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10 Steps to Buy a Decent Used Car Under $3,000!

Updated: Jul 2, 2020

Always buy a “Cash Car” - unless you are a millionaire! Okay, I will concede - everyone should have the pleasure of owning a brand new car at least once in their lifetime. But only do it when you can pay for it in 48 months or less.

Until that day comes where you have those “new car” funds, stay in your lane and live within your means. I stand by these words and you have seen my videos discussing the purchase of my 2004 White Honda Accord and my 2005 Dark Gray Honda Accord and my 1996 Mazda Miata. So, just call me the "Cash Car King."

I will now share with you the steps that I used to buy 2 of my cars. And I will use this same process for buying my next car. I hope that after utilizing my strategy, you will be able to give me feedback on your experience.

  1. Open online automobile sites. I can recommend the sites and services that I have personally used. I bought my 1st car using Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace. I bought my 2nd car using an auction (Cars for Kids ) and a car seller that I know and trust. I have used the 5 Mile app for other sales/purchases, but not for a car. I have downloaded Carvana and Blinker Apps, but I did not register with them, yet, because I wanted to limit how many “feelers” I have out simultaneously.

  2. Ask the Car Seller for the VIN (Vehicle Identification Number). Plug this VIN into , or Kelly Blue Book, or another Car History service to find out data about the car (Reported accidents, recalls, Inspections, etc.) Another thing I really love is that is shows everywhere the car has been located throughout its entire life. I don’t purchase cars that have ever been in coastal cities, like Houston and Miami because I fear that those cars are more likely to have flood damage. And I don’t want to deal with that type of car damage that is hard to detect, and difficult to repair.

  3. You also need to see the patterns for this make & model that other car owners are experiencing. I use Edmunds and Kelly Blue Book If you have a subscription to Consumer Reports , that source would be very desirable. You will use the posts you find here to see what kind of recurring issues owners are having with the Make & Model you are interested in. For instance, I was looking at a specific Ford, and several owners mentioned that the trunk handle breaks off after a number of years. Other little patterns surface over time and visiting these car reviews reveals them to you.

  4. Test drive the car. I always take my mother or father with me for several reasons. One, so that I will have protection against criminals posing as “sellers.” Are you meeting with a seller who expects you to have a lot of cash on you? That could make you vulnerable to ne’er-do-wells whose true motive is to rob you. Your car-buying partner will also serve as a “voice of reason.” If I get too excited about something trivial (e.g., I LOVE aux cords), then they are there to remind me to think of the more important factors of the car (funny engine/brake sounds, noticeable wreck dents, etc.).

  5. It is always a good idea to take the car you are considering to a mechanic for a diagnostic. The cost and inconvenience is worthwhile to prevent any large, unforeseen auto repairs. I have to admit that I have skipped this step on both of my cars. I accept the fact that it is a 15+ year old car with 100,000+ miles, therfore, car repairs are inevitable. A $250-$300 repair is fair trade for and older cash car, and this expense trumps a $400 monthly 48 month car payment any day! (Remember, No Debt under any circumstances.) And who wants to sit in a shop and wait in line for your car to be seen? This could take hours. Nevertheless, getting a car inspection is always sound practice, so take it to Pep Boys, Christian Brothers, or your personal mechanic and factor in their diagnosis in your car purchasing decision.

    1. On a side bar, I heard about an insurance nightmare where someone purchased a new car, but a glitch in their auto insurance paperwork went unnoticed. At some point, this person had a single-car collision. They walked away without a scratch (thank God), however their new car was totaled. So now they go to file a claim and it is determined that the car was not covered by insurance! This individual is now liable for 5 years worth of future car payments on a brand new TOTALED car that they cannot ever drive again! What a nightmare! If, instead, the car in this scenario had been a cash car, all future money earned could be directed toward the purchase of another cash car!

  6. Do not purchase the car if you cannot get the title signed over to you at the time of purchase. We are talking about a 15 year old car. And if the seller doesn’t have clear title to this vehicle, don’t take on this unnecessary hassle. If they are too lazy to request a substitute title, then their car care has been lazy, also. And we won’t even consider the alternative, which is that the car is not really theirs to sell - if you catch my drift! So, walk away from any deal where you won't have clear title at the time of purchase.

  7. Do not take the amount of cash you intend to spend with you to the test drive. Walking around with $2,000 in your pocket is a dangerous and vulnerable position to be in. Instead, contact your bank in advance, and get your daily withdrawal allowance increased for 15 days. So, if the purchase occurs, you can Zelle, Venmo, PayPal, or Cash App them. Or you can go to a nearby ATM and withdraw the funds at the time of the transaction. Also, taking your checkbook is another way to transfer funds in a safe manner.

  8. Be vigilant. You can’t get lazy and skip any of these steps. If you take shortcuts, and fail to act with fidelity, you may possibly purchase a less than desirable car.

  9. Pray to God. Pray before you even open any of these online automobile sites. Pray before you even leave the house to go test drive. Ask God for a durable, reliable, working, fully-functioning, car that is in your price range, and that the car is NOT a lemon. Ask God for a car that will continue to run well for at least 5 more years. James 4:8 Draw near to God and he will draw near to you. And Matthew 7:7 Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

  10. I was reading my AAA monthly magazine, and they added another helpful tip: Avoid discontinued models that are no longer supported by the manufacturer, such as Peugeots, Pontiacs, or Saturns.

CAVEAT: Your car will have over 175,000 miles on it when you purchase it. If you can find a $3,000 car with lower mileage, you are lucky!

My 10 Tips for Buying a Cash Car have helped me twice, already. I hope that you have found my "10 Car Buying Steps to finding a decent car under $3,000" to be useful. And I look forward to your feedback on your car buying experience. Maybe when I get signed by a music label, I’ll finally purchase that brand new car!

“I Got Another Car!”

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