Used car buying help - OG brethren, ASSEMBLE!

I’ve never had a car payment, always driven hand-me-downs or cheap cars I could buy outright. But now, with a wife and 2 year old, and with my current beater falling apart, it’s time to bite the bullet and buy a (somewhat) respectable and reliable vehicle.

Our budget is $9-13,000. We’ll put down $4 or 5K and finance the rest. We are looking for a small to mid-size SUV with AWD, under 100K miles. I would prefer Japanese or Korean, but am willing to hear arguments on the quality of any worthy American makes. I refuse to buy a Ford Explorer though. Several of my parents have had Explorers over the years and they have all sucked.

Here’s what I’ve seen in my price range:

1) Hyundai Sante Fe or Tuscons, 2004-2009, 50k-90k mileage
2) Honda Pilots, 2003-2006, 70k-95k mileage
3) Honda CRVs, 2001-2008, 60k-95k mileage
4) Nissan Rogues or Muranos, 2004-2010, 45k-90k mileage
5 Toyota Highlanders, 2001-2007, 70K-95k mileage
6) Toyota 4Runners V8 & V6, both 2004 with about 85k mileage
7) Toyota RAV4, 2003-2006, 75k-95k mileage
8) Acura MDX, 2003 & 2006, 95k & 75k mileage
9) Subaru Foresters, 2002-2009, 45k-95k mileage

Would love to hear opinions on the quality and reliability any of you have experienced with these types of vehicles. Thanks in advance.

When I am not at work and can find a minute of privacy at home, will do my best to post a hottie for all your efforts.

You didn't list it on there but my wife and I loved our Ford Escape. Never had any problems with it.

I wouldn't pay 13k for anything with 95k miles. For that money you should be in the 30-40k mile range.

95k miles may lead to a host of problems down the road.

jcblass - I wouldn't pay 13k for anything with 95k miles. For that money you should be in the 30-40k mile range.

95k miles may lead to a host of problems down the road.
This Phone Post 3.0

jcblass - I wouldn't pay 13k for anything with 95k miles. For that money you should be in the 30-40k mile range.

95k miles may lead to a host of problems down the road.

Of course. Most of the vehicles with that mileage were at the $8-9k price range. But you'd be surprised at how Hondas and Subarus can hold their value.

iulawmatt - You didn't list it on there but my wife and I loved our Ford Escape. Never had any problems with it.

I've had such bad experiences with Fords, I'm reluctant to buy them again. How many miles did you get out of your Escape?

oldnslow - 
iulawmatt - You didn't list it on there but my wife and I loved our Ford Escape. Never had any problems with it.

I've had such bad experiences with Fords, I'm reluctant to buy them again. How many miles did you get out of your Escape?

We probably put 50,000 miles on it. We only kept it for a couple of years because we had my son and it wasn't big enough for what we needed to get out of it.

4 Runners are solid,don't let mileage worry you.They will easily triple that with proper maintenance. Whatever you decide on have a good tech look it over before you buy.If they won't let someone else inspect it,move along.

Nissan Pathfinder. I've had two (97, 01) and you can pretty easily find 06+ with the mileage you want in your price range.

Honda Element? Volvo, Audi or Saab wagon?

EtownGGod - I personally don't buy any used domestics just cuz of the parts costs is always higher than imports. And if u have that much down, why not go brand new? Depending on what u have for options to can get pretty low payments. Phone Post 3.0

My reasons for not going brand new are:

1) Don't want to go into too much debt. We are trying to keep the monthly payment low in order to pay off wife's student loans as quickly as possible. And, just have an aversion to a lot of debt.

2) My credit is mediocre. Not sure if qualify for a $20k car note.

3) I live and park on the street in Queens, NY. Always told myself I would never buy new until I could afford off the street parking - which I can't.


Also, to clarify, you are saying that domestic cars (American) are more costly to repair?

You are looking in a very risky price range for something you are going to finance. Most cars powertrains are good for the first 100k or more, but it's all the other stuff that can start to go, like A/C parts, power accessories, and long term wearout items like calipers, cv joints and other suspension parts, and that stuff can add up to more than powertain parts sometimes. When you're driving an old beater and stuff like that happens, you expect it, but when stuff like that starts to go and you are still making payments on the thing, that sucks worse. I recommend bumping up the budget to a 1-2 year old car with under 40k or at least buying an extended bumper to bumper warranty with an older option.

It might be closer to your price limit but you might be able to find a decent BMW X3.  Parts are gonna be a little more but they are easy vehicles to work on if you do that kind of thing yourself.

soonertodd - 4 Runners are solid,don't let mileage worry you.They will easily triple that with proper maintenance. Whatever you decide on have a good tech look it over before you buy.If they won't let someone else inspect it,move along.

Thanks, good to know. I've always had a soft spot for Toyota. The 4 Runner was a little big and truck like for my tastes, but I'd be ok with that if it's a solid and reliable vehicle.

inanima - Nissan Pathfinder. I've had two (97, 01) and you can pretty easily find 06+ with the mileage you want in your price range.

Honda Element? Volvo, Audi or Saab wagon?

Thanks, will keep an eye out for Pathfinders.

The Honda Element is hard to find in AWD. Plus, I sat in a few when my brother-in-law was car shopping. Was not crazy about them.

Volvo, Audi & SAAB: Parts too expensive to buy used with no warranty.

Get a car fax report, do a kbb trade in value (usually close to auction price) to get a feel for mark up, have a mechanic heck it out. Remember, they still need to make some scratch.


Get financing from your credit union, dealers tack on points. Don't buy anything else but maybe gap insurance.

Show your wad of money then walk...watch the price drop!!!

sadic1 - You are looking in a very risky price range for something you are going to finance. Most cars powertrains are good for the first 100k or more, but it's all the other stuff that can start to go, like A/C parts, power accessories, and long term wearout items like calipers, cv joints and other suspension parts, and that stuff can add up to more than powertain parts sometimes. When you're driving an old beater and stuff like that happens, you expect it, but when stuff like that starts to go and you are still making payments on the thing, that sucks worse. I recommend bumping up the budget to a 1-2 year old car with under 40k or at least buying an extended bumper to bumper warranty with an older option.

Thank you for this post. This is kind of what I was worried about.

In my current plan, I'd only be financing $5-8k for a 36month loan. It would be about $200, give or take 50, a month. Not too bad a nut if I have to cough up some repair money.

But your point is well taken. I guess I was hoping that I could find a car in my price point that would not involve too many serious repairs over the next 3 years or so.

Seeing that you've already made it clear that this will be a vehicle that you will use for some time and not a beater, why don't you just buy a new car? You said your already going to put down about $4k. You have peace of mind knowing that your vehicle is under warranty. That nobody did some screwed up shit with it, and it wasn't submerged in a lake or a pond. Plus what your going to pay in interest alone on a loan for a used vehicle that old with that many miles is crazy. Phone Post 3.0

fryabusa - 


It might be closer to your price limit but you might be able to find a decent BMW X3.  Parts are gonna be a little more but they are easy vehicles to work on if you do that kind of thing yourself.


Aside from oil changes and windshield wipers, I am not a DIY car repair kind of guy.

And regarding a used BMW, I am currently driving a 1999 Mercedes ML320 that I bought in Feb of 2011 for $4k. The repair costs are killing me. I refuse to buy used German again. Sorry.

Voted you up for the input though.

ruger007 - Get a car fax report, do a kbb trade in value (usually close to auction price) to get a feel for mark up, have a mechanic heck it out. Remember, they still need to make some scratch.


Get financing from your credit union, dealers tack on points. Don't buy anything else but maybe gap insurance.

Show your wad of money then walk...watch the price drop!!!

Thanks. I'm definitely looking to finance through my bank/insurance company (USAA), not the dealer.