I have $2,000 in total in my savings account for a car but I am starting a better paying job in three months and I will need a car to get to it. At the moment, I am biking to my current job. I am just out of college and I am not in any debt and I have only had a credit card for a few months. I have never taken out a loan. Would it be better to pay for a car with the money I have or take out a loan for a car in a better condition? I know I'm getting a used car either way. But as I see it a $2000 car would need more repairs than a more expensive car. If I paid for a car, I would be totally out of money for a couple months and wouldn't be able to pay for any repairs, maintenance, or gas. If I take out a loan, how much would I take out for a reliable car? Also I have been told to shop around for loans but I don't know what to look for or how to shop around?

  • Standard advice: before agreeing on the final purchase of a used car, take it to a mechanic you trust , tell him you're considering buying it, and as him to check it over as if his own kid was buying it. This will probably set you back $200, but will mean you have a good idea of its real condition, what you'll need to invest in it how soon, and generally whether you should buy, walk away, or try to negotiate the price down based on those findings. Worth the investment; lemon laws may not apply to second hand sales. If the seller isn't willing to let you do this, don't walk away -- RUN.
    – keshlam
    Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 23:20
  • 2
    I highly recommend at least waiting until a few weeks before you take the new job to get a car. Having zero dollars in your bank account due to a down payment or a used car purchase is not a good idea (you need some money for emergencies). Bike to your current job for now and see what your situation is like a week before you take the new job. Commented Jan 7, 2015 at 0:07
  • It would be INSANE to get a loan to buy a car. Don't buy a car at all. if you have to walk six hours a day, do that to avoid buying a car. If you genuinely must buy a car for some reason, spend maybe $900. (Regarding getting a loan for a new car, total madness, forget it.)
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 13:03
  • "But as I see it a $2000 car would need more repairs than a more expensive car" Good Lord - I guess you didn't major in math! You could buy ten or twenty such used cars for the cost of one new car! If you buy a car for $1000 and, bad luck, it needs a "huge" repair $500 ... you are still ahead by TENS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS.
    – Fattie
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 13:05
  • @Fattie You're advise is ludicrous. Walking isn't feasible in much of the US, and buying a $900 throwaway car will have you spending more then just getting a more decent car to start, plus the cheaper car is going to break down probably on your way to work.. potentially putting your job in jeopardy.
    – Andy
    Commented Aug 17, 2017 at 0:03

6 Answers 6


This was a huge question for me when I graduated high school, should I buy a new or a used car? I opted for buying used. I purchased three cars in the span of 5 years the first two were used. First one was $1500, Honda, reliable for one year than problem after problem made it not worth it to keep. Second car was $2800, Subaru, had no problems for 18 months, then problems started around 130k miles, Headgasket $1800 fix, Fixed it and it still burnt oil. I stopped buying old clunkers after that. Finally I bought a Nissan Sentra for $5500, 30,000 miles, private owner. Over 5 years I found that the difference between your "typical" car for $1500 and the "typical" car you can buy for $5500 is actually a pretty big difference.

Things to look for: Low mileage, one owner, recent repairs, search google known issues for the make and model based on the mileage of the car your reviewing, receipts, clean interior, buying from a private owner, getting a deal where they throw in winter tires for free so you already have a set are all things to look for.

With that said, buying new is expensive for more than just the ticket price of the car. If you take a loan out you will also need to take out full insurance in order for the bank to loan you the car. This adds a LOT to the price of the car monthly. Depending on your views of insurance and how much you're willing to risk, buying your car outright should be a cheaper alternative over all than buying new. Save save save!

Its very probably that the hassles of repair and surprise break downs will frustrate you enough to buy new or newer at some point. But like the previous response said, you worked hard to stay out of debt. I'd say save another grand, buy a decent car for $3000 and continue your wise spending habits! Try to sell your cars for more than you bought them for, look for good deals, buy and sell, work your way up to a newer more reliable car.

Good luck.

  • good advice regarding value for price. Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 2:46

You are really showing some wisdom here, and congratulations on finishing college.

Its a lot about likelihoods. If you buy a new car, there is something like a 99.5% chance you will get a car that will not need repairs. If you buy a car for $1200 there is probably a 20% chance that the car will only need minimal repairs. So the answer is there is no real guarantee that spending any amount of money you will end up with a car with no repairs.

You also can't assume that with buying a car it will immediately need repairs. Its possible, that you could spend 1200 on a car and it will need an oil change. In three months it might need brakes and in 6 months tires. If that is the case, you could save up the money for repairs.

Have you looked for a car? It will take some work, but you might be able to find something in good condition for your budget.

If you shop for a loan, go with a good credit union or local bank. Mostly you are looking for a low rate. However, I would advise against it. You worked so hard on getting out of school without debt, why start now?

Be weird and buy a car for cash. Heck someone may be able to loan you a car for a short time while you save some money.

  • "it will need an oil change. In three months it might need brakes and in 6 months tires." With the possible exception of something puncturing your tire the other repairs are wear and you can basically know that: check the oil maintenance schedule, have a look at brake pads and disks and have a look how worn the tires are. Actually I'd say these are regular check points when buying a used car in the price range you consider. Commented Jan 6, 2015 at 19:57
  • @cbeleites Presumably Pete was just giving examples of commong car stuff that might need repair. It's true that you can reasonably predict those examples but there are any number of other faults that might come up but can't check for without having a mechanic run a full inspection.
    – Lilienthal
    Commented May 4, 2015 at 12:40

If you buy a new car, the odds that it will require repairs are fairly low, and if it does, they should be covered by the warranty. If you buy a used car, there is a fair chance that it will need some sort of repairs, and there probably is no warranty.

But think about how much repairs are likely to cost. A new car these days costs like $25,000 or more. You can find reasonably decent used cars for a few thousand dollars. Say you bought a used car for $2,000. Is it likely that it will need $23,000 in repairs? No way. Even if you had to make thousands of dollars worth of repairs to the used car, it would almost certainly be cheaper than buying a new car.

I've bought three used vehicles in the last few years, one for me, one for my son, and one for my daughter. I paid, let's see, I think between $4,000 and $6,000 each. We've had my son's car for about 9 months and to date had $40 in repairs. My daughter's car turned out to have a bunch of problems; I ended up putting maybe another $2,000 into it. But now she's got a car she's very happy with that cost me maybe $6,000 between purchase and repairs, still way less than a new car. My pickup had big time problems, including needing a new transmission and a new engine. I've put, hmm, maybe $7,000 into it. It's definitely debatable if it was worth replacing the engine. But even at all that, if I had bought that truck new it would have cost over $30,000. Presumably if I bought new I would have had a nicer vehicle and I could have gotten exactly the options I wanted, so I'm not entirely happy with how this one turned out, but I still saved money by buying used.

Here's what I do when I buy a used car: I go into it expecting that there will be repairs. Depending on the age and condition of the car, I plan on about $1000 within the first few months, probably another $1000 stretched out over the next year or so. I plan for this both financially and emotionally. By financially I mean that I have money set aside for repairs or have available credit or one way or another have planned for it in my budget. By emotionally I mean, I have told myself that I expect there to be problems, so I don't get all upset when there are and start screaming and crying about how I was ripped off. When you buy a used car, take it for granted that there will be problems, but you're still saving money over buying new. Sure, it's painful when the repair bills hit. But if you buy a new car, you'll have a monthly loan payment EVERY MONTH.

Oh, and if you have a little mechanical aptitude and can do at least some of the maintenance yourself, the savings are bigger.

Bear in mind that while you are saving money, you are paying for it in uncertainty and aggravation. With a new car, you can be reasonably confidant that it will indeed start and get you to work each day. With a used car, there's a much bigger chance that it won't start or will leave you stranded.

$2,000 is definitely the low end, and you say that that would leave you no reserve for repairs. I don't know where you live or what used cars prices are like in your area. Where I live, in Michigan, you can get a pretty decent used car for about $5,000. If I were you I'd at least look into whether I could get a loan for $4,000 or $5,000 to maybe get a better used car. Of course that all depends on how much money you will be making and what your other expenses are.

When you're a little richer and better established, then if a shiny new car is important to you, you can do that. Me, I'm 56 years old, I've bought new cars and I've bought used cars and I've concluded that having a fancy new car just isn't something that I care about, so these days I buy used.


The stupid question nobody asked: how mechanically inclined are you? I buy used cars, but then again I can work on them (I am building a new engine to my specs for one of my cars). Replacing a head gasket in a Subaru would be less than $200 for me, so I would find someone who blew his and offer $1000-1500 for the car if it is one of the models I like.

The reality of buying an used car is that you are buying someone's else problems. How much do you know about that specific car model, its quirks, and what usually goes bad on them? For instance, it is a fact most people who buy a BMW 3 series flog them, so expect an used one to have been abused by someone trying to pick up girls by acting like he is a racer. A 5 series, on the other hand, would have a better life. Then some cars tend to rust on certain areas of the body. On the other hand I have seen Hyundai Elantras take a lot of abuse -- no oil change in 3 years -- and keep on ticking.

Yes, you need to do some research on new cars, but old ones require even more. If you are going to save money buying used, make sure to spend time and research the options and their hidden costs. And learn how to check a car and have a feel for how much you will spent on repairing/maintaining it.

And what you are willing to give up on your first car: is having a working AC that important? How about power windows?

If you do buy a used car, try to put $100-200 aside every month, as if you are doing car payments. That will be your emergency and downpayment-for-next-car money.

No matter what you buy, remember all you want on a new car is reliability and fuel efficiency. And, how much do you need a car right now? If you have to ride 30minutes to work in pouring rain and then be talking to customers, maybe a car worth having. But, where I live, a lot of people ride bicycles to work and back or use public transportation. I would trust getting into my car right now and drive 5h, and yet I take the bus every day (I like saving money on fuel and parking fees).


Buying a car is a very big financial decision. There are three major factors to decide which car to buy:

  1. Up front cost
  2. Running costs
  3. Reliability

Pick two because you can't have all three. You can either have a reliable car that has cheap running costs but will be expensive to buy or a cheap car that is unreliable. If you are mechanically minded then reliability might not be that important to you. However, if you must get to work on time every day then owning a car that breaks down once every six months might be something you wish to avoid.

There are a lot of hidden costs that should be thought about very carefully when considering purchasing a car:

  • Annual registration fees
  • Maintenance costs
  • Fuel costs
  • Financing costs
  • Depreciation

In my country, annual car registration costs are around $650. I budget around $1000 for maintenance each year (a major + minor service and some extra repair work). When I factor in an amount for depreciation, that brings the running costs of the car to somewhere between $1500 and $2000 per annum before I've driven it anywhere.

Generally I will fill up my car for $50 around once a month (I don't drive too often) which makes my total cost of ownership somewhere around $2500 per annum. When I was driving my car to work daily, the petrol costs were much higher at around $50 per week, which made my TCO somewhere around $4500 p.a.

And this is on an extremely reliable, fuel efficient 2006 model car which cost me $18k to purchase. I have no debt on this car. But the car itself is a liability. Any car will be a liability.

I understand that petrol prices are ridiculously low in the US and probably registration is lower as well. In this case you will need to adjust your figures and do the maths to work out what your annual cost of ownership will be.

There are three alternatives to car ownership to consider which may save you money:

  1. Public transportation
  2. Moving closer to work
  3. Car pooling

Public transportation and car pooling are highly recommended from a financial perspective, though you may not have access to either in your situation. Moving closer to work may also be an option, though for many jobs this may increase your cost of living.

If you decide that you do need a car and decide that $2000 is not going to get you the car you feel you need ($2000 usually does not get you much), you will need to decide how to finance the car.

You will want to avoid most dealer-based finance deals. Be very wary of any dealer offering interest free finance as they usually have some pretty nasty conditions. Getting a loan from your parents or another family member is usually the best option. Otherwise consider getting a personal loan, which will have a lower interest rate than a credit card or dealer finance. Another option could be to get a credit card on an interest-free promotional deal which you could pay down before the interest kicks in. Be warned though, these deals usually require you to pay off your whole balance before the due date or they will back-charge interest on the whole amount.

In short, these are the decisions that you will need to make:

  • Do I really need a car or can I get away without owning one?
  • If I do need to own one, which car has the best combination of price, reliability and on-road costs for my budget?
  • If I need to get a loan to purchase a car, can I get that loan from a low-interest provider?
  • Early '90s Miatas tend to have all three. They should run about $3k.
    – fectin
    Commented May 11, 2017 at 16:49
  • Then you have to factor in all the extra speeding tickets you'll get. The good news is that you will get to experience what it's like to be a minority targeted by the police.
    – Stephen
    Commented May 12, 2017 at 0:22

You may not have a good choice until you start that job. $2,000 is awfully low for a car, so it could be very risky. But you may not be able to get a loan until you start the new job. I would talk to a bank or credit union to get an idea of how much, if anything, you could borrow at this time. If you have a letter offering you the job that might help to get a loan.

There are dealers who will finance a very cheap used car for anybody, but that kind of deal is likely to be at a very high interest rate and should be avoided. You could wind up with a debt and no car.

One other possibility is to have a co-signer, such as a parent or other relative. That could make getting a car loan easy.

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .