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Buying New vs. Used Vehicles

Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 11,025
What's the best value considering your driving needs, budget, and depreciation? Post your thoughts here!


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  • michaellnomichaellno Posts: 4,300
    Not sure that it's about "value", but each buyer has their own approach.

    For example, my wife refuses to buy used .. 'someone elses problems' she says. She also likes the new car warranty and knowing that she's been the only driver.

    For a while, my sister and BIL bought slightly used --- first, an Infiniti G20 back in the mid 90's, then a used Explorer when they started to have kids. Now, they buy (or lease) new.

    I'm sure that this topic will spark lots of debate .. for the same $20K, do I buy a new Hyundai Sonata with the 10 year warranty or the year old Camry or Accord?
  • jipsterjipster Louisville, KentuckyPosts: 5,441
    The best value? My second car was a Olds Cutlass Supreme. Bought it for $1,500. It was about 7 years old, had 74k miles and was in very good condition. Sold it 7 years later for $750. Probably averaged $100 a year in repairs...if that. So, driving a fairly nice car for a little over $300 a year for 7 years...that's pretty good. Anybody out there think they can beat that for value?
  • Bought it for $200 in 1970 with about 70,000 miles drove it for 5 years, put on about 60,000 miles gave it to my sister :D .
  • After I got rid of the Pontiac, I bought a 1975 Rabbit. Big Mistake, piece of junk, got rid of it 3 years later in 1978 when I heard the engines were seizing up. Bought the Olds with 116K miles for $500. Everyone said I was crazy. Crazy like a fox. Drove that one for about 4 or 5 years. I did have to put in a rebuilt transmission for $350! Too bad GM doesn't build cars like that anymore. :D
  • kronykrony Posts: 110
    I think the best deals are 3-4 years old with 40-50K. By that time you've typically knocked half or more of the brand new price and have well over half the useful like left. Even with some repairs you still eliminate the pain of new car depreciation. As with "someone else's problems" that can be overcome by a test drive by a someone with a good ear and a in-depth review by a trusted mechanic.

    In Jan '04 I bought a 2001 Saturn SL2 with 53K for $4300 from a local dealer. This car has been great to drive, overall reliable and gets 25mpg in town. Now with 71K still has a trade in value of around $4000. Even in 3 more yrs with 100K I figure it'll still bring $2500.

    I can see a new post: Best $500 or less car experiences...
  • I've had 3 used cars and I'm finally on my first new car. My first used car was an 88 Taurus wagon bought in 94, didn't last too long. Second car was a 96 Nissan Sentra bought in 99 with about 28k miles and it was perfect, I only got rid of it when I moved away to school. Third car was a used 2002 Acura RSX with 16k and absolutely perfect. Only got rid of it when I traded it in for a new Acura. I probably really should've stuck with the RSX, I purchased it at a fair price, it was in perfect condition (had it checked out by a mechanic and had it run through an insurance database), and it still had a high value when I traded it in.

    I'd buy used again, I'd just be smart about it like I was with the RSX, I learned a lot in buying used a few times and it's definitely worth the money to have it checked out
  • jrdwyerjrdwyer Posts: 168
    There is no way I can beat $300-$500/year in vehicle costs, but here is my example of buying a well-made new car and running it a long time.

    I bought a new '95 Mazda Protege in March of '96 for $13.3K. It just passed 200K miles and runs great with a solid engine and manual tranny (still on the original clutch). Oil usage is only 1 quart every 5-7K miles. I have done most of the service myself. When washed and waxed, the car still looks new. Fuel economy is still at 31-39 mpg. I plan on driving it for another 10 years.

    I have detailed cost numbers because I use this vehicle in my consulting business. Here they are:

    Costs per mile for the first 10 years (192K miles):

    Purchase Price and Finance Cost- $.074
    Gas- .032
    Insurance- .023
    Maintenance- .021 (labor not included for DIY work)
    Registration and Wheel Tax- .004

    Total cost per mile for first 10 years: $.154
    Total cost per year for first 10 years: $2,957

    *Estimated cost per mile for next 10 years:$.111
    *Estimated cost per year for next 10 years:$ 2,131

    *This assumes a doubling of average fuel costs, liability insurance inflation, and a new clutch.

    Government deduction per mile for 2005: $.4317 (weighted average). This is great for my business.

    So here is my lesson: get a reliable car (either new or used), take good care of it, and run it as long as possible!
  • kronykrony Posts: 110
    Great example, and detail.

    So one question I have is at what point do you dump a used car? If the major mechanicals are ok I figure it's always worth putting tires, brake pads & rotors and other "consumables" on a vehicle. Even a clutch I could put justify for a manual trans. My most recent trade in 2004 I got rid of a '93 Buick with 140K. Could have ran it longer but the rocker panels were beginning to rust bad and other things were beginning to go wrong.

    So what's your definition of forever? (Mine is until it costs more than $750) :)
  • jrdwyerjrdwyer Posts: 168
    Forever in my definition means as long as the car is reliable (or fixed to be reliable), safe, and presentable (no big rust holes).

    Rust is a car killer for many people in the north with body work being fairly expensive to try and eliminate it. I don't really have that issue where I live.

    Auto Tranny failure is also up there for early death of a car. And electrical gremlins in today's complex cars drive many to drink or sell.

    Cost of repair has not been a huge issue for me as most repairs and service to date have been under $300. I will spring for the new clutch at $800-$1000. I might even spring for a remanufactured engine if that issue came up before 300K miles. That would be a $2-3K repair.

    I like the new car forever idea as it gives you all the information about the car's repair and service history. With this knowledge and history, I trust that my car will perform well. I also have a sense of what could go wrong ahead of time because I know what parts I've replaced. I would no problem driving the Protege across country tomorrow.

    Buying new is also very important with the 5-10% of us who use a clutch. Clutch wear varies tremendously by user.

    One could also get much of this information in the used market from an honest one-owner private seller with records. By the time a car is on the third or later owner the history and trust of reliability go away (especially past 200K miles). That said, as third owners we did run an '88 Olds Delta 88 from 100K to 200K miles before serious issues crept up and forced us to junk for $50.

    I consider myself a good and safe driver, so I downplay the need for new safety features like ABS, side curtain airbags or traction/stability control. In fact, I think some of these features reduce the long reliability and increase the cost of maintaining a car.

    Your limit of $750 to maybe a thousand is what most people consider the end. Past $1K and I would give repairs serious thought. My hobby of DIY repairs (where my labor is not counted) also makes many problems or maintenance items more feasible for long-term ownership.
  • carlisimocarlisimo Posts: 1,280
    I recently purchased a 2002 Miata. Tons of fun and ~$10k cheaper than a new one, but it's been a mixed bag. It has four or five minor mechanical issues that are intermittent and sneaked through inspection (nuisances that a warranty would cover). I can also think of four or five reasons that I would pay more for the redesigned model than the previous generation.

    At the time I knew that paying $10k more wasn't going to be worth it, but now I realize I'm not going to keep my 2002 for as long as I would've kept a 2006. The depreciation differences lessen the cost differential.

    I'm surprised that I wish I had a warranty. I've been good at doing my own repairs on the 12-yr old beaters I drove until a couple of months ago and even took pride in it... but I guess after driving those old cars I figured a 4-yr old car should be as good as new. It isn't quite true.

    Outside of the car world I think I've regretted being a cheapskate much more often than I've regretted spending money. I'll be careful not to go to extremes, but I'm definitely learning my lesson.
  • steine13steine13 Posts: 2,562
    I've posted this over on RWTIV, so forgive me if you've seen it. But it's pertinent to this discussion:

    Unless something crosses my path that I HAVE to have, I'm going to get a new Vibe or Tacoma within the next half year... I wish to be wooed with incentives :shades:

  • Get rid of it when you get tired of putting too much money in it or when you are on a first name basis with your mechanic. Some people have used the three repairs per year threshold to decide if they should sell.

    There is nothing that can't be fixed. You just have to ask yourself is it worth putting X dollars into that 10 year old car when you could put it towards something nicer and newer.

    Per the buy new versus used, buying new will almost always cost you more than buying a late model used car.

    For what it's worth, my last car purchased was a 03' Mercury Sable with 16k miles (ex-rental) that I bought when it was a year old for $10k in a dealer blow-out. The car was (and still is) immaculate. The car now has 71k miles and has not had a single problem. I estimate that my cost per mile is less than 10 cents/mile. Just try to do that with a new car !

    When the car gets 100-120 k on it I'll sell it for what I can get and buy another clean low-mileage ex-rental.
  • steine13steine13 Posts: 2,562
    Just try to do that with a new car !

    I have.

    1997 Nissan pickup, $10,500 + tax, sold w/ 57k on the clock for $5,700... almost 5 years later.

    1998 Prizm, $9,300 OTD, trading in a $500 car; call it $9800. Sold 25k later for $7,300. These two were strippers with AC and not much else.

    2004 Pontiac Vibe, $14k OTD, sold w/ 27k for $11,500.

    My wife's '03 Sienna cost $21k, has 62k on the clock, and I could sell it on the street for $12. That's 15 cents a mile, but I've spent $1000 in upkeep and repair. Still, that's pretty good for what it is, and the used '98 I bought some years back wasn't any cheaper to run...

  • -Mathias

    Didn't we already have this conversation ???

    As I recall didn't you use some credit card rewards for those purchases. Just maybe that should be disclosed to the unsuspecting.

    As you know most vehicles don't even come close. Also many people want a bigger car or truck than your examples.

    Nonetheless, you are to be commended for your wise purchases.
  • steine13steine13 Posts: 2,562
    Nonetheless, you are to be commended for your wise purchases.

    Tell that to my wife...

    This year, I bought a godawful Prizm that I flipped to a dealer -- that's how bad it was -- and took a $600 bath on... plus the taxes. That story is somewhere on CCBA, but I haven't had the heart to give the details.. just awful...

    Then I bought a $300 pickup... fixed it myself for $30 (whoo-hoo!)....something broke... $400, had it done... something else broke... $400, had it done... exhaust broke... $15 and some elbow grease.... sold it for even money (yay!)... then the battery dies right at delivery and I'm out another $100...

    There's a reason I'm evangelizing towards buying new. I'm only a genius when I'm lucky! ;)

    And yes, I've used the GM Card... but it ain't *my* money, and you can still get the card today...

  • Well Credit Card rebate money is just saved cash in disguise. I have several rebate cards. The Citi and Chase cards send me checks.

    I like that - Money for nothin' and your chicks for free !

    My best rebate story is ...

    I bought the loss leader ad car at a local dealer. I got a brand new 2003 Pontaic Sunfire. It was manual trans but had air conditioning and was trimed out very nicely. The out the door price including tax, license, and all the dealer fees was $6825 which included lots of GM card rebate credits. Clearly this isn't a deal that everyone could do.

    I sold the Sunfire 8 months later with 11k miles for $7000.

    Now what was my per mile cost ?
  • There's a reason I'm evangelizing towards buying new. I'm only a genius when I'm lucky!

    Well I have bought more used cars than just about anybody. I used to do it for entertainment. If you do this enough you will eventually run into a lemon car :lemon: . My lemon car was a 1995 Buick Riviera bought used with 110k miles on it. The car looked almost brand new. But Oh what a hassle it was. In 14 months of ownership it stranded me twice (almost three times) and broke regularly.

    The final straw was when it threw a rod whilst I was on the freeway doing 70 mph. The rod went through the oil pan and oil spilled all over the hot exhaust. Remember those WWII movies where the tanks lay down a smoke screen ? Well that was my Buick.

    I got it fixed and sold it after that. In hindsight I should have poured gasoline over it and torched it right there by the side of the freeway.

    So now we drive new or nearly new cars like the Mercury posted about previously. It may cost some more but there are very few hassles. Life is short and who needs hassles ?

    I do have a 21 year old Corvette that I drive on the weekends. It has it's issues but when it doesn't run well it just gets parked in the garage until I can get around to it.
  • Hi
    I love this board, because I need a lot of advice! My husband insists that buying used is the way to go. I am not a practical car person; that is, I know I should buy a Honda or Toyota, but I want a Volvo or Infiniti or Saab (yes, I know, it's ridiculous). However, I'd buy a new car if it was stylish and fun to drive and not insanely expensive, like a Mini. Basically, I have no kids, will probably transport very little except my 2 pugs, and I drive maybe 5 miles back and forth to work. Also, I live in the Metro area of Minneapolis-St. Paul so we have cold weather, icy roads, lots of salt, all the really great driving conditions.
    I have what I call a "VW" disorder in that I am always drawn to these damn Volkswagens but I know they are a nightmare (I had a Rabbit and a Fox!)
    Any suggestions in the low-end used luxury category or something new that's not Honda/Toyota (sorry I don't like the Yaris or Fit)? I would like to spend less than $20M. I hope this is an ok question to ask. Thanks!!
  • qbrozenqbrozen Posts: 22,070
    wow! less than $20Million? That just opens the doors to all kinds of possibilities. ;)

    ok... i'll assume $20K.

    Volvo and Saab are not in the same category as Infiniti. To the best of my knowledge, Infiniti is quite a bit more reliable (although i'm a strong supporter of volvo).

    5 miles in cold weather is highly abusive to a vehicle. So you definitely want something reliable that can take a beating. Honestly, for a 5 mile trip, I'm not sure why you care what it is. I could do 5 miles in a Yugo before I even realize what I'm doing. ;)

    If stylish, fun, and reliable are the 3 criteria, I suggest a Mazda3. If you really insist on some luxury ... well, that's tougher. I can't think of anything that's necessarily "fun" and "luxurious" while still being reliable, able to take the punishment of short trips in the cold every day, AND under $20k.

    '17 F150 Crew 2.7; '67 Coronet R/T; '14 Town&Country Limited; '09 LR2 HSE. 44-car history and counting!

  • Hi
    sorry, yes, 20K. I work in purchasing and we use "M" to designate 1000.
    I wish I had 20 mil to spend on something!

    I'll take a look at the Mazda 3. I used to have a Nissan Truck and that thing was a nightmare when any mechanicals/maintenance was involved (the spark plugs were in a crazy place, the entire front grill had to be removed to change a headlight, etc.) and I guess I associate this weirdness with Mazda too but I really don't know anything about Mazda.
    Thanks for your post!
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 11,025
    I can't think of anything that's necessarily "fun" and "luxurious" while still being reliable, able to take the punishment of short trips in the cold every day, AND under $20k.

    I can. I bought one. It's a used Infiniti G35.


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  • What year Infiniti did you get? I hear the G35 is a good used car!
  • qbrozenqbrozen Posts: 22,070
    I was thinking of that as the only fun infiniti ... but UNDER $20K??

    wait ... did you and i discuss this before?? I think I was shocked at that time when you told me the price, too. I've yet to see one around here for that kind of money that didn't have ALOT of miles on it.

    EDIT: ya know what? i'll have to take that back. I just went and searched in my area on autoshopper and found like 3 2003s for around $21k with ~40k miles.

    '03 was the first year, I believe, correct?

    '17 F150 Crew 2.7; '67 Coronet R/T; '14 Town&Country Limited; '09 LR2 HSE. 44-car history and counting!

  • Hi
    nope, I've never posted before. I'd be willing to go to $21 if it was a great car.
  • qbrozenqbrozen Posts: 22,070
    oh, no, i meant kristie and i had talked about her infiniti before.

    By the way, $21k would just be the asking price, so I figure that's easy enough to get below your $20k target, which is why I included up to $22k in my search.

    '17 F150 Crew 2.7; '67 Coronet R/T; '14 Town&Country Limited; '09 LR2 HSE. 44-car history and counting!

  • corvettecorvette United StatesPosts: 5,578
    I would pass on a used Volvo or Saab unless you're prepared to deal with repairs. The G35 would probably be a great car for you. If you're worried about driving frequently in snow and ice, you might invest in a set of winter tires.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 19,599
    If you think a Nissan truck was a nightmare, you have no idea what a Saab or a Volvo will do to you.

    Mazda 3 would probably be a good choice.
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 11,025
    Bingo - it's a 2003, had 33K miles on it when I bought it, and I got it for right around $21K. I didn't negotiate the price, though. It was, at that time, more important to me to get out the door, with the car, on that day, in under an hour. I told 'em if they could make that happen, I'd pay asking price.

    And hooliagoolia, it's been a great car for me thus far, but it was exactly what I was looking for. All the toys (including my "must have" heated seats) that I wanted, plus it's comfortable and a reasonably sporty drive. No way to tell if it's right for you til you take a test drive, but I'd recommend driving the Infiniti G35 and the Mazda 3, as others have mentioned. Totally different vehicles, but both should fit the "fun" requirement.


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  • corvettecorvette United StatesPosts: 5,578
    That was the first year of production for the G35... Have you had any problems with it?
  • Kirstie_HKirstie_H Posts: 11,025
    Nope. I just had to have the brake pads/rotors (throw-aways) replaced on Friday, but not too bad given that it's now got 48K miles on it. Regular maintenance items only... no "problems," knock on wood.


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