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buying a used car - what to do?


elkroeger

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Last time I bought a car, I found the thing listed in the newspaper.

 

I'm looking at one, from a private party on craigslist. It's a lot of dough, so I need to have it come out right.

 

How should I go about it? Does carfax tell me everything I need to know?

 

Any advice is appreciated! thanks!

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Carfax definitely gives part of the story, if you have records available to original owner you can make sure they align. Would be helpful if you gave the year and model you're interested in since they all have trouble spots to look out for. I've got a penchant for BMW's (go figure) and usually get a independant mechanic familiar with the brand to do an inspection which runs $100-200. Money well spent even if you buy it since it gives you areas to save up for addressing yourself.

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Joe Frickin' Friday

Wife and I sold her previous car four years ago. The buyer requested that we leave it with a local mechanic for an inspection that she (the buyer) paid for. The buyer received the mechanic's report (the mechanic wouldn't share it directly with us, since we weren't the ones paying for his service). That report assured the buyer that the car was in acceptable health, according to the opinion of a licensed professional mechanic.

 

You might consider doing the same. Find a local mechanic willing to do a used-car inspection for $100 or so, and then ask the buyer to leave it there for a day. Then you'll end up with an impartial opinion from a pro who has actually checked it out first-hand. For a 2012 vehicle with only 40K miles on it, $100 is well under 1% of the purchase price, so this seems like a relatively low-cost way of getting an accurate assessment from someone who has seen it first-hand and knows what to look for.

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it's a 1 owner, 2012 FJ cruiser. 40K miles (i believe it still has some power train warranty left). She's asking pretty close to book value for it. needs tires at $150 - $200 each.

 

http://honolulu.craigslist.org/big/cto/5339589705.html

 

FJ Cruisers are a niche vehicle. Have you driven it? It has some rear and side visibility issue, not very good on fuel, a bit rough riding, and doesn't have a large pool of potential buyers...which can help you if you want to buy it, and hurt if you decide to sell it.

 

The price seems pretty high, but I have no knowledge of how your location affects pricing.

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We drove it today. It does have some visibility issues, but probably nothing we can't get used to. Other than that, it looks like a regular SUV that's barely been off pavement.

 

Generally speaking, it costs about $1000 to ship a car here from the west coast. So you can pretty much count on adding that to the price. One weird thing over here though, is that 4x4s are really popular. So a guy will have one that's worth, say $5000. He puts it on craigslist for $10K, and just fishes for a sucker to come along who just has to have it. I think if you're dead set on a particular car, and you don't have any friends on the mainland that can help, you might just buy it at the inflated price.

 

The key to the whole thing is you have to know the fair price, and be able to walk away. The dilemma I have is that I could basically get the job done with a $5K - $7K car. But if we buy this one, we'll hang on to it for a long time.

 

Good points on the mechanic inspection. I'll probably do that. Thanks guys!

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I agree with eddd's sentiments but I was going to keep my mouth shut figuring how important can blind spots be on the islands? I think the FJs are really neat - my wife and I lived off the road system in AK when they came and out, and we were SURE we'd get one to replace our truck - planned it out all winter, got into Anchorage late spring, drove one about two miles and that was it - too hard to see out of, kind of cramped inside (front seats were fine - but not as much space as we'd want behind them).

 

Quick check of CL shows similar ask from dealers around there for the few 2012s available. Looks like you could get one for 10k less if you were willing to go back to 2010 (with more miles of course).

 

http://portland.craigslist.org/mlt/cto/5337533246.html

 

http://portland.craigslist.org/wsc/ctd/5371030530.html

 

If you don't have any real friends left on the mainland and wanted some help, I'd be up for it - car shopping is particularly fun with someone else's money :)

 

 

 

 

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Eddd is right, very niche with generally poor reputation but then again your market is so different from ours in the other 48 that you'll need some local expertise. Inspection and carfax would at least suggest service / repair history.

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Dave McReynolds

Just my own personal experience, of course, but I've never traded in a vehicle that I've been happy with. The ones I've been happy with, I've driven into the ground, and then given to my kids to drive some more. So one line of thinking would be to try and figure out why the previous owner was unhappy enough with it to want to get rid of it, and whether the same things would make you unhappy with it too.

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Just my own personal experience, of course, but I've never traded in a vehicle that I've been happy with. The ones I've been happy with, I've driven into the ground, and then given to my kids to drive some more. So one line of thinking would be to try and figure out why the previous owner was unhappy enough with it to want to get rid of it, and whether the same things would make you unhappy with it too.

 

Why are you selling is a question I always ask - but often you get more from how they answer than from the answer itself. From a dealer, not sure what you'd ever get other than they liked it so much they bought another better one. Should note the one posted by OP is private party, so not a trade in.

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Just my own personal experience, of course, but I've never traded in a vehicle that I've been happy with. The ones I've been happy with, I've driven into the ground, and then given to my kids to drive some more. So one line of thinking would be to try and figure out why the previous owner was unhappy enough with it to want to get rid of it, and whether the same things would make you unhappy with it too.

 

Dave, there is something to be said for that line of thinking especially with a vehicle that is being sold by the second or third owner, but there are those people who seem to be compelled to buy a new vehicle every few years.

 

My 2002 pickup is a good example. I found it at a dealer (unusual for me) when it was two years old. The rancher who traded it in had bought a new Chevy pickup every other year from the same dealer in Seguin, TX, for years. His 2004 was such a close match he was able to remove the bull bars and goose neck hitch and have them put on the new truck. It had around 40,000 miles on it and now is approaching 240,000.

 

It takes a little investigating, but it seems to be quite easy to ferret out the real reason why a person is selling. Couple that with a firm resolve to be ready to walk away from anything that doesn't sound 100% legit and you can keep from getting burned.

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I've never paid that much for a new car let alone a used one w/40,000 miles.

 

For less money a much more manly AD for a much more manly vehicle.

 

Don't know what you are going to use it for but the niche vehicle you cite would not do a lot of things I need a vehicle for.

Of course YMMV.

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I don't know what it is worth, but it sure is a good looking vehicle. I looked at a couple of on-line rating folks and looked at local for sale here in Houston....looks like the price is consistent with top of the market, but not over market. They obviously know what it is worth. If you decided to buy it, I would ask them for new tires or equivalent discount. If paying top dollar, should not have to start spending money IMHO.

 

Good luck with your decision. Nice looking car.....

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I can't offer any real insight into the virtues of the vehicle, but, while Carfax is generally helpful, it's also not completely reliable in identifying issues.

 

A few years ago, I bought a Certified Lexus with a clean Carfax. A couple of years later, after the poor thing was stolen and smashed all to bejeezus by the thief, the owner of the body shop where it ended up told me that it had clearly been in a significant collision and had been repaired. It looked fine, drove fine, etc., but Carfax had somehow missed the damage/repairs. Apparently not every repair or insurance claim triggers a reporting requirement.

 

Best bet is to have an independent mechanic do a thorough inspection.

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We usually do both. Carfax will pick up things like odometer rollbacks (or instrument cluster replacements that have the same effect) as well as the reported issues. Our mechanic will pick up on specific issues that need to be addressed, as well as any model/year specific concerns.

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it's a 1 owner, 2012 FJ cruiser. 40K miles (i believe it still has some power train warranty left). She's asking pretty close to book value for it. needs tires at $150 - $200 each.

 

http://honolulu.craigslist.org/big/cto/5339589705.html

 

How long has she had it for sale? Find out how many people have test driven it (you can ask that as a concern about abuse i.e., "you look like you'v taken decnt care of the car, but has it been abused on a bunch of test drives?"). This will let you know about the market interest in the car and her possible urgency, if she's not been getting offers.

 

Finally, realize that the FJ Cruiser is a discontinued model from Toyota. They were not good sellers and got poor gas mileage. She knows about the mileage. She may not know squat about what's a current model and what's no longer being made. I'd use all that, the tires, shipping costs and more, and offer $25K cash, if you've got it (with an apology such as, "I'm sorry, but given the circumstances that are beyond your control, like Toyota discontinuing this model, etc., I can't see this being worth much beyond $xxxxx"). No waiting for you to get financed. Just done and gone.

 

As for the visibility issues, for me personally that would be a dealbreaker. Yes, you can get used to it. Until you get into a split-second emergency situation in which you're going to revert to instincts developed over 40 years of driving and not be able to make a fully informed decision to ensure your safety and that of your occupants. YMMV.

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Carfax doesn't mean squat to me.....I was rear ended by a New York State police officer driving his chief's brand new unmarked car while on the highway in Delaware. It's a long story, but as you can imagine, there was a paper trail a mile long to get that repair done. Police reports were filed, I went to the doctor, it was fixed using my insurance company (over $10000 in damage), and then my deductible was reimbursed from NY State with an official state check. When I traded that vehicle in years later to buy my Wrangler, I asked the dealer to run a Carfax on it out of curiosity. It came back with a sparkling 2 owner and zero accident report.

 

FJ's are nice. Pretty decent off-road too. If you plan to off-road with it, it should be a fine choice for a fun money pit. If you plan to keep it on the pavement, I would find something else that rides nicer and gets better gas mileage

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I think maybe I got a sign from God, telling me to buy the car today. My 1100RS died on the way home from work... :-(

 

I'm still waffling on the FJ. I think these are popular cars here, but at the same time, it's a fairly small market on the island, and it's at the high end of what I think a lot of people can afford.

 

We met the owner at Costco (I would have rather snooped in her garage), and the reason they're selling is that they need a pickup for their work. It has been on craigslist for a couple weeks, and they've brought the price down about $3K. They're right about at blue book now. I'm not interested enough to pay book value. It would have to be a little less to make me bite.

 

It is interesting that they have another one that's all modded out for four wheeling (lift kit, winch, all that stuff). It's for sale now too. Their plan is to sell one and then take the ad down for the other, but they'd rather sell the green one, since it's all stock. They're both California cars. The owner came across as a decent lady. The kind of person I'd buy a car from - spoke well, obviously educated, well dressed, could maybe use some decaf....

 

For my purposes, it would largely be a regular car, with an emphasis on skiing, hunting and climbing trips (for when we move back to Washington). So I am looking for a capable 4wd.

 

My last car was a 96 Dakota. Consumer Reports hated it, as did most everyone else. It wasn't perfect, but I liked it. Toward the end the repair bills were getting to be a bit much.

 

Thanks all for your input. All good insights, and good advice!

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MPGs, MPGs, MPGs, quit talking about low MPGs, anyone that is looking to purchase a brick on wheels likely has an idea that they won't be getting the MPG of a Prius.

 

My last six vehicles, I did not do a test drive and only one was new off the lot. My last purchase was a 2002 VW Passat Wagon for my daughter with 170k on the ODO, paid cash, and then took it on a 1000 mile round trip 1wk after purchase. Just listened to it run on the lot. Heck, I didn't even test ride my RT and the first time I sat on it was when it got to my house.

 

So far, I've been lucky with vehicle purchases. Hope the luck keeps going on.

 

On the Toy, if you like the price and have a hunky-dory feeling with the seller and your feeling on the vehicle is good, take the chance, buy it. If during your transaction process you have one iota of doubt, drop it and walk away.

 

The only thing I would really do with a fo'bye is crawl under it and look at the complete under carriage. You should be able to tell how much off road or curb scraping has been going on.

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UPDATE:

 

So I've been on the fence with this car all week. On the one hand, we need a car, on the other hand, we don't need one that's that expensive. (I got the money, but that doesn't mean I need to spend it willy-nilly.)

 

So my bike broke down, and then borrowing the wife's bike, I accidentally left the parking lights on and was stuck at work with a dead battery. I had said that if Lori's bike dies on us, we'll buy the car. So there it was, as good as dead.

 

I got hold of the lady with the car again, and offered what I thought was reasonable, at $28K. I'd like to go less, but it seemed reasonable on both ends. We met her again today, to do the deal. Turns out she's got a loan, and no title. She wanted me to buy it, and then wait for the title when she sorts out her business.

 

We bailed out, and said if you had the title, we'd buy it, but no deal without the title. She tried to tell me how we could do a "bill of sale", and that would suffice, and she'd sign the title over, as soon as she paid off the loan, etc. etc. The way I see it, if you don't have the title, it's not yours to sell. Period.

 

Did we do the right thing?

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It depends. If the title is held at a bank and she owes what you want to pay or less, you can accompany her to the bank or credit union where the note/title is held and they can make the transaction work. No way should you accept a bill of sale with the promise to sign over the title when she gets it.

 

If she owes more on it than your offer, she would need to come up with your cash plus any additional funds before the bank would assign you the title.

 

 

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The way I understand it, we can all go to her bank, sit down, pay off the loan, and the rest of the car, get the title and walk out. But her bank is on the mainland. She wants an unspecified "deposit" before she pays it off and obtains the title. But I don't need to get mixed up in it. Don't need it that bad.

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One possibility is for her banking institution to have her sign a limited power of attorney which permits them to send the clear title directly to you upon receipt of the payoff. That removes the possibility of her "holding" your money without ever sending the title to you. I've done it that way and very recently as seller of an expensive RV. That was with a federal credit union.

 

 

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UPDATE:

 

So I've been on the fence with this car all week. On the one hand, we need a car, on the other hand, we don't need one that's that expensive. (I got the money, but that doesn't mean I need to spend it willy-nilly.)

 

So my bike broke down, and then borrowing the wife's bike, I accidentally left the parking lights on and was stuck at work with a dead battery. I had said that if Lori's bike dies on us, we'll buy the car. So there it was, as good as dead.

 

I got hold of the lady with the car again, and offered what I thought was reasonable, at $28K. I'd like to go less, but it seemed reasonable on both ends. We met her again today, to do the deal. Turns out she's got a loan, and no title. She wanted me to buy it, and then wait for the title when she sorts out her business.

 

We bailed out, and said if you had the title, we'd buy it, but no deal without the title. She tried to tell me how we could do a "bill of sale", and that would suffice, and she'd sign the title over, as soon as she paid off the loan, etc. etc. The way I see it, if you don't have the title, it's not yours to sell. Period.

 

Did we do the right thing?

 

I've done deals like that, both buying and selling. When selling, I hold the vehicle until your certified check clears my bank and then, you get the vehicle. Once the title comes in, we do the legal signing of the title business.

 

It works for buying as well, although, once I give my certified check to the persons bank(personally or registered mail), I hold the vehicle until all is said and done.

 

You have to have that feeling of trust between buyer and seller for it to work out. I've not been burnt yet.

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It can be done, it often is. But it comes down to you being comfortable with the deal.

 

When I was looking for my RT, I considered bikes in a very large radius from my home state of Indiana. Hey, I like to ride! I finally settled on a bike in NC. I was coming with a cashiers check and was taking the bike home with me that day. The seller was a little suspicious as to why I would travel so far to buy his bike - the main concern was that I would bring a fraudulent check. This was somewhat justified as we all know of fake check scams. I put him in touch with the bank the check was drawn on, but he was still slightly reserved when we went to his bank to deposit the check.

 

On the flip side, I was leaving with the bike but no title! He had financed the bike through BMW and would have to pay it off and then send me the title. I had drawn up a Bill of Sale and was not concerned about not receiving the title - possession being 9/10th of the law, cancelled check, signed BOS, etc. I picked up the bike at the sellers house and I knew where he worked, so I was very comfortable with the transaction. We still keep in touch in fact.

 

Anyway - this kind of transaction may not be as unusual as you think. You have the additional concern of the bank being on the mainland. But you did a car fax and you know the vehicle isn't stolen. With a proper bill of sale, you should be OK (I'm NOT an attorney). You could even have your check made out to the bank and seller and/or even designate a account number to insure the money is going to pay off the car. If the selling price happened to be more then the sellers payoff, the bank would refund the difference to the seller.

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UPDATE:

 

So I've been on the fence with this car all week. On the one hand, we need a car, on the other hand, we don't need one that's that expensive. (I got the money, but that doesn't mean I need to spend it willy-nilly.)

 

 

To me, this is more the heart of the matter. If you've been on the fence and now the deciding factor to pull the trigger is that your bike broke down - I respectfully believe you're making the decision to buy that particular vehicle for the wrong reason. The thing swaying your decision has nothing to do with the car itself.

 

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Would an empty gas tank qualify as "dead"? To me, "dead" means "costs more to fix than it's worth." It's hard to call an entire motorcycle "dead" when all it needs is a jump or a push start. Even harder to use that excuse to trigger a $28K purchase.

 

At least, that sort of reasoning would not persuade my wife.

 

I've tried.

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UPDATE:

 

So I've been on the fence with this car all week. On the one hand, we need a car, on the other hand, we don't need one that's that expensive. (I got the money, but that doesn't mean I need to spend it willy-nilly.)

 

So my bike broke down, and then borrowing the wife's bike, I accidentally left the parking lights on and was stuck at work with a dead battery. I had said that if Lori's bike dies on us, we'll buy the car. So there it was, as good as dead.

 

I got hold of the lady with the car again, and offered what I thought was reasonable, at $28K. I'd like to go less, but it seemed reasonable on both ends. We met her again today, to do the deal. Turns out she's got a loan, and no title. She wanted me to buy it, and then wait for the title when she sorts out her business.

 

We bailed out, and said if you had the title, we'd buy it, but no deal without the title. She tried to tell me how we could do a "bill of sale", and that would suffice, and she'd sign the title over, as soon as she paid off the loan, etc. etc. The way I see it, if you don't have the title, it's not yours to sell. Period.

 

Did we do the right thing?

 

OK, there's your reason why this thing has been on the market so long. It's not that the deal doesn't smell right, but that it's going to be a hassle. So, offer her $26K, and you'll buy a round trip to her bank on the mainland and so will she. The other thousand off the price is for your inconvenience. All this assumes you still want it. If not, let it go. You were looking when you found it. You'll find another.

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Since my last update, she has called and texted me several times. Each time she goes from being contrite, to aggressively trying to sell it to me still. She also said she will lower the price. I finally had to tell her that we've decided to move on.

 

All in all, it probably would have been a good car. But as things went on, she started rubbing me the wrong way. Turns out that the front bumper had been replaced, and the "maintenance" light was on, etc.. None of it came with a clear explanation. What was becoming clear in our conversations, though was that too much stuff wasn't making sense, and I found myself not believing anything she said.

 

And yes, having both bikes temporarily dead motivating my purchase was supposed to be a little tongue-in-cheek. We've been car free for a year, and it's clear we need one.

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Since my last update, she has called and texted me several times. Each time she goes from being contrite, to aggressively trying to sell it to me still. She also said she will lower the price. I finally had to tell her that we've decided to move on.

 

We were looking for a very specific Volvo several years ago - found a likely candidate on craigslist, and it turned out the seller was literally three blocks from our house. My wife and I walked over there, which the seller thought was odd, I think, and was really stand offish at first. I mention that only because after we took a test drive, found out there were a few things wrong, and that there was a lot of deferred maintenance, and politely told her she was asking more than we could afford to pay and still be able to fix the rest, she went completely the opposite direction. Called several times over the next few days, including a series of calls one night when she seemed concerned about some potential buyer that was coming from across town to look at the car. It was super weird. We walk by her house frequently - and see her name on realty signs around town - and I always wonder if she uses the same "I'm crazy - you should buy this," technique when she sells houses....

 

edit: her house is for sale currently, and it's not her listing - perhaps she moved to Hawaii :)

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