Buying a used car

Trying to find a used car under $2500 is easy. Trying to find a decent reliable used car under $2500 is not easy. Almost impossible.  My search for a good used car for my son has revealed a few things about buying a used car. One fact, is that any car under $2500 is under suspicion. I have searched through thousands of cars listed on online websites and have some conclusions about the cars and the people that are selling them.

I have been lied to so many times by these used car sellers, that I’m getting very skeptical about anything these people tell me. Even the pictures can be very misleading. Descriptions that say, “good running, starts well and awesome,” are not necessarily true. In fact, they could be wild exaggerations. Go figure. I will try to give you my honest opinion on searching for and buying a used car.

I will start with my experience a few years ago when I wanted a Lincoln Aviator with low miles. Aviators were only built for a few years, 2003-2006, and looks just like a Lincoln Navigator, only it’s the size of a Ford Explorer, with a lot of improvements and with even more ‘bells and whistles.’ I drive on business sometimes as much as 3000-4000 miles in a month on Interstates through every kind of weather condition and road conditions there are. I had a ’03 Aviator that I put 225,000 tough miles on and liked it so well, that I bought another one. But it took a long time to find one that fit my finicky requirements.

I went to several Lincoln dealers to look, but most didn’t have any used Aviators on the lot and the ones that did had a very large price tag or a lot more miles on it than I was willing to accept. This Aviator I was looking for needed to have under 50,000 miles for me to be interested. I figured this car would last me the same 225,000 miles and if I bought it right, I wouldn’t have to spend over $14,000.

I searched on Craig’slist.com, cars.com, autotrader.com, and a few others I found on the Internet. I looked through at least 3500 cars because I widened my search to over 1500 miles away. Now the choices expanded a lot. I pretty much drew the line at the Mississippi River, but if I had the extra time, it wouldn’t be a bad deal to drive all the way across the country. Yet, if the car didn’t match up to what was advertised, it would have been hard to get a cheap flight home, not to mention the potential of a broken down car in the middle of nowhere.

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On autotrader.com, I found an ’05 Aviator with only 43,000 miles in Florida. Not only that, but there was another ’05 Aviator just 30 miles away with 58,000 miles, just in case the other deal went bad. I made the deal with the dealer for $12,000, $2000 under my max price, crossed my fingers and got a cheap three-leg flight and flew down. It turned out perfect because the car was beautiful, other than the tires looked to have maybe another 5000 miles on them. I bought the car, spent some time visiting with friends in Florida, then drove it home. All in all, it was a good experience.

If you read my blog last week, I was in the middle of a search for a car for my son, and had three terrible attempts; One was a relatives car that was about to blow a head gasket, a scam deal on Craigslist.com that tried to pry my money away by posing as eBay motors, and then there was a bid on eBay for a “good running condition Acura” that turned into a trip to Jacksonville, Florida to buy a that turned out to be a beaten up piece of crap.

So now what do I do? Well, I went back over all the steps I had learned, and started at the beginning. First I went to relatives and friends asking one more time if anybody had a good car to sell. Nothing, but one guy told me it’s a bad idea buying a car from a relative. I told my story and he just laughed.

My search this time had some differences because now I was looking for a $2500 or less car. New car dealers don’t typically handle these cars because they have high mileage, so they usually wholesale these cars and wholesale dealers need to make a profit on a small sale. That’s why I thought first of buying from an individual seller instead. Somebody’s ‘cream puff.’

So, the next step was searching through the ‘owner/seller’ list on Craigslist.com and it came up with a lot of cars, but I needed to see even more. So I expanded my search on Craigslist.com to bigger towns that were only a few hours drive, and would have a good selection. I found a number of cars and have emailed many of them. Nobody has emailed back today, but sometime I don’t check my emails everyday. Well, that’s not true either because I do check it everyday.

So, during the wait to hear back, I went on cars.com and autotrader.com as well as checked the classified section of our local newspaper. I searched through thousands more cars. Interesting tactic, because I got a good feeling for the car my son should get and the price we would pay for a dependable one. I emailed to a lot of potential sellers asking for more information, but it’s Sunday night and no response so far.

It’s now Monday afternoon, way past my posting deadline, and I have only received two responses thus far, and one of them is a three hour drive. So the tedious search goes on for a reliable used car, only now I have raised the spending limit to around $2200 in order to get a reliable used car, despite my son only contributing $750. Hopefully, next week he will have his first, ‘Dream Machine.’ Tune in, because it will happen soon.

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