Volvo gone, New car needed
March 14, 2007 5:25 PM   Subscribe

Oh no! My Volvo 240 is going down the tubes due to a transmission that just decided to start clanking. I've decided its not worth the $1000-1700 to fix it, so I need to buy a different car relatively soon. I've never bought one before. How do I?

I need a crash-course in car purchasing. I'm looking for a safe, used, efficient, fast, fun car in the sub-$12k range within a couple weeks. I have a well-paying job and little to no expenses. Who should I talk to? What should I ask them? What should I keep an eye out for in the sales pitches? What should I stay away from? Any other tips?
posted by yellowbkpk to Travel & Transportation (10 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Previously 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and my personal favorite, 7.
posted by jamaro at 5:40 PM on March 14, 2007

Response by poster: Oof. Sorry to repeat-o-question.

How about a question more specific to my situation:

Is there anything specific I should keep an eye out for because I am in a time crunch?
posted by yellowbkpk at 5:48 PM on March 14, 2007

Efficient + fast + fun + >12k = SAAB 9-3.

..or an Acura/Honda with a VTEC engine.
posted by wfc123 at 6:10 PM on March 14, 2007

Don't let the dealer know you're in a time crunch.

You want to make them think that you have all the time in the world, and that you're not really ready to buy. That way, they'll work to give you a better deal, and try to "convince" you to buy a car right then. So don't let on that you're desperate for a set of wheels, or you'll be bargaining at a disadvantage.

Other than that, I think the usual rules all apply. When you decide on a car you want, go home and pull up it's KBB value so that you have an invoice price to start negotiating from.

Never tell the dealer whether you're going to buy or finance right off -- be ambiguous, and negotiate it as if it were a cash sale, then once you have a price hammered down, feel free to ask "hey, out of curiosity, what's the best possible rate you could get me to finance this?" and watch them scramble. (But be ready with a pre-approval letter from your bank or credit union in case their offer sucks. probably want to get on the phone to your bank and see what their rate is ASAP.)

Don't buy anything that the manager / final-paperwork-guy will try to upsell you on ("rust proofing," "wheel damage protection," etc.) unless you've had a chance to evaluate it and run the numbers yourself, at a more relaxed pace.
posted by Kadin2048 at 6:26 PM on March 14, 2007

The thing to watch out for buying in a time crunch is that you can end up buying something you wouldn't otherwise buy. Looking around, taking a car to your mechanic to get it checked out, arranging financing (if you need it), etc, all take time. Being in a hurry makes it easy to leave a few steps out, like bothering to look at other cars, being a tough negotiator, or having the car looked at by your mechanic. If you really are in a hurry, it is a lot faster to go to a dealer and buy there, compared to looking at ads in the paper, phoning around, making arrangements to meet different people on different days all over the county, etc. You'll pay more at the dealer, but you can be in and out much faster, and there are a bunch of cars all in one place that you can look at in one go.

Also, if you have been driving a Volvo 240, presumably with an automatic transmission, any car you buy will feel fast in comparison.

Lastly (and you probably know this, and want a new car anyway, and that's fine), it is almost always cheaper to fix a car than to buy a new (or new-to-you) car, when you account for depreciation, transaction costs, etc. There are exceptions, but it's actually pretty rare that buying a car makes any kind of financial sense. That's ok -- wanting safe and reliable transportation has a value, and wanting fun and fast and sexy also has a value. But the cost of the needed repairs to the Volvo isn't really the biggest part of the equation, if you are being honest about it.
posted by Forktine at 6:32 PM on March 14, 2007

You have many choices in purchasing a used car.

First choice is whether to buy from a private party, or from a dealer. If you know cars, or at least the make/model you are looking to buy, private party sales can be a great way of getting a good deal on a car. There won't be any warranty, of course, but the price should reflect that. Buying from a dealer might be slightly safer if you don't know much about cars, as in the sub-$12K range, dealers will wholesale vehicles that are high mileage, or have obvious damage or problems. But you're going to definitely get less car for your money at a dealer vs. a private party sale, due to your purchase price having to cover dealer profit.

Next is to consider your price point. $12K isn't going to get you a late model high performance car, unless there is something radically wrong with it. And a performance car that is 5 or 6 years old is likely to need things like brakes, tires, and major service (engine service like timing belt replacement, full tune up, cooling system service, injector service) within a year of you buying it. You'd be far better off to look at 2 to 3 year old domestic cars in that price range. As an example, according to Kelly Blue Book, you could get a 2005 Chevrolet Malibu 4 door sedan, in the LS trim package, with 35,000 miles, in good to excellent condition, for between $11,650 (good condition) to $12,505 (excellent condition), in a private party sale. That's a car with 3.5 liter V6 engine, that would certianly have 60,000 trouble free miles in it, except for oil changes, brakes, and tires, and maybe, wiper blades. And it would still likely be worth several thousand dollars to a third buyer in 2 to 3 years.
posted by paulsc at 6:41 PM on March 14, 2007

Always check with your insurance agent before you buy. You would be surprised at the differences in rates among similar cars.

For example, I believe you'll pay significantly higher insurance rates for an Acura or certain Honda models - at least some of those are among the top five most commonly stolen cars.
posted by onemorething at 8:01 PM on March 14, 2007

Scion xB?
posted by mdonley at 11:37 PM on March 14, 2007

seconding Scions. xBs and xAs are really Toyota Echos under the hood, which means good gas mileage (each are in the U.S. top 10, last time I checked). The xB looks like a mini-milk truck, which I love. Does not fit the "fast" criteria though...
posted by mcstayinskool at 6:38 AM on March 15, 2007

I've said it before, and I'll say it again. I own a 2003 Mazda Protege5. It's a sporty little piece of equipment, as far as wagons go. It zips when it has to, reasonably, gets good gas mileage, and as far as I'm concerned is rather low-key. They fall in your price range fully loaded.
posted by Geckwoistmeinauto at 11:04 AM on March 15, 2007

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