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Old 05-15-2018, 09:08 AM
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Default Buying a used car

I was in the car business as an investor for several years and I have a few minutes to kill, so I thought I would throw out there a few "buying a used car" tips:

1. The more records that a car has, the more peace-of-mind you will have about the car, and it actually makes the car worth more. Folks that take care of their cars generally keep good records, and vice versa.

2. The condition of the car speaks volumes. If the owner meticulously kept up the exterior and interior of the car, (s)he in all likelihood did the same for the mechanicals, which are the most important.

3. Highway miles are much preferable to city miles. Let's say you find a 2015 with 100,000 miles, or a 2013 with 60,000 miles, the former would be much preferable. Here is why:

A highway miles car has significantly fewer hours on the running gear, all other things being equal. For example, if you have a car where the owner put 30,000 miles a year on it, the chances are the average speed for that car is 40 mph over its life. That translates into 750 hours per year that the car is running on average. Not very much!

But if you have a car where the owner put 20,000 miles on it - more of a commuter driver - and the average speed for that car is 20 mph over the life, that's still 1,000 hours of run time. But...that car has also been stopped, started, breaked, turned, accelerated, and generally used much, much more than than the high miles car.

The hardest thing on a motor is metal-against-metal, and you have that phenomenon every time you start the vehicle. A commuter might start his vehicle 10 to 20 times per day. Assuming 10, that's 3650 starts per year. A highway miles driver might only start 3-4-5 times per day, cutting the number of starts per year in half or even less.

4. Options are worth a lot now, but not much in 10 more years. For example, a 4Runner Limited sells for $7-8K more than a 4Runner SR5. But in 10 years, the difference will be very small - perhaps $1000 or less. So buy the car with the options that you will actually use, and don't screw with the rest.

5. "Resale Red" only applies to sports cars. Other than sports cars, it is a tough color to sell.

6. Avoid silvers, because they are very difficult to match well when you have to have body work. In fact, it's almost impossible unless they repaint the whole car.

7. Blacks are great when they are clean, but because black absorbs heat, you can quite literally scratch your black car with the SKIN on your finger on a warm day. All of that buffs out, but black requires more attention over the life of the car.

8. White is the best for a variety of reasons. It's easy to match, it's cooler, it looks cleaner even when it's dirty, and the resale is ALMOST ALWAYS TOPS.

9. CarFax is mostly useless. It is a marketing scheme. About the only thing I would pay attention to on it is a salvage title. All the rest of that stuff is truly window dressing. A car that has had a fender bender but has been expertly repaired is worth every dime of what a car without a fender bender is worth. The only exception is on a car that is two years old or newer - there would be some knockoff for the repair. Frame damage is another story, but most cars with frame damage are totaled by the insurance co., hence will be a salvage title.

Just because a car has been in a body shop DOES NOT mean it is worth less. I am so meticulous about my own car that any time I get a nick or a scratch, it's off to the body shop for a couple of days. I like to keep it looking brand new. That makes it worth more, not less.

CarFax is of no real benefit when ascertaining the road worthiness of a vehicle. Only a local mechanic can do that for you.

If you have any other questions let me know.
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Last edited by TexasHusker; 05-15-2018 at 09:12 AM.
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Old 05-15-2018, 09:30 AM
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Great list, TH. Very good points to keep in mind for those of us who buy used cars.

Quote:
Originally Posted by TexasHusker View Post
The condition of the car speaks volumes. If the owner meticulously kept up the exterior and interior of the car, (s)he in all likelihood did the same for the mechanicals, which are the most important.
I'm one of the exceptions to that rule. I am very careful about doing all necessary maintenance on my car but I pay little attention to the cosmetics. I don't wash or wax my car. I very rarely vacuum the carpets. I don't detail the interior. Zip, nothing, nada. I'm not sloppy or messy. There's no rotting food in the backseat or spilled drinks on the floor. I just don't do much of anything to maintain the car's appearance. But mechanically, the car is in tip top shape.

Quote:
A commuter might start his vehicle 10 to 20 times per day.
Seriously? Who starts their car 10-20 times per day? Most people I know drive to work and then drive home. Maybe after work they go out to dinner or go shopping, but not every day. At most, that means 4 times per day and often only 2. Add one if I stop for gas but that's only once every couple of weeks. I'd say it's quite rare that I start my car more than 5 times in a day.
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Old 05-15-2018, 09:35 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by disneysteve View Post
Great list, TH. Very good points to keep in mind for those of us who buy used cars.


I'm one of the exceptions to that rule. I am very careful about doing all necessary maintenance on my car but I pay little attention to the cosmetics. I don't wash or wax my car. I very rarely vacuum the carpets. I don't detail the interior. Zip, nothing, nada. I'm not sloppy or messy. There's no rotting food in the backseat or spilled drinks on the floor. I just don't do much of anything to maintain the car's appearance. But mechanically, the car is in tip top shape.


Seriously? Who starts their car 10-20 times per day? Most people I know drive to work and then drive home. Maybe after work they go out to dinner or go shopping, but not every day. At most, that means 4 times per day and often only 2. Add one if I stop for gas but that's only once every couple of weeks. I'd say it's quite rare that I start my car more than 5 times in a day.
My post is a general guide, not an absolute. Your experience may vary. Most cars are started 5 to 10 times per day, some more, some less.

I would never buy a car that hadn't been cared for cosmetically, as it is a big indicator for how it has been cared for overall. You're the exception to this, but I still wouldn't buy your car.
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Old 05-15-2018, 09:44 AM
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I keep meticulous records on my vehicles and do all of my own maintenance. I've found that a notebook full of receipts and records is a lot more impressive to a private buyer than to a dealership on trade.
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Old 05-15-2018, 09:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TexasHusker View Post
Most cars are started 5 to 10 times per day
Interesting. I would never have thought that. 4 or 5 yes but not more than that unless somebody uses their car for a job that has them make frequent stops.

As for the cosmetic stuff, I probably wouldn't buy one that didn't look nice either. As for somebody buying mine, that's just not a concern to me. I keep the cars long enough that the resale value isn't high on my priority list. I had my last car for 14 years. I didn't expect it to be worth much by the time I was done with it. My current car is 12 years old and I'm not looking to replace it anytime soon.
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Old 05-15-2018, 10:05 AM
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I keep meticulous records on my vehicles and do all of my own maintenance. I've found that a notebook full of receipts and records is a lot more impressive to a private buyer than to a dealership on trade.
Thatís right. But rest assured the dealer will market the heck out of all those records and ask a premium for the car.
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Old 05-15-2018, 04:40 PM
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On the car starting issue: I have a hybrid, and one if its features is that, when you're at a stoplight, if you take it out of gear, the engine will cut off to save gas, and will re-start when you put it back in first gear. Does this create the same stress on the vehicle as when you key-start it?
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Old 05-15-2018, 04:55 PM
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On the car starting issue: I have a hybrid, and one if its features is that, when you're at a stoplight, if you take it out of gear, the engine will cut off to save gas, and will re-start when you put it back in first gear. Does this create the same stress on the vehicle as when you key-start it?
It does to a certain extent, although there is presumably residual oil in the cylinder to keep the metal parts coated for something so brief as a light.

As a side note, I think the auto-gas cutoff is really a marketing gimmick. My wife's range rover has it and I think it is absurd; a car sitting idling is barely utilizing any gas. Whatever gas is saved in this process is then spent cranking the car back up: It takes more energy to get something going than to keep it going.

It's a very minute amount of gas either way. Luckily on her car that feature can be disabled.
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Old 05-15-2018, 05:27 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TexasHusker View Post
It takes more energy to get something going than to keep it going.
I'm not a car guy so I'm not sure if that's actually true of cars.

There is a very common myth that you shouldn't turn down your heat when you're not home because it costs more to warm the house back up than in does to keep it warm. That definitely isn't true, but I don't know if that correlates to starting vs. idling the car.
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Old 05-15-2018, 05:35 PM
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Quote:
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I'm not a car guy so I'm not sure if that's actually true of cars.

There is a very common myth that you shouldn't turn down your heat when you're not home because it costs more to warm the house back up than in does to keep it warm. That definitely isn't true, but I don't know if that correlates to starting vs. idling the car.
I'm a car guy so you can take my word for that one. I know it's difficult.
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Old 05-15-2018, 06:33 PM
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I just noticed the other day that most of the cars in my neighborhood are white. Boring! After some woman with sub par driving skills hit our car on the expressway, I had my fingers crossed that the frame was bent and it would be junked. The body shop said that they are rarely junked now because all they have to do is put the car on a machine to bend the frame back. It broke my heart. All I needed was a new bumper and paint.
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Old 05-16-2018, 10:11 AM
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a car sitting idling is barely utilizing any gas. Whatever gas is saved in this process is then spent cranking the car back up: It takes more energy to get something going than to keep it going.
This was really bugging me as it doesn't make sense scientifically/mechanically speaking. So I did a little research. Sure enough, it's a myth. Numerous studies have proven it wrong. Basically, letting your car idle for more than about 30 seconds wastes more gas than turning it off and restarting it. Some studies even showed the breakeven point to be as short as 10 seconds.

As for wear and tear, that's mostly a myth as well.
Quote:
"Todayís vehicles with fuel injection and electronic ignition start more easily and suffer far less wear and tear on the engine components. National Resources Canada indicates that the break even point to offset any potential maintenance costs is 60 seconds, however other research would indicate that 30 seconds would be more accurate. Some sources estimate the cost of restarting your engine to be approximately $ 10.00 to $ 15.00 per year, which would more that be offset by the fuel saving costs."
I'm sure the fuel savings as well as the pollution reduction are behind why so many places have instituted "no idling" laws. I know we have those laws here in NJ.
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Old 05-16-2018, 11:10 AM
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All I can do is keep half-an-eye on my gas gauge and keep track of it in my head, but it does feel like, when I make a concerted effort over the course of several days and weeks to cut the engine at stoplights to avoid idling, my MPG reading does seem like it holds up better.
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Old 05-16-2018, 01:02 PM
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NO thanks! I know what it's like to have a car start fine, drive to a store, then not start at all when you go to leave. A bad cell in the battery strikes like an electric ninja assassin. I would NOT want to be the guy who tried to save a few bucks in gas and get stuck in the middle of an intersection with no way to move without someone jumping me off.

To that point, I drive a stick shift S-10 that was my grandpa's. I can just push it a bit and pop the clutch in gear while it's rolling and fire it back up. Done it many times!
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Old 05-16-2018, 02:14 PM
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NO thanks! I know what it's like to have a car start fine, drive to a store, then not start at all when you go to leave.
Yeah I wouldn’t turn it off just stopped at a light. But I will if I’m waiting for someone or will be sitting for more than a minute or so.

Doesn’t happen that often. Most days I only drive to and from work or the gym so the car only starts twice anyway. No idling involved.
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Old 05-16-2018, 02:24 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by disneysteve View Post
This was really bugging me as it doesn't make sense scientifically/mechanically speaking. So I did a little research. Sure enough, it's a myth. Numerous studies have proven it wrong. Basically, letting your car idle for more than about 30 seconds wastes more gas than turning it off and restarting it. Some studies even showed the breakeven point to be as short as 10 seconds.

As for wear and tear, that's mostly a myth as well.


I'm sure the fuel savings as well as the pollution reduction are behind why so many places have instituted "no idling" laws. I know we have those laws here in NJ.
The key words from your article regarding additional wear are "far less." As in "far less" wear than there was prior to fuel injection. But "far less" doesn't mean "no wear". There is obviously more wear and tear on a vehicle when starting the car, as there is no little to no oil in the cylinder to coat the metal parts. Just the facts. I'll stick with letting it idle and take my chances.
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Old 05-17-2018, 11:10 AM
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I have to admit loving my used car. My DH and I agree his used 2006 Hyundai Sonata was a great purchase. Bought used for $10k and sold for $6500 3.5 years later. We could have kept it but he didn't want to dump $2k into it for repairs.

Now I bought a use Sienna for $28k. I am loving it. New it's closer to $50k and it was only 2 years old when I bought it. The people selling it (to a dealer) bought a Suburban.
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Old 05-17-2018, 05:42 PM
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Once an engine is at operating temperature there is practically ZERO wear occuring. Oil technology and tolerances are that good nowadays.

At operating temperature shutting off and restarting the engine also creates practically zero wear, and it does save fuel. Across a large fleet it definitely would begin to add up.

The lowest mile used car I've bought was 5 years old and had 30k miles on it. Drove it until 190k miles when rust took it's toll

The highest mile used vehicle I've bought was 16 years old and had over 220k miles on it.....STILL going.
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