Buying a used auto with high miles
I drove home in a red Eddie Bauer Ford Expedition last night. The SUV is loaded: sun-roof, leather seats, premium sound (with CD changer), power and heated seats, climate control, trip computer, power pedals, alarm, and tons of other little gadgets. Guess how much I paid for it! $5,500.00 cash. No loan, no payments. The Expedition is all mine and I have the title sitting right here on my desk as I write this.
Deciding on a used auto with high miles
I wrote last week about how I had rented a new Ford Expedition for our house hunting trip to the mountains. We really liked it and it comfortably held all 8 of us. We returned home I did a little research and found that the sticker price for a new Ford Expedition equipped the way our rental was runs at least $40,000. That is way more than I am willing to pay for a vehicle. We decided to just stick with that we have, a 2004 Dodge Durango (2 wheel drive) and a 2001 Nissan Sentra.
I received an email a few days later from a friend of mine that had read my article. His neighbor had been trying to sell their 2000 Ford Expedition. They were asking $8,500 but had recently reduced the price to $6500.00. He sent me a couple of pictures as well (one of which is at the top of this article). It had all of the options we wanted and/or needed and I liked the color. The only problem, at least in my mind, was that it had 104,000+ miles on it.
My wife and I have been been talking about it since then, but we weren’t completely sold on the idea. After all, we already have one SUV and we’re getting ready to buy a house and didn’t need to be spending any money.
Over weekend, we went back up the mountains to look at a few homes our real estate agent found for us. Two of the homes we really like, and one in particular. The problem? Both almost required 4-wheel drive to get to. If they almost require a 4×4 now, once winter hits not having a 4×4 could be a big problem. We talked to the agent about needing a 4×4 in that area and his response was that it wasn’t required but sure made life a whole lot easier and less stressful. He did agree that the houses that we seemed to like would almost require a 4×4 in the winter. I noticed that he drove a 4×4 truck and that a number of the vehicles parked at the agency where 4×4 vehicles as well.
My wife and I discussed options on the way home and both strongly agreed a new vehicle wasn’t for us. The 2000 Ford Expedition kept coming up, and we finally decided to go take a look at it yesterday afternoon when we returned.
Buying a used auto with high miles
I called the owners and asked if they would be available to let us see the vehicle. I also asked to key questions: 1) Are you the original owner? 2) Do you have the maintenance records? The answer to both questions in my case was yes. With that first hurdle out of the way, I made an appointment to meet the owners a few hours later
Before we left, I visited Edmunds.com to see what their appraisal and True Market Value price was. Edmunds.com quoted right at $6500.00.
The Expedition was sitting in the driveway when we arrived. It looked nice, nicer than I expected really. The outside had a few little bumps and scratches, but nothing major. It screamed “wax me”, but that’s something I can certainly take care of. The interior was pretty dirty. Tt showed some wear, but not bad. A good cleaning and shampoo would really make a huge difference. We decided to test drive it. It drove great and everything worked. I drove it on some bumpy side roads, took it on a gravel road to test the 4-wheel drive and even drove it on the interstate. No problems. The engine was smooth, the body tight, and no squeaks or rattles. All of the options and features worked as well.
When we returned, I opened the hood and looked for an visual signs of fluid leaks. None. The engine was clean and dry, and even had a fairly new Diehard battery. Fluids looked like had been recently changed and all were full. I asked the owners where they normally parked it, and they said right where it is. A quick inspection of the driveway showed no signs of fluid either. This is starting to look like an incredible deal.
The only item the Expedition needed was new tires. From experience with our Durango, new tires would run me about $500.00 or so. I was prepared of pay $6500.00 for it, but I make it a habit to never pay the asking price straight up. I also didn’t assume the asking price was still $6500.00. I asked the owner what they wanted for it. They surprisingly said $6000.00 instead of $6500.00. I discounted another $500.00 for new tires, and offered them $5,500.00 stating specifically that it needed $500.00 worth of tires. After some deliberation, they accepted.
A few minutes later, I drove it home. We now have a 4-wheel drive vehicle that will haul our whole family. No more riding in separate vehicles! We’ll be selling my Nissan Sentra in the next week or so, once I get tags for the Expedition and get the Nissan cleaned up a bit. I’ll also be visiting my trusted mechanic to give the Expedition a once over to make double sure everyting is ok with it.
Tips for buying a used auto with high miles
Here are few tips to follow when buying a used auto with high miles:
Buy single owner cars
Make sure the owner is the original owner. This will allow you to know the full history of the vehicle. Most likely the original owners will have all or most of the maintenance records as well. Remember buying a car with high miles is all dependent on the history of the vehicle. If it’s been well cared for and maintained, it will most likely last for a long time.
Inspect the maintenance records
Look for any major maintenance work and when it was last performed. See how often the oil and other fluids were changed and look for any evidence of damage or repair due to accidents. The Expedition I purchased had the oil changed ever 3,000 miles and they followed all of the dealer recommended maintenance. Within the past year it received new shocks, brakes, and bushings.
Look for leaks
In a vehicle with high miles, one of the key things you need to look for are leaks. You don’t have to be a car expert to find them, Just look under the vehicle for any signs of fluids dripping off the engine, transmission, and 4-wheel drive components. If you see them, run away or take the vehicle to a mechanic to have it inspected.
I recommend always taking a used car to a trusted mechanic before purchasing. I didn’t do this as I know enough about cars to find any major problems and the owners had a documented inspection from a shop down the road. Spending $50 – $100 for a routine inspection is well worth it. If the owners won’t let you do this, don’t buy the car.
Listen for funny noises
Another common sign of problems are unusual noises. Does the engine tap or make out of the ordinary whirring noises? Does the suspension squeak? Does the body rattle when riding on rough roads? How about the transmission? Is it smooth an quiet?
If you hear any noises that you think might be unusual, take the vehicle to a mechanic who can determine the cause. It might just be normal wear and tear, but it could also be something much more costly, like a bad engine.
Don’t shy away from used autos with high miles. They can be a source of incredibly great deals. Cars these days are far more reliable than older cars used to be and can run for 200,00+ miles. I fully expect to get another 100,000 miles out of this Expedition, if not more. Just be careful and make sure you do your homework. Watch for signs of any major problems and make sure the vehicle was well cared for by the original owners.
Once we get the Expedition cleaned up, I’ll post some before and after pictures along with some tips on how to clean a used car up after you’ve bought it. I also write about how to effectively sell a used vehicle as I go through the process of selling my Nissan Sentra (anybody interested? Only asking $4,000.00)
Do you drive a vehicle with high miles? Have you ever purchased a vehicle with more than 100,000 miles on it? How did it work out? Add a comment!