Misadventures in Shopping For a Used Car

buying a used car with a rebuilt or salvage title
Hidden gem or money pit?

I used to love shopping for new cars. We did it fairly often back in day. It was really easy to see a car we wanted, walk into a dealer, trade whatever car we had at the moment, sign up for payments, and drive away. I don’t believe we ever tried to negotiate, at least not that I remember. Yes, it was a bit unnerving to deal with salespeople, but I knew we’d get approved and leave with a shiny new car eventually. This time around, we are shopping for a used car, and I’m  having all kinds of anxiety!

New Cars Are a Rip Off

After actually shopping around, it’s amazing to me that a new 2015 car costs $5000-$10,000 more than the same used model with less than 30,000 miles. We are mainly looking for Toyota or Honda used cars, so under 50K miles is practically like new. There are tons of barely used vehicles out there that sell for way less than new cars.

One example we saw is a 2011 Honda Civic LX with only 23,000 miles. It is a one owner car that was traded for a new SUV. What do you want a bet it was because of recent low gas prices? I hate to judge because that was me at one point, but it makes a person striving for FI cringe to see people trade up a practically new car for an even newer gas guzzler!

Are Sales People Not Nice to Used Car Buyers?

Every time we’ve gone to the new car lot, a salesperson has magically appeared within 60 seconds and stuck like white on rice throughout the whole visit. When looking at the used section, I’ve found that the service is certainly less “helpful.” In a way, I don’t mind because I don’t enjoy sales people for the most part, but when you have to go inside and search for someone to get a price, that’s a bit annoying.

Maybe it was because it was cold and close to the end of the day, but the salesman didn’t seem very enthused at all about our presence. He didn’t even ask for our names or offer us a test drive! I guess as we look at more vehicles, I’ll see if we just got a lazy one or if this is a trend. Maybe new cars are selling so well right now that salesmen don’t want to be bothered with the used set?

Are Rebuilt Titles a Good Deal?

We’ve run across a couple of cars being sold on eBay with rebuilt titles. They are both from dealers and have been inspected as in good condition. The prices are much lower than clear titles, but I don’t know if rebuilt titles are a good buy or not. IT seems opinions are mixed. Some reviewers would never buy anything but rebuilt while others say not to touch them with a ten foot pole.

I wonder if it’s similar to buying a distressed real estate property vs something that’s move in ready?  It would suck to buy a car that had mechanical problems, but it would be awesome if we got a like new car for almost half price.

It seems the other cons would be in resale value and insurance. In our case, resale value is irrelevant as we intend to keep this car for many years. In Colorado, it seems rebuilt titles are not a huge deal and our insurance company offers full or liability coverage that isn’t any more expensive than for a vehicle with a clear title.

Some states are not as lenient. If you can’t insure it or if the insurance is really expensive, that would certainly negate the cost savings. Has anyone had experience with rebuilt titles?

eBay, The New Way To Buy A Car?

We’ve been looking daily on eBay for cars that match our criteria and have actually put in a few bids but haven’t won anything yet. It seems kind of ridiculous to buy a car sight unseen, but I really like being able to get feedback about the sellers. I love not having to deal with an actual salesperson.

I was the winning bidder in one auction from a private seller when the listing abruptly ended for some reason. My guess is they found a local buyer. It is frustrating to say the least, but maybe we’ll get lucky at some point. At least we don’t have to haggle!

 I’m Still Scared of Craig’s List

I have searched Craig’s List, but it seems the most risky place to buy a car. At least with eBay there is some sort of guarantee against fraudulent sellers. I also hate the idea of carrying a wad of cash out to meet someone I don’t know. I know tons of people have bought and sold on Craig’s List. I just have a hard time going there. Maybe I was ripped off in a past life?

I Think I Am Damaged Goods

I am trying to understand how it’s easy for me to buy a $185,000 property, but I can’t seem to get my head around a few thousand dollars for a car. Maybe it’s because I know the car is a loser asset that, while necessary at this point, does not really help us get to the place we want to be.

We actually considered a low interest car loan so that we could keep our money in other investments, but the thought of a payment makes me ill. Besides, the lowest rates are generally for new cars, and we are certainly not going there.

I look back at how much my attitude toward spending has changed since we bought our last car in 2007. It’s positive all the way around because we are determined not to waste more money that we have to this time. It also is making it very hard because we can’t seem to decide what we want to do and when to pull the trigger!

Any tips for used car shopping? 


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Snipon is owned and run by a small team who love to find deals on a dime along with the best sweepstakes and giveaways out there. We’re always scrolling the internet for the latest offers to share them with our community. Sign up for our weekly newsletter so you don’t miss another freebie!
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