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Old 02-27-2008, 09:30 PM   #11
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I've sold several cars and found two really good ones on Craigslist. Yeah, there's a bunch of crap buckets on there too, but if you are on top of it, you can find the best deals within minutes of the ad being placed.
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Old 02-29-2008, 09:55 AM   #12
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I live in a rural part of "metropolitan Pittsburgh", out in western PA.

Some advice....

We use a traction aid in Pennsylvania known as "Road Salt". If you'll recall from the 1980s the US deployed weapons in Europe known as "neutron bombs". These bombs killed people without damaging property much.

Road Salt is the opposite of a neutron bomb. Road Salt does not harm people. However it ruins cars. Mostly through rust in the rear quarter panels.


Until I recently purchased a Toyota Yaris I never owned a new car. I have never ever owned a car which did not have rust. All of the cars will rust sooner or later in Pennsylvania. If you plan to buy "used" plan to either make friends with a body repair person or learn about "Tiger's Hair" and other compounds for repairing rust damage.

Buying a new car was offensive to me. I chose to buy a new car because of the warranty and because of what I saw people do with small cars.


Small cars are owned by young adults and frugal working and professional folk. Sometimes the elderly will also buy them.

Try to avoid small cars with automatic transmissions, unless you know the owner.

Some people have this distressing habit of abusing transmissions, especially in smaller cars. Two habits come to mind; One is to hold the car in place on hills by slowly pushing on the gas "just enough" to force the car to hold its place. Basically you grind the internal parts of the transmission to hold the car in place!

The other bad habit is to halt motion by changing directions of the transmission. I've seen people of all ages do this - they will be slowly driving in reverse and then I see the "reverse" lights go out but no brake lights come on. The car "halts" and then goes forward. This is done by shifting the transmission from reverse to forward! Even speed differentials of less than one mile per hour can destroy a transmission, and will certainly accelerate wear!

Both of these habits are incredibly destructive to automatic transmissions!! People who do such things simply buy a new car and then resell the old one.

Cars with standard transmissions can be "hammered" too. Especially if the car was a first car for the owner, and the owner was a young adult.


Another bad habit to watch for are kids who put nitrous oxide kits in small cars. They do this in order to race or drive fast in them. After putting in a few thousand miles of this abusive practice they remove the nitrous oxide "kit" and place the car up for sale. When an unsuspecting buyer purchases such a car they're buying a car which has been subtly damaged. As they said in Rome "Caveat Emptor", let the buyer beware.

Suggestions....

I would plan to "throw the first one away". By all means purchase something from Craigslist or some other means. Do not plan to keep it for more than a year.


Most used cars are available through "auto auctions". Make friends with automobile mechanics or used car dealers and others who have access to these auctions.

These auctions will have cars that were repossessed from banks, which have been sold by insurance companies, rental fleets and Corporate motor pools, and so on. The cars will be in various conditions, from pretty good quality to wrecked.

If your mechanic brings you along he or she will able to judge the quality of the car on the spot.

Private sellers are not banks. A lot of folks who want to purchase a car will offer "payments". Most of the time private sellers do not want payments. If you approach a private seller with cash or check for the full amount that you both agree upon this is satisfying to them.


A source of quality used cars is Church. Chances are that as a Portuguese you are a Roman Catholic. By attending Mass regularly you will meet elderly Catholics, many of whom drive cars. Pennsylvania has more retirees than any other State in the US except for Florida.

Elderly folks sometimes will quit driving due to health reasons. Other times they will become sickly and have to go to a Nursing Home. Sometimes they will die.

The cars that they leave behind are often garage kept, and sometimes are very well maintained. Being elderly they will be driven conservatively, sometimes for very short distances.

Elderly folk do not often buy sporty or flashy cars. They tend to purchase for comfort and for thrift. While these cars are desired by many because of their care and cost people are often ignorant of the background of the car. The Elderly do not often "get around" and hence their cars are not known to many.

Moreover for many an automobile is a "statement". My one grandmother bought a performance car and drove it like she stole it. Most elderly do not buy performance cars. Their choices are not "hip" so the cars do not on their face command good value. The value comes from the care that many elderly persons give to the car. That care is not always obvious to a potential buyer.

Unless a family member covets the older person's car it MAY be had for a reasonable value. If you can do so arrange to test drive it. You could purchase such a car knowing its history. This will give you peace of mind.

I purchased one car from an estate for a good bit less than its worth. However it had been abused. The previous owner was a bit of a rebel and used leaded gasoline, damaging the catalytic converter. He also drove in the mountains, which hammered the cheap transmission that Pontiac put into the car. I did not know either of these things at the time of purchase. One must be vigilant about the limitations of the engineering of any car and the habits of the previous owner.

Gene
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Old 02-29-2008, 10:05 AM   #13
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General tips and things to look out for would be great too! Thanks! Can't wait to make my way down old Route 66 for example!
Route 66.... I take it to work every day.

It's not very romantic. It's a two lane road, concrete and asphalt in different places. Full of another of Pennsylvania's most famous item - potholes.

Watch out for the deer - they're four legged giant rats that eat vegetable gardens, small trees, carrion (seriously) and cause auto collisions. Deer do not care where they congregate and can be found standing in the middle of roads. They tend to panic easily so sometimes they will run towards your car as often as run away from your car.

In reality Deer are relatives of Elk, Caribou and probably horses. However since they eat and destroy things we refer to them as "rats with hooves".


Also, read up on economics by Keynes. Keynesianism is rampant around here. We "prime the pump" by giving road construction contracts to politically connected contractors. They hire union workers, "giving them jobs". The net effect is that you will wait for these characters to fix the roads, which will then fall apart within a few years. Part of the reason that the roads fall apart is because we use "environmentally friendly" asphalt. I think that's a red herring, the real reason for that crummy asphalt is that it is inexpensive and guarantees work.

Where are you planning to settle? In Philly or Pittsburgh?

Gene
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Old 03-01-2008, 02:50 AM   #14
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Thanks for the insight Gene, I really appreciate it.
I will be staying in Pittsburgh to study for a period of 2 years.
That is why I think a new car would not be a very rational option, i.e. I would loose too much money selling at the end.

So I guess my best bet would be to find a car at a more southern, road-salt free state, fly over and drive it back. Now that would be an adventure.

I think I will live close to school so I'll probably walk or ride a bike there.
This gives me some time to search for a good car, that will be used mainly for traveling around the country and for general driving pleasure/stress relief.
I tend to like small lightweight cars for all their nimbleness and responsiveness, but let's see what comes up.
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Old 03-01-2008, 01:08 PM   #15
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Thanks for the insight Gene, I really appreciate it.
I will be staying in Pittsburgh to study for a period of 2 years.
That is why I think a new car would not be a very rational option, i.e. I would loose too much money selling at the end.

So I guess my best bet would be to find a car at a more southern, road-salt free state, fly over and drive it back. Now that would be an adventure.

I think I will live close to school so I'll probably walk or ride a bike there.
This gives me some time to search for a good car, that will be used mainly for traveling around the country and for general driving pleasure/stress relief.
I tend to like small lightweight cars for all their nimbleness and responsiveness, but let's see what comes up.
Okay....

If you're going to school in Pittsburgh you'll most likely be attending school in the Oakland district of Pittsburgh. Parking is SCARCE down there. I am an alumni of the University of Pittsburgh. I also attended Carnegie Mellon. CMU has tough parking but Pitt is abysmal.

If you live in Oakland than you will be able to obtain off street parking or obtain a "residents" permit, which entitles you to park for free on the street. All you need do is find a parking spot.

You'll need automobile insurance, which is compulsory in Pennsylvania. As a newly insured person you might be paying a good deal of money to obtain coverage. However I do not know your personal history and am not sure if you can provide evidence of driver training or other assurances that you're a competent vehicle operator.

Oakland has good mass transit. Very good. Most buses that go East go through Oakland many times per day. I think that there may be bicycle lanes too. It's been a while, I do not like the city much.

Gene
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Old 08-20-2008, 07:08 PM   #16
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Three months have passed and here I am in Pittsburgh. So happy!
I managed to secure an apartment that is one mile from Carnegie Mellon.
So far, a relaxing 20 minute walk to the office.

Wonder how it'll be during winter though. It'll be my first "real" winter and I'm not really looking forward to it to be honest. Hate being cold.

I'm using public transit to get to the shops and stuff but I not entirely pleased. For one, buses are not very frequent and don't seem to follow schedules. I waited for 45 minutes in the sun on Sunday before I gave up and just walked the 5 miles back home.
Also, they are real dirty, people inside are noisy and I sometimes am literally scared and intimidated by the look of them. Once I was feeling so uncomfortable with a group of very noisy and rude high-school? kids inside that I had to get out earl
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