Car Debate: Old & Cheap or Newer & Costs a Bit More

Car Debate: Old & Cheap or Newer & Costs a Bit More

This is a discussion on Car Debate: Old & Cheap or Newer & Costs a Bit More within the Off Topic & Humor Discussion forums, part of the The Back Porch category; We are expecting our another child this winter and we need to acquire a bigger vehicle to transport the kiddos in. My wife is wonderfully ...

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  1. #1
    Senior Member Array McPatrickClan's Avatar
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    Car Debate: Old & Cheap or Newer & Costs a Bit More

    We are expecting our another child this winter and we need to acquire a bigger vehicle to transport the kiddos in. My wife is wonderfully supportive, will drive a van, SUV, wagon, she doesn't really care that much as long as it is safe & somewhat reliable.

    Money isn't easily had around our house (I am a seminary student who works three jobs to make things happen) but we are by no means in the poor house. We are doing fine and just like to be smart with what we have.

    So I got to thinking...

    A car is a notoriously depreciating asset. As soon as you drive it off the lot (brand new) you can throw a brick of money out the window. So I was looking at the other end of the equation. How about those dirt cheap (sub $5K) vehicles that are considered "diamonds in the rough" by magazines like Consumer Reports? For example, a 1998 Ford Expedition is considered a Consumer Reports Best Buy. It's only valued at about $6K and could probably be had for $5K or less if you find the right seller.

    The problem is that a car like that would have about 125,000 miles on it. I've asked around and some family members have said they think cars turn into pumpkins around 125-150K. I don't know. I kind of feel like I am willing to roll the dice. I'd like to pay cash for this car (if possible) and just be done with it.

    I don't need anything fancy. I am a savvy buyer and can spot a problem car but I can't read the future. What do you guys think?


  2. #2
    Ex Member Array Ram Rod's Avatar
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    Thing is with an older vehicle....you have to be a good judge of how it's been kept, and a little bit mechanically inclined to solve the small problems one can have with a vehicle with that many miles on it. I've been taking care of our Kia Spectra 2001 model with 132k miles. This past year, I've done one plug change, a good TB cleaning, removed the A/C compressor from the belt routing as it went bad, changed out the power steering pump, and replaced the starter as well as changed the oil almost every other month. It's time for a CV axle on the passenger side now to the tune of about $400. It sure is saving on gas though compared to my alternative 2002 Dodge Ram pickup with 117k miles on it. 4 cylinder vs 8 cylinder and gas is $3.60 per gallon. A certified pre-owned under 80k miles and a 90 day warranty should still get you some financing options from a good dealership. New vehicles are coming with better warranties these days to compete and financing can run up to six full years depending on credit. I see your dilemma, and for us, the car will be getting replaced more than likely after the first of the year, and I'll more than likely need to replace the timing belt and water pump before then. Good luck, weigh the options, shop around. I think with the current economy, it's a buyers market.

  3. #3
    Distinguished Member Array Fitch's Avatar
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    The most important requirement for a car is reliability.

    My thoughts about a car choice are pretty much all related to safety:

    1) With a wife and child in a car, the most important requirement is reliability. You don't want the car failing to run in the wrong part of town, or leaving them stranded in bad weather.

    2) With babies, and young kids the ability to securely install a car seat and have good access to it pretty much requires a 4 door vehicle.

    3) Physical protection for the occupants is very important. In that regard I regarded power windows and door locks to be mandatory when we lived in Southern California. I also limited my choices to vehicles with high crash resistance ratings.

    4) Depending on where you live, what sort of weather conditions are in the area, especially if you have a lot of snow and/or rain, all-wheel-drive with electronic stability control can be a major safety feature.

    5) I regard a cell phone as mandatory safety equipment in any event.

    The brands of cars that are reliable enough to warrant buying used ones are well known. It's no secret that buying a 2 year old Toyota, or Honda, is a pretty safe bet. Nissan's, not so much - at least according to my friend who is a service manager at a Nissan dealership.

    Lease return Toyota's or Honda's are frequently a very good deal. They tend to be low milage for their age because of lease limitations.

    Types of vehicles:

    I don't know what category a Toyota Highlander fits in, but it is a very good family vehicle. All wheel drive, electronic stability control, reliable as gravity with the prescribed maintaince, good visibility, doesn't require expensive tires, lots of room, easy access to all the seats for child seating, room to carry all the stuff that comes with kids, etc.

    We like our Highlander a lot, but it isn't the only similar vehicle. A vehicle like this, in a make that has a solid reputation for reliability as the vehicle gets older, would make a good choice.

    Some people will say they won't buy a Toyota because they want to buy American. Good luck with finding a car that is all made in America. Toyota assembles cars in this country and employs lots of folks. Sad as it is, that is as made in America as it gets these days.

    Fitch

  4. #4
    Distinguished Member Array Fitch's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by McPatrickClan View Post
    The problem is that a car like that would have about 125,000 miles on it.
    The only car I'd buy with that many miles on it for my wife and children to drive around in would be a Toyota (first choice) or Honda (second choice) from someone I "knew" had maintained it by the book.

    Fitch

  5. #5
    Member Array WarHorse1961's Avatar
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    It depends on how long you plan on owning the car.

    If you're SURE you can afford it, I'd recommend a new vehicle. A used vehicle can "nickle and dime" you to death if you happen to get a lemon. And with 125K miles on it, you're looking at some major/costly repairs in the future. With a new kid on the way, that may not be a good thing.

    Generally speaking, a new vehicle is more reliable than a used one. I feel a lot better knowing my wife and kids are riding in a reliable vehicle.

    The "depreciating asset" argument never really made sense to me. It's true, a new vehicle does lose value quickly. But, do you plan on selling it as soon as you drive it off the lot? If you expect to own the vehicle for a while, depreciation shouldn't be an issue. I just bought my wife a 2008 Pontiac G6. Depreciation never crossed my mind.

    DISCLAIMER: I drive an '86 Mustang (240K miles) and my wife drives an '89 Grand Am (well, until recently. 210K miles). These are/were daily drivers. I obviously keep my vehicles for a very long time. But, I also have the mechanical ability to maintain them myself.

  6. #6
    Senior Member Array ICTsnub's Avatar
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    If you need an suv, the one car that comes into my dealership running great with high miles time after time, is the 4 liter V6 Explorers. Gas prices have killed suv values, too.

    If I were you, I would look for an 02 or newer base XLS model. The 02's are the first of the IRS Explorers, and the driveline will outlast the bells and whistles. If you need a third row, look for a basic XLT.

  7. #7
    VIP Member Array ccw9mm's Avatar
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    There are numerous Ford Expeditions around. You've got a lot to choose from. I wouldn't have any problems picking this as an over-sized unit for a family. Lots of mechanics know the Fords, there are plenty of spare parts to be had and boneyards that have cars/parts for the Expedition.

    Here's what I would do:
    • Head to cars.com, to search around your zip code. If that doesn't work, gradually look around a wider area (ie, 100mi from you, 500mi from you).
    • Find a dozen examples whose major features/data suggest they might be winners (ie, < 100Kmi, all maintenance done, whatever).
    • Determine the VIN, then check it on CarFax. Not bullet-proof, but it can help to unearth issues.
    • Call to confirm what maintenance has been done. Consider ALL the possible maintenance that SHOULD have been done across those years, including often-missed items such as suspension bushings, exhaust, all fluids beyond oil, etc. Run like the dickens from someone who says: "10yrs, and it only needed oil and brakes." That's a perfect formula for getting stuck with someone else's maintenance negligence.
    • In that person's home town, have a mechanic lined up that you can take the car to, for an independent review.
    • Come with $X in cash, so you can make a low-ball offer that's hard to ignore.
    • For the right example, be prepared to fly there, drive back.

    It might take a month or more, but you're highly likely to find a great example this way.

    Ditto on the comments about Explorers. They're a dime a dozen, these days, and they're built much the same way to the same quality levels. If that's a sufficient size, that's a good way to cut the purchase cost by half.

    Quickie search on cars.com: 74 cars under $9K and within 75mi of Fort Worth. Click.
    Last edited by ccw9mm; September 1st, 2008 at 08:22 AM.
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  8. #8
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    In Gainesville, as well as in most cities, we have several used car lots that only deal with almost new vehicles...no junk...no cars with high milage, usually 5,000 - 30,000 miles.
    All the vehicles look like new cars. I must know 20 people (from school, or my neighborhood) who have purchased a car from this place.

    We bought our Pathfinder there almost 3 years ago. It had 27K miles on it and looked brand new. This gave me 8K miles to find any problems that would be covered by a full warranty...there were none.

    The price was much less than a new car, but I had a clean vehicle with a full warranty, and someone else absorbed some of the depreciation.

    One can find clean used cars in the private market if you look long and hard. Most people (especially today) do not sell a dependable vehicle...used cars are going to have their problems. You might be able to solve the problems rather inexpensively, or you might get taken to the cleaners...be careful.

    I have been so satisified with this place, that I don't think I would ever buy a new car again.

    Good luck with your search!
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  9. #9
    Distinguished Member Array Stetson's Avatar
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    Pathfinders are a nice vehicle I had one the only thing I didn't like about the nissan 6 cylinder engine is 60 mile timing belt change.It's a $700 repair bill by the time you get done changing water pump,belts,timing belt.If you gamble
    not doing repair you could ruin engine if belt goes. I have a subaru which is a
    wonderful all wheel car,get good gas mileage 19-28 and very reliable and last forever.

  10. #10
    Distinguished Member Array bandit383's Avatar
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    I never buy new...lots of very good deals out there.

    Look for something around 02-03 with 50-80K.

    Check craigs lists.

    Check Kelly blue book, NADA, or Edmonds (google the link) for values. Edmonds also has consumer ratings and issues by make, model and year. You can also google the type car and usually there is a blog group that can tell you the pros and cons for the vehicle googled.



    I try to get close to the trade-in value of the car for a good deal.

    Good luck...best thing you can do before laying down that much cash is do the homework.

    Rick

  11. #11
    Senior Member Array Roadrunner's Avatar
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    I'm currently driving my seventh car and first brand new one. Every other car I have owned was either 8+ years old, high mileage, or both. I experienced the nickel and dime effect even on the one that was very low mileage. It's what finally convinced me to buy new. Buying used can be great if you manage to get a good one, but a lot of times you can't see that little part that's getting ready to let go and cause $500 in damage. My recommendation would be to buy new or very lightly used. For a new car I settled on a Hyundai and like it a lot. It compared favorably to the Toyotas I drove (seriously) and was quite a bit better than any of the domestic vehicles I drove. I would have even bought a Kia had any been available with a stick shift. They're just older generation Hyundai models, so you get the warranty and quality but don't pay as much. The Korean automakers have come a long way in a short time, they're definitely worth a look. Good luck.
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  12. #12
    Distinguished Member Array Paymeister's Avatar
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    BEFORE YOU BUY NEW, read Don't Get Taken Every Time by Remar Sutton. It is the scariest book I've ever read: Stephen King's monsters go away when you close the book, but car dealerships don't. He ran the sales dept of a dealership and outlines the tricks they pull. I won't EVER buy a new car.

    Eight years ago we bought a dinged up '96 Sentra with 118K miles on it for $1800. Since then it has needed perhaps $800 in work, and at 224K we are now beginning to hear a knock and are starting to go through some oil. It was fun to go back to the lot that sold it to us and complain that it hadn't lasted as longas I had expected!

    For good stewardship I would encourage you to look for 'ugly but mechanically sound', and the suggestions above for older vehicles are probably well worth considering. I would hesitate before considering 'new', as that usually means monthly payments... and debt-slavery.

  13. #13
    Senior Member Array TheShadow's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paymeister View Post
    For good stewardship I would encourage you to look for 'ugly but mechanically sound'
    Why?

    After 30+ years as a bodyman/painter I find cars and trucks that have been pampered inside and out are the same vehicles that have had regular maintenance. No reason you can't find a used car that looks good and has been taken care of. Stay away from the corner car lots as most of there stuff is junk. Look for an individual selling instead of a large dealer and you will get a better deal. The dealers add on a lot of charges and the biggest scam is the DOCK FEE around $500 over the final cost! This is for cleaning and inspecting etc. If you do buy from a dealer new or used negotiate with them to wave the dock fee.

    I've bought some great used cars and trucks through the years and have taken good care of them. There are a couple I've sold to neighbors and still see them going down the road almost every day.
    “Put your pain in a box. Lock it down. No man is stronger than one who can harness his emotions.” -Act of Valor

  14. #14
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    The key I think is having a reliable mechanic check out the old car thoroughly.

    I once bought a 6 year old truck with a salvage title. It ran flawlessly for 7 more years. When it was 13 years old I had people begging me to sell to them.

    With a family and a young baby, reliability is very very important. I think I would be looking for a used Honda or Toyota with about 50-75 K miles. Make sure it isn't a lemon or been in an accident.

    Good used cars do exist out there. There really are folks who put only a few thousand miles on a car and then decide to trade to a newer model.

    You just need to shop very carefully.

    Good luck.

  15. #15
    Distinguished Member Array Paymeister's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheShadow View Post
    Why?

    After 30+ years as a bodyman/painter I find cars and trucks that have been pampered inside and out are the same vehicles that have had regular maintenance. No reason you can't find a used car that looks good and has been taken care of. Stay away from the corner car lots as most of there stuff is junk. Look for an individual selling instead of a large dealer and you will get a better deal. ...
    Shadow - good point! What I should have said was, "Make the mechanical condition your priority, not how snazzy it looks". And we agree on the dealer question - the book I cited above goes into great detail on it, too. There's a question of scale here, too: I'm in the thousand-or-two range, while many others are in the five-to-ten range or higher, and will have a lot more options. I forget sometimes that not everyone has made the same mistakes I have!

    Dave Ramsey's article, Why buy a used car? discusses the economics of new vs. used, and would be a good introduction for anyone considering this question.

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