I'm generally freaking out about buying a car (used, my first) and have a short laundry list of very general questions.
My wife and I need a car. Before winter definitely, but within 2-3 weeks for some convenience reasons would be good. She's coming back visiting her folks this weekend, and the hunt begins in earnest, after a few forays to a few places, next week.
Here's what we've settled on so far:
99% sure we're getting a used Toyota, Hyunda or Honda. Reliable, get good reviews in the slightly-old copy of Phil Edmonstun's Lemon-Aid guide my dad lent me, more expensive than American brands but we're not so keen on buying American these days.
My wife wants a 2005 or newer. I'm not sure why but I think she's afraid that I, being a skinflint, will insist on a rustbucket if she doesn't set out some parameters. From what I can see, the biggest price drop is from zero to two years old, so that actually plays well into my penny-pinching ways... if a 2-year-old car costs 75% of original retail and a 5-year-old costs 60%, the most "value" is in the 2-year-old.
Here's the thing: I know bupkis about cars; under pressure I think I'm pretty sure the red ones go faster. I'm exaggerating -- I spent one summer in high school working at a gas station, so I've checked oil before and stuff -- but I'm in no way
qualified to gauge the worth of a used car. I've never owned one, and I'm downhill of mid-30s; hers have always been hand-me-downs so she's never been car shopping.
We'll also be doing all of this in my second language, French, which my wife doesn't speak at all. While I speak pretty good business French and decent conversational French, "car French" is not in my comfort zone.
We have a fair-sized down payment, as we've agreed that it makes more sense to dump our savings on the car than to pay interest on the thing, as interest earned on this money would not outpace interest charged on a car loan. Our budget is $8-10K. We can stretch that up a bit if necessary. Assume we can pay 50% or so of a car in the $8-10K price range.
We intend to drive around town for the most part, maybe the 30 km trip to visit friends in neighouring places once every couple of weeks, and a 400 km round trip to Montreal once a month.
So here, at last, are the questions:
Is "dealer used" a better idea than "used-car-dealer used" or "classifieds in the paper" used? I have the vague idea that the Toyota used lot, affiliated with the Toyota new lot, will offer better vehicles that are more expensive than "regular" used-car dealers, which will be slightly cheaper, and the classified-ad cars will be cheapest of all but highly risky. Is that a fair assumption?
Can I trust a used car salesman? I'm aware of the stereotype, but I'm also of the belief that most people are generally good, and it's a reputation-driven industry. Assuming the guy isn't wearing a porkpie hat, chomping a stogie and telling me this was only driven by an old lady on Sundays as he fiddles the odometer with a grimy screwdriver, is flat-out asking a used dealer for advice a good idea, or begging to be taken to the cleaners?
If a car is nearing the end of its warranty (say 90,000 out of 100,000 km), what does that... er... mean? Are warranties super good? Kinda good? Is there a way to gauge how much a remaining warranty adds to the value of the car?
Is it better to buy an old car with low mileage or a new car with high mileage? This thread
dances around that same question, but winds up being a series of recommendations to check prior maintenance. Which is excellent, but I still need to know -- maintenance done, is a 2007 car with 120,000 km on it better or worse than a 2005 car with 80,000 km on it, assuming price is similar*?
If buying used, is there a huge advantage in buying local? It would be much, much cheaper to shop around in Montreal than here, but that's a two-hour drive away. How important is it to be able to revisit the dealer you bought the car from, barring some sort of catastrophic failure in the first couple of weeks?
Given that we'll be able to supply a sizable down payment, will that put us in a better position to negotiate the financing rate? Most places around here seem to ballpark at 2.9%, which ain't terrible, but I wouldn't mind knocking that down a bit if I could.
Last and most important: I'm feeling overwhelmed, like I don't have enough knowledge to evaluate or to negotiate. Part of me says "dude, people buy cars all the time
but the much larger part of me says "dude, don't be stupid with $10,000
." How in God's name do I calm myself down over this?
This, by the way, is the local Toyota dealer.
This is Honda.
And this is Hyundai.
For comparison, this is the used-car section
of the most popular (by a wide margin) classifieds site in the province, sorted for my area.
*I pulled those years and mileages out of my butt. I'm looking for more of a general answer.