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to buy a cheap used car or not?

Old 10-13-08, 11:24 AM
  #1  
Jigsaw
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to buy a cheap used car or not?

Here's my situation. My wife and I are seperated. We have a 4yo daughter. We live in a pleasant surburb just north of Chicago. I usually bike to work or to the train when I need to go into the city and use the family car for shopping and taking/picking up my daughter from preschool.

She's going to get the family car, which is fine with me. I've been biking more and more and it's feeling really good (haven't used the granny gear in weeks!), but I'm worried about winter coming. For those of you not the Chicago area, winters here are long, cold and snowy. Last year I biked to work until mid-December, then used the car until late March. I predict I will want to do the same this winter, so I'm thinking about buying a cheap used car for myself. I just don't know if I want to shell out a payment every month.

Anyone want to talk me out of it? Talk me into it? Should I look into renting a car during the winter months? What are some of you doing in this situation?

Many thanks in advance.
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Old 10-13-08, 11:39 AM
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How's your public transit, your tool collection and your wrenching skills? To me, these play a factor in your decesion. I cheap used car can be the deal of the century if you know a bit and are comfortable under the hood. It can cost more than something more expensive would have in the long run if you have to get it towed to the mechanic every time something comes up.

Then again, if you are referring to payments, you may not be thinking of the same definition of "cheap used car" I do. If you're thinking preowned with warranty, disregard. If you're thinking $500 special, the above applies.

Do you have anything like zipcar (zipcar.com) in your area? How far is your commute? Monthly payments could easily outweight the cost of a zipcar for the winter, or even public trans & cabs for a couple months. Also, if you're using public trans and cabs you'll be more likely to ride on the borderline days than if you have a car you're making payments on anyway sitting in the driveway. I would be anyway.
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Old 10-13-08, 11:41 AM
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With the fact that you have a 4 y.o. and that you live in what is quite possibly the coldest place on earth (used to live in the west 'burbs, I understand), I say go for it. You can get a good, reliable car for under $5K. If you can buy it outright, that'd be best.
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Old 10-13-08, 02:50 PM
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+1 on buying something inexpensive. There is going to be enough stress for all of you without having to worry about how you are going to transport your daughter. Ride as much as you can (it is good for you in lots of ways) but make sure your daughter's need are met with as little impact on her life as possible.
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Old 10-13-08, 10:29 PM
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If I lived in a place with a company like Philly carshare, I would do that. That would be perfect.

There is such a thing in Chicago:
https://www.igocars.org/

I can't see doing without a car having a 4y.o. People do it, kids probably don't care, but I wouldn't do it myself.
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Old 10-14-08, 06:39 AM
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Buy a cheap car. Sounds like your not planning to drive it long distance? That opens up a world of cheap options on low MPG vans, trucks, big cars; gas milage not being your priority.

Check Craigslist, Chicago has just about the biggest. Try and stay away from the buy here pay here lots.

BTW: Don't be tricked into a deal on a mini van, if it has 100K or more expect transmi$$ion trouble.
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Old 10-14-08, 06:49 AM
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I would buy a newer car, preferably one with a good warranty, like a KIA. You have a four year old. You want reliability and safety. You do not want the kid to be hanging around in the cold waiting for some tow truck... especially on those days where everyone is just going off the road.
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Old 10-14-08, 06:53 AM
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Originally Posted by CACycling View Post
+1 on buying something inexpensive. There is going to be enough stress for all of you without having to worry about how you are going to transport your daughter. Ride as much as you can (it is good for you in lots of ways) but make sure your daughter's need are met with as little impact on her life as possible.
Thanks to all for the great words of advice. This is probably the best and the most sound.

I've checked into igo cars and there's not one in my little surburb, so I'm going to go ahead with a purchase. I've always wanted a Jeep Wrangler, and I've found a used one of CL that looks like a fair deal. I'm going to look at it tonight. I also got approved for a car loan (they want to offer me a whopping 39 grand. I'm taking 6). Payments will be about 140.00 a month, which is doable in my situation.

If I get this Jeep, the first thing I'll add is a bike rack! Then I'll get out all my camping gear that I haven't used in years.

Best,
Jigs
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Old 10-14-08, 07:13 AM
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another benefit of car ownership is PIP protection offered by most automobile insurance companies in a lot of states that will help defray medical costs in an accident a bicyclist has with a motorist, regardless of fault.

is Illinois a PIP state? if it is, the benefits to car ownership go up. read Bob Mionske's "Bicycling and the law" for an overview of the PIP protections for bicyclists under their car insurance.
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Old 10-14-08, 07:27 AM
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Originally Posted by Jigsaw View Post
Anyone want to talk me out of it? Talk me into it? Should I look into renting a car during the winter months? What are some of you doing in this situation?
I have been car free for 19 years BUT my wife owns a car that I help fuel and maintain (she pays most - it's her car). In an emergency, the car is available to me. I appreciate it greatly those once or twice a year times when I need it for whatever reason.

Buying an old clunker is no big deal. If it does not work out, sell it or donate it. Sounds like it would be nice for you to have the option available.

My problem with owning cars (before I met my wife) was that I didn't drive them enough to make the car "happy". They would "go bad" in the driveway. So if you buy a car, you should drive it once or twice a week.
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Old 10-14-08, 07:40 AM
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My advice:

1 Pay cash. Having to write a payment check every month is too much work.

2 Get something you like.

Paul
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Old 10-14-08, 09:35 AM
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check out the carshare deal before you buy a cheap car. Save the world and save your finances.
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Old 10-14-08, 09:49 AM
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I have had good luck finding used cars for $5k or less.

In 1999 I bought a 1991 Subaru AWD wagon with 113K on it for $5k. I drove it for 8 years with no problems.

A year ago I bought a 2001 Subaru Outback with 109k on it for $4600. (It has factory paint job problems, so it was cheap). In the past year it has been running great. I plan to keep it for a long time....I ride my bike around town mostly.

A car like this is reliable, good in the snow, and good for hauling, kids, bikes and camping gear.
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Old 10-14-08, 02:01 PM
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Better to rent a nice car every once and a while than to pay for a car, insurance, taxes, maintainance, gas (evaporation)....

It sounds like you have a lifestyle that can support being car-less quite well.
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Old 10-14-08, 07:25 PM
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I'm 43 years old have always had a 60 mile plus commute currently 70 miles round trip, I have yet to pay over $3K for anything with 4 wheels.

If you want a cheep ride, a jeep wrangler is not it. Nothing else fits it, meaning parts are high, if it is a rag top, you can't buy enough heat to fill it in the winter where you are.
I like the looks of them too, but I'm waiting for the first million...

To each his own.

BTW: On the KIA deal, I understand that to keep that "great" warranty valid, you have to let them $ervice it. Ask about the service price before you buy.
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Old 10-14-08, 08:23 PM
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Jig,

There is a saying with cars 'buy what you will be using the car for 90% of the time" anything else rent per occasion.

I'm not from Chicago or lived in the US of A before but being in Toronto, Canada in the 'burbs and just being in Canada alone I know about snow. Been here my whole life. I love and welcome snow/cold temps more before I don't like heat but that's just me. My dad bought a 1998 Ford Escort Z2X (I think si the model number) manual transmission before back around 2000 and 8yrs later it's driving still good given it's ~100,000+ km. Just regular maintance and brake job. I don't have children myself but have been around people with kids before helping them out and with a 4yr old most cars will do as you don't really need a large size car as the kid is still small. If the child is ~10-12yrs old then a mid-size car would give a little better room.

How much do you know about emergency car kits and tire change/battery boosting? We have a Jeep Grand Cherokee here which is new so I keep my car kit well maintained but on the used Escort I put a bit more preparation in the emergency kit as the car is second owner and also the battery has a bit of sulphering on it.

I hope you know how to change your tires, boost a car battery, and how to boost a car battery via a emergency batterypack. I'm going out for my night ride right now but I'll drop some links afterwards which I have put on my ipod just for those 'oh-crap' moments if I needed to fix/brush up on something if it did happen to me.
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Old 10-14-08, 10:19 PM
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babe magnet

Originally Posted by Jigsaw View Post
Here's my situation. My wife and I are seperated. We have a 4yo daughter. We live in a pleasant surburb just north of Chicago. I usually bike to work or to the train when I need to go into the city and use the family car for shopping and taking/picking up my daughter from preschool.

She's going to get the family car, which is fine with me. I've been biking more and more and it's feeling really good (haven't used the granny gear in weeks!), but I'm worried about winter coming. For those of you not the Chicago area, winters here are long, cold and snowy. Last year I biked to work until mid-December, then used the car until late March. I predict I will want to do the same this winter, so I'm thinking about buying a cheap used car for myself. I just don't know if I want to shell out a payment every month.

Anyone want to talk me out of it? Talk me into it? Should I look into renting a car during the winter months? What are some of you doing in this situation?

Many thanks in advance.
I wouldn't buy a four figure car........I have been driving a 1981 Isuzu diesel and it has 200,000 miles on it and is still going strong. You can buy a decent car in my area for $1500 and even less if you don't care about looks. Good tires and brakes and something that runs is all you need. If you primarily bicycle, you don't even need to worry about fuel economy, especially if you only drive five miles one way, as many do. I live 28 miles from work so mpg is important to me. If I lived in town or drove less than 15 miles a day, I wouldn't care about fuel economy much. My newest car is a 1992 Suzuki Swift (38-47 mpg) that I am rebuilding. It should be a decent commuter but I plan to bicycle part way as I have this past year. It might be semi-important to have a fairly decent ride, depending on your ex's viewpoint. You don't want any flack about driving your child in some unsafe beater. Just get something safe and reliable unless you want to pick up 'wenches'.
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Old 10-14-08, 10:50 PM
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Get a used car. You have a daughter and when her mother says, "You can have her for the weekend." Are you going to freaking just bike over there and then bring the kid over in some little cart in the frigid weather? I certainly hope you won't.
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Old 10-15-08, 10:37 AM
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Originally Posted by charles vail View Post
I wouldn't buy a four figure car........I have been driving a 1981 Isuzu diesel and it has 200,000 miles on it and is still going strong. You can buy a decent car in my area for $1500 and even less if you don't care about looks. Good tires and brakes and something that runs is all you need. If you primarily bicycle, you don't even need to worry about fuel economy, especially if you only drive five miles one way, as many do. I live 28 miles from work so mpg is important to me. If I lived in town or drove less than 15 miles a day, I wouldn't care about fuel economy much. My newest car is a 1992 Suzuki Swift (38-47 mpg) that I am rebuilding. It should be a decent commuter but I plan to bicycle part way as I have this past year. It might be semi-important to have a fairly decent ride, depending on your ex's viewpoint. You don't want any flack about driving your child in some unsafe beater. Just get something safe and reliable unless you want to pick up 'wenches'.
I'm all for the cheap car route - most of my cars have been. That said, assuming disc brakes, a car with brakes going can be the deal of the century. When an inexpenisve car needs brakes, it tends to get dumped fast. With a little bit of know-how, a few hours and a couple hundred bucks you can have all new pads and rotors on that beast. Drum brakes however... you'd better know your s***
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Old 10-15-08, 10:43 AM
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I fricking hate drum brakes more than I hate doing ANYTHING else on a car. I'd rather rewire the entire thing than do a car with 4 wheel drums.
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Old 10-15-08, 12:14 PM
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I'm with you, although I'd probably word it more like "I'd rather do a drum to disc conversion than work on drum brakes". My truck is almost ready for some rear brake work, and it very well may come out of it with 4 wheel disc. Of course, with the mileage it's getting lately, "almost ready" could be years.
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Old 10-15-08, 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by mickey85 View Post
I fricking hate drum brakes more than I hate doing ANYTHING else on a car. I'd rather rewire the entire thing than do a car with 4 wheel drums.
I had an '62 Willys M38A1 with 4 wheel drum brakes that required manual adjusting. They were a total PITA and barely stopped even when they were adjusted right. One of the first things I had to do to it when I got it was wiring. Ended up pulling everything out and rewiring from scratch. I agree, rewiring was easier and less frustrating.
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Old 10-16-08, 10:26 AM
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Think Toyota. Amazing reliability. I would stay away from Jeeps. Get a Camry & you will be set.
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Old 10-20-08, 08:41 AM
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Got a Jeep

Thanks all for the advice. I just a '98 Wrangler for 5 grand. Runs good. It'll work for now.

Jigs
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