To get to my new job, I have to spend an hour on public transportation and then walk a mile. Frizzy hair and sweaty clothes are completely unavoidable, which pretty much nixes any hope I have of looking professional.
On a recent 90-degree and rainy walk to work, I decided I needed a car—preferably with AC. Unfortunately, I only had $2,000 to spend on one.
Have you ever gone to a Volvo dealership and told them your budget is $2,000? They look at you like you’re nuts. So, what choice do you have? For me, it meant wading into the shady corners of the Internet—and coming out with a ‘91 Jeep Wrangler for $1,500 that had nothing wrong with it except some rust.
Here’s what I did, and how you can get a car for $2,000 or less as well.
Set Realistic Expectations
Know what you could be able to get with the money you have before you start looking. As much as I wanted a BMW convertible with leather interior, it just wasn’t going to happen. To get an idea of which cars are worth what, search the Kelley Blue Book.
This knowledge will work to your advantage in two ways. First, it will help you understand what’s reasonable in the negotiating process and what’s fishy. An example: If someone is selling a 2012 vehicle with under 20,000 miles for $2,000, that’s a huge red flag.
Second, if your budget is anything like mine, it will prevent you from being extremely disappointed with the beater you end up bringing home. Even though my Jeep is no BMW, it was a steal for what I paid. In fact, a mechanic I showed it to was surprised I got it for under $5,000!
Know Where To Look
Up until I bought this car, I was afraid to look into the slimy black hole that is Craigslist. In my search there, two different people tried to get me to send a check across the country in the mail. Once they received it, they said, they would ship my car. Yeah, right.
Still, I recommend looking on Craigslist. Why? You can find great deals there—because owners sell their cars directly. Also, they may be completely honest about what you’re buying. How many car salesmen have you dealt with that tell you the car has a leak in the exhaust, needs new brakes, and a ton of body work if you want to keep it on the road much longer? Exactly.
If Craigslist isn’t for you, look into similar online sites, like AutoTrader, eBay Motors, and Overstock.
Know The Real Cost Of Your Car
Just because a car is cheap doesn’t mean its long-term price will be inexpensive. A lot of older cars don’t get the same gas mileage as newer ones—though the difference may be just a couple hundred dollars a year, depending on how much you drive.
If the car needs work, make sure it’s not a money pit. Pay a mechanic to come with you to look at a car you’re considering. They can tell you what’s wrong and give you a quote for the fixes to keep you on budget. They can also save you from buying something that will break down on you next month.
No one lists a car at a fair price—online or in person. If you’re looking to buy from owners, this is another reason to use the Kelley Blue Book and bring someone with you who’s car savvy. It’s easier to talk someone down from a price if you know what the heck you’re talking about.
In my case, the mechanic I was with talked the seller down from $2,000 to $1,500 because of the rust on the body. Considering that mechanic is a friend of mine and will do this bodywork for free, that’s a $500 win for me. Hey, every bit counts now that I’m paying for gas money.
What tips do you have for buying a car? Share your advice in the comments!