I'll be attending a new school in the Fall. I live in Chicago and this new school is on the North side of the city, while I'm on the West side. I currently do not have a car and do not find myself in need of one often (although grocery shopping would be much easier). To get to this school without a car involves about an hour, a train, a bus and a little walking. No thank you. OR I could just buy myself a cheap little car to get me through the next two to three years and make my commuting life much easier.
So, I have about $3500 saved up for this purpose. Ideally I would even keep it under that amount if I can find something nice and reliable. I need a car that's going to run consistently for the next two to three years and let's face it, I'd like to have a little vanity about how it looks. I would be driving it to school and back 5 days a week, about 25-30 miles per week. Not much. If it's a great car, I'd love to be able to drive it to Ohio to visit family once in a while, too. My problem is that I know jack about cars. Unless there's an obvious noise or it's on fire, I have no idea that there's something wrong with it. I wouldn't even know how to look.
I've been scouring Craig's list and doing a lot of online searches. I see cars that look really good for their age and are cheap when I compare the price on the KBB site. I assume there's something that needs a serious repair on the car and I don't think I want to take on a car that needs a lot of work right off the bat. Safe assumption, right? I also see a lot of auto auctions around Chicago. I've heard negative things about them. They also make me nervous as you are usually not able to test drive these cars first. I want to be thorough first. I'm not here to gamble on a car. Auction is out.
Alright, here are my many questions:
1) Are sellers going to blatantly lie to me about a car? Is this terribly common? (I've never had to buy a car by myself before. I'm nervous.)
2) I know that I can take a car for an inspection to a mechanic before I buy it. How much does this generally cost? Do you make an appointment for something like this?
3) In your experience, are there certain makes and models that last a really long time? I've always heard Toyota and Honda run forever. Are there other brands I should look at?
4) I did see an adorable VW Cabrio
on CL today from a dealer. It's priced way below the KBB value (well below a "fair" conditioned private seller price, even) so I'm going to pass. However, are VW and other foreign cars more costly to repair? What cars offer the least expensive repairs? I really hope I don't have to deal with too many repairs, but with an older car I'm sure something is bound to go wrong.
5) That said, how do I best maintain a car? I know I should change the oil and keep the tire pressure up. That's seriously all I know. What else can I do to prevent expensive repairs?
6) I know there are some major milestones for cars. Timing belts, new clutches. When do these things usually happen? And if an older car hasn't had these done yet, that makes it an expensive ticking time bomb, right? Are there other major repairs to look out for in older cars?
7) A great mechanic. I don't have one. If you're familiar with the Near West side of Chicago, could you recommend one?
Thanks so much in advance for your help guys. I really appreciate your advice always.