Q&A: More advice on how to find a reliable cheap car

Dear Liz: I have repaired my own vehicles all my life, and I wanted to add a bit to your response to the person in Chapter 13 bankruptcy who needs another car after paying $1,500 cash each for two junkers. You are correct that a $3,000 car is likely to be more reliable, but I would stress heavily that there are no guarantees on cars at that price range even if you have a mechanic check the vehicle.

My advice on getting a reliable cheap vehicle is to first identify what make and model vehicle you want, then spend several weeks on the model-specific forums on the Internet reading the Q&As. There are wide variations in even the same models of the same year. One might use an engine that has a serious defect, but others do not have that defect.

The mistake most used-car buyers make who are looking for a cheap car is to be too impatient. They go for the first thing that’s listed at their price range with no regard to what make and model it is. It is simply not possible to research the skeletons in the closet of unfamiliar models in the hour in between viewing the listing online then running out to see it. Figure out the model in advance, then be patient.

Answer: Thanks for offering your advice. Even people who have plenty of money often don’t spend enough time researching their options and wind up regretting a purchase or paying too much.

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