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Old 02-26-2008, 02:59 PM   #1
rpm
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Buying a car in the US

Hi everyone.

I'll be moving to PA in a couple of months and would like to get a small car there. Ideally, I would want a 90's Honda Civic or similar.

I've been searching online but got disappointed quickly.
Living in a warm-weathered country never did I know Civics could turn into such rust buckets. Most were badly mistreated too.

Maybe I've just been looking in the wrong place. Do you guys have any advice on the best method to secure a clean used car in the US, what are the best websites, etc?

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!
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Old 02-26-2008, 03:27 PM   #2
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its just a lot of work to find one in good shape. the problem we are experiencing now is that the <95 models rust quickly, while the >96 models are not as reliable. even though it is probably the most common car, finding a good one for the right price is difficult. happy hunting.
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Old 02-26-2008, 04:45 PM   #3
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www.autotrader.com
www.cars.com
www.carfax.com

the usual suspects if you haven't tried them already. but anyway, only the carfax isn't free. don't forget to set up free alerts!

check your local newspaper (here)--sometimes you'll find a gem.
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Old 02-26-2008, 04:50 PM   #4
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craigstlist.org sells cars and everything else, its a free posting service and there is one for most localities.

I used to live in PA and I don't miss the snow/salt/rust issues. Most cars in the south stay rust free. (OK my 92 accord managed to get small rust spots on the hood) But it's difficult to buy a car from a distance.

Also, near the ocean or other places where there is salt water (spray), you'll find rust buckets.
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Old 02-26-2008, 06:36 PM   #5
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the good thing about pa is that you can find cars in maryland that has alot less rust, its about a 3 hour drive from philadelphia.
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Old 02-26-2008, 06:58 PM   #6
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Being new to the country is gonna kill you insurance wise, you might try to get a letter in english from your current insurance company stating how many years you've had insurance without a claim, this may or may not help, according to the whim of the insurer.

Cars are cheapest in major metropolitan areas, due to lack of spare parking and competition, people need them gone NOW, and there are many cars to choose from so prices are low. Also wayyyy out in the rural areas they go cheap, because there are a limited number of customers, and they have to offer a good enough deal that people might come a long way to look at it. Expect to see cars with much higher mileages than typical in Portugal. Higher mileages are not necessarily bad, look for good maintenance records. In general US spec cars run with lower compression, less highly stressed engines than European spec cars. So while 100,000 miles on a European car is "high" it's fairly reasonable in a US car more than about 5 years old, and it probably has that much in it again if well maintained.

Some states require a safety standards and/or emissions inspection yearly, some require one only when the car changes owners. Not sure what happens in PA. Some states may exchange your drivers license, some may require you to take a test for a license.
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Old 02-26-2008, 08:26 PM   #7
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I personally recommend that you try auctions (insurance claims). I purchase ALL of my cars this way. Sure you end up with a car that was in a wreck, but many still have clean titles. I have $6000 into my 2005 Prius that has a value of anywhere from $16,000-$20,000. If you have the time, money, and skill, then fixing up wrecked cars can be one, if not THE best way to save money on getting an automobile. I always sell my cars for a profit after having driven them for a couple years.

While American streets are not paved in gold, and Route 66 may fail to impress, the opportunities to find good deals ARE out there for the people who wish to seek them out! Good luck!
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Old 02-27-2008, 02:20 PM   #8
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Great tips everyone. Thank you!

Just one thing, is it frequent for people to alter their odomoter in the US?
Here, people's tendency to steer away from cars with more than 100.000 Km has made odometer fraud a bit of an issue.

100.000, the magic number, be it miles or kilometers. Is human psychology funny or what? I myself don't think it is that important, especially if they are highway miles.
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Old 02-27-2008, 02:40 PM   #9
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RPM, you will find that most cars from the 90's will have more than 100K simply ebcause the US is set up in such a way that you have to drive everywhere, wether it is the grocery store or where ever really. So 100K is no biggie here.
If you ahve the expense of coming to the US anyway and you don't mind driving a bit: I favor Craigslist for the best prices (if offered by a private individual) and wide variety of offered cars. You may have to be somewhat patient and be willing to maybe fly somewhere but then you should find what you want. And obviously states like Arizona, texas and California have the least rust on their cars.
You probably need something fast when you arrive in PA. I would go to PA and buy something you know is cheap and which is easy to sell again and then take your time browsing Craigslist to find what you like.
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Old 02-27-2008, 06:20 PM   #10
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100k km = 62k miles...that's nothing. Almost every car I've ever bought had more than 100k miles, some close to 200k.

There are problems with people rolling back odometers, but I don't think it's as common as it used to be. Before odometers had 6 digits, some states would have a box on the title that would say that the mileage exceeds mechanical limits, which just means it turned over, but you wouldn't know how many times. Now, most cars can measure up to a million miles.

I think the big problem here are cars with salvage titles, that were rebuild after wrecks or floods. I'd avoid these even though they are cheaper, unless you are looking for a project to work on.

If a car has exceptionally low mileage, I'd want to see service records that can verify at least some of the history. I bought my 98 Civic with 39k miles, because the seller had receipts from when they bought it new and all service records.
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