Thursday, September 21st, 2017

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Ask YOUNG MONEY: Which Used Car Should I Buy?


I’m a college sophomore and I’d like to purchase a reliable used vehicle about 5-6 years old. I live close to campus so I don’t plan to drive it too much. Any suggestions on which ones to start investigating in the $6,000-$10,000 range?

Tom Phillips

Dear Tom,

Thank you for writing!

I usually do not like to provide specific vehicle recommendations because I do not know your specific transportation needs. There are two parts to getting a "good buy" on a vehicle. First, buying a vehicle that truly meets your driving needs and, second, then buying it at a good price. This results in maximum driving pleasure at a reasonable cost.

I would suggest that you visit your local public library and check out the April 2001 "vehicle edition" issue of Consumer Reports. Identify the category of vehicles that will best meet your needs. Check out the repair history on vehicles in that category and pick 2-3 vehicles to zero in on and drive.

I can recommend a vehicle that gives me or someone else much driving pleasure. I could also recommend one that is dependable and at a good price. However, if it does not give you the same driving pleasure, how good is it really even if the price is right?

Concerning prices, check out the current month’s N.A.D.A. Used Car Price Guide at the library or online at www.nadaguides.com. If you shop carefully, you should be able to buy the vehicle that meets your driving needs for 20-25 percent below retail price.

All that being said, I would consider a 1996 Toyota Camry LE for about $5,500-$6,000. You should also look at a 2000 Toyota Camry or 2000 Honda Accord that sell for roughly $10,000-$10,500.

If you want more of an SUV (college people need to move stuff), consider a 1998 Subaru Outback or a 1997 Nissan Pathfinder for $7,000-$7,500. Again, I do not know your driving needs. You need to consider how much passenger room, cargo area, front-wheel drive, all-wheel drive, etc., you will need.

I would try to buy from a private owner who has owned the vehicle since it was new. I would also avoid dealers because they generally want to make the maximum profit possible, which means the buyer pays more for a given vehicle. Also, in many instances, dealers do not have complete maintenance information about a used vehicle. The more information that the buyer knows, the better their chances of making a good purchase.

I hope that this helps you.

All the best driving,

Kyle Busch

Kyle is the author of "Drive the Best for the Price: How to Buy a Used Automobile, Sport-Utility Vehicle, or Minivan and Save Money." For answers to other automotive questions, please visit his website at DriveTheBestBook.com.

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