Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Save money buy buying used cars with great repair histories

I suppose my comments here are as obvious as the ass on a goat, but I think we sometimes have to say these things to ourtselves a few times before they sink in.

We have all heard about how the simple act of driving a new car off the lot lowers it's value by 20%...yet when it comes to car buying, many of us continue to shun the thought of buying used. I have bought used about 50% of the time, and to be honest, I have had great luck with those purchases. (perhaps even better luck than with the new cars....let's just say the worst issues I had were with the new purchases)

The second thing we hear is that it is cheaper to run a car into the ground rather than trade it in every two or three years. This makes total sense to me, and this is generally what I have done all my life.

I believe I have only gotten rid of one pick-up truck before it's time. (other than the two other vehicles I totaled) Since about 1984, I have never gotten rid of a car with less than 180,000 miles on it. (several just under or just over 200,000 miles)

But my metric for getting rid of a car is cost of ownership and reliability. I expect to spend about $2500 per year (give or take) on a car. When it is new, this is that I want to see for payments. When it is old, I don't want to see repair costs going above that. But even more important, I want the car to remain reliable. As soon as I start seeing issues that might leave me stranded on the highway when it is 15 degrees below zero....that vehicle is on the short list to be replaced.

But what about reliability? Well, I try to consider that when I buy the car. Waiting until it has 150,000 miles is a little too late to think about that. Look at the ratings before you buy it, and I would choose this factor over any of the sex-appeal factors of looks or performance. In other words, I plan to "run it into the ground" and I want to maximize my long term value.

EG: I would much prefer the Volvo 240DL over the Fiat whatever. (I don't think there are FIATs here in the states any more....not sure)

So where to start when looking for reliability.....check friends and family first. Particularly if they tend to keep cars for a long time. Then check the road you drive on....look for older cars and see which they are. (bad cars get traded out much quicker than old reliable cars)

When all else fails, check out the Consumer Reports reliability issue that come out every year. I'm not sure I totally buy into all their ratings, but they are a good point from which to start. (http://www.consumerreports.org/)

Here is a list of "good" cars from this years Consumer Reports article:

CR Good Bets
The best of both worlds

These are models that have performed well in Consumer Reports road tests over the years and have proved to have several or more years of better-than-average Used Car Verdict. They are listed alphabetically.

Acura Integra
Acura MDX
Acura RL
Acura RSX
Acura TL
BMW Z3, Z4
Buick Regal
Chevrolet Prizm
Ford Crown Victoria
Ford Escort
Mustang (V8)
Honda Accord
Honda Civic
Honda Civic Hybrid
Honda CR-V
Honda Element
Honda Odyssey
Honda Pilot
Honda Prelude
Honda S2000
Infiniti FX35 (V6)
Infiniti G20

Infiniti G35
Infiniti I30, I35
Infiniti QX4
Lexus ES300, ES330
Lexus GS300/GS400, GS430
Lexus IS300
Lexus GX470
Lexus LS400, LS430
Lexus RX300, RX330
Lincoln Town Car
Mazda Millenia
Mazda MX-5 Miata
Mazda Protegé
Mercury Grand Marquis
Mitsubishi Galant
Nissan Altima
Nissan Maxima
Nissan Murano
Nissan Pathfinder
Pontiac Vibe

Subaru Forester
Subaru Impreza
Subaru Impreza
Subaru Legacy
Subaru Outback
Toyota 4Runner
Toyota Avalon
Toyota Camry
Toyota Camry Solara
Toyota Celica
Toyota Corolla
Toyota Echo
Toyota Highlander
Toyota Land Cruiser
Toyota Matrix
Toyota Prius
Toyota RAV4
Toyota Sequoia
Toyota Sienna
Toyota Tundra

Here are some of their questionable cars:

CR Bad Bets

These models from the Used Cars to Avoid list have shown multiple years of much-worse-than-average Used Car Verdicts. They have regularly shown more problems than most models each production year.

BMW 7 Series
BMW X5 (V8)
Chevrolet Astro
Chevrolet Blazer
Chevrolet Express 1500
Chevrolet S-10 (4WD)
Chevrolet TrailBlazer
Chevrolet Venture
Chrysler Town & Country (AWD)
Dodge Grand Caravan (AWD)
GMC Envoy
GMC Jimmy
GMC Safari
GMC Savana 1500
GMC Sonoma (4WD)
Jaguar S-Type
Jaguar X-Type

Kia Sedona
Land Rover Discovery
Lincoln LS
Lincoln Navigator
Mercedes-Benz CLK
Mercedes-Benz E-Class (V8)
Oldsmobile Alero
Oldsmobile Bravada
Oldsmobile Silhouette
Pontiac Aztek
Pontiac Trans Sport/Montana
Saturn Vue (AWD)
Volkswagen Cabrio
Volkswagen Jetta
Volkswagen New Beetle
Volkswagen Passat Wagon (V6)
Volvo XC90

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