Ask the Readers: Help Me Purchase a Slightly Used Car

by Mike on May 5, 2010

OK friends, here’s the deal, my financial journey is taking one of those unexpected sharp turns. I was rear ended by a drunk driver on Friday night and my car is going to be totaled. Fortunately, I have all the right types of insurance (uninsured motorist & GAP) so my out of pocket expenses should be minimal. However, I only have a baby emergency fund, not enough to cover a new vehicle with cash. As I wrote last week, I want to try a modified version of Dave Ramsey’s Drive Free Retire Rich plan. I thought I would have my current vehicle another 5+ years, enabling me to pay it off and save enough to pay cash for my next vehicle. Since this is not going to happen, I have to finance another vehicle. My financial awareness has changed a lot since 2004, so I won’t be marching into a car dealership buying the first new car that I lay my eyes on. In fact, I won’t be buying a new car at all! I plan on getting a slightly used (2008-2009) vehicle with low mileage (preferably under 50,000).

So readers, I need your help!

  • I’m looking for where I can go to get a used car: dealer, Craigslist, private owner, rentals for sale
  • I’m looking for suggestions on what type of car to consider…my priorities are below
  • Any other advice pertaining to the purchase of a new vehicle! The last time I purchased a vehicle, I made a lot of dumb financial mistakes. I don’t want to do that again

My vehicle requirements / priorities are:

  • High safety rating
  • Proven reliability
  • Good on gas
  • Reasonably priced. For a slightly used, I’d like to stay under $10K

I mostly use my vehicle to commute to work, so this is a practical purchase. Unfortunately, I never learned how to drive with 5-speed transmission, so my options are limited to automatic. I’m not looking for a luxury vehicle with bells, whistles, insane speed and horsepower.

Thanks in advance!

{ 2 trackbacks }

awning installation pasadena
January 29, 2020 at 1:42 am
Don’t Buy Your Next Car Before Checking Out These Sites | Engineer Your Finances
May 19, 2010 at 8:13 pm

{ 29 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Diana July 21, 2011 at 8:13 pm

If you go to not only can you look up car values but they have a certified pre-owned section where you can buy the car you want directly from a dealer’s inventory. These second hand cars are much more reliable.
.-= Diana´s last blog ..How to Do Reiki on Youself =-.

2 Max July 19, 2011 at 6:22 pm

If you’re still looking check the message boards at and to find the lowest prices

3 myfinancialobjectives May 13, 2010 at 2:40 pm

Try looking at public government auto auctions. That is where my family and I have gotten the last 5 of our cars. All work well and we got them for very cheap. So cheap, in fact, that we could have just turned around and sold every one of them for a profit instead of using them as our personal vehicles.

4 PF Journey May 13, 2010 at 7:47 am

OK folks,
There’s a 2008 Saturn Vue – GREEN LINE that has caught my eye and 2008 Kia Sportage. Jeep Liberty is still in the running….

Anybody got experience with those?

5 Kate May 11, 2010 at 2:40 pm

I would try private sellers or a deal that will offer you a guarantee on a used car. If you find a make/model you like, be sure to do your due diligence with carfax and also a quick google search online. I have had tons of issues with my used car and when I googled it, I found I was not the only one. Looking at Car & Driver or other publications that rate cars. If I am not mistaken, the years you were thinking about were very good to Kia.

That said – So glad you are OK!

6 Ken May 10, 2010 at 3:15 pm

In regards to previous post on negotiation….if you’re not good at it…take someone with you who is…and be able to walk away if the plan (price) doesn’t fit your needs.

7 Barb Friedberg May 9, 2010 at 7:54 pm

Just wanted to say, I’m glad you are ok. You have already received amazing advice, the only thing I would add is this, wherever you look, be sure to NEGOTIATE the price. And don’t stop negotiating. Go armed with information from edmunds and other sites on the value of the vehicle you are considering and then have an idea of what you want to pay. If you can’t get that price, move on to another seller. You are in the drivers seat. Good luck! Barb

8 PF Journey May 9, 2010 at 10:28 am


I’m going to look at a used Chevy Equinox tomorrow and probably a Blazer. I’m looking for another SUV to replace my Mitsubishi Outlander. Anyone have experience with either of these vehicles or other SUV recommendations?

9 harvestwages May 9, 2010 at 1:19 am

Hey Lakita,
i’m glad they were not hurt – God still did it. As for your car replacement, i have no suggestions, since i’m not a USA citizen. Wish you make the right choice, that will still permit you attain your financial goals.
.-= harvestwages´s last blog ..Parental Guidance and Leadership – Which of These 6 Styles Best Describes You? =-.

10 PF Journey May 9, 2010 at 10:17 am

Yes, God did it!

11 Divine and Debt Free May 8, 2010 at 8:12 am

Glad you are ok!!! I purchased my used paid for car with cash from craigs list. I had it checked over 3 times and its running great.

If you can stay away from car payments I would strongly suggest it. Its such a freeing experience!!
.-= Divine and Debt Free´s last blog ..I have Joined the Yakezie Challenge!! =-.

12 ChrisFM May 6, 2010 at 9:26 pm

Hey Kita,

Glad to hear you’re doing well. As I always tell people, cars can be easily replaced.

I’m going to go along with the crowd recommending Craigslist, but add the suggestion that you use Its search interface is 100x more intuitive than CL’s…well, lists. And since you’re looking for a used car, here’s a great guide on how to do so: (sorry if links are a no-no)

Best wishes,
.-= ChrisFM´s last blog ..Paul Mooney on wealth =-.

13 PF Journey May 9, 2010 at 10:17 am

Don’t know if I can do Craigslist while financing, but I’ll definitely check out the interface! Thanks Chris!

14 Vera May 6, 2010 at 10:13 am

Have you thought about car auctions? If you have enough cash (but not enough to buy a used car from a lot), you can get a great deal there. Our recent purchase was a car that was going for $10,000 at the car dealership – we got it for $4000 and spent another $300 on minor repairs.

15 PF Journey May 9, 2010 at 10:16 am


I’m not sure auctions would work for me. I think you have to have cash on hand, and are you allowed to inspect / test drive the vehicles? If not, that would be a major deterrent!

16 used car May 5, 2010 at 10:22 pm

A car of any real value is not looked at as to what year it is only that it is. If you own a used Bentley, no one asks what year it is. My son and his wife own two vehicles both are paid for. one of them is a 1996 Toyota T-100 and the other is a 2004 Honda Odyssey.

17 car buying advice June 3, 2010 at 2:12 pm

Agree with you. It doesn’t matter what year but the performance and how it is well maintained.

18 Jackie May 5, 2010 at 6:54 pm

Glad you’re ok! (And good for you for having GAP insurance.) I’d suggest looking at for info on reliability, pricing, etc. They also have a used car buying guide on their site that would probably be helpful. Craigslist,, the newspaper, dealers, and auctions are all places to get used cars.

Remember that the things the insurance company offers you are negotiable. Do your own research on what your car was worth as well, using examples from your local area. And press for longer time with the rental. You don’t want to buy a replacement car in a hurry. (Or at least I wouldn’t.)

Do you have a mechanic that you trust? I’d bring whatever car you choose by that person if so for a once-over so that you’ll have an idea of what you’ll be getting into.

I’m not so sure though that you couldn’t go ahead with at least a version of the “Drive Free, Retire Rich” plan though. In fact what happened could actually inadvertently speed you on the path. If you can get a settlement from the other driver’s insurance for your trouble, you can use that to buy a beater or the used car. You could always buy a $1500 car now, and then move up when you’re able to throw a lot of money toward a car fund.
.-= Jackie´s last blog ..Change the Right Things =-.

19 LJ2Blessed May 5, 2010 at 2:38 pm

Oh, I know what I forgot. You can head to your closest bookstore (Barnes & Noble/Borders/BooksAMillion) and find the newest Consumer Reports Used Car Buying Guide. It’ll have a list of recommended cars, and what years and models you can find at that price.

20 LJ2Blessed May 5, 2010 at 12:58 pm

Kita – I’m assuming you are okay with no major injuries? *bighug* This happened to me the end of March and I made some dumb moves…so hopefully you won’t follow in my footsteps.

Local newspaper!
Craigslist (sort to cars&trucks – by owner)!
Local classifieds like large colleges, credit unions, etc (I’m not sure where you live). There are folks who are leaving the state/country since the semester is over and are selling cars like crazy.

Keep the rental car as long as you can! Don’t make a decision based on “since I have to return the rental tomorrow” like I did :nono:! Let the insurance company know that you have been GREATLY disadvantaged and need the car not only to commute to work but also to get to dr. visits/chiro appts.

I was pleasantly surprised that my car appraised for more than I owed (a TON at a MUCH higher interest rate than you had); so don’t be worried about that (especially since you have GAP).

If you are financing – shop for your own financing before you get to the dealership! Credit unions have great rates, or even shop on!

If I think of anything else I wish I’d have done I’ll be sure to come back with more!

21 PF Journey May 5, 2010 at 1:10 pm

Great advice! *Hugs back*
I’m going to look into all of that!

22 Joseph | May 5, 2010 at 9:15 am

Sorry about your wreck, and glad you are OK.. If you are planning to buy cash Yes! craigslist, autotrader would be the best place to start…i am not sure whether you can get financing using these sites!
Local newspaper ads, and speaking with body shop people if you know any in your area.
.-= Joseph |´s last blog ..Time Management Part III- Managing Distractions =-.

23 PF Journey May 5, 2010 at 1:12 pm

Yeah, I’m not sure about financing through a private owner either. I’ll look into it though because sometimes you can get better deals through private owners.

24 Matt Jabs May 5, 2010 at 8:46 am

Sorry to hear about the accident Lakita, I’m glad you’re alright. Question for you… if you had all the right insurance why will you have to finance a vehicle? Why not just use you claim settlement?

Other than that, I say figure out the make, model, and year of vehicle you want, then just set up Craigslist and eBay Classifieds alerts for it and watch for a great deal.
.-= Matt Jabs´s last blog ..DFA Link Rally: I Bought a Scooter! =-.

25 Matt Jabs May 5, 2010 at 9:26 am

Ahhh… I see. Your settlement will be used to pay off the car that was totaled. Bummer.

Do you have a “New Auto Fund” savings account? Betsy and I created one awhile back… both our vehicles are paid off, and now we save $350/month into our New Auto Fund (ING of course 🙂 ,) and we have nearly $2k in there already… it adds up fast.

Depending on how much you have in your EF, my advice is to use that to purchased a used vehicle… even if you only have $2k you should be able to find a reliable buy at that price – reliable enough to last you at least a year anyway. Then, save your regular payment amount – say $350 – into a savings account each month… at the end of 1 year you will have just over $4k. If your used car is still running, you can keep saving… if not – use the $4k to buy an even better used car – wash, rinse, repeat. 🙂
.-= Matt Jabs´s last blog ..DFA Link Rally: I Bought a Scooter! =-.

26 PF Journey May 5, 2010 at 9:42 am

Now you got it! No “auto fund” yet. This car was the leg flake in my debt snowball and I was scheduled to start doubling payments in June and get it paid off before next summer. Then, I would put aside around $350 a month into an auto fund. I was just outlining that plan last week in my modified version of Dave Ramsey’s Drive Free – Retire Rich.

I am SO thankful for GAP insurance, otherwise I would be stuck paying for a car that I can’t drive!!! Even though I am going to finance, it will be for less than what I would currently owe the bank and should still be able to pay it off in a year.

Check out:

27 PF Journey May 5, 2010 at 8:54 am


Good question. Honestly, I’m not sure I understand the entire insurance / settlement process. The settlement / claims person took a LOT of information about my vehicle yesterday and is supposed to give me an estimate of my car’s value today.

However, I believe I owed more on the car than it will be appraised for. If I understand correctly, my insurance will only pay the bank what they estimate the car worth at the time of the accident. The GAP insurance will cover any difference. Is that correct?

Unfortunately, I financed through the dealer and took a high interest (6%) long term (7 yr) loan. Yeah….I’m embarrassed to even admit that! Live and LEARN!

28 Car Negotiation Coach May 5, 2010 at 8:32 am

Hi Lakita, First off, I’m a new Yakezie member, so hello!

Secondly, I love doling out car buying advice, but its currently geared towards new car shopping…however, for a used car, I do have a couple tips:

1- always get a vehicle history report before you buy and strongly consider getting an inspection by a mechanic. both are worth the money in the end
2- when i lived in the south, i used to love CarMax…if you happen to have one near you try it. is also a good place for online listings
3- shop around for used car financing the same way you would for new car financing. Get quotes from multiple providers online in advance of your purchase. if you’re buying from a used car dealer, see if they will beat your online quote.

Hope that helps a little!
.-= Car Negotiation Coach´s last blog ..Cash, Credit, or Finance – What will get you the best deal? =-.

29 PF Journey May 5, 2010 at 1:13 pm

Welcome fellow Yakezie!
I never heard of CarMax, I’ll look into it, thanks!

Previous post:

Next post: