Tag Archives: toyota

Shopping for a Used Prius

Ok, so I’m not personally shopping for a used Prius — my boyfriend is — but given his conflict- and people-adverse nature, I’ve found myself in the middle of a car-buying situation. My boyfriend is 100% sure he wants a Prius, even though I told him it’s kind of dumb to get a Prius because he doesn’t drive enough for the gas savings to make the extra cost worth it. He says (and it just might be true) that used Prius’s aren’t actually more or much more than other non-luxury, non-hybrid cars.

So we’ve driven all around looking for a Prius that has a good track record (ie Carfax) that isn’t in a hideous color (ie isn’t white or red) and seems to be reasonably priced. He’s looking at the 2005, 2006 and 2007 models. For some reason, all the ones that have around 80k to 150k miles are priced at $10,999. That doesn’t seem terrible — I bought my Solara for $7,500 in 2006. Still, I hate the stress of buying a used car and figuring out if it’s a lemon before you put your money down — even if it’s not my car and it’s not my money.

The experience, however, makes me glad that I’m still driving my beat up car, and I’m not yet in the market for a new pair of wheels. Which reminds me — tomorrow is my DUI court hearing. Ugh, not looking forward to that. I still can’t believe that I got myself into this mess in the first place, but so goes life. I may give up driving altogether for a while depending on the outcome of the court and DMV hearings. So, it’s really important my boyfriend gets a car… his is broken now, and if I can’t drive and he doesn’t have a car, we’ll be in a bit of trouble given we live so far from the store.

When to Buy a New Car?

I’ll never claim to be a frugal person, but in regards to large purchases, that’s where my frugality shines. And by shines, I mean “has scratches.” My Toyota Solara (1999), which I purchased used off of a man selling it on Craigslist in 2005 with 130k miles on it for $7,000, is showing signs of “time to get rid of me.” I’m trying to figure out exactly when I do get rid of her… which, if it’s up to me, will be the day she stops running and no one can fix her for less than 1/2 her current value.

What’s wrong with her? Let me count the ways.

– front bumper on left side is ripped off (from “no fault” accident (it was his fault))
– air conditioning is broken
– left window won’t ¬†open
– radio is broken
– back tires need to be replaced

She has 190k miles on her, which for a Toyota might not be a death sentence yet, but still influences my decision whether or not to fix her up or sell her for pennies on the dollar, and buy a new (used) car.

This is the first car I’ve ever owned, so I’m unsure when I should make the plunge and start shopping for a new car. In theory, I’ve been able to save $3k per month so buying a new (used) car that is similar in quality and value to my current car (when I bought it) would only eat up 2.5 months of savings. Then again, maybe I’d want to buy a slightly nicer car. I really want a (used) Prius. What do you think?

170k Miles and 4 Years of Used Car Ownership

In 2006, I bought my first car. While my parents, at the time, had a new car-only buying policy, my financial situation led me straight to the used car salesman. The purchase would be the largest buy I had made in my life, and every second of the process I was nervous and unsure of myself. All I knew was that I wanted to buy a used car, that I wanted to buy a “good” used car, and that I didn’t want to spend more than… $8,000 on my car. Though less would be better.

I spent a lot of time at used car dealerships. I almost bought a lot of cars that I’m glad I didn’t end up with. Certified used vehicles are the biggest waste of my money in my (current) opinion, but maybe that opinion will change after I buy a dud one day. My trip to the Chevrolet store had me sitting in a certified car that I thought I wanted. It was way more than $8k, but it was only one year old… a rental that was ready to be sold. It was shiny and new-ish. It was a red Chevy Aveo. I didn’t really love driving it, but at 22 and getting ready to buy my first car, I figured I’d grow into it. I was literally sitting down at the bargaining table when I started to negotiate terms, and I realized this car was just going to cost me more than I was comfortable spending. I wanted to pay for my car outright, and that wouldn’t be possible with this car (unfortunately I can’t remember its price tag, but I think it was around $13k). I’m very glad I walked out of the dealership that day.

Later in my search, I drove a used Saab that I fell in love with, despite the whole hatchback style not being me at all. I really fell in love with the idea of owning a “luxury” car when the pricetag was comparable to the crappy Aveo I almost bought. In fact, I think the Saab I was looking at was around $9k. But then I read up on Saabs and discovered that despite their top-notch performance in crashes, the cost to repair the beast would be ridiculous. I moved on to the Toyota dealership, when I knew I was closer to what I’d ultimately buy.

At Toyota the certified cars were expensive. I test drove one that was sporty and too low to the ground. Apparently I need a car that’s slightly higher up to feel safe. I test drove a Camry and really liked it but due to the price tag it was a no go. I started to consider if I should buy a more expensive car and just pay per month like most people do. That’s when I turned to Craigslist.

More nervous then ever, I scoured the Craigslist postings for a Honda or Toyota in my price range. I’m not sure when I first saw the older Toyota Solara model, but I fell in love with its sleek design minus the huge pricetag. I never thought I’d buy a two-door car, but I realized that I didn’t know anyone in the area, and chances were I’d basically be schlepping myself around with maybe one other passenger. Four doors just weren’t necessary.

The Solara I found for sale was around $7k. It was a 1999, which seemed old but not necessarily too old… (it was 2005 at the time, so it was 6 years old). The almost dealbreaker was the mileage on the car… 130k miles. Now, maybe it was a mistake to buy the car with that many miles, but I haven’t had any issues yet. The most important thing to me was figuring out WHY the seller was trying to get rid of the car. He had a reasonable story — he had a baby, he loved the car (which was always owned by his family) but needed a four door and planned to buy the four door Camry version of the model.

He agreed to get the car inspected so I brought the car to a guy who was supposedly a Toyota specialist and paid $100 or something to get the car checked out. The guy ran through a few small problems with the car but told me it was in really good operating order for so many miles and the year it was sold. And I was sold. I needed a car and I was tired of looking. I paid $7,000 via check and watched the money wipe from my bank account. But it wasn’t that scary, I still had some savings left, and I really was excited to buy my first car.

Since then, my car has been running fine. Knock on wood. 2006 – 2010 makes my car at least a four year purchase, or about $2,000 per year plus gas and insurance. I’ve had to replace the breaks and tires, but otherwise it’s doing ok.

I’m glad I didn’t spend money on a new or newer car… being as this is my first car, I’ve dinged it up a bit, mostly driving into inanimate objects. I wish I hadn’t, but I’m a better driver now and know how to avoid most scratches (at least ones I cause) if I get a nicer car down the road. I love my car for its sunroof, it’s design, it’s cost (even though I could have gone cheaper.) I love my car for keeping me safe during one accident and somehow not even getting too much damage from it (I didn’t hit anything, I just had a really bad day and was exhausted and spun off the road into a ditch by accident.)

My car now has over 170k miles on it, so I’ve put on about 10k miles per year. I’m not sure if that’s considered a lot. I don’t drive much but I generally take one or two longer road trips per year (longer being like 5-6 hour drives) so that’s adding up and undoubtedly wearing on my car. Since my boyfriend drives a really old clunker which can’t accelerate well, we always take my car. I wish he had a better car so we could trade off car-driving duties, but at least when I use my car I can drive… I doubt he’d let me drive his car if he had one he liked!

Now I’m wondering how long my car will really last me. I’d like it to last to 200k miles, which would be 3 more years, I guess. I don’t know how I could sell the beast, it’s too dinged up to be worth much now, unfortunately. So I plan to run it into the ground, figuratively speaking. I’d love my next car to be a Prius but those things are damned expensive, even used. Heck, I may buy another Solara (though a newer model) because I’ve been happy with Toyota quality and my car. It’s not fancy, it’s not a show car, it’s just a car that’s a little nice to get me where I need to go.

How much did you spend on your current car? How long do you expect it to last you?