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Car Buying Seminar


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Title: Car Buying Seminar

Car Buying Seminar
  • Tom Lindstrom
  • China Outreach Ministries

  • Understanding our assumptions
  • Understanding Cars
  • Dealing with People
  • Dealing with Details
  • Inspecting the Car
  • Recommendations

Understanding Our Assumptions
  • T/F Test
  • What REALLY Matters?

  • 1. Japanese Cars are the cheapest to drive
  • 2. The more I spend purchasing a car, the more
    dependable it will be
  • 3. Finding a reputable dealer is the most
    important step
  • 4. Getting a car is going to relieve a lot of
    anxiety about living in the US
  • 5. Cars with Prior Salvage stamped on the
    title should always be avoided
  • 6. New tires on a car shows it has been cared

Rank the following in order of importance
  • Safety
  • Make of car (ie Toyota)
  • Everything MUST work all the time
  • Easy to park, learn to drive, etc.
  • Lower anxiety about vandalism, theft, etc.
  • Appearance
  • Reliability
  • Cost of Maintenance
  • Gas Mileage
  • Ability to impress my friends
  • Cheapest price

What REALLY matters?
  • Dependable transportation that doesnt interfere
    with your studies
  • Lower anxiety regarding safety damage to your
    car while you learn to drive

Understanding Cars
  • When cheaper means more expensive and saving
    money means spending money!
  • Sweeping Generalizations
  • Understanding Wear Cycles
  • Choosing a car based on thorough research
  • Tools for determining the value of a specific car

Different Cars for Different People
  • For most people, cars are pragmaticjust

  • But today, cars are increasingly about image,
    fulfillment, even personal identity!

  • This discussion will focus on practical cars
  • My recommendations will be for cars that are more
    simple in design
  • If you prefer a fancier car, the research methods
    shown in this presentation will also help you
    find such a car!

Sweeping Generalizations
  • Japanese cars RUST but are typically more
    dependable. Repairs sometimes expensive.
  • European cars are well designed but expensive to
    repair, more complicated. Complicated electrical
    systems are their death knoll. Motors and bodies
    last forever.
  • American cars have numerous annoying faults, are
    not as well designed, but parts and repairs are
    readily available. These cars are usually more
    practical in design, and there are several that
    stand out as very reliable.

Which car represents the greater value?
  • 2007 car with 100k or a 2004 car with 50k?
  • Import car in OK/poor shape or a Domestic car in
    EXCELLENT condition?

(Normal annual mileage is 12 - 15k per year)
The Truth about Economy Cars
Rank the following Cars Which one costs 141
to replace the water pump? Which one costs 624
to replace the water pump?
33,000 MSRP
18,000 MSRP
46,000 MSRP
10,000 MSRP
Who would think that this car would have the most
expensive repair?
And who would think that you could replace a
water pump on a 46,000 Cadillac for under 150?
Of the cars on the previous page, the Acura would
have the highest rating for dependabilitybut _at_
545 to replace the water pumpyou might want to
think again about purchasing one!
So what is real economy about?
  • Reliability is NOT the same thing as economy!
  • Economy is about the bottom linehow much does it
    cost to drive a car
  • What does economical transportation look like?

Laugh if you want to, but THIS was the cheapest
car I have owned!
1983 Ford Econoline 150
10 mpg, but Very cheap and easy to repair- This
was the best economy car I had for 15 years!
Understanding Wear Cycles
Repairs 60 - 90k
Repairs beyond 100k
  • Tires
  • Battery
  • Exhaust
  • Struts/Shocks
  • ATF/Antifreeze change
  • Timing Belt
  • Alternator
  • Water Pump
  • Air Conditioning
  • Automatic Transmission

Sometimes a car with 100k on it is cheaper to
drive than a comparable vehicle with 60k on it
The Bottom Line on Economy
  • Gas Mileage is only part of the cost of operating
    a car
  • A car considered reliable isnt necessarily the
    cheapest to drive
  • Lower miles on a car do not necessarily mean
    less repairs
  • Knowing your assumptions can lessen your

You probably dont NEED a car after all!
There are other forms of transportation!
My Suggestions
  • Consider a 1000-1500 car for the purposes of
    learning to drive
  • Determine what causes you the most anxiety about
    car ownership and try to reduce your exposure to
    those risks
  • Buy a car from a Maintenance NUT

Why consider this car?
  • 1400 for a 91 Accord with 215,000k !

The owner of this car kept meticulous records of
repairs and it drove absolutely like new!
Or this car?
  • 85 Olds 500

This car has an excellent engine, its safe, and
it wont matter if you smash it up a little
learning to drive!
Why start with a cheaper car?
  • Most new drivers are very nervous
  • Nervous drivers make mistakes
  • Mistakes cost , raised insurance premiums for
    years to come

Thus, a cheaper car may help you have
less anxiety about driving and save you
If you want a cheaper car
  • Most of the rest of this presentation is only
    partly applicable
  • You will buy based on a limited set of criteria
    Will this car help me learn to drive rather
    than Do I like being in this carwill it take me
    to Yellowstone? etc.

So where do we start?
  • How do I decide what make and model of car to
  • How do I know how much I need to spend?
  • What is the most bang for the buck in terms of
    the usability of any given car?

If you had time, you might start your research at
the junkyard!
What can you learn from a junkyard?
Some cars give their owners the Blues
Some cars end up junked sooner than you would
Certain models have consistently defective major
For Example
The day I was here (at the junkyard) I saw 3 or 4
Mazda 626s in this conditionwhy are they there
when they appear to be in great condition and
only five to seven years old?
BAD transmissions!
Issues that send cars to a Premature Death
Expensive, surprise repair bills
  • Repairs for which no parts are available,often
    due to defective parts!

When buying a car, how can I minimize my
exposure to the risks of repair bills I cannot
Finding the Right Car- Doing your Research!
  • Researching the history and
  • reliability of specific models
  • In the case of the Mazda 626, I found a website
    for complaining owners whose transmissions failed

Obviously, our research has to include sources
that will help us find (and avoid) those lemon
  • Periodical Literature
  • Web sites Governmental, Complaint sites,
    Consumer Websites, etc
  • The advice of mechanics, friends, relatives

  • Consumer Reports is a good place to start

Examples of things inConsumers Reports
  • Which cars are the most dependable?
  • What new laws or recalls will affect me?
  • Complaints and Recommendations

This chart is from the Consumer Reports Annual
Auto Issue, published each spring
Millions of readers contribute to the data
collected by Consumer Reports, making their
resources some of the best available for
comparing cars.
This chart is also A part of the Consumers
Reports Annual Auto issue.
This chart is a list of recommendations for used
cars that statistically have had a consistently
excellent reputation over the years
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But Keep it ALL in Perspective
Glenn and I all own vans on this list!!!
And, Consumer Reports doesnt include
  • Costs of maintaining a vehicle
  • Costs of typical repairs
  • By reporting only reliability data and NOT cost
    of maintenance, CR gives a somewhat slanted view
    of car ownership

HenceThe CAR Book
  • Compilation of Govern-
  • ment data previously
  • unavailable to the public
  • Focuses on Safety
  • Predicts maintenance costs and charts total costs
    of ownership including depreciation, etc.

Examples of helps The CAR book can give
  • Summaries of replacement costs for major and
    minor components on popular vehicles
  • Estimates the costs for preventative maintenance
    as prescribed by the manufacturers of the new
  • Complaint charts
  • Crash test results
  • Depreciation (Use this in your favoryou can
  • get a 3 year old car for 60 of its new price!)

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Where do you find the CAR Book?
  • Public libraries
  • Ebay
  • Direct from publisher through contribution to the
    Center for Auto Safety, but only available in

WEB searches
  • To locate Automobile related websites, try words
    such as reliable used cars or automobile
    complaints or defective transmission or
    defective engine or automobile complaints or
    automobile recalls, etc

What you will find on the Web
  • Lots of complaint web-sites, some profane and not
  • Some helpful things
  • Some commercial sites, designed to make money off
    all information they provide

Some Helpful Web-sites

Listener call in Radio shows can help you
understand car problems
  • Car Talk national radio show http//
  • Live mechanic chat for problems with your car on
    the web. Humorous radio show! Non technical
    evaluations of test drives

Where to go for advice
  • Your Host family
  • Trusted people like your advisor, neighbors, COM
    staff, etc
  • Ask around for referrals to a good mechanic if
    you pick your mechanic FIRST, and have him
    recommend a car, you will always have someone to
    repair it! (I will include referrals at the end
    of this presentation)

Are there exceptions is it ever wise to buy a
car your research says to avoid?
  • Yes from a trusted friend
  • Yes when maintainance records outweigh faults
  • Yes when you can accept the faults of a vehicle
  • Yes when the bad reputation doesnt apply to your
    vehicle (Ford Taurus 3.0 liter)

Dealing With People
  • Finding a Reputable Dealer
  • Finding a private party
  • Understanding Classified Ads
  • Understanding Minnesota Nice
  • Negotiating a Sale

Finding a Reputable Dealer(is that an oxymoron?)
  • New Car Dealerships
  • Car Lot used car dealerships

Buying a used car from a New Car Dealership
Have a higher concern for nice cars on their lot
Get business based on name plate of dealership,
not on quality of service or repairs!
Lots of overhead, lots of salespeople means
they have to keep standards up (and prices!)
Get first pick of the used cars at the best prices
Used Car Lots
Typically have less concern for repeat business
Finding a reputable Used Car Lot is one
thingFinding a good car on such a lot is another!
Nearly ALL the cars here were rejected by New
Car Dealerships for some reason!
Locating a car from a Private Party
  • You may want to buy a car directly from the
    person who knows the most about itthe owner!
  • PP can tell you about repairs done, how the car
    was driven, etc.
  • Buying from a PP often is a rewarding experience

How do I locate a Private Party who is selling
their car?
  • Classified Ads in MN Daily, Tribune, Pioneer
    Press, Auto Trader, etc.
  • Web sites
  • Bulletin Boards at local establishments
  • Friends/referrals

Pros Cons of the Classified Ads
  • Ads are expensive, so sellers are motivated to
    sell quickly!
  • Lots of competition getting to the right car
    before someone else

Terminology of the Classifieds
  • Babied Owner claims vehicle has had all the
    TLC of a newborn baby
  • Sharp Vehicle is attractive overall
  • Good runner Usually means the car is ugly, but
  • Highway miles Owner is claiming the high miles
    show less wear than you would expect normally
    since it was Highway miles
  • Mint Car is in virtually new conditionno flaws
    at all
  • Clean Usually meant to convey the body has no

Pros and Cons of Web Searches
  • Sites like have lots of listings
    with photos
  • Slow turnover - Seller has lots of time to wait
    for his pricemay be overpriced or need repairs
    (look at photo, try to date when the vehicle was

Web Sites with Used Car Listings
  • Fast response
  • Free Carfax report
  • Best/Worst ratings, crash tests
  • Certified Cars listed
  • Free VIN check
  • And believe it or not, EBAY (but be wary)

EAST MEETS WESTChina vs. Minnesota Nice
Just what is Minnesota Nice?
  • Non-interference in the lives of others
  • Indirect answers to your questions smothered in
    sickly smiles
  • Better to be a doormat than to upset anyone!
  • Saying little or nothing when upset, yet bearing
    a grudge for a long time

I have found a carhow do I determine what it is
  • Carry a NADA guide, available at bookstores
  • Check the web,,, newspaper classifieds, Auto
  • Be careful to deduct for everything you can in
    determining value, and enter the EXACT model
  • After looking at a few cars you will know their
    value, and you may refine your search
  • It is NOT a criminal act to ask MORE than book
    value- some cars are worth more

How can I do a title search?
  • Find the VIN of the vehicle
  • 25 for unlimited checks for 30
    days or 20 for a single VIN check
  • (one free check)

Inspecting the Car
  • First Impressions
  • Things you can inspect yourself
  • Professional Inspection

If you are buying a beater to learn to drive,
ignore this, but
  • Pay attention to how the car looks to you
  • Look for evenness and consistency in the paint,
    door gaps, etc.
  • Check to see that doors, windows, locks all work
    (non-functional things can be SO annoying!)

Things you can check yourself
  • Check all VIN numbers to see that they match
    (See for full description of
    where VINs are located)
  • Check (or similar site) to see if
    the car has ever had a Salvage title

Before Starting the Car
  • Lift the hood check fluids
  • Inspect Radiator, hoses, belts

Starting the Car
  • Listen to the car start coldthere should be no
    unusual sounds from the motor
  • Look out the rear of the car. There should be no
    blue smoke. Some steam is normal for a few
    minutes, but not smoke.
  • After the car warms a little, put the
    transmission in R. It should not lag before

Inspect the Tires Abnormal wear can tell
you things about the car the owner may not know!
Automatic Transmission Fluid
  • The fluid should be pink, have little odor
  • If the fluid is brown, smell it. Its normal to
    have some odor, but it should not smell burnt.
  • Level of fluid is checked only with car hot, on
    level ground

Note on oils
  • Mineral Characteristics 2 / quart Basic
    protection for a variety of engines
  • Not much protection for cold weather start ups
  • Fully Synthetic Characteristics 6 / quart
  • Fuel economy savingsEnhances engine performance
    and powerEnsures engine is protected from wear
    and deposit build-upEnsures good cold starting
    and warm upGets to moving parts of the engine
  • Semi-synthetic Characteristics 4 / quart
  • Cold start lubrication protection similar to
    full syntheticRoughly three times better at
    reducing engine wear over conventional
    oilsIncreased oil change intervals

Cut away view of an engine
  • Engine oil is pumped during operation onto
    various engine parts
  • Question How long does it take to pump the oil
    from the oil pan up into the engine?
  • Question How long until the engine reaches its
    optimum efficiency?

What are the advantages of having the car
inspected professionally?
  • Pro inspections cost 50 - 80 but give you
    something to negotiate withprobably saving you
    that much money when arriving at a final price
  • Pro inspections are VERY thorough
  • Probably not necessary for a beater

A word about Salvage Titles
  • Salvage / Prior Salvage stamp vehicles should be
    at least 20 cheaper than comparable model
  • Dont rule out a vehicle with prior salvage
    stamped on title, but be careful!
  • Have the vehicle inspected

What about safety?
  • http//
  • But keep in mind when the Government issues a
    star rating, it is assuming vehicle crashes with
    the same size car it is rating.
  • Google on to find crash video of
    vehicles you are curious about

One More Thing
  • Since the wear tear on a car varies a LOT based
    on how it is driven, have the owner/seller take
    you for a ride and see how he handles the car.
    Is he hasty when going from Reverse to Drive?
    Does he MASH the accelerator and or brakes?
  • Ask him about the use of the vehicle

Negotiating a Sale
  • You MAY try to get a lower price on the phone,
    but the Seller may hang up on you! Asking price
    is not usually more than 10-15 higher than
    sellers anticipated selling price.
  • Be careful not to point out things wrong with the
    car as though the seller was trying to cheat you!
  • Dont be manipulated or pressured to buy. But at
    the same time, dont ignore the advice of someone
    trying to help!

Dealing With Details
  • What is the procedure for payment?
  • Where do we go to transfer the Title?
  • What legal issues do I face?
  • How much insurance do I need?

What is the procedure for payment?
  • Most sellers accept a personal check as down
    payment. If you do not follow through with the
    sale, the money is theirs to keep.
  • Buyer will return at a later time with Bank Check
    for the full amount and Seller returns the
    Buyers down payment.
  • Writing out an agreement may be a good idea.

Payment Procedure continued
  • Alternatively, Buyer and Seller can go together
    to the bank to exchange funds
  • Buyer can carry a check from a bank that he could
    sign over to whomever he wishes

Where do we go to transfer the Title of
  • Its primarily in the Sellers interests to go
    with the Buyer to insure the Title is properly
  • The Dept. of Motor Vehicle in Minnesota has
    several locations for transferring the Title of
    Ownership they can be found in the Government
    Blue Pages in the front of the phone book
  • Going together and doing all the signatures in
    front of the DMV personnel can save you a lot of
    stress should you make a mistake

Title includes
  • Odometer readings
  • when issued
  • If the car has a Lien
  • VIN number
  • Owner(s) name/address, etc.

Be careful filling out the title as any
alterations/changes VOID the title!
  • Put your name down in USA order (family name LAST)

  • If you can, fill out the title in the presence of
    a DMV official
  • If your are not able to go together to register,
    register online (this does
    NOT transfer the title but starts the process)

  • Getting Insurance
  • Recommended Cars
  • Finding a Reputable Mechanic
  • Auto Body Repair

  • It is illegal to drive a car on a MN highway
    without insurance. You need insurance to pick up
    the car you buyand you need the VIN to insure
  • The liability insurance MN requires is probably
    not enough! Consider raising it, at least until
    you are a seasoned driver.
  • You, as driver of your car, are alone responsible
    for whatever you hit, regardless of fault and
    unless you carry collision coverage, the loss is

Choosing Insurance
Because International Students are the riskiest
group to insure and because they have the highest
accident rate due to their unfamiliarity with
  • Few companies insure unlicensed drivers
  • Those that do offer insurance to this group
    charge big bucks!
  • When you do find insurance, consider collision
    coverage in addition to liability

Understanding the types of Insurance
  • Liability only covers damage you do to other
    peoples cars and property
  • Collision adds coverage for damage you do to your
    own car
  • Comprehensive covers damage such as storms,
    parking lot scrapes, etc.

  • The following cars are good choices but not your
    only choices!
  • If you are choosing to buy a cheaper car, (1000
    - 1500) your choices are narrower and will
    depend more on the condition of the car than the
    make and modelbut keep the following in mind

Brand Specific Recommendations
  • Practically any Toyota- These cars accept abuse
    and neglect much better than most cars
  • Honda Accord, Civic, etc.- Not Passport
  • Mazdas OK- They probably dont last as long as
    Toyotas but usually good cars
  • Nissan- Good, simple cars but not in league with
    Honda and Toyota

Recommendations continued
  • Mitsubishi, Suzuki- Only if you get a good price
    and low miles
  • Hyundai In recent years these cars have made big
    strides ahead in quality
  • Subaru- Expensive repairs beyond the 100,000 mile

High mileage late model off lease cars
  • Many components that wear out at a given mileage
    are like new- but you still get the depreciation
    of an older car
  • Conclusion these cars are some of the best
    values around regardless of brand name
  • Often 30 of original MSRP even though only 3 or
    4 years old
  • Rigorous maintenance has been performed
  • Body and interior look almost new!

High Mileage off lease example
  • 08 Buick Lacrosse CX MSRP 26,000 - 40,000
  • With 30k 20,977
  • With 106k 9,900
  • (current local listings)

Cars / things to avoid
  • 95-97 Plymouth / Dodge Neon head gasket
  • Late 90s Mazda 626 AT
  • Late 90s Mitsubishi Galant AT
  • GM 2.4 liter 4 cylinder
  • Saturn ION

Cars to Avoid
  • Subaru 2.5 liter Phase II motor 1996-2003
  • Head gaskets blow, dealer repair 2500 - 3500
    (Kuan much cheaper ? )
  • No permanent repair of this engine is possible,
    reoccurs every 70k

Cars to Avoid
  • Honda Odyssey 2000 -2003
  • Faulty transmissions some were replaced under
    warranty but owners often have to pay for repairs
    up to 5000 to replace
  • Some owners report repairing transmission twice
  • If you find one with a new transmission it
    SHOULD be OK

Issues to be aware of / Honda
  • Transmissions- Hondas dont accept abuse its
    wise to see how the owner treated his car before
    you buy it
  • Timing Belt Replacement
  • On Hondas, replacement intervals are 90 105k
    Dealer cost about 1000 on 4 cyl.
  • If the belt breaks, it can ruin the engine

Issues to be aware of / Ford
  • Ford Focus has had a record number of recalls on
    the Ford Focus 2000-2002
  • Engine Fires
  • Wheel bearing failure, wheel comes off the car
    while driving!
  • Make sure ALL recalls on the vehicle have been
    taken care of

Issues to be aware of / Ford
  • Taurus / Windstar history
  • Bad 3.8 motors gave the Taurus and Windstars a
    bad reputation but cars after 1996 unaffected
  • Look for 3.0 motor
  • Fords mistakes here means YOU can buy the cars
    cheaper! (Lousy resale value)

Specific Cars to look for
Toyota Camry
  • These cars can last 250,000 miles
  • Galvanized sheet metal on older ones
  • Great resale value

Chevrolet Prizm / Toyota Corolla
  • Prizm is the Corolla with Chevy name
  • Economicalshould last 200,000 miles
  • Not much to worry about here

Honda Accord
  • Quick, responsive handling
  • Very reliable, satisfying ownership

Honda Civic
  • Very economical transportation
  • Very, very reliable!
  • Highest resale value

Mazda 3, Protege
  • SL pretty good
  • ION not so much
  • SW average
  • L Series not so much

  • Most are average
  • Later models are improved greatly

  • Xb gets rave reviews on
  • Xa good
  • Xc more mixed reviews

Less Obvious Recommendations
Cars you might have overlooked ?
Pontiac Vibe
  • Same car as a Toyota Matrix

Ford Escort / Mercury Tracer
  • Cheap, dependable transportation
  • EASY to find competent mechanic to work on these
  • Available 2 door, 4 door, wagon
  • Lower purchase and resale value than import

Buick Regal / Century
  • Dependability on a par with import cars
  • 3.8 liter motor is one of the best in automotive
    history, 3.1 is also good
  • Depreciates rapidly
  • (3 year old value
  • is 50 of new- very
  • affordable!)

Chevrolet Prizm
  • Same as a Toyota Corolla

Chevrolet Corsica / Beretta
  • Discontinued in 1997, but if you find one in
    decent shape, consider it. 3.1 V6 (avoid the 4
    cylinder engine)

Ford Taurus
  • LOW resale value means you can get a newer car
    for less money than you thought
  • 3.0 liter engine is quite good
  • Have a mechanic look over the car before you buy

Chevrolet Impala
  • Big, Safe, Utilitarian
  • Dealership ONLY for necessary items

Other things to think about
  • Remember that finding a car One Owner or from a
    person whose judgment you trust is your best
    asset in looking for a car
  • Almost any car in excellent condition is going to
    be a better choice than a more reputable car that
    has been abused

Finding a Mechanic
  • New car dealerships may have the latest
    diagnostic equipment and lots of well-trained
    mechanics, BUT that doesnt guarantee they are
    good at fixing cars!
  • Mechanics without a franchise endorsement can
    only remain in operation if they do good work!

  • Auto Repair Service 965 Pierce Butler Route, St
    Paul 651-487-1431 Not far from CTC
  • Campus Auto Repair 630 Washington Ave Se (612)
  • Phalen Park Auto Repair (Kuans) 1383 Arcade St.
    St. Paul, MN 55106 651-771-1590
  • Midwest Vee 259 Como Avenue Saint Paul, Minnesota
    55103 651 489-8853 (specialists for European cars)

Auto Body Repair
  • Raymond Auto Body, Inc. 1075 Pierce Butler Route
    St. Paul, MN 55104 651 488-0588
  • This recommendation is based on responses sent
    in to Twin City Checkbook Magazine

Sales, Auto Body, and Mechanic Repair
  • Ascend Auto
  • 99 Hyacinth Ave St Paul 55117
  • 651-340-8635
  • Hmong family business (Christians and very nice
    people). Cars are bought salvage and repaired
    and sold.

Other Issues to Consider
  • The Law is the LAW do not bring a casual
    attitude to the rules of the road you must
    always have a licensed driver sitting next to you
    when on a learners permit. And all the rules
    apply to you even when nobody else is watching. ?

Other issuesthe Impound Lot
  • If you dont know the parking rules of the city,
  • Fees 172 (Mpls) 208 (St Paul) for tickets and
    towing PLUS any storage fees
  • http//
    asp for rules in MPLS.
  • http//
    low.html for St Paul rules

Other Issuesyour owners manual
  • Read it!
  • You might also want to find a general book on
    cars to get you started
  • (I knew a student who put too much air in his
    tiresthey blew up on the highway going to
    Duluth. This wouldnt have happened if he would
    have read the owners manual!)

I hope this presentation was helpful
  • Your greatest resource in finding a good car is
    the recommendations of friends and classmates who
    have some experience with cars
  • If you have an American host family, you can ask
    them as well

Good Luck Shopping!
(I think this Lamborghini costs more than your
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