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Buying a used car? Stealerships v. Individual owners

Posted: Thu Mar 26, 2020 12:41 pm
by TopHatFox
I've been trying to buy a used car for the parents and man is the used-car market absolutely teeming with landmines. I've binged on all of Scotty Kilmer's mechanic videos on Youtube, and read his how-to-buy-a-used car book. I've decided to get a Toyota Corolla from 2011-2016 that has a conventional automatic transmission rather than a CVT. A Honda Civic would also work.

Going to the dealerships has been a nightmare. These motherfuckers will lie to your face and stab you in the back. As-is cars, no returns, exchange at our lot, you can only bring-in a mechanic (can't take it to their shop), no test-driving on the highway, 99999 month auto loans, and on and on and on. It's not a controversial statement to say used car stealerships are the scum of the earth.

Unfortunately, probably because of Coronavirus, it's been very difficult to find individuals selling used cars from their property. That would be SO much easier: you get the lower individual seller price, you can probably convince them to drive it on the highway, they are unlikely to refuse a mechanic check (in fact they could even come with you), the negotiation is with a newbie not an expert, etc.

Got any ideas? Parents need to return their lease in a week or so, so we're down to the wire. ><

Re: Buying a used car? Stealerships v. Individual owners

Posted: Thu Mar 26, 2020 12:48 pm
by theanimal
Have you looked on Craigslist?

Re: Buying a used car? Stealerships v. Individual owners

Posted: Thu Mar 26, 2020 12:58 pm
by ether
I've found that buying new is worth it. Just get a subcompact car in the 15k-20k range and finance it at 0% for 5 years. Over a 5 year period gas and insurance will cost more than deprecation. ... =401755546

Also use this site and offer the price at dealer cost: ... rices.html

I've helped a buddy last week negotiate a 26k car for 2k below dealer cost. Trust me dealerships are getting killed right now and desperate for sales. Now's the time to low ball new cars.

Re: Buying a used car? Stealerships v. Individual owners

Posted: Thu Mar 26, 2020 2:11 pm
by TopHatFox
@theanimal, yeah, I've used Craigslist and OfferUp thus far. Kelly Blue Book and NADA for price baselines.

@ether, we may need to do that, trouble is, it seems like all new cars come with a CVT transmission, which tend to need to be replaced when broken (too complex to fix). They also are more expensive to insure, have more expensive parts, and take the spike in depreciation as soon as you drive it off the lot.

Re: Buying a used car? Stealerships v. Individual owners

Posted: Thu Mar 26, 2020 2:16 pm
by Loner
Not sure how it works in the US, but here in Canada, you can find used cars in new car dealerships. It's the cars they get in exchange when people buy a car from them and leave them their old car for a rebate on the new one. What the dealerships usually do is that they inspect the car, send away the shitty ones to used car dealerships, keep the solid(er) ones and then sell them themselves. It's usually a good bet (says a cousin who works in the industry).

Re: Buying a used car? Stealerships v. Individual owners

Posted: Thu Mar 26, 2020 2:30 pm
by CS
If you go new,

Good value manuals: (good reliability, though not sure how your folks feel about manuals)

Toyota Yaris sedan (Madza 2, basically) - spring for the armrest.
Honda Civic and Accords (though the stick feels like shit compared to the old school 1990s hondas.)

The Honda Accord LX manual sedan is not listed on their site, but it is available (check It has the non turbo engine (read, "non-oil burning engine") and smaller tires for a better ride. It also has a manual key. (Scotty will give you an earful about those electronic keys). Those features of that car make it the best choice of the accord lineup. If I was going to buy a car, this is the one.

I miss the 15" tires, but all those idiots are going for the 'cool look' of big wheels. I don't think losing a kidney (and a wheel) to potholes is cool, but maybe that's just me. (You can also dust people easier with a smaller wheel.)

Re: Buying a used car? Stealerships v. Individual owners

Posted: Thu Mar 26, 2020 7:12 pm
by TopHatFox
@CS, how does tire size affect a car's handling, safety, efficiency, etc.?

Do hubcaps have any effect aside from keeping the dirt and grime out?

Re: Buying a used car? Stealerships v. Individual owners

Posted: Thu Mar 26, 2020 8:26 pm
by CS

The bigger wheels are going to have a stiffer ride because the rubber part is actually thinner. A smaller tire is going ride softer, giving the wheels extra cushion when they run over bumps in the road, and also gives the steering a slightly softer feel. This shouldn't be an issue for your parents since they are probably not planning on squealing around corners. For safety, you want the wheel size the car was designed for and not get wildly different size. Making a big change can mess up your speedometer/odometer things. I have no idea about efficiency of the different sizes.

Big wheels are also a hella lot more expensive to get new tires for.

No idea about the hubcaps. Everyone wants those fancy wheels but to me all I see are dollar going down the drain when I see them. :)

I feel sort of bad now pushing the Accord. It is a pricy car and I was def being silly for lusting over it. My current ride is a 21 year old honda civic that I can't stand the thought of getting rid of, though I drove it less than 5k miles last year, and this year is going to be much less than that, lol! It only has 230k miles on it - could have easily done five times that in 21 years. Rust will kill it, much to my sadness. If it was a Cali car, it would still be going strong.

I have test driven the Yaris. Nice and responsive. Bit loud in the cabin, but it is an inexpensive car.

When you said, Scotty, I was surprised you weren't planning on getting a '94 Celica or whatever it is he is always raving about. :lol: :lol: :lol:

My parents need a car. I tried to talk them into a used Scion (the boxy ones). Perfect older person car - no climbing up or having to squat near the ground to get into it, and it is solid Toyota reliability.

Scotty on Scions - is a great resource for finding specific cars nationwide, new and used. Those dealerships might be a bit nicer this week with all the lockdowns going on.

Re: Buying a used car? Stealerships v. Individual owners

Posted: Thu Mar 26, 2020 11:36 pm
by 2Birds1Stone
Every car/motorcycle I've owned in the past 17 years has been purchased and resold on Craigslist.

Re: Buying a used car? Stealerships v. Individual owners

Posted: Fri Mar 27, 2020 4:15 am
by TopHatFox
@CS, Scion was a great suggestion! I think the Camry or Accord are out since they're unnecessarily big and generally more expensive than their smaller Corolla or Civic versions, respectively. The Yaris is essentially a Mazda, so I think it's out unfortunately. I looked at the years that have conventional automatic transmissions and here are the brands, models, and years that would work to look for thus far:

1. Toyota Corolla: 2011-2013, any model; 2014-2016, only model L
2. Toyota Matrix: 2011-2013, any model
3. Scion iA, xB, or xD (Toyota re-brand for Millenials): I think 2011-2015, any models have a conventional automatic
4. Honda Civic: 2011-2013, any model; everything after 2013 has a CVT

As far as color, I'm thinking of looking out for white cars, since there are many studies that correlate white with a reduced chance of an accident (and dark colors such as black or dark blue with an increased chance).

I believe my conclusion from this PITA process is that most cars are mechanically suspect, fit lifestyle poorly (i.e. an SUV or truck being used to commute 10 miles to an office in FL), and the chances of getting screwed by a dealer are extremely high. It's no wonder most people fail at this crucial choice. I can only imagine the housing market is even more fraught with landmines...perhaps as much as the higher education or insurance market.


On that note, when I tell people that I'm buying a used car, they tend to freak out and start sharing their poor experiences. In all of these instances, it's usually been for a poor brand and model choice, and--surprise, surprise--they never took it to a highly-rated mechanic to do a pre-purchase inspection.


@everyone, thus far, I have:

1. Craiglist
2. OfferUp
3. (if I want to fly to see a car! haha)
4. New car dealerships that have some quality trade-ins

Any other good ones to find private owners?

Re: Buying a used car? Stealerships v. Individual owners

Posted: Fri Mar 27, 2020 6:36 am
by C40
Facebook marketplace is used a lot in some areas.

Between that and Craigslist, there are normally plenty of options for private sales

A good strategy is to be watching regularly to find the type of seller you want. That is, someone selling a decent car, who puts it at a low price to make the sale quickly and simply. You need to be ready to act quickly. I guess the hard part of this is you need to know how to spot a deal,... which is difficult when you're not that familiar with cars and pricing.

Buying at a dealership can work. But you need to know that you can't believe much of anything a salesman tells you.. and you need to be good at negotiating. Again, knowing what's a good car and what's a good price goes a long way. Then you can say, "alright, I can give you $3,200 for it.. right now.. that's total price out the door.. you figure out your fees and whatever." and be clear (you can just be in the way you say it) that this is the only offer you'll make.

One thing to note about dealers, and used car lots - they sell a lot of cars that are offloaded by rental companies (Avis, Hertz, etc.). Personally, I wouldn't buy one of those unless I was buying it at a big discount. I think with some VIN checks it is possible to recognize this, but I'm not certain.

Re: Buying a used car? Stealerships v. Individual owners

Posted: Sun Mar 29, 2020 11:59 pm
by TopHatFox
So I’ve been trying to find a white Corolla since they’re statistically most visible on the road and get in the least # of accidents, but it’s been hard to do so with all the other requirements. Maybe if I just put some visibility strips on whatever-colored car I get?

Or buy a Corolla that fits the list of requirements in whatever color, and then trade it for the same one, but in white? Annoying to have to meet a lease end-date deadline.

Fuck dealerships, honestly. Tired of dealing with their “we’ll give you an extended warranty” or “it has a lifetime drivetrain guarantee” or “our mechanic are excellent, there’s no need to take it to yours” or “here, let me charge you twice what this car is worth as an individual sale.” Individual sale is amazing by comparison.

Re: Buying a used car? Stealerships v. Individual owners

Posted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 10:50 am
by SavingWithBabies
I used to only buy used direct from owner but with my last auto purchase, I bought a used one directly from a Toyota dealership. I definitely paid a premium for that but the car wasn't that readily available and I wanted a local (non-rust belt) one (bought in California before we moved back to the rust belt). It was a trade-in as the family just wanted an up to date vehicle of the same model. So while you will pay a little more at a dealer, the whole deal can be smoother and I think there is less of a chance of getting ripped off (if you're buying from a name brand big dealer). I still had the next dealer over do an inspection just in case.

It's a good idea, when you visit any dealer, to ask them if they have any recent trade-ins. Tell them you don't care if it's been washed or cleaned as sometimes they want to do all that and get photos so they don't talk about the newest stuff or it's parked out back for someone to do something with and it's not right there to show so they forget.

As to CVT, I'm not a fan either and there have been some clunkers but unless the model you're looking at has a bad reputation for CVT failures, I wouldn't worry too much. There are tons of Priuses on the road with CVTs. I think our Camry hybrid has a CVT (update: yes, yes it does). I know Suburu had some really bad ones. I'm sure Toyota/Honda had some clunkers. But there are plenty of good ones. Just something to keep in mind.

As to white, I've never worried about that aspect as there is just so many other factors in accidents. To each their own but I personally would put this as a last line preference when two competing cars came up and you needed a tie-breaker.

That sucks the dealers are jerking you around. I think you just have to be firm. Money talks. They'll do what you want if you're firm. If they won't, your market is different and I'm not being helpful but I think they will. They will try any trick to just get you to do what they want though so you have to cut through their BS and put it on the line: Look, do you want me to buy this car? If so, it gets inspected by my mechanic. I'm walking out the door right now to spend my money at the next dealer. That kind of thing. Not my comfort zone.

I forgot one last thing, you should start with the biggest branded dealers in your area that get the highest volume. They are still going to have slick sales people but they are used to closing deals and are looking for volume. So while they might not have "steals", they do want to protect their reputation and are not going to try to get that last cent out of you. They want a sale and on to the next one. The smaller dealers are more of a hassle and are really targeting the people with poorer credit that will sign bad inflated loans (so they need to over price the vehicle) because they don't have a choice. My personal preference here is the biggest dealer that is slightly out out of the city / a little more suburban. I think that is the sweet spot for some reason in terms of finding quality used cars with sales people who just want them gone so they can get the cash on the trade-in.

Re: Buying a used car? Stealerships v. Individual owners

Posted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 12:50 pm
by flying_pan
Looking at what you want, I'd proceed with a CPO. Individual sales are hit or miss, and you need to do several things:

- be ready to buy in HOURS
- know how to test car (to filter junk)
- understand people

For example, I got a Subaru Legacy 2002 with 100k miles on it with replaced head gaskets, resurfaced cylinder head and basic tune up (water pump, spark plugs, belt, etc) at 95k, it was $2500 for them. I paid $3k for this car and it should last forever (it also has a manual transmission).

The thing is that the ad was up at 23:00, I bought this car at 14:00 next day, and I personally inspected it and test drove (without a mechanic). I also talked with an owner, and they bought a new Subaru and did not want to trade-in their current one for $1k. Given that they replaced head gaskets as a preventative maintenance tells you a lot (they also kept all paperwork). Everything clicks here, and the car has 0 problems 6 months later. I also will be able to sell it for the same amount of money 5 years later. Obviously, it can die on me, but chances are pretty slim: except for the headgaskets, Subarus are pretty solid.

But it was luck and I was looking for a car for long time before I found a really good deal. If you are into that, sure, go ahead, I definitely was and I am glad I went through that experience. But next time I'll probably just get a CPO Toyota Corolla/Honda Civic/Hyundai Sonata (we'll see how long my current one will last). To get a good deal in the dealership, just tell them you like this car and this is what you will pay (offer them a fair price), and that's it. Leave your phone number and they probably will come back to you if your price is fair.

CPO has warranty on the powertrain (engine + transmission usually).

Re: Buying a used car? Stealerships v. Individual owners

Posted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 5:30 pm
by TopHatFox
I found an individual to buy, and got it checked out by a mechanic, drove it on the highway, and yup -- you have to buy it same-day. Bought it thousands cheaper than at the dealer (y)

Re: Buying a used car? Stealerships v. Individual owners

Posted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 5:39 pm
by SavingWithBabies
Nice! Glad it worked out.

Re: Buying a used car? Stealerships v. Individual owners

Posted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 7:22 pm
by TopHatFox
Yeah! Now I just need to replace the van (y)

Re: Buying a used car? Stealerships v. Individual owners

Posted: Mon Mar 30, 2020 11:14 pm
by CS

Re: Buying a used car? Stealerships v. Individual owners

Posted: Tue Mar 31, 2020 8:05 am
by flying_pan
Hey, glad it worked out for you! Congratulations!

Re: Buying a used car? Stealerships v. Individual owners

Posted: Thu Apr 02, 2020 10:38 am
by Laura Ingalls
I know you bought a car already but if anyone else is interested the Pontiac Vibe is the same as the Matrix. I loved my 2004 (rip) and a got 240k out of it before DS crashed it.