YACBQ (Yet another car buying question)
July 17, 2017 11:08 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking to buy my first new-to-me car that isn't a beater! It's quite exciting, but also overwhelming. There's a lot of information out there that it can feel a bit like drinking from the firehose, but I believe I've narrowed it down to a few different makes and models. I was hoping to get a gut check on both those selections as well as some of the prices that I'm seeing here in the Bay Area.

Thanks to askmefi I've been looking at buying from a rental car dealer, such as enterprise. I like the idea that you know they've been maintained according to the recommended schedule, and if you get a discount that seems even better.

We're looking at a few different cars, my partner really is interested in a Soul, I like the Mazda3 and the Corolla.

We're scheduled to go into the dealership tomorrow to take a look and test drive a few of those mentioned, so I wanted to get a gut check if the prices listed for the cars seemed like a good deal for the value. I've found this process to be a bit overwhelming, so I really do appreciate an outside perspective as well as any advice!

The cars in question:
1) 2014 Kia Soul Wagon , ~35k miles on it for $13,000.

2) 2016 Toyota Corolla L, ~47k miles on it for $14,200

3) 2015 Mazda3 i Sport, ~34k miles on it for $14,000.

We've financing approved for up to $12,000 through USAA and are looking to put a downpayment of 4k-6k so I believe that should be in our price range. I have a mechanic with whom I've set up an appointment to look over the car I do buy in the window where I can return it if there's any issues as well. Is there anything else I'm not thinking of or a process that I should look into before taking the next step?

(I've never bought anything this expensive before, so I'm aware that my feelings of anxiety this has been provoking are a bit groundless, and that in the grand scheme of things it's not a huge deal. So hopefully the answers here help me feel better about having to make this purchase!)
posted by Carillon to Travel & Transportation (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Definitely check the VIN on Carfax for a vehicle history.

Popular Mechanics has a fantastic, color-coded used car checklist. The article explains some of the points as well.
posted by zarq at 11:19 AM on July 17, 2017 [2 favorites]

What will make the difference in the price is the trim level. I can only address Mazda stuff, as I just went through this in February and focused on Mazdas.

The i Sport for the Mazda3 is the lower-to-mid-level trim. With the Mazdas, the engine size (2.0l vs. 2.5l) is going to add to the price and the extras will add to the price. I felt like I got a pretty good deal for a Mazda3 2014 hatchback with 26K miles with the bigger engine and the S Touring level of trim, along with heated seats and some other extras for $17k (I'm in Mass). So just shop around for that model if you like it when you drive it (you probably will, it's super sporty). It's pretty small on the inside, and the storage is basically the back hatch area and the glove compartment. I love mine, but I drove the 2007 version of it for years that was the grand touring trim, and it also had a lot of extra storage like door map bins, a bigger glove compartment, and storage under the hatch area in a lift up thing, and I still miss all that stuff.
posted by clone boulevard at 11:41 AM on July 17, 2017

Can't tell what trim level the Soul is, but we're about to sell that same car, except a year newer and with 10K less miles and a roof rack, for $11K. We're in upstate New York though, so I don't know what Bay Area markup does to prices... $13K feels really high to me.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 1:02 PM on July 17, 2017

If you're interested in a Toyota, you should be able to find a dealer that will sell certified ones around the same price. Toyota's certification process is legit, and I'd feel safer buying it that way than through Enterprise.
posted by astapasta24 at 9:13 PM on July 17, 2017

I guess I should also mention, we bought our 2015 Kia Soul NEW for $13K. So paying that much for a used one doesn't make a ton of sense. It looks like the 2017 base model starts at $16K, and I bet you can find some sales that can take a couple grand off that price, or some financing incentives, which tend to be better on new cars than on used.
posted by rabbitrabbit at 6:22 AM on July 18, 2017

Don't get the Soul. They aren't terrible cars like they were during Kia's first decade in the US, but they have a reliability deficit to begin with, so buying a Soul that is a former rental isn't a great idea. Better than buying from somebody who treated it like they'd treat a rental and didn't maintain it at all.

If I was literally just trying to buy the car that would cost me the least over the ownership period and those were my only choices, I'd go with the Corolla, though again I'd be looking to pay less than that.

Also, I'd be slightly concerned about all three of them in that it seems unusual that Enterprise would be selling a 2016 Corolla with under 50k on it. It likely has a damage history that rendered it ineligible for the normal lease turn back. A sub-40k 2015 Mazda3 also seems a bit suspect.

Rental companies have a few different programs through which they obtain cars. They typically mostly have leased vehicles they have to turn back after a year or two or 20k-40k miles. If the car ends up with more than $1000ish worth of damage or they miss the mileage cutoff, they just bought a car they didn't intend to buy. They also have what are termed "risk" cars, which are so called because they actually buy those outright and keep them for as long as possible. You're more likely to see these at neighborhood locations where most of the business is insurance replacement and other uses that don't pile on the miles. Point being that those are the cars that Enterprise or Hertz should be selling themselves since they are the ones they actually intended to buy. Non-risk cars don't end up there unless something hinky happened. It could be something you don't care about (they messed up and the car ended up over the mileage limit for turn backs) or it could be damage or major mechanical troubles that made it ineligible. The normal process is that the leasing company (whether manufacturer-affilated or not) disposes of the cars, the company just drops them off at a lot and the leasing company sells them at auction or through volume purchasers to people like those specialty off-lease used car dealers.
posted by wierdo at 2:00 PM on July 18, 2017

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