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Car Buying Advice-Help deciding on used car

findingmywayfindingmyway Posts: 5
edited March 2017 in General
Hello. I'm pretty new to the car-buying scene and was wondering if anyone had any advice or recommendations for cars I should be looking into as well as just some general information.

Backstory: My last car was a 2007 Buick Lacrosse CXS that I bought used. It had a few little quirks, but was overall a solid car. My friend borrowed it once, and let's just say it doesn't drive anymore. Lesson learned, don't trust anyone haha. So I have another chance at finding the right car for the right price, and I could use some help filtering through the sheer number of cars on the market.

Here is my situation and what I'm looking for.
  • I have a good-paying job lined up, but it doesn't start until July, so I need to keep the down payment and next 5 months of payments below 2000 total if possible.
  • I'll have to be moving for this job, so a non-zero towing capacity would be appreciated, but might not be a necessity.
  • Sedans are preferred.
  • My last car had some "Luxury" features such as back-up sensors, aftermarket radio, remote start, heated seats, automatic climate control, etc. The more of these I could have, the better, but none are essential.
  • Hopefully the car would be reasonably fuel efficient, but not terribly underpowered. (Ex: a 2012 Chevy Cruze 1LT I test drove felt anemic, a 2015 Dodge Dart SXT was noticeably better, but I doubt I'd find a good match for my old 240HP Buick)
  • Cruise control is pretty important (Most of my driving is 3+ hours at a time, highway)
  • Style-wise I prefer sporty-looking cars (who doesn't?), so again, the Dart I looked at got points there.
  • What are your thoughts on recent model used cars (still under factory warranty) vs less expensive out-of-warranty cars?
  • Some 4-cylinder cars I've seen have noticeable motor vibration which I'm not a huge fan of. Is this a just a thing with 4-cylinder cars in general? The Buick was a V6, so it didn't have this problem. Is it something you just get used to?
Thank you for your help.


  • stickguystickguy Posts: 32,411
    where are you locates? And you had big, but seem to be looking small. Are you flexible? And what is your goal for total cost outlay?

    in general, warranty is not that important if on a tight budget, as long as you buy a good quality car. That could save a ton of money.

    moving is also tricky, if you are going out of state, because might have a double dip on fees (DMV, possibly tax).

    For 2K, you are really looking at maybe 1,000 down and $200/month, so not getting anything particularly expensive (or new or low miles!) for that. So, a couple of random thoughts:

    Get something really cheap, just to tied you over. Once you get the new job and salary, you can flip that for something better. Alternatively (the dream scenario!) is borrow a car until you move, and buy something then. Will save you a lot in the short term.

    If you do buy, given your circumstances, consider taking out as long a loan as possible to keep the payments down, then once you are established, pay off early or refinance.

    The other usual option for no cash to put down and wanting modest payments, is to do a lease. You could easily get a decent new small car (Elantra, Jetta) for 1k down/$200 month. Plus full warranty and no worries about maintenance costs. Of course, without a job now, could be an issue (unless you have one and can qualify). My son did this when he was first out of school and in a "starter" job, but hadn't saved up much and was paying student loans. By the time that lease ended, he was ready to buy a nice car.

    2019 Acura TLX A-spec 4 cyl. (mine), and 2013 Acura RDX AWD (wife's)

  • stickguystickguy Posts: 32,411
    if you are really interested in price and want something not too old, a few domestics could work. A Chrysler 200? Prior generation Malibu? Functional cars (and the Malibu at least should be reliable). An Altima, tons of those out there. Last generation Sonata or Kia Optima can be a really good deal. On the smaller side, an Elantra (look for a limited for "stuff"). You are probably looking at something in the $10K range to get a good mix of cost/quality. Where you are located of course will impact prices, and availability.

    and don't plan on towing with any of these options. Better off renting a truck and doing it right. Can always tow the car!

    2019 Acura TLX A-spec 4 cyl. (mine), and 2013 Acura RDX AWD (wife's)

  • Thank you. My home address is in northeast Massachusetts, I am in my last semester of college outside Albany, NY, and I'll be moving to Maryland for my job (hence all the highway driving).

    Yeah, I am pretty flexible in what I get, I just don't want something that is going to cost a ton in repairs or gas, and 4 doors is pretty much a must. I was initially hoping to keep the total cost under 10k (my Buick was 8K). Fees due to moving aren't a huge concern, especially because I'll likely at least have my first paycheck or two before I have to do anything about them.

    I do have someone to cosign a loan with me, not sure how a lease would go, especially with me moving so far away.

    I did some shopping around last weekend and the best I found was the 2015 Dodge Dart SXT for ~11,000. Does that sound reasonable? The same dealership has the same year Ford Focus and Fiesta that I might be able to get for less (not sure, the guy I talked to wasn't sure either). Think those might be worth a test drive?

    And no chance of borrowing anything. Nobody's got more cars than they need around here.

    Thank you for your help here. I'll be the first to admit, I feel like a fish out of water trying to make decisions like these.
  • suydamsuydam Posts: 4,035
    The cars you are looking at aren't the most reliable vehicles. I'd look for a used Chevy Malibu or Cruze. Or a used Buick Verano since you had good luck with Buick. They depreciate like rocks but are pretty dependable cars.
    '14 Buick Encore Convenience
    '17 Chevy Volt Premiere
  • The problem with the Cruze (at least the one I drove) is that it had no power behind it. Around here, especially with the speeds and amount of traffic on I-90 and 495, having reasonable acceleration is a must. Maybe that's just the the 1LT trim? And my mother has been driving a 2009 Cobalt and it's already had a number of recalls, defects, and electrical issues. I know it's been a while since 2009, but are newer model Chevy's more reliable now?
  • stickguystickguy Posts: 32,411
    I went to college near Albany (Schenectady), Have family in the area. My BIL went to Sienna, another went to UA.

    tough buying a car before you graduate. Can you possibly wait until you do? Just fake it until then. Also, not sure if this has changed, but years ago a friend moved from NY to MD, and they charged them sales tax a 2nd time when they reregistered the car. Worth checking!

    when you do start, most makers offer recent college grad programs. Basically have to prove that you have the job lined up, and they treat you like you are already working and give you some financial incentives, including good rates. Could work to get a cheap lease if you wait until summer.

    the Dart is not a very well regarded car, but the good side is that they get cheap, quick. The Chevies are better options. The Fiesta is probably not going to be enough car to make you happy though.

    $8k sales price is a tough place to be. Lots of crap to weed through, and can take time. Plus the better price stuff would be private sales most likely.

    And buying in Albany, gotta be real careful on older stuff (rust).

    a few things near me (just examples):

    Pay extra for a Camry, but they tend to be reliable. This is on budget, but will be this miled up to fit.

    I actually like this one. if you want features and HP, here you go.

    if you really want a Fiesta, won't find a used one with less than 61 miles. And certainly cheap.

    an elantra.

    lower mile one up by you. baser model though.

    decent price on a Cruze. Nothing fancy though.

    2019 Acura TLX A-spec 4 cyl. (mine), and 2013 Acura RDX AWD (wife's)

  • Thank you for all those suggestions. I'll look into them more over the next few days. BTW, I am planning on buying in MA. The average price for cars is lower and the MA lemon law is the best I know of from the customer's point of view.

    And waiting until I graduate would be difficult as there is no Uber here, taxis are expensive, rental cars are even more expensive, not everything is within walking distance unfortunately, and when I graduate I'm going to have to move my stuff home, so I'll need a car for that. Renting a car for 2 days would cost as much as one monthly car payment. It's pretty ridiculous honestly.
  • stickguystickguy Posts: 32,411
    good luck with it all. Just for laughs, found a replacement Buick for you, with classic old man owner miles on it.

    2019 Acura TLX A-spec 4 cyl. (mine), and 2013 Acura RDX AWD (wife's)

  • suydamsuydam Posts: 4,035
    Well if mildly sporty is part of the criteria that won't do! That's why I suggested the Verano.
    '14 Buick Encore Convenience
    '17 Chevy Volt Premiere
  • graphicguygraphicguy Edmunds Poster EmeritusPosts: 11,436
    Probably would stay away from the Dart. I think they are ceasing production on them. And, they aren't very reliable. Would probably look at something cheap (as in $2,000 total cost), but look at a Toyota or Hyundai. Forget about mileage or "sportiness" because that's not going to matter at the price point you're looking at.

    Once you start your job, as stickguy points out, you'll qualify for the "recent college graduate" financing that most manufacturers offer.
    2018 Acura TLX 3.5 SH AWD A-SPEC
  • Key word there is manufacturers though. These programs seem to be targeted at getting people to buy new cars, not used. The first few years is where you can lose the most in depreciation, I'm fine going a couple model years back if it saves me like $7k in the total cost of ownership of the car, and I'm not really worried about getting some special deal from the manufacturer if it ends up costing more in the end.

    And I have thought about getting a really cheap used car, but I wouldn't be comfortable in it. I'd rather get something I like and keep it for a while than buy something I plan on getting rid of.
  • stickguystickguy Posts: 32,411
    Might be better to work backwards. Find a used car dealer you can trust (for me, the one I posted most of the links from) and see what they can get you into for your budget. As already noted, the specific model (within reason) is not as important as age, miles and condition.

    Good luck finding that dealer though! But they are out there.

    2019 Acura TLX A-spec 4 cyl. (mine), and 2013 Acura RDX AWD (wife's)

  • suydamsuydam Posts: 4,035
    I feel it's better to get a used car from a new car dealer myself. I've negotiated some pretty good prices that way and had pretty reliable cars.
    '14 Buick Encore Convenience
    '17 Chevy Volt Premiere
  • stickguystickguy Posts: 32,411
    My experience though is you pay more, and at most places, they are newer and more expensive to start with.

    Hard to find a nice $8k car there (though I found that Buick!), but that is likely to be regional.

    2019 Acura TLX A-spec 4 cyl. (mine), and 2013 Acura RDX AWD (wife's)

  • suydamsuydam Posts: 4,035
    I found that with Buick too, which is why I suggested it. And dealers do get older cars as tradeins. I just found less sleaziness there -- even less than at the new car sales departments.
    '14 Buick Encore Convenience
    '17 Chevy Volt Premiere
  • tbirdmarcotbirdmarco new yorkPosts: 3,838
    you are upstate near whair my iolder brother lives. My little sister is going to Albany college. what about an sivick accord carola. hmm will have to think of sum mor. what cars do you like. have an grate night.
  • asafonovasafonov MinneapolisPosts: 409
    All good comments above, including potential double taxes, reliability issues with the (discontinued) Dodge Dart, etc.

    Some questions you know answers for:
    - How much driving per year do you anticipate to do once you start a job?
    - What is your expected commute - long vs. short, free-flowing vs. mostly gridlocked.
    - How is your credit.

    A few candidate vehicles come to mind (I have recently helped a young relative select a car to buy):
    - A previous generation Impala. Powerful, surprising highway fuel economy, appears to be reasonably durable and reliable.
    - A 2013-2014 Ford Focus. If your commute is compatible with a manual transmission, by all means get it.
    - A previous-generation Ford Fusion.
    - For a cheaper alternative, the discontinued Mitsubishi Galant. The future of the parent company may be doubt, and parts availability with it if you plan to hold long-term.

    Good luck,

  • asafonovasafonov MinneapolisPosts: 409
    To add: I see 2010-2012 Impalas around where I live (Minneapolis-St. Paul) for well under 10k. Most, but not all, with fairly high miles, though. If your credit is decent, and with a co-signer, you should not have a problem financing something like this with 1000k and around 200/month. You may want to join a credit union - Pentagon FCU (used to be open to all with a "shares" account, not sure about now). Of course, good idea to watch for the total price of the vehicle, not just the monthly payment, but you already know this :smile:
  • @findingmyway, there is some great tips and advice from the community on this thread. I agree with staying away from the Dodge Dart or Chrysler 200 due to reliability concerns. Most of what you mentioned about having the "get up and go" acceleration you're looking for is going to be hard to address due to its subjectivity.

    Since you came from a V6 Buick, a 4 cylinder is going to feel like it's lacking power. It would take a while for that to wear off. I think compact cars are a great option but you're going to feel the lack of "acceleration" in pretty much any 4 cylinder you drive. Larger mid-size cars have larger 4 cylinder engines now but will most likely have the same lackluster feeling unless you find one with an optional 6 cylinder engine.

    If a V6 is going to be a must, I would look at something like the Nissan Altima 3.5 V6. I'm a little hesitant as some of the CVT transmission can cause some issues. I also agree with the idea of an older Ford Fusion 3.0 V6.

    Here are some example of the two that might fit your needs:

    I know these are a drive from Albany but they are good examples of what is out there.
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