Searching For An Inexpensive Used Car - Strike One


I almost bought this little Kia Rio. It's exactly the sort of car that I'm looking for. Inexpensive, and gets good gas mileage. I just need something to get me back and forth to work. I found it online, and went out to look at it yesterday. As the dealer was showing it to me, he noticed that it needed new tires. They replaced the tires today, and told me that I could come test drive it this afternoon ...

I got caught up in a meeting, so I didn't make it out to the dealership until about 15 minutes before they were due to close. Even so, a salesman was expecting me, and had the key to the Kia in his hand as I walked through the door. He told me to take it out for as long as I needed. Ana and the girls were with me, and we had to be to gymnastics in about 40 minutes, so I just too the car for a test drive down the street about 2 or 3 miles and back. The car ran really well, shifted fine, the radio and the air conditioner worked. I really wanted to like this car, so I was pretty happy.

When I got back, I told the salesman that I would call the manager in the morning to maybe talk a little more about the price (I'd already talked them down about $700, but wanted to try to knock a bit more off). As I was getting ready to go get back in the van, he asked me if I just wanted to keep the car overnight, so I could drive it for a little longer than 10 minutes. Sounded like a good plan to me.

... and it turned out to be a very lucky break.

I was following behind Ana as we got out on hwy 190, where the speed limit is 70mph. I shifted through the grears, and was humming along at about 2800 rpm in 5th gear, doing 65mph down the highway. I was already thinking more about the price negotiations tomorrow. Then all of a sudden, the car just lost power. The rpms dropped to under 1K, and when I pressed on the gas pedal, nothing happened ... the car just slowed down, rather quickly. I'm actually kind of lucky I didn't get rear ended. Eventually, after I slowed to about 20mph, and shifted down into second gear, giving it some gas finally started working again.

At this point, I'd pretty much decided I probably wouldn't be buying this car.

The about 5 minutes later, the exact same thing happened again, and I knew that I definitely wouldn't be buying this car. It's in the driveway right now, but I'll bring it back tomorrow right after lunch.

Oh well, strike one. But, at least I found out before I signed any purchase agreement.

In a way, I almost wish I didn't even have to go car shopping. I had a perfectly good 4 year old Saturn Ion before I went to Iraq. But, with a growing family, we decided to trade my Saturn, and Ana's SUV for a Kia Sedona mini-van right before I left last fall.

I figured I could just use the extra money (about 3K) that I'd earn on the deployment to pay cash for a little "beater" type car when I got back. Unfortunately, I forgot to account for a couple of things ...

Apparently it's quite a popular practice to take inexpensive vehicles, and instead of selling them to a dealer, donating a car to a charitable organization.

And even more significantly ...

I forgot all about the Cash for Clunkers program that was going on last year. That took a whole bunch of good little cheap cars out of the market place. The type of car I was hoping to pay cash for, is exactly the type of car that people traded in as part of the Cash for Clunkers.

So instead, I ended up setting my sites a little higher. I got a guaranteed loan from USAA for about $6K ... payment of $150 a month or less ... and I'm looking for a car in the 2003-2006 year range ... which is not as easy as it sounds.

Fortunately, I have a couple more weeks before I actually "need" a car. But man, I sure do wish that this Kia Rio would have worked out better, so that I could already Have My car.

Oh well.



  1. I wish I didn't have a car. I live in a place where jeepneys and tricycles impede traffic, there's so many around. The only reason I have is for grocery shopping (the trunk space) and trips back and forth to Manila (a place I really hate but have to go to occasionally).

    Good luck finding a decent car in your price range. I would avoid car dealers if I was you. They always jack the price up.
    .-= RT Cunningham´s last blog ..The Top Coffee Brands according to Consumer Reports =-.

  2. First of all, it's good that you're back home and safe.

    Sounds like it may be a fuel filter or related problem. I had something like this happen on three different vehicles that were getting on up there in miles. It's an easy fix but I'd be reluctant to buy a car that was having these problems since you never know what else might be lurking.

    It's always a crap shoot when you're buying an older, less expensive, used vehicle. I usually have two dividing lines on used cars, 60K miles and 100K miles. Most used cars that I've had that have had problems started showing these problems at 60K, things like blown engines or transmissions. At 100K, if they're still running good they're likely to have another 40K-60K in them but if they're running rough then you'll be lucky to see 10K.
    .-= Frank C´s last blog ..HeelTastic Cracked Foot Repair Cream Review =-.

  3. Hi Frank,

    Thanks for stopping by.

    I appreciate the advice, and actually it makes me feel good that my non-mechanical self actually thought it might be something like a fuel filter. Even so, I won't be buying this particular car.

    I'm kind of walking a bit of a tightrope here, so I'm going to take my time shopping around. If I was only going to pay 2-3K in cash, I would expect the car to possibly have some problems. But since I'm going to take a loan for 5-6K, I kind of want something that maybe won't need to be at the mechanics shop every month or two. Anyway, should be "fun" to see how it all works out.

  4. Todd, do you have Craigslist there? That might be a place to look, as well as the for sale lot on post.

  5. Gosh $2k-$3k in NZ would buy you a decent car maybe 8 years old about 80k km on the clock. Mind you we have always had cheap Japanese imports here (new and used) and I was genuinely shocked at how much we had to pay for cars in Australia - where they protect their assembly industry - you certainly don't get any cars donated for charity around there
    .-= Lis Sowerbutts´s last blog ..Frugal Theme Review – Frugal and Thesis Themes Compared =-.

  6. I left a long comment (I was the first one), but I think it got eaten by the WordPress sock monster.

    I hate cars. I have one and I wish I didn't. I only use it for semi-annual trips to Manila and grocery shopping.
    .-= RT Cunningham´s last blog ..The Google Chrome OS Netbook – What's the Big Deal? =-.

  7. I have owned a Kia before, and I was not impressed. Sounds like something was wrong with the one you drove.

    I like buying used cars because new cars are so much more expensive, but when buying used you never know who owned them before you and how hard they were on the car. A salesman will tell you whatever to get the sale. You can run a carfax but that doesn't always tell the whole picture.

    Buying a used car is a role of the dice.

  8. Hi RT,

    I know what you mean, I wish I didn't have to have a car either. I'm only about 6 miles from work, so I could possibly get by with a bicycle or something, but my wife already told me if I went that route not to expect rides when it's raining.

    I still haven't found a car yet. I'm pretty much resigned to trolling craigs list, and what little there is in the local paper. I still have about 10 days before I have to go back to work, so hopefully something good will pop up.


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