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Old 10-31-2008   #1
FatmanZ's Avatar
NOCO, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1990
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Vehicle Help: Year vs Mileage

Looking at picking up a used vehicle, trying to stay within a certain price range and I need some opinions.

What is worse, high miles or older year? For example, same model of vehicle that's been around for a long time, no major changes between the two model years, and both going for the same price:

2001 model, 75K miles.
2005 model, 109K miles.

I know that age had an effect on vehicles (more brittle parts, breakage, small things). But high miles can also be bad on a vehicle, though today's cars/trucks seem to do better than those 15-20 years ago.

Thoughts? Thanks!

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Old 10-31-2008   #2
DanOrion's Avatar
Indian Hills, Colorado
Join Date: Jun 2004
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I'd think about routine maintenance, such as timing belts and Consumer Reports reviews of different model years. At 75k, you're probably looking at a new timing belt really soon ($1500), so that factors in to your cost negotiation. I'd go to the library and check on Consumer Reports to see whether the 2001 or 2005 were particullarly good/bad years for the vehicle.

Finally, for my last few vehicles, I've bought through dealers and gotten well below private-party blue book prices by just being an aggressive negotiator. Choose a few days, go to dealers, see what they've got and tell them "I'll take that one for $____, including tax and all your add-on delivery bullshit." Sooner or later, you find a dealer who is willing to just get something off the lot at a low price for the sake of a quick sale. As a rule, offer about 15-20% less than the private party blue-book and see if you can set the hook. If you don't get up and start to walk out, you're probably paying too much.

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Old 10-31-2008   #3
pnw, Washington
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Yep I agree the mileage doesnt matter as much as the maintenance. Between 75 and 90k many cars need timing belts. Make sure the 100+k one has had that done. If its possible to review the maintenance records, the other thing to check is if it had regular oil changes. I sold my toyota at 75k and changed the oil regularly with synthetic and the mechanic checking it out for the new owner said it had virtually no wear.
"Yesterday I was clever and tried to change the world. Today I am wise and try to change myself." -Rumi
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Old 10-31-2008   #4
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The Ranch, Colorado
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I strongly second Orion's call to look at consumer reports on the make and model of cars your looking at. It's worth some money to do good research. Mileage matters more.

Always get an engine compression check done on a used car. It's not terribly expensive and can tell you if there's anything out of sync with the engine. I'm not sure how you check transmissions, but that's the other "big" thing to check before you buy.

Finally, buy Japanese. Seriously, Toyata, Nissan, Honda, all have the highest manufacturing standards (Toyota especially). In cars over 100K miles, these have significantly fewer unexpected high-cost things going wrong (it is dependent on how owners handled things, though).
"self-aggrandizing jackass" - it says it right on the label
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Old 10-31-2008   #5
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Golden, Colorado
Paddling Since: 1984
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A couple of other hints:
  1. If you're hitting dealerships, always do it at the end of the month. The sales guys are especially keen on making a sale before monthly sales numbers close, even for a low commission, to show management that they're moving inventory.
  2. Do your shopping in Colorado Springs. Because of the large military population that's there for a short time before getting shipped out; there tends to be a lot of inventory with low miles ('cause they spend most of the week on base rather than driving around). The Springs is an especially good option is you're looking for a Firebird or anything with bitchin' flames and /or T-Tops.
  3. Consider a warranty, and negotiate just as hard for the price of the warranty. I've bought a couple of used cars from dealerships, and I've always had the warranties pay for themselves.
  4. If you're going to a dealership for a certain vehicle (say, you found it on a CL ad), go in with printouts of similar vehicles at other dealerships and act like you've already seen them. Make notations on the paper, like "new tires" and "brakes recently replaced" -shit like that. Make sure the sales guys sees them, so he thinks you're considering other options. He'll be less willing to let you walk.
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Old 10-31-2008   #6
the fort, Colorado
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depends on who had it before you, and how they drove it. for example, if it was a 4wd truck owned by a younger 20-something, chances are it's been down some rough roads way too fast, in some mud, and in some other predicament that you don't care to think about. that's why when i bought my truck (4wd tacoma), i bought it from a private party - an old man that had put 29k on it over 4 years of ownership. it was in great condition and hasn't given me an ounce of trouble.

how well the car was made also plays into the equation. my wife's old 95 volvo is still running strong, although she isn't as easy on it as i would like for her to be. i would guess that if she was driving a 95 buick, it would have been toast a long time ago. but since the volvo is a better built rig, it'll last as long as she wants it to, i would guess.

routine maintenance, like everyone else mentioned, is the other key. if you don't change the oil, grease parts that need it, etc., it's gonna break down faster. make sure service records are available, or that the owner can at least point you to whoever did the service for them. we use non-dealership places for both of our vehicles, and they keep records of when the oil was changed, when timing belts were replaced, etc., so the previous owner should be able to do the same for the vehicle(s) you're looking at.

good luck, and if you're looking for a wagon, i know where you could get a good deal on a '95 volvo 850.....
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Listen to the river sing sweet songs to rock my soul.
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Old 10-31-2008   #7
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Indian Hills, Colorado
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I might mention that sometimes you can luck out on Carfax and find the full service records for a vehicle that has always been taken to the dealer. Good luck!
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Old 11-01-2008   #8
FatmanZ's Avatar
NOCO, Colorado
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Thanks for the info. Has anyone ever worked with a small used dealer and picked out a car at the auction?
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Old 11-01-2008   #9
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Indian Hills, Colorado
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I tried auction one time and it didn't go very well. I ended up bailing on the deal. You usually don't get a chance to check the mechanicals too well. Friends have been more succeessful. As I said, I've gotten great deals from bigger dealers: GO and Stevinson.
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Old 11-01-2008   #10
Buena Vista/Summit, N/A
Paddling Since: 2002
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just get a toyota!! I have a 88 pick up with 231k she rocks, and I would trust her to take me from buena vista to east coast in a heart beat. better yet west coast!! the last toyota I owned was just as good. a paseo 92, it got 35mpg. toyota has a couple us factories and I hurd gm or ford has moved factories to mexico. toyotas hold resale value very well, oh everyone knows that.

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