You can buy a reliable car for under $1000...Here's how.
I have not spent over $1000 on a car in my entire life. While I do skip on some amenities, the amount of money I have saved is huge. Plus, by being a savvy buyer, I am still able to ensure I have a reliable, dependable car. By buying these inexpensive vehicles, I save loads of money. When you buy cash, you don't have to pay interest, pay for full coverage insurance, and you don't have a monthly payment.
It is easy to do. I have a few stead-fast rules I stick to, and they have ensured that I haven't been stuck with a lemon.
1. Don't get in a hurry. You need to take your time to find a deal. This requires enough forethought to start looking for a car before the one you have is no longer drivable. When you take your time, you will find someone who has undervalued a quality vehicle. I say take your time, but it has never taken me longer than a week to find a deal.
2. Never touch any kind of vehicle that needs work on the engine or transmission. Vehicles in this price range typically cost less than major engine and transmission work. Included in this, is any vehicle with rebuilt or new transmission, rebuilt or new motor, and any vehicle that has aftermarket performance parts. These vehicles are much less likely to be dependable.
3. Be willing to overlook cosmetic damage. There are a lot of good-looking cars out there for cheap, but if you are only looking for transportation--don't get hung up on peeling paint, a few dents or some torn upholstery.
4. Buy domestic, quality vehicles. I like to buy American not only for the patriotic reason, but also for the cost of replacement parts. With an older vehicle, you will have to replace a few parts: alternator, radiator, a/c unit, etc--foreign parts are expensive and difficult to obtain. Also, buy quality vehicles. Compact and economy cars are built more cheaply, and they are less durable. Stick to luxury vehicles, full-size sedans, trucks, and vans. I won't say don't buy four-cylinders, but do your research. That brings us to rule 5.
5. Do your research. Go to autos.msn.com. There you can find reliability ratings and customer reviews as well as the KBB book value for the vehicle. Do not pay more than 80% of the fair condition book value.
6. Buy from owners, never dealers. Dealers often mark up these vehicles by 50-100%
7. Be critical during the test drive, and use any thing you find to talk down the price. If you will need to replace anything or have to do any maintenance, use it to lower the sale price. I.E. "It's going to cost me at least $300 to replace those worn out tires" "I guess I'll have to give it a tune-up and an oil change" I've used these talking points to reduce an already under priced 94 Lincoln Towncar from $1200 to $900. Also, once again, if you notice anything wrong with the engine or transmission--Walk away.
I hope these tips help you towards more affordable vehicles in the future.