cars out there but the part priced can be rediculis. I've had great luck with older Escorts and Tempos, My 84 Econoline up to 184K amd my 94 Explorer over 230K.

Nam
 

andysetra

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I've had great luck with older Escorts and Tempos, ...
Seconded. My first car was a '94 Merc Topaz (aka Ford Tempo) and damn was it cheap to fix - and surprisingly reliable too. Taught me how to fix things on cars (everything from changing the oil to an alternator or starter..)

Currently driving a '98 Escort (2DR/MTX) and loving it :)
 

Ace

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Personally, I would simply check with Consumer Reports - take a look at their best and worst used cars list. I've always listened to CR when buying a car and they have always been spot on with reliability. Most things from Honda, Nissan and Toyota will last a while, Civic's, Accords, Corolla's, Camry's, Sentra's & Altima's are pretty much bullet-proof. Steer clear of anything from Daimler-Chrysler, GM's are hit or miss, the Vibe is a re-badged Toyota Matrix, both of which are derived from the Corolla, Both Matrix and Vibe are awesome cars in terms of cost and reliability. Get a stick shift if you can, only thing that really goes wrong with sticks are the clutch, which is a lot cheaper than a new transmission.

Other cars that might be OK, Saturns are cheap, but are hit or miss, I had one and it went over 200K miles with few problems and I bought it for less than a grand. Cavalier's are so-so. I'd be careful with VW's, especially the new beetle, avoid the Mercury Cougar and Ford Explorer like the plague. Ford Escort's are generally OK though.

Again, check Consumer Reports and pick a model that is consistently on their "Most Reliable Used Car" list. Also, you may be able to go to an auto auction, we have one near me that is open to the public. The plus is you can get a cheap car, the problem is they generally won't let you even test drive the car before bidding on it.
 

Nam Repaid

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I gotta wonder what you two have against Explorers? Aside from only 17 MPG mine is as tough as the truck its based on and at way over 200,000mi it just won't quit. Mabey I got the good one.

Nam
 

Lil Snap

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I gotta wonder what you two have against Explorers? Aside from only 17 MPG mine is as tough as the truck its based on and at way over 200,000mi it just won't quit. Mabey I got the good one.

Nam

Even the service guys at a local Ford dealership call 'em Exploders! :smile1:
My experience with them was that the seats were crap, they feel top heavy because of the stiff suspension (I could do a hell of a donut in my aunts, but it scared me) and the OHC engines are hella expensive to repair if the cam chain, tensioner, or anything to do with that stuff fails. BUT, I have seen several with over 150,000 on the ticker.
 

FluffyFluffers

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Buy a motorbike. :D they are more fun.

I'd recomend getting a 500$ car and putting work in it. My dad has done that a few times and You can get some good cars out of it.
 
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I would go along the following road:

Get a Toyota, Honda, or Nissan. It'll be old. It'll look like crap. It'll have 120+K miles on the engine. But it'll run until it rots apart.

Get one with all the manual options you can - manual locks, windows, transmission, seat adjustments, etc. These are a lot cheaper to repair than their powered equivalents.

To give an example: my 1993 Honda Civic with ~169K miles on it doesn't like to roll the driver's side power window up. Down is fine, up is a no-go. It sounded like a contact problem to me, but I wanted to see what the contact plates would cost. They wanted $200 for the whole "powered window and door lock module." I took it apart, cleaned off the contacts, and now my window rolls down AND up.

The only thing to watch on these cars is the timing belt/chain. Hopefully you can get a car in which this job has just been done. It's an expensive job, as they have to remove the engine and other parts inside the engine compartment. After this, it's typically a matter of putting in new spark plugs and keeping up on the oil changes.

But I agree with another poster in this; get a Consumer Reports and let its wisdom guide your decision. You want something that is reliable and cheap to run.
 

Nexeon

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I gotta wonder what you two have against Explorers? Aside from only 17 MPG mine is as tough as the truck its based on and at way over 200,000mi it just won't quit. Mabey I got the good one.

Nam

My Explorer's computer thingy crapped out on it, but it was under warrenty, so at least I didn't have to pay for the replacement. Other than that I havn't had any problems with my 2002 Explorer so far, but I've only had it for a year. Mine only has 82,000km(51,000miles) on it, sure hope it still runs good when it gets over the 200,000miles mark like yours.
 
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I have a '92 Regal, it has somewhere over 100,000 miles, the odometer broke, a few other minor broken things, but it runs like a clock, and I get around 25 mpg highway.

DON'T buy from a friend, do have someone you trust check it out if you don't know how.
 
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I've got a '92 Lumina, it's on the same platform as the Regal, a "W" chassis, and it's just rolled over 210,000 miles, and the only thing I've done to it are the normal maintenance items. It's got the 3.1 V6 in it, and it runs great. I bought it with 106,000 on it back in '03.
I've also got a '96 Monte Carlo with that same 3.1 V6 that a friend of mine had. His wife drove it 200 miles a day to and from work, and right now it has 257,000 on it. The transmission finally went out, the reverse doesn't work now, but I did all of the maintenance on it for them too, and it's never needed anything more than a water pump and an alternator. I bought a transmission for it over a year ago, but I haven't been able to put it in yet. My health problems are what's preventing it right now.
But if you are looking for a reasonably priced, used car, try any of the GM W bodied cars, the Buick Regal, Chevy Lumina, Pontiac Grand Prix, or Olds Cutlass. If you get one before 1996, it will have the older computer system on it, and the diagnostic tools are cheaper for them, although the '96 and newer OBDII computers will tell you more about what's wrong with the car on a diagnostic tool, you have to have that tool to get anything out of the computer. With the older system, you can just plug in a simple coin tool to the diagnostic connector, and the comp will flash codes with the service engine light. Then all you need is a chart to tell you what the codes mean.
If you are mechanically inclined, you could do that easily enough.

Good luck in your search.
 

Ace

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I gotta wonder what you two have against Explorers? Aside from only 17 MPG mine is as tough as the truck its based on and at way over 200,000mi it just won't quit. Mabey I got the good one.

Nam

Not to go off topic, but you must have got a good one. My family had one, it died at 59,000, and it started having some major problems at around 40,000, the 4wd stopped working, transmission sounded like crud and barely shifted right and the engine burned so much oil that a quart of oil needed to be added at every fill up, and it would stall, and buck and run really rough. Also, the HVAC, I don't know if thats what you call it, went, power steering went on it. All before the car was 6 years old and with less than 60,000 - of easy suburban and highway driving.

Back on topic, one BIG thing to look for is the timing belt/chain. This is an expensive maintenance job, but if it breaks, your engine is in trouble. Timing chains generally don't need to be replaced, but some cars use a belt instead of a chain (honda's use a belt) and they generally need to be replaced before 100,000 miles. You may be able to have a mechanic inspect the condition of the timing belt and tell you if its good or not. Please don't confuse the timing belt with the engine drive belt. All cars have a drive belt (commonly called the fan belt or serpentine belt) This is a regular maintenance item and fairly cheap to replace. I just replaced the one in mine, it was less than $50 I think. Thankfully my car has a timing chain, so I don't need to deal with replacing that anytime soon since chains last much longer than belts.
 
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I guess what we're predominantly advising is this:
Pre-Purchase:
  • Check out Consumer Reports's guide to the best used cars;
  • Take whatever car you find to a mechanic for an inspection BEFORE you buy;
  • Test-drive the car on the freeway to check for front-end allignment and shifting issues;
  • Pick cars with as many manual accoutrements as you can; they're cheaper to maintain and less prone to break;
  • Try to find a car that is either nowhere near its timing belt/chain replacement schedule, OR get one that has just had this done. It's about a $900 job.

Post-Purchase:
  • Stick to the oil-change schedule. DO THIS!
  • Keep fluid levels topped up and fresh;
  • Keep tires inflated and rotated appropriately;
  • Replace belts and hoses as necessary - when you replace one, replace them all to combine on labor cost/effort.
 
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Since I am a Ford guy, I recommend getting a Ford. lol

Seriously, If you don't have much money, operating costs are the biggest factor.
Get a small car, only consider 4 cylinder engines, everything is less expensive, gas, parts, tires, etc.
Ford Escorts are reliable, and relatively inexpensive to run.
You could consider a small pickup, I drive a '90 Ford Ranger, but keep in mind the cost to run will be about 40% higher than an small 4 cyl. car.
When purchasing a used vehicle, brand is less important, than how the vehicle has been maintained.
Look for a vehicle that has been well maintained for its whole life. Reciepts for work done are a good indicator that the previous owner cared about the vehicle and had things fixed promply.
Avoid cars that have been described in previous posts, you don't want to be stuck with a vehicle that the previous owner was just driving until the repair bill was more than the car is worth.
It's a good idea to bring a friend that has mechanical knowledge to check out vehicles you are considering purchasing.
Look under the hood, is the engine clean? Also check the underbody to see if there have been oil leaks.
To save on repair costs, your second purchase should be a repair manual for your vehicle, something like a Hanes manual.
You can get these at most auto stores, there about $20, and it will pay for itself with the first repair.
Good luck.
 

sneakydl

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I know this won't be what most people will steer you towards, but the Chevy Carprice is one tough piece of machinery. Look for model-years between 79 and 88.
I have owned several of these ugly-ass cars, each purchased for less than $1000, and never had any serious trouble with them. They simply won't die! Sure, the occasional alternator or fan-belt will fly apart, but you won't find cheaper, more readily available parts for any other car. I bought a remanufactured starter for my 84' for $65, and that was less than two years ago. Decent tires can be had from Wal-Mart for around $30 apiece. The standard 305/V8 is a very well built engine that is easy to repair, and contrary to what many would think, gets around 22-25 MPG on the highway, as long as you keep your foot out of it. You can be doing 80 down the road and the engine will be just slightly over idle speed.
These cars were used as standard police cruisers for over a decade. There is a reason for that!
 
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