Cars?? What the hey?
We’ve had some interesting car experiences in our 15 years of marriage and some major car problems the last month, so I’m getting it off my chest today and sharing some advice. And money for cars affects money for homes, so it’s legit. Our policy has been to buy older used cars and pay cash and it has worked well until this experience so maybe this can help someone else.
About a month after we moved here my husband was hit and they declared the Honda Accord totaled. He was fine, but we were sad because a) we brought it clear across the country, darn it! b) it was a great car that we found at a great price in Virginia c)I loathe used car shopping. I feel like you never know when people are being honest or if the car is just going to turn out to be a lemon.
Here’s the story: We put off car shopping until Thanksgiving break and finally bit the bullet and went and looked at some cars we had seen online. We found a 2002 Toyota Avalon for a great price with 130k miles on it. That is high mileage but it would be a commuter car, we could pay cash, and my husband’s father has an avalon with over 200k miles on it. We took it to a mechanic, everything looked good, checked the carfax, it was clean but had 3 previous owners. We got it and our goal was for it to last 5-7 more years.
Anyway, a few weeks after we got it, the oil light kept coming on saying it was empty. We took it to our mechanic and he looked further into the engine and said there was sludge in the engine which indicates poor maintenance. *sigh* So, we put some more money in it to try to clean the sludge out with additives in the engine. It seemed to be doing better and I drove it up to Montana to be with Kristin after she had her baby.
About 3 hours from being there, I was accelerating back onto the interstate and heard a clunk, clunk, BANG. The engine completely stopped and I coasted to the side of the road. A tow truck came and got us and the next morning the mechanic said the engine had completely seized up and was done for. It wasn’t bringing oil through properly and was dried up. Our car was done for and they gave us $410 for parts.
It is sooo maddening to have thousands of dollars just flushed down the drain, here are some tips that I would share for buying a used car:
1. If the price seems to be too good to be true, it is. Something is wrong with it. There is a reason no one else will buy it.
2. Check Consumer Reports for the years of cars you are looking at.Their best buys for cars have always been spot on for us. Our first car was a Pontiac Grand Am – it had lots of expensive problems and consumer Reports had black dots on it for our year. Another time we got a Nissan quest van from a co-worker and that had lots of problems as well. As soon as we started paying attention to the consumer reports our cars have been wonderful for us. But…
3. Know the maintenance records also. Carfax sometimes shows them if they have been serviced at the dealer, but many people selling privately have folders full of maintenance records. We wish we would have passed on the Avalon because it had 3 previous owners and we had no idea of how it was maintained and we paid for it big time. I would pass on a car if there was no indication of how it was maintained.
4. Take it to a mechanic. They won’t usually go really in depth in a used car inspection, but they can tell you if it looks like there is water/flood damage, and how the major components work.
5. Check the reputation of the dealership. Read those reviews online and how long have they been in business? I wish I would have checked the place we got the car at more closely. Numerous complaints of people who had the engines fail a month or two after buying there and accusing them of adding things to the engine to hide noises, etc. It was just a bad deal, even when we felt like we covered our bases. Go with nice families that have the maintence records, or dealerships that have been around a long time and care about their reputation and those online reviews.
What about you? Have you had any nightmare used car experiences? What advice would you give? Or, a used cars that have been awesome for you? Or, do you choose to buy new and have the peace of mind?