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Buying a used car for our 18yr old

01-04-2012, 02:07 PM
I'm having a hard time picking a car out for our 18 yr old.

Here are two cars so far that have been the best ones I've seen. I've been looking for roughly 4-6 weeks now.

99 Cavalier - 159,000 Miles - This one is in absolutely great condition - tires, etc everything you can think of. It drives and handles great. I talked to the owner for probably half an hr about it - he went over in detail everything he repaired or maintained on it.

99 Cavalier - 125,000 Miles - recently had a newer engine installed. Drives very nice. It does have an engine light on though - the guy said it was something to do with a fuel canister. It looks excellent and seems to have been very well taken care of. Only thing other than the engine light that I didn't like about it was that it has one of those after market "ghetto" type of mufflers that is intentionally loud. I actually got a headache while driving it around. I'd want to get that replaced with a regular quiet one.

Both cars they are firm on $1700. Between the 2 I guess I could say the 125K one drives better, but I would have to get that awful "gangster" muffler off of it and get a regular quiet one installed for her. The 159K model is perfect as it is - needs nothing done to it or anything. My daughter would mainly be driving to school and work. School is 7 miles away and her work is just 2 miles away, then the driving around with friends, etc.

I'm wondering how long the 99 Cav with 159K will last? It drives really nice and I would be sure to keep it well maintained as the owner has been doing.

01-04-2012, 02:18 PM
I wanted to add that the owner let me know today that he would take $1500 up front and would let me pay the last $200 in payments to him. Has anyone ever done anything like this before? I would of course have something written up that we'd both sign.

I keep leaning towards the other one though.. interested in hearing your responses.

01-04-2012, 02:58 PM
Two things:

All Cavaliers: (1995-2002) You MUST properly check out the k-frame / Engine Cradle / xmember / crossmember.

This is the critical body weakness,
and if / when it begins to rust, the car becomes a death trap.

If there is serious rust on that thing, or any cracks, deep chipping/flaking,
the car should not pass inspection, and if it does,
thats worse, cause it is nonetheless dangerous. Safety first.

For any car, you must pull a front wheel to get a good look at brakes, k-frame, rust, etc.
Grab and shake the tie-rod ends. See if they are firm not loose (and the other end of the tie rods too).

While you have a front wheel off, shine a flashlight in there and
see if the steering lines along the steering rack are rusting out.
Also check brake lines and gas lines coming along underside and up into engine.
Brake lines tend to rust in these bends.

Brake Lines: look at the lines coming into the front wheel-well.
they will curve in and up and around to the rubber hose,
which extends to the wheel brake-caliper.
A brake line is only as good as its rustiest spot,
and the brake lines tend to rust at these bends near the rubber hose.

If you have a guy handy who knows how,
check the lower ball-joints:
On this car, ball-joints mean you have to replace the whole control-arm (they are riveted on!)
or else they have to be cut off or drilled out, and this is almost as expensive as new control arms.

For the Cavalier, you should also pull a rear wheel,
and inspect the rear drum brakes. If the drum won't come off,
you need a brake job: estimate $200 - $300 for new brake springs (rusty), shoes (worn), and drums (grooved).

If you can get under these cars at all, inspect the exhaust hangers (broken, missing), and the muffler rust on seams.
Second, an extra check: Even if body underside is mostly good,
check rear bumper up inside. This is notorious for rusting out.

While you have a rear wheel off, look closely at the brake lines,
going from rear wheel to rubber hose on axle-beam.
Also, look at metal lines coming from rubber hose and heading to front.
At these bends, the rust is usually greatest.
Bad rust here means new brake lines necessary.

Under front end, look at condition of bottom of radiator.

If you can talk the owner into jacking up the car great.
If you can get him to pull a wheel off better.
If you can take it for a test-drive straight to a garage
and get it on a hoist, that is the best.

Its worth it even to pay someone $50 to inspect a $1,500 purchase,
if it involves the safety of your child.

Any questions raised / exposed by inspecting above should knock $500 off the price.
This car is worth $600 - $1,000 if it needs any serious work done.

If it won't pass an E-test, that will cost you at least $150-$250 for a catalytic converter.

01-06-2012, 06:24 AM
I wanted to add that the owner let me know today that he would take $1500 up front and would let me pay the last $200 in payments to him. Has anyone ever done anything like this before? I would of course have something written up that we'd both sign.

I keep leaning towards the other one though.. interested in hearing your responses.

Two other things which are really important but involve "iffy".

(1) People who take money up front, can be really risky people to deal with.
My friend just got screwed out of a few hundred because owner said they could put some money down,
then he sold the car to someone else.
Always agree to cash and receipts (cheque, bill of sale etc.)
at time of sale, and no money up front - don't trust anyone with your money.

Its a bad business practice to give people money in advance for anything.
If its labor, they never get around to doing it, and you never see the money again.
If its goods, there is always a dispute about some detail of the deal,
and again your money vanishes, or the deal changes.

(2) If both cars are equal in all other respects (including price),
then see which seller will agree to putting down $600 or less on paper for the car.
I paid $78 in taxes to transfer ownership on a $600 car recently.
If they make you put down $1700, I'd expect to pay maybe $200 in taxes alone.
Other fees may be unavoidable, but a decent seller will take some cash under the table,
and save you $100 or more on taxes.
Its not his money anyway, and to you its $100.

Also settle well in advance who is paying all the other fees, such as transfer of ownership,
car history report (required in Canada), certification, E-test etc.
If the owner says the certification and E-test are your problem,
then explain that putting the price on paper lower lets you pay for this,
without costing him any money at all.

In the end, no one can prove what a car is worth or what you paid for it,
if you both agree to a modest number.
Pay part by cheque for proof of purchase, and part by cash.

Never leave any business deal vague on details. Otherwise you can't really compare prices.

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