Help me pick a used car, econ majors!
February 18, 2008 5:18 PM Subscribe
How do you determine the sweet spot between price and age/reliability when looking at used cars?
posted by slow graffiti to shopping (22 answers total) 11 users marked this as a favorite
I'm about to buy my first car on my own; the car I learned on and drove for five years belongs to my parents, and it's time to give it back. All I'm sure of at this point is that I want something small (I really like the Fit and the Yaris, but I've always heard it never makes good economic sense to buy new) and fuel efficient, probably foreign. My budget is potentially as much as $15K with about half of that available as cash for a down payment. Price and reliability are my only big concerns; I don't care much about names and looks if it gets me around and never fails. I think cars are pretty silly but necessary in my case, so I don't want to spend any more than I have to. Now I don't know how to narrow down my search any more, because that means I would have to be more specific about my budget and models and the kind of mileage I'm willing to accept. Is there a point that's definitely "too used" when looking at used cars, where reliability issues make the cost to drive similar to a more expensive, less used car over time? Basically, I know I want the lowest cost per month of ownership over the life of the car, so is there some rule of thumb that says a used car that costs about $X will give me that? What bar should I set for mileage? Nothing over 40K? 100K? You can assume that whatever I buy I will drive until it's totaled or develops annoying mechanical issues; I won't be trading up any time before 5 years, hopefully more like 10. Is there any scenario in which it would make sense to go for one of the cheap new hatchbacks instead of something used?
Help, I'll drown in all the options if I don't intelligently set some parameters! I'm in California if it matters. Specific model recommendations are appreciated, but I figured framing the question in terms of find a used car "sweet spot" is more useful.