2023-11-27 Here Are a Few Things to Consider When Buying a Broken Car - autoevolution

Here Are a Few Things to Consider When Buying a Broken Car

When buying a second-hand car, almost everybody's looking for a bargain and asks for a lower price, but also look for the car's condition to be as good as possible. Here's what I learned from a friend who made a small fortune from buying broken down or damaged vehicles, repairing, and selling them for a profit.
broken Ford Mustang II 9 photos
Photo: John Loyd/Flickr
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Browsing Craigslist, eBay, Bring a Trailer, or any other known website is good, especially if you're in the market for that special Impala SS or a '68 Camaro SS. You don't want to go through the whole process of restoring it, just pay the price, jump aboard, and hit the gas, to have some fun, right? But what if you're looking just for a regular transportation vehicle that could take you from A to B with no trouble?

Either way, chances are you're looking for a mint condition vehicle. Usually, if you have some warranty on that, that's even better. But, on the other hand, you might end up driving a car you don't like to a job you might not find that attractive and just gather more frustration along the road. You might have just bought it because it was, let's say, an intelligent decision, because it runs. But how do you go about chosen broken down cars to buy?

cheap car
Photo: Eric on flickr

Finding the right car for you

Maybe you don't know what kind of car you want. No problem, just browse the ads and look for cars within or even 10% above your budget. Use the websites' filters for that. At least one car should bring a smile on your face, but don't stop at that. Keep browsing, but only after you wrote the first one you liked down. Keep looking for a few days, and keep writing down the cars you find interesting.

After you find about 20 vehicles, stop and read the list to see which cars attracted you most. Start looking just for those models. Soon, you'll know the price range and all. Also, look at the mileage and see which one has the highest number on the clock. It might give you an idea about how long that vehicle might last.

Look for parts

After finding the make/model you want, start looking for parts and see how much it will cost you to fix the brakes, for instance. Also, search how much it will cost you to replace the engine or the transmission. Next, look for car cemeteries and check out body parts such as radiators, fenders, headlights, etc. That will give you an idea about how much it will cost you to fix a broken-down vehicle like that. Only afterward, start browsing for the cheapest cars on the web from that make/model.

If a car doesn't start, the price is about half when compared to similar, but running vehicles. Also, you must consider that when purchasing a second-hand car, you have to replace all the fluids. Some sellers are just changing the air and oil filter and claiming that they did "proper maintenance," but the oil it's pitch-dark and old.

Auto repair shop
Photo: Robert Couse-Baker on flickr
First, make a repair budget with the prices you already know and include the labor costs if you won't repair it yourself. Also, remember that no matter how good a second-hand vehicle is when buying it, you still have to perform maintenance or replace the timing belt. Moreover, don't forget that timing chains are not for a lifetime. Even though some carmakers are claiming that, chains are expected to last about 120,000 miles (193,000 km), so everything past that will need some new parts. But you already know the costs, don't you?

Bargaining the car

At the end of the day, it's all about math. The final price of the vehicle (purchase plus repairs) has to be at least 10% less than an equivalent car, in running order, to be worth the trouble. With that in mind, you may start looking for autos. Start from your neighborhood and visit them. Bear in mind that, most of the time, the first car you'll see won't be the one you'll get.

Don't talk prices over the phone, do that face to face. You'll get better results, and you'll also know what will you buy. Maybe you'll discover a rust bucket under that shiny color on the bodywork.

Honda Civic Hybrid for sale
Photo: Jeff Finley on flickr
Suppose that you cut a deal and bought that car you have been looking for. Don't jump into the first repair shop you find on the Internet. Instead, see more and give them the list of what they'll have to work on the car. They'll give you some estimates, and then you'll decide where to go. A word of advice, expensive doesn't always mean good, and cheap doesn't always mean bad.

Now, what car are you looking for? Do you know its faults and strengths? Leave us a comment in the section below.
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About the author: Tudor Serban
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Tudor started his automotive career in 1996, writing for a magazine while working on his journalism degree. From Pikes Peaks to the Moroccan desert to the Laguna Seca, he's seen and done it all.
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