Help a car n00b?

splitpea

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Oct 21, 2009
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I'm considering moving to the Denver area early next year, and one of the implications would be needing to buy a car (I live in NYC and have a driver's license but walk or take public transportation everywhere). Knowing nothing about cars, I'm stumped as to how to work this into a budget.

I know there are a lot of factors that go into that, so let's say my commute would be a half hour each way, and the car would be something used, practical and not fancy (I'm thinking maybe a 10 year old Camry or Accord or something, but like I said I know nothing about cars, so I'm totally open to ideas).

How much should I plan to spend annually on gas, maintenance, insurance, parking, and car payments? (And are there any other expenses I've forgotten?)
 

ctt1wbw

macrumors 68000
Jan 17, 2008
1,730
0
Seaford VA
I would look at purchasing a car that would handle the Denver weather. I think they are known to get some snow there. :D

Get something to handle the weather first of all, and then work that into your budget.
 

dukebound85

macrumors P6
Jul 17, 2005
18,136
1,448
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I would look at purchasing a car that would handle the Denver weather. I think they are known to get some snow there. :D

Get something to handle the weather first of all, and then work that into your budget.
eh having lived in denver area for 10 years and albany ny for one, it doesnt matter

i got by with a toyota celica since 2001

for me

gas is prob 30 bucks a week
ins is 60 a month (liability only on a 20 year old car)
maintainance is prob on avg 400 a year
no car payment but i bought it for 6000
registration is about a 100 a year

the newer the car, the more the insurance

cars are really quite pricy to own
 

splitpea

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Oct 21, 2009
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Among the starlings
gas is prob 30 bucks a week
ins is 60 a month (liability only on a 20 year old car)
maintainance is prob on avg 400 a year
no car payment but i bought it for 6000
registration is about a 100 a year
Thanks, that was really helpful. So I could budget around $3000-3500 annually for recurring expenses (to add a bit of breathing room above the $2600 or so you list)?

cars are really quite pricy to own
No kidding. Ironically, once you factor in transportation expenses, the cost of living in Denver is at least as high as it is here, where we're supposed to have the highest COL in the country.
 

dukebound85

macrumors P6
Jul 17, 2005
18,136
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5045 feet above sea level
Thanks, that was really helpful. So I could budget around $3000-3500 annually for recurring expenses (to add a bit of breathing room above the $2600 or so you list)?
really depends on the car you get and your driving habits plus your driving record

i just gave you mine but it could be no where close to what others pay

No kidding. Ironically, once you factor in transportation expenses, the cost of living in Denver is at least as high as it is here, where we're supposed to have the highest COL in the country.
NYC faaaaaaar exceeds the cost of living in denver

on a side note, why are you moving there?

I ask as I am planning to move back in feb. I love co too much over NY (maybe since I grew up there lol)
 

splitpea

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Oct 21, 2009
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NYC faaaaaaar exceeds the cost of living in denver
Maybe for a family of 4, but for someone like me, it's actually quite close. I'm single and live with roommates. Rent in a share in Denver & environs appears to be about $200-300 less than what I'm paying now. And I only spend $90/mo on transportation. Factor in the initial car purchase cost (or ongoing car payments), and rent + transportation costs about the same.

on a side note, why are you moving there?

I ask as I am planning to move back in feb. I love co too much over NY (maybe since I grew up there lol)
I've been considering leaving NY for somewhere a little greener and more open for a while. I love it here (grew up in the city), but it can be a little soul-crushing to never see the sky. Denver's been near the top of my list because it seems to be less expensive than the coastal cities and younger and more vital than the plains cities. Plus the area is incredibly gorgeous.

Then a couple of job openings there that would pay more than I'm making now sort of fell into my lap. Dunno if I'll get any of the jobs yet, but if I do there won't be much time to plan the move.

What do you prefer about Colorado?
 

dukebound85

macrumors P6
Jul 17, 2005
18,136
1,448
5045 feet above sea level
What do you prefer about Colorado?
In short...everything

It is simply amazing. If you like outdoors, it's the place to be. If you like sports, you are covered (have NBA,NHL,NFL,MLB, Arena, 3 major college sports teams)

If you like breweries, no better place to be

If you like guns, you dont have to put up with NY's stupid laws lol

If you like music, no better place to be. You have the Fillmore, Red Rocks, Aggie, countless others

You like 300 days of sun a year on average, you have it

In just posting this thread, I convinced myself I have to move back

I really do not like NY lol



With that said, are you only looking in Denver? I consider anywhere from Laramie, WY to CO springs to be the best stretch to live along the I-25 corridor

If I had to choose between Denver and Co Springs, I would pick the Springs. If you live in Denver, I would look to like Broomfield (which is a suberb of denver)

Boulder is also really nice as well

Only other state that I may like over CO would be Utah. I believe Utah is the prettiest state I have ever seen. Just I have all my fam in Colorado lol
 

splitpea

macrumors 65816
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Oct 21, 2009
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Among the starlings
With that said, are you only looking in Denver? I consider anywhere from Laramie, WY to CO springs to be the best stretch to live along the I-25 corridor
Part of it is the vitality of the city; part of it is actually political (I don't want to live somewhere too far right-leaning); part of it is the city size (I think I'd have trouble adjusting to somewhere that was too small -- Denver has decent density and even a fairly walkable downtown from what I understand.)

If I had to choose between Denver and Co Springs, I would pick the Springs. If you live in Denver, I would look to like Broomfield (which is a suberb of denver). Boulder is also really nice as well
Duly noted. One of the jobs is actually located in Boulder, actually. When it comes time to look for an apartment I might have to ask you what neighborhoods are good to live in / which to avoid. ;)

Only other state that I may like over CO would be Utah. I believe Utah is the prettiest state I have ever seen.
Utah is gorgeous. Have you ever been to Bryce Canyon? If they let people live in national parks, I'd move out there tomorrow.
 

dukebound85

macrumors P6
Jul 17, 2005
18,136
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5045 feet above sea level
Part of it is the vitality of the city; part of it is actually political (I don't want to live somewhere too far right-leaning); part of it is the city size (I think I'd have trouble adjusting to somewhere that was too small -- Denver has decent density and even a fairly walkable downtown from what I understand.)
Denver has a nice downtown for sure.

Duly noted. One of the jobs is actually located in Boulder, actually. When it comes time to look for an apartment I might have to ask you what neighborhoods are good to live in / which to avoid. ;)
Well move to Boulder is my vote. It is a liberal city and very very cool. Plus its close to Denver but man is Boulder awesome:D


Utah is gorgeous. Have you ever been to Bryce Canyon? If they let people live in national parks, I'd move out there tomorrow.
Nope, I have been to SLC and have done nymerous trips to Moab. So fun

Also just had to drive through it on my way to Vegas quite a bit haha
 

iOrlando

macrumors 68000
Jul 20, 2008
1,811
1
that insurance figure is a little unrealistic.

for a young guy in a city....more like 1500-1600/year.



I understand the OP's desire to get a crap car (10 years or older) but I dont agree with that.

I would instead go for a used one under 30,000 miles. That way you get a few good years with no headaches. If you go for a 1o year old car with over 100,000....i dont think you will have fun.

Therefore, since i am recommending a relatively newer car, you would want to get full coverage on insurance, not just liability, and for young male...you get zapped alot. some friends insurance is well over $175/month due to speeding tickets and prior accidents.

Insurance by far will be the biggest cost.
 

splitpea

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Oct 21, 2009
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that insurance figure is a little unrealistic.

for a young guy in a city....more like 1500-1600/year.



I understand the OP's desire to get a crap car (10 years or older) but I dont agree with that.

I would instead go for a used one under 30,000 miles. That way you get a few good years with no headaches. If you go for a 1o year old car with over 100,000....i dont think you will have fun.

Therefore, since i am recommending a relatively newer car, you would want to get full coverage on insurance, not just liability, and for young male...you get zapped alot. some friends insurance is well over $175/month due to speeding tickets and prior accidents.

Insurance by far will be the biggest cost.
Thanks for the suggestions. FWIW, I'm female, and closer to 30 than to 25 -- that'll help a bit with insurance, right?

How old a car would you recommend buying? Here in NY where people drive less, there seem to be lots of cars on the market that are about 6-8 years old, have much less than 100K miles on them and cost around $5K-9K (from a quick survey of Craigslist).

My goal is basically to minimize the cost per year (i.e. purchase price divided by number of years of use). My understanding (please correct me if I'm wrong) is that there are certain models that can be expected to run well until they're around 15 years old.

For those models with the most reliable track records, how many miles can you expect to put on them before maintenance costs more than just buying another car?
 

SubaruNation555

macrumors 6502
Dec 3, 2007
362
0
Arlington, VA USA
Here is how I would approach the situation:

-Compile a list of expenses: the car itself, insurance, gas, maintenance (seen and unforeseen) and any extras like parking costs or AAA coverage. Also set a maximum budget if you can.

-Get your car priorities in order. Formulae a list of what you want/need in a car: SUV or sedan? Do you need AWD for the snow? Transmission type? etc.

-Make a list of candidates. Certain cars generally make good used cars but you still need to be careful. Look at used: Civics, Accords, Corollas, Camrys, Legacys, Imprezas or Focuses (if you want sedans). Check things like reliability, safety, fuel economy, cost of parts/repairs, etc.

-Get on the Phone/Internet. Once you have some cars in mind then give the major insurance companies a call and get estimates on insurance costs for your age, location and the cars you are interested in.

-Recalculate: Once you get some quotes to establish a baseline you can begin to narrow down options, calculate annual gas costs and so on.

-Shop Around. Check your list and see if any of the cars are for sale in your area. Look for ones with a full service history, clear title and a warranty if possible.

-Test Drive: If possible test drive the remaining cars on your list. After all, you are going to have to live with your car for while so you might as well like driving it.

Remember when it comes time to buy a car don't let anyone take advantage of you. Bring a friend along if it makes you feel better. Also, don't be afraid to haggle, you really have nothing to lose.

Good luck!
 

splitpea

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Oct 21, 2009
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Some expenses to consider are: the car itself, insurance, gas, maintenance (seen and unforeseen) and extras like parking and things like AAA. I'd formulate a list of safe, reliable used cars (Civic, Legacy, etc) you might like. Then give all the major insurance companies a call. Once you get some quotes and establish a baseline you can begin to narrow down options, calculate annual gas costs and so on.
Thanks, that's a good idea. Do you know any good resources for figuring out which used cars have the longest lives / best reliability?
 

iOrlando

macrumors 68000
Jul 20, 2008
1,811
1
Thanks for the suggestions. FWIW, I'm female, and closer to 30 than to 25 -- that'll help a bit with insurance, right?

How old a car would you recommend buying? Here in NY where people drive less, there seem to be lots of cars on the market that are about 6-8 years old, have much less than 100K miles on them and cost around $5K-9K (from a quick survey of Craigslist).

My goal is basically to minimize the cost per year (i.e. purchase price divided by number of years of use). My understanding (please correct me if I'm wrong) is that there are certain models that can be expected to run well until they're around 15 years old.

For those models with the most reliable track records, how many miles can you expect to put on them before maintenance costs more than just buying another car?
yes your insurance will be lower. I'm not sure though why you are so set on getting the most out of your buck. What i mean by that is..most people go out and buy a car and say..well i want to get my money's worth out of it. If you drive alot..you will get more value from a newer car. I guess my point is be very careful with trying to own a car for 15 years. Why go through all the hassle and pain of replacing all the parts..etc... go for a newer car thats great in gas...yes it might be more expensive...say 15000-17000...but when compared to a 7000 - 8000 car, you will get more out of it. Somethings you cant put a price on.

1) its so tough to gauge what cars start to go and at what mileage. Some owners treat their cars very well and can probably get to 170K miles before things start to go. Other people might have problems at 80K. Also, (this is more rare) but cars are individuals..meaning they aren't all the same. You can just get stuck with a car that starts to go sooner rather than later.
2) I would be careful with Craigslist..and cars for way under 100,000 miles and around $5,000. From what I saw in this past sundays newspaper...seemed like the average for a 2005...60K ish car is around 8000 - 9000. chevys..hondas..etc..nothing fancy.. To me..that isnt bad...I would prefer that then 110K milles for $3000 which i think is throwing money away.
 

splitpea

macrumors 65816
Original poster
Oct 21, 2009
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Among the starlings
Well, yes, I'm trying to take into account maintenance and everything. I'm hoping to drive as little as possible, and really am not someone who needs to show off a car, so I'm looking for the lowest possible TCO (and yes, hassle) for something that will give me basic point-a-to-b functionality.

I realize that a $2500 clunker won't give me that, but at the same time it seems like there must be a sweet spot somewhere between almost-new and on-its-last legs. Somewhat like how -- if you don't need the power to game or edit video and can live with not owning the latest and greatest for its own sake -- you'll often get more years-per-dollar from a 2 year old secondhand Mac than from one that's 3 months or 5 years old, without significantly more frustration.

Anyhow, thanks for the advice. I'll be careful with Craigslist (and will bring along someone who knows a bit more about cars when I do go looking). The ones I'm seeing for $5-9K are like '03 and '04 Civics, Camrys, Accords, Corollas, etc, with between 60K - 90K miles. (Here's an example search.) Are those better avoided?
 

dukebound85

macrumors P6
Jul 17, 2005
18,136
1,448
5045 feet above sea level
that insurance figure is a little unrealistic.

for a young guy in a city....more like 1500-1600/year.
Not really as its what I pay (60 a month) lol, when i lived both in denver and in ny

I am 24, male, in NY, drives a 20 year old car, perfect driving history

Insurance is 500k csl liability only with 250 k uninsured underinsured iirc

Thanks, that's a good idea. Do you know any good resources for figuring out which used cars have the longest lives / best reliability?


i would check consumer reports for reliabiltiy issues

for me, i bought a 1990 celica in 2001 with 67k miles at the time for 5800

still have it and works great and now has 121000 miles

if you are serious about a car do these things

1) get the carfax on it
2) spend the 100 bucks and get it checked out by a mechanic
3) then shop around for insurance
 

quagmire

macrumors 603
Apr 19, 2004
6,321
1,123
Finding an OEM forced induction vehicle won't be a bad idea to check out due to the altitude difference. I remember going to Denver to go ski and the rental cars we had were horrible with power. We had a XL-7 as a rental and we had a hard time maintaining highway speed and acceleration practically required 4000-5000 RPM. A forced induction engine would fix that problem. Though it would require premium gas and would cost a bit more to maintain.
 

dukebound85

macrumors P6
Jul 17, 2005
18,136
1,448
5045 feet above sea level
Finding an OEM forced induction vehicle won't be a bad idea to check out due to the altitude difference. I remember going to Denver to go ski and the rental cars we had were horrible with power. We had a XL-7 as a rental and we had a hard time maintaining highway speed and acceleration practically required 4000-5000 RPM. A forced induction engine would fix that problem. Though it would require premium gas and would cost a bit more to maintain.
very unnecessary
 

rhsgolfer33

macrumors 6502a
Jan 6, 2006
882
1
that insurance figure is a little unrealistic.

for a young guy in a city....more like 1500-1600/year.
Not for liability only. Dukebound specified he was driving a 20 year old car, there isn't much reason to carry more than liability on a car that old and $60 isn't unreasonable for that. I don't know where you payed $1500 a year for liability only, at 18 I paid less than $500 a year for liability only in Los Angeles.


Insurance by far will be the biggest cost.
Hence purchasing an older car in good shape; cheaper initial outlay as well as cheaper insurance. Also, if it is good shape and has been taken care of she shouldn't have too much problem with maintenance.

yes your insurance will be lower. I'm not sure though why you are so set on getting the most out of your buck. What i mean by that is..most people go out and buy a car and say..well i want to get my money's worth out of it. If you drive alot..you will get more value from a newer car. I guess my point is be very careful with trying to own a car for 15 years. Why go through all the hassle and pain of replacing all the parts..etc... go for a newer car thats great in gas...yes it might be more expensive...say 15000-17000...but when compared to a 7000 - 8000 car, you will get more out of it. Somethings you cant put a price on.
The thing is, you can get plenty out of a 5-10 year old $7000-$8000 car. I've got a 15 year old truck out front (I've also got a 5 year old truck >80,000 miles with no major problems yet), no major problems, well over 100,000 miles, hasn't been in the shop for ages. If you take care of your vehicle you'll probably be fine. Purchasing a newer car hardly guarantees that you won't have to deal with replacing parts, etc. Plus, you can get plenty of excellent cars that will run for a long time for $7000-$8000.
 

dmmcintyre3

macrumors 68020
Mar 4, 2007
2,131
1
I see about 3 different 80's suburbans almost every week. One has 300k miles on it. The thing with old cars is when they break and it costs more to repair than replace is you can go get another for ~1k or less. You loose nothing when you sell the old ones and if you take care of them they can go up in value as they get older.

1983 with 300k miles
 

notjustjay

macrumors 603
Sep 19, 2003
6,044
118
Canada, eh?
Don't forget to factor in the cost of winter tires (if that's popular in Denver - it is definitely a "strongly recommended" here in Ottawa, Canada).

I drive an '05 Matrix, which is still fairly new, but so far pretty much trouble-free.

My expenses (in Canadian dollars, consider it roughly at par, but YMMV of course)

Gas - $30/week
Insurance - $60/month

Regular maintenance - Toyota's maintenance plan suggests service at every 5,000 miles, alternating between an oil and lube service and a "maintenance service". Figure $200 a year?

Budget some money for less regular maintenance, such as brake jobs, engine air filters, swapping of winter tires, etc.

Or learn to do some of that stuff yourself and save some money.
 

dukebound85

macrumors P6
Jul 17, 2005
18,136
1,448
5045 feet above sea level
Last notes.
1. Before you buy a car, get the VIN checked on CarFax, you DON'T want to buy a car that had any major accidents on it's record.
2. You also should always insist on being allowed to check the car out at a shop before you buy it so you know nothing is wrong with it.
3. NEVER EVER buy a used car with manual shifter in the US. Everyone I know that did, had to get the clutch fixed within 10k miles because the previous owner had ridden it to sh*t. And that can cost up to 2000$ in repairs depending on what needs to be fixed and what type of car it is. Since most people in the US don't get taught driving stick in the US, they ruin their cars when they get one with stick because they don't know how to drive them properly.

Cheers,

Ahmed
I agree with all but #3

If you test drive, you will be able to tell the condition of the clutch

I replaced mine 8 years after buying it and it was only 600 for a complete new clutch in a fwd but you are right, it can vary

get quotes for any repair job and use them to your adv

Don't forget to factor in the cost of winter tires (if that's popular in Denver - it is definitely a "strongly recommended" here in Ottawa, Canada).

I drive an '05 Matrix, which is still fairly new, but so far pretty much trouble-free.

My expenses (in Canadian dollars, consider it roughly at par, but YMMV of course)

Gas - $30/week
Insurance - $60/month

Regular maintenance - Toyota's maintenance plan suggests service at every 5,000 miles, alternating between an oil and lube service and a "maintenance service". Figure $200 a year?

Budget some money for less regular maintenance, such as brake jobs, engine air filters, swapping of winter tires, etc.

Or learn to do some of that stuff yourself and save some money.
If you are mechainically inclined, go pick up a chiltons manual and do the basics

it is relatively easy to
1) do your own oil changes
2) air filters
3) tire rotating
4) suspension
5) replace brake pads
6) replace headlights and wipers
7)spark plugs

there are many more but these jumped at me
 

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