Buying a used car with a warranty for my elderly mother in three days.
August 25, 2014 4:01 PM   Subscribe

Hi, I am visiting my mother for a few days and need to buy her a reliable used car. Carmax doesn't have anything she is interested in, but we both like the idea of a $1500, five year warranty. Are there other warranty options out there for used cars that are just as good?

Here are all the messy variables and conditions: 1. I am afraid she will get talked into a piece of crap if I leave without accomplishing this. 2. She wants to spend about $8,000. 3. We went to Carmax, but the only thing in her price range is Chevy Cobalts. 4. I really, really like the $1500 bumper-to-bumper warranty at Carmax, but they don't have the cars she wants.

I guess my question is: Is it possible to get a Carmax-grade extended warranty elsewhere? How do certified used car warranties work? Should she spend more money and stick with Carmax?
posted by mecran01 to Shopping (8 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Since you don't mention a budget, I'll tell you about a recent used car purchase I'm very happy about.

Earlier this year, I contacted my usual dealer about the model I wanted, and they had a 2013 in stock with only 12,000 miles. The price was right, and there are two years remaining on the original manufacturer's warranty. So in this case, the warranty cost nothing.

Six months later, I'm still a very happy camper.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 4:12 PM on August 25, 2014

Best answer: Is it possible to get a Carmax-grade extended warranty elsewhere?

Yes. The term you are looking for is "third-party warranty" - a warranty sold by someone other than the two parties involved in the car purchase transaction. Two such companies are Warranty Direct and EasyCare.

How do certified used car warranties work?

More specificity would be useful here. In general, used car warranties are the same as any other warranties. If something breaks, the company writing the warranty will fix it. Used car warranties are notorious, however, for the company writing the warranty to either refuse to cover anything, be reluctant to fix anything, or to promptly go out of business after selling the warranty.

Should she spend more money and stick with Carmax?

Consider that any warranty that is statistically "worth it" (ie, the expected pay-out from the warranty is more than the cost of the warranty) would never be sold. Extended warranties are a statistically losing proposition for anyone buying them. Note that I said "statistically" here - it is entirely possible to save money with an extended warranty, but the average buyer will not. If it was statistically likely to save money with an extended warranty, the company writing the warranty would promptly go out of business.

In other words, the only thing an extended warranty does is pay for car repairs up front and make some money for the company selling the warranty. You can do the same thing yourself, and avoid all the hassles of dealing with the warranty company, by simply paying for those repairs yourself.
posted by saeculorum at 4:15 PM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

Have you looked on the Carmax website? If you express interest in a car at a different location, they'll ship it to your local Carmax for you to look at. You're not limited to what is on the local lot.

That's how I ended up with my current car.
posted by donajo at 5:08 PM on August 25, 2014 [2 favorites]

$8000 isn't much for a used car. If your mother doesn't drive many miles, maybe look into a lease on something new? they're fully warrantied. Usually not good deals for people who have to drive a lot, but for lower milage allowances per year, might be a decent deal.
posted by TheAdamist at 6:30 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Is she going to be able to pay cash? I used to sell cars, and this is how I buy used cars.

I go onto a lot (I sold Chevys; I personally like the reliability of Toyotas.)

I walk up to the first sales staff I see. I ask them what they have on the lot for $8000 out the door. (That means, what can I take home today, tax and title included.) If she has specific needs (only automatic; only a four door) add that to the description.

I assure you, lot sales will do their damndest to find you a lovely car for your price range if you're paying in cash. Most Toyota lots *only* sell certified used cars. Some of them will be happy to sell you an extended warranty as well.

If she's having to finance that $8000, you can still try certified used lots. Another good choice is Budget or other rental car outlets-- they sell their fleet fairly new because they rack up the miles pretty quickly, but haven't been on the road for ten years.

For eight grand, I wouldn't buy a small domestic car unless it had less than 80,000 miles on it (and the lower, the better.)

For a Toyota or a Honda, it would not be untoward to pay that for a car with upwards of 100,000 miles on it. They are workhorses, though they can be expensive to service if something does go wrong.
posted by headspace at 6:32 PM on August 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Hi, thanks for this information. I am jet lagged and went to sleep at 7:30 pm so just got back--sorry.

We will either visit a Toyota lot with cash or have Carmax deliver something. I also appreciate the advice on warranties. The only problem with leasing a car is that my mother tends to use them as dumpsters with engines attached. I'm driving her old car and I've got to clean it out today because of all the food wrappers and odor. And this is after only a month since her Niece cleaned it out for her.
posted by mecran01 at 2:59 AM on August 26, 2014

I hope you find success visiting Toyota, but I want to point out the obvious here: Honda is another great choice for reliability and low maintenance. I don't know what she's after but the Honda Element is very popular among retirees, and the Honda Civics are great all-rounders.

(Also - long shot here but I've heard very good things about buying a car through Costco. Very hassle-free.)
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:13 AM on August 28, 2014

Response by poster: My mom ended up buying a used Corolla and really likes it.
posted by mecran01 at 11:57 PM on March 21, 2015 [1 favorite]

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