AAA asking for help on car (to US expert friends)

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Senior Airman
Aug 2, 2005
Campospinoso (PV), Italy
Ok guys, I have a little problem to sort out...

It seems that, for reasons that I am too gentleman (I am serious, believe me) to disclose, my wife and I must take care 100% of her daughter. As consequence of the above mentioned reasons, I am actually more happy than upset of this 'new' situation, but some things that are 'normal life routine' (like this one) are difficult for me because I don't know the environment.

The little sparrow is 18 and starting university in August; she need to be self-sufficient with transportation.

The point is that I am lacking know-how about the Country, and my wife also have little clue about car and insurance market

We have tried to address some basic things with plain common sense, but I list them here for 'audit' from somebody more expert than me.

- we have to keep the investment at minimum possible
- car is planned to last a max of 2-3 years
- car should be in the $ 3.000 range
- pay it cash to avoid 'comprehensive coverage' insurance (that would cost more than the car itself)
- car should be small and 'non exotic' to reduce gasoline and potential repair costs (I wish she don't have to save every penny to tank up the car or change a tyre)
- not older than 1999-2000 and no more than 100k miles (she will not drive more than 10k miles/year, so powertrain should be ok w/o major maint)

The remaining questions are:

- what about insurance? better her own or to add her to my wife's insurance?
- any clue for the best Company to insure a 18 years old?
- Which car could fit the bill? If in Europe I would know types and models with good credit, over here I don't know the market and I am afraid to select a 'lemon'
As example, the only car I feel to consider here are Ford Focus (the european sister is a good car), Toyota Echo/Scion (the powertrain is the same of the Toyota Yaris that I know is a great little car), VW Golf, Honda Civic (both in a more expensive class than $3k)

Any help/suggestion/correction is appreciated...
Thank you PB,

some other random questions:

- is the published price usually negotiable? I mean if in is listed at $3000 is it standard practice to ask for (and obtain) a discount?

- if I buy from a private seller, is there a law that allows me to return the car after some time? (in Italy you can if the purchase is a 'lemon')

- is it mandatory for the dealer to provide a 1-2 years warranty (like in Europe?)

sorry for the silly questions, but I am really starting from scratch
When buying a car, there are some tips you should follow regardless of price and market. I've always followed these, when looking for myself and going with others

- Do a bit of research and check trim levels. Many cars are easy to badge up as something they aren't

- Check under the oil filler cap. White residue means trouble

- Be suspicious of a recently cleaned engine, it could be hiding leaks

- Check everything electrical once and once again

- Lift rubber sill trims to look for overspray

- Run a magnet across bodywork to check for filler (presuming the car isn't aluminium of course)

- Check for uneven tyre wear and that the car drives straight, it could point to accident damage (or could be the tracking needs doing)

- Always view a car in daylight, on a clear day

- Ask why the car is being sold, and if he has receipts

- On a modern car, rust or uneven panel gaps mean a bad repair

- Listen for any knocks or bumps when pulling away or engaging gear

- Look for signs of tampering around the instrument panel. If the mileage is low but the seats, gearstick, pedal rubbers and steering wheel are worn or smooth, suspect clocking.

- A good tip I was told by a car dealer mate is to check the tyres. Not only for damage, but see if they are premium matching ones, or cheapies. If he has 4 different Ditchfinder Specials on, then chances are they are skipping on repairs, or doing it on the cheap.

- Also see if the car is clean inside and out. Someone who can't be bothered to clean a car before sale is unlikely to have taken much care with it.

- Always view the car at the keepers address, never meet somewhere

- Private or trade, you can ALWAYS haggle the price. Dealers want shot of cheap cars too

The main thing to remember is that a genuine seller should have no problems with you going over the car with a fine tooth comb. Anybody who is evasive is hiding something. Try to find faults which can be used to negotiate a discount. Don't be over eager either; be nonchalant and say you have other cars to view, this makes them more likely to budge on price.

Can't offer any exact advice on the US car market, but Jap cars tend to be reliable and well built, but expensive for parts. I would tell you that the golden rule is to always buy with your head and not your heart, but seeing as I drive an Alfa Romeo, I can hardly talk.........................
I'm with Les, Parm. Are you talking stateside and which State? Stay away from Jersey - highest car insurance rates in the country.

You can't negotiate your price but some Ins. companies will give discounts for certain things, like a Defensive Driver course, car has airbags or other safety device, etc. No harm in asking the company.

As for cars, my pre-wife's son has a Ford Focus, bought new 4 years ago and not too many problems.

How about on-campus housing and a bike or scooter? Not knowing which college is difficult but many have a thriving off-campus eviornment and she may not need a car for things. Depends on the college.
To Les an Njaco:
Talking about USA, Atlanta, GA
Wife lives over here, I play kind of intercontinental commuter working as remote office approx one week per month.
The girl is US citizen ans has all her friends and roots here.

thank you all for the advice
Two things to consider:

1. A genuinely repossessed car at auction may have less wrong with it than a car offered for sale by an owner (Motive, or lack of), and;

2. In a middle-class apartment building (which could contain airline stewardesses, tech workers, salesmen, etc.) a car offered on the laundry room bulletin board as a "must sell" MAY be from someone being hurriedly transferred.

Generally, try a three-hour test drive, including one and a half hours on the freeway, so the car gets completely warmed up. Pay for your own gas if the owner objects -- this is cheap insurance.

In Canada, Japanese cars have a very good reputation mechanically, and are only dumped when they rust through in front of the rear wheel arch.

Cars that are "cool" cost 1/3 as much again used as cars that are "not cool."

Check the "Lemon Aid" website for problem reports.

If you can handle the idea of a large car, consider "square" Chevs (late 70's - early 80's) and Ford Crown Victorias from estate sales -- old guys who pass away often took good care of their last car, if the family doesn't snap it up.

Get a part-time job in a garage or body shop with some connection to the towing industry. A certain percentage of towed cars are never reclaimed (see "auctions" above).
The reference I use when purchasing cars is the Consumer Reports you should be able to obtain it at any outlet for magazines . It is not funded by any advertising so little or no influence on its reports by manufacturers its annual car issue also lists best buys in used cars by type and value
it can be accessed online and is full of all the info you will need - Find Product Reviews and Ratings from Consumer Reports
Hey Im in Aus so cant help you all your questions.

Toyotas are always an exceptional car, may not be the most exciting machine but it wont have any problems and will be fuel efficient. They are also cheap to fix, insure and service. I dont know about the US but in AUS some of the Euro models can be really expensive to own, when they need to be serviced and parts are a fortune when they stuff up (which isnt that rare).

In my opinion you cant really go past a Toyota or other cheap japanese car. Quality is excellent and the cars offer excellent value for money. Hondas are also a very good car, perhaps more driver oriented, they also tend to be more expensive than other Japanese brands to buy and to own. You pay for the added driving experience and extra quality, if she just wants to get around town the Toyota probably offers the best value!!
Heres a spanner in the works (I'm not sure if you can get them in the states however) have a look at Skodas. The name may be off putting but basiclly there VW's but better built and a lot cheaper. For the price of a fair condition second hand motor in the same class (compact, saloon, etc) you can get a new a Skoda . The Fabia is based on the VW polo, The Octavia on the Golf the Superb on the Passat. all three come out either 4 or 5 star in the mencap crash tests. usual bells and whistles come as standard air con, computrised dash info, cruise control on the higher spec models, I.C.E etc try looking on the web for owners opinions or at the JD power survey (basiclly an opinion poll of car owners) what ever make of car you go for hire one for a weekend at least then you can give it a proper test before settling on what make you fancy.
As far as second hand purchases, Negative Creep has covered most things I would just add phone around for an average insurance cost, servicing charges and the cost of basic spares. I always pay by cash and I mean cash not a cheque most dealers wont put it through the books on a cash sale so they make a bucket full of money avoiding all the tax and by waving dosh in front of their faces has a big influance, you can negociate a much better deal. My best has been a £2000 reduction on a £8000 car.
Again, thank you all for the replies.

Actually I've put the car on hold for a couple of weeks because the last surprise we had was that University paper were NOT taken care of, even if 'he' had declared in more than one e-mail that everything was ok.
So the priority between here and Aigust 10 is changed.
I've never seen somebody that inconsiderate.
Sorry, I know this is not your business but I must unload somewhere, since I can't put my hands on his throat (don't want to have to repay him as new..)

Anyway, we are trying to evaluate a couple of cars: Civic, Golf, Accord.

Cash will be the way, I agree on Skoda (points valid also for SEAT) but afaik is not distributed in the States

Will keep you updated...
OK, soap opera is over: the rascal got a car, a decently preserved 1999 Eclipse for about $ 4k. Hopefully she will learn to properly manage a manual gear before screwing the clutch...
Yeah, if I have not completely lost the skill to assess a person, the girl is quite smart (in addition of being awfully cute) and seems also level headed.
At the moment she is enthusiast of the car, excited for the freedom of movement and conscious that she is accountable for the trust she has been granted.
I touch wood, but it seems that at least this topic is positively closed.

Thanks to all who helped here
Yeah, if I have not completely lost the skill to assess a person, the girl is quite smart (in addition of being awfully cute) and seems also level headed.
At the moment she is enthusiast of the car, excited for the freedom of movement and conscious that she is accountable for the trust she has been granted.
I touch wood, but it seems that at least this topic is positively closed.

Thanks to all who helped here

Make sure she checks the oil! I amazed at how many first time car owners dont check the oil.

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