Need A New (To You) Car?

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New To You CarWell, if you don’t know my position on new cars, read up on it here. Needless to say, I believe that buying a new car is the single best way to ensure you are going to be in debt FOREVER. Not to mention you are throwing money at something that just eats it for breakfast and never gives it back. I am a proponent of finding a great used car to buy, and then shaking the hand of the fool that subsidized your purchase by purchasing the car new after buying it for super cheap 🙂

How Do You Find A Good New (To You) Car?

There are several ways to find a good used vehicle. You can search online, you can go to a dealership, you can ask your best friend’s brother’s neighbor’s daughter if they are selling their 1989 Mercury Tracer. Whichever way you choose, you need to do some research before you jump out and throw thousands of dollars at a 3 thousand pound hunk of metal.


Obviously, you need to first start with a budget, as that is the most important determining factor when buying a vehicle (cue “captain obvious” theme song). “But how much should I spend on a new car? $15k, $20k? I’ve got money burning hole in my bank account!!!!” Whoa….slow down now. That passenger machine on wheels is not worth your kid’s college fund money. You only need $5,000 to $7,000 to get yourself a sweet used car, with all the bells and whistles that will last you another 100k miles.


Next, you need to do some research. You can start at somewhere like iSeeCars.com and check out their Car Research section. They’ve put together some awesome tools to find what you are looking for. Sort by MPG, car reviews, or even known car problems. As I’ve mentioned in the past, the best way to find out about a certain vehicle is to Google “2005 Toyota Camry Common Issues”. Looks like this site has taken care of that, so just find the vehicle you are looking for and check out if there are any common issues. This will give you bargaining power when making the purchase, and can also help you avoid vehicles that might be more trouble than they are worth.

Looking at common car problems should help you narrow down your choices. Most likely, you’ll end up at a good Toyota or Honda, because, let’s face it, those are the MOST reliable cars on the road. How do I know? Well, just look around next time you are on the freeway? What cars from the mid 90’s are still on the road? You betcha! Honda and Toyota vehicles. Also, I have owned several, and currently own two 1994 Hondas with over 275,000 miles on each, and they both run AMAZING and get 30 MPG.

Find An Actual Car Nearby To Test Out

Now that you’ve narrowed down your search to a good, used Honda or Toyota for about $5,000, it’s time to go find your dream car! Personally, I’m all about using Craigslist “Cars For Sale By Owner”. I can usually find what I’m looking for at a great price, and am always looking for diamonds in the rough. I’ve got a few tools and the internet, so I can fix minor problems, and usually save a bucketload of cash by buying something that’s not 100%.

If you’re a bit gun-shy about buying on craigslist, definitely check out iSeeCars search tool, as they are like the Mint.com of the car world. They aggregate car listing from thousands of dealerships and websites to bring you all the listings in one place. These used cars are all at dealerships, so you can rest assured that you (most likely) won’t get robbed…not at knifepoint at least. Be wary of salesmen and their tactics, and definitely come armed with your research to talk ’em down to a good price. Once you’ve found your car at the best price, LOCK IT DOWN!

Comments: How do you buy used cars? Do you do thorough research before venturing out? How much do you spend on your average vehicle purchases? Do you think my $5k is too low?

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade

Jacob Wade has been a nationally-recognized personal finance expert for the past decade. He has written professionally for The Balance, The Spruce, LendingTree, Investing Answers, and other widely-followed sites. 
He’s also been a featured expert on CBS News, MSN Money, Forbes, Nasdaq, Yahoo! Finance, Go Banking Rates, and AOL Finance.

In 2018, Jacob quit his job and his family decided to sell everything (including their home) to take off on an adventure. They traveled the country in an RV for nearly 3 years, visiting over 38 states, 20+ national parks and eventually settling in the sunshine state!

29 thoughts on “Need A New (To You) Car?”

  1. The used car market here is a little out of control. Everyone is looking for that perfect used car so the prices are a little on the high side. That isn’t to say there are not good deals, they are just few and far between. I think 5 – 7K is probably a little low to find a really good car at the moment, considering you can get a brand new Nissan Versa Sedan for 12K and that sucker should last 200K miles (see not all new cars are evil).

    • Depends on what you’re looking for. I haven’t spent over $3k on a car for my last 5 cars, and have put about 100k miles on each, and sell them for the price I bought ’em for. Takes a little more work, but they can be found (and be reliable).

      Versa for $12k isn’t bad. But what will it be worth in 5 years? 10 years? I don’t like to lose money on cars at all, though a few hundred would be acceptable.

        • The part that I can’t stomach is the depreciation. Yes, we do buy depreciating assets all the time (clothes, kitchen utensils, etc), but they don’t hurt as much as the thousands in depreciation a car will cost you. I buy cars, put a hundred thousands miles on them (or so), and sell them for a near identical price to what I bought it for. So in short, yes, it does matter, because it is wasting money 🙂

    • Same here – cars are pricey in NZ, we spent $5k on our 1998 Familia a couple years ago and it was a steal at that price. I wouldn’t say it was a lemon, but it has needed a fair bit of work. I personally am not against new cars as a blanket rule.

  2. I like that site. Looks like a great tool. We’ll probably be needing a new car in the near future, and honestly I’ve never gone through the process. I was extremely lucky to have my first car, a 1998 Honda Civic, given to me by my grandparents, and I’m still driving it 11 years later. Thanks for the tips!

    • It can be intimidating at first, but it’s really not that bad. And I still drive my 1994 Civic to this day! Actually, I’m now driving my wife’s Accord with even more miles than mine! (293,000)

  3. When I totalled my fiance’s car a few years ago, we didn’t have the budget to buy anything BUT a used car. I was initially terrified of the process (never bought a car before, let alone a used one) but eventually we settled on a 2007 VW Golf with 48,000kms. We’ve had it for almost two years now and after ironing out some initial issues, we’re very happy with it – especially the price!

    The next time we buy a car, I’m definitely going used!

    • Used is AWESOME! Some schmuck bought the car new, ate all the depreciation and is taking a HUGE loss for you. Thanks him as he hands over the keys 🙂

  4. I think it’s reasonable. The last time we bought a used car I believe it was around $3k. We are using a car share program now though.

    • Flipping cars is a great hobby, and I’d say the knowledge it brings will make you a wealthy person in the long run. I have a brother who has flipped nearly 50 cars from age 16 to 21. No need for a new shiny thingy when you can profit from a beautiful used car and enjoy it while you own it as well!

  5. I am considering to buy a car in a few months. I am now doing some research on local online sites where I can buy used cars at more affordable prices.

  6. I live in snotty Bellevue so most of the cars on the freeway are BMWs or Mercedes…ha.

    I do think 5k is a bit low, but that depends on what you’re looking for. We paid 14k (cash) for a very nice, 3-year-old Subaru with low miles. We like that it has AWD for the yucky weather (not a necessity for everyone, but nice to have), and excellent safety ratings. We intend to drive it into the ground.

    We researched online and by word of mouth. We originally thought we would buy from a private seller, but found a good deal on one that had been sitting at the dealership for a while.

    • Subaru’s hold their value very well. A 3 year old car is definitely not my style though. I go about 7 years out to ensure the car has lost most of the value that it’s going to lose, so if I end up selling it later, there’s almost no loss.

      Traditionally, most cars lose 70% of their value in the first 5 – 7 years, so a 3 years old vehicle is still on it’s way down. But like I said, Subaru’s retain value a few years longer than most 🙂

  7. We did exactly what you recommended, back in January. A lot of research, settled on the Honda Civic. Found a bunch for sale on Craigslist, test drove a few. Did our due diligence, taking it to our mechanic and finally buy a Carfax report. We bought a 2005 for $6k and are very happy with it. Its nice to pay cash and not have to worry about payments. Still on track to pay off the house next year!

    • an ’05 for $6k is a sweet deal! That car will hold its value for a while, but get great mileage. I bet you could still sell for $5k in 5 years if you wanted to. 🙂

      Also, congrats on the house being paid off. That’s some frugal-tastic awesomeness!

  8. I 100% with you on this, buying a new car is like throwing money out the window. Actually, I think you throw at least 20% out the window as soon as you drive it off the lot! I rather buy a car that’s a few years old and let someone else take that hit!

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