How to buy a car - again

A multi-part question; I’m trying to buy a car, and it ain’t easy. So far I’m looking at the Honda Fit, the Mazda 3 and the Hyundai Elantra Touring. New car prices for the base model of these 3 vehicles, after taxes are about $16,500, which is metric load of cash.

Used cars at a reputable used car dealer are similar, since most people don’t buy the base model, a two year old fit with fancy keyless entry or whatever winds up in the 16K range.

I saw a what looked like a good deal on Craigslist

All seemed good, guy seemed genuine, reported no issues with the car, but when I ran the VIN, it had been in collisions. I asked for more info and got this:

At these repair costs, I can accept the $768, the $717 and $530 as cosmetic fixes, but that $3529 makes me worry. How significant is the radiator issue. Does this mean there are yet other problems that I haven’t uncovered? The Dude is asking the black book price $12,500, which now seems too high. Do I get a BCAA inspection for $150? Do I offer $10000? Do I walk away?

On review, perhaps this should have been in MPSIMS. Sorry mods, it started off as a question and devolved into a soap opera.

The rocker panels sound structural rather than cosmetic/replaceable. You might want to do some research on that.

You may have different luck than I did…

…but I have given up on private car sales. They want waaaayyyyyyy too much money for their car. A 3 year old car…with the newest 3 years of its life gone…plus the years less likely to have major repair bills…needs to be at a substantial discount from new. $2000 a year on a $16000 car is NOT going to cut it…and you’ll be lucky to find even this deal.

Even going by online pricing guides…I have found that the average private selling car price is equvalent to removing 1 year and 30,000 miles off the vehicle (they price a 4 year old 80,000 mile car as a 3 year old 50,000 car).

If you DO find a properly priced car…when you go see it it will be a wreck. I still remember going to see a car sold by a private party which was priced ‘right’ according to a website…and the car looked like it had been torn in half and welded together! I’m not kidding…it had a ‘weld’ mark all around the middle of the car.

This leaves you used car dealers. While you can find somewhat reasonable prices if you dicker hard and long…this gets you to a ‘fair’ price according to the websites which, I think, are still overpriced. $12,000 on a 3 year old/40,000 miles car that sells for $16,000 new…I’ll take the first 3 years for $4000!

This subject has been brought up several times on SDMB…and many people claim buying used is the way to go and claim they got a great deal on theirs…but when challenged on this they offer vague generalities on how to find these things. They are either being untruthful or their ‘good deal’ was from a benevolent family member (my guess).

I buy two kinds of cars:
New and barebones - I don’t like having a bunch of electronic gadgets that are additional things that can go wrong.
Used and cheap - I mean $1000-2000 used car from a dealer. I know the car is gonna be a P.O.S, but it will run for a year or two.

I’d never buy from a private party. The only reason they are selling it privately is because something in the car’s state of being or history made it unappealing as a trade in.

The only instances I’ve seen of a good deal on a private citizen used car is when the last owner can no longer drive due to age/death.

Or because they want to get a fair price for it. They are buying your car for wholesale value and selling at retail. They are a business and they have to make money.

I sold my 06 Mazda 3s as a private party. I sold the car for more then a dealership would have paid me and the buyer paid less then he would have from the dealership. I bought my Hyundai Elantra private party and paid less then I would have from a dealer.

You can get better deals as a private party seller or buyer but there is a lot more work involved. For some people the convience of going through a dealer is worth the money.

I understand the rocker panel to be the panel underneath the door, so I can see cosmetic damage from the described accident - however, does it hide a tweaked frame? I’m concerned about an impact bad enough to screw up the radiator and radiator mounts.

Another issue to consider - if you are financing, you can nearly always get a better rate on a new car. Also, that Elantra has a 10 year warranty if bought new.

The way I imagined the accident that caused the radiator damage is the car rolling backwards and going over a short drop, like a step. A car like the Fit is only going to have 6-8 inches of clearence between the bottom of the car and the ground. So as soon as those back wheels drop over the step, the rocker panels are going to start to scrape on the edging rocks that form the step. When the front wheels drop down, the front of the car foward of the front wheels is going to come down hard on the top of the step, and that’s probably how the radiator was damaged.

I’d look into anyting under the car that might have scraped; exhaust and oil pan to start.

Regarding your choices on new cars, I think you’d be getting more car for your money with the Mazda or Hyundai.

There really are some stingy types that NEVER go to a dealership.
They’re 2nd or 3rd-owner types…
In the mid-low end of the used car market, frequently the dealer charges $1500 above private party for a used vehicle and gives $1500 below private party for your trade-in.
That’s $3K worth of friction on your vehicle transaction.
At the high end of the market, it can be a lot more than $3K, and at the low end of the market it’s not much better.

Late breaking update*

I just got off the phone with the people who did the body work on the Fit, who have no particular axe to grind in this situation- she’s paid by ICBC, our socialized auto insurance. The upshot was that most of the cost was labour, and both the work description and single available photo were described by her a “really minor” and “surface damage”, and said that she would have no concerns were she buying this vehicle herself. So I think I’m going to get BCAA to look it over.

Average price of a used private sale Fit in my area on Craigslist it 12.5 K, with a range from 10k for ones that noted prior collisions in their ads, to 16K and up for ones with fancy bits.

Used Fit at a ‘reliable’ dealer is 17K, and has bells and whistles that I don’t want.
New Fit costs 17.5 k to drive off the lot, all costs and taxes included.