What's your "sweet spot" if you are good at DIY?

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Under $1000.

Rusty outer rockers are ok if they motivate the seller to sell cheap. Same with brake and fuel lines. Timing belt overdue? Please and thank you! Tires? TPMS light? Airbag, ABS light? Bring it!

I want a car with three out of four: Runs & drives, current inspection, good exterior and interior. I accept-- no, pretty much seek out-- a failure on one of these to both drive the price down and excuse why the current owner is selling. All used cars are turkeys, I like the ones where both parties agree on the glaringly obvious parts.
 

ls1mike

$50 Site Donor 2022
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Jun 14, 2008
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In the Garage...
For me depends on the car, boat, trailer. I like the items I own now. They don't require much if anything. I would not be opposed to fixing any of these because I like them and they are paid for. Something I don't like? Not interested unless I am helping someone out.
 
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Sep 30, 2013
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Start with something in the 5-7 years old/75-100K range, keep until 200K. Parts availability, at least quality stuff, tends to become a real issue once you pass the 15 yr mark.
Avoid any low-volume makes/models - those models tend to have parts availability issues before the volume sellers
Avoid any platforms where engine removal is required for moderate to major repairs (aka most transverse V6's except Honda)
Find a brand with a good dealer parts distribution supply chain (e.g. most Japanese import brands)
Find a brand where access to the dealer scan tool is readily available to the aftermarket (rules out Nissan, Hyundai/Kia, VAG, MB)
You described the 5th Gen 4Runner to a T. Lol.

The platform is getting a little long in the teeth almost like the Jeep Cherokee (1984-2001), but old and simple is good.
 
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Jun 15, 2021
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If I buy new I ... pay cash.
If I buy used I ... pay cash.
A man after my own heart... except for the buying new part... it would have to be a heck of a deal to convince me to be the one to eat the initial depreciation on a new car...

In no event however (new or used) would I buy a depreciating asset on credit.
 
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SE British Columbia, Canada
I recently picked up a 2013 Fusion. But I'm finding it may be just a bit too new! The local junkyards have plenty of the previous generation Fusion, but only one in this generation. But since it was a very popular model, I'm sure that they will accumulate more in the coming years...
I’ve watched this transition with the 2000-2007 Ford Taurus. By about 2010 the 2000 models were getting common and I ran that car until 2021. In 2017 I bought a 2005 Taurus with 60,000 miles and had no problems getting parts from the Pick and Pull. Still have no visible rust on the body so I’ll take it to 150,000 miles from its current 100,000. There is some rust on the lower inside door seam which I spray with Krown in the spring and fall. If it shows up on the outside I’ll sell it. Inshallah.
 
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Joined
Nov 2, 2021
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Electrical I took in school along with motors and controls. Anything electrical plumbing, some carpentry I know enough to keep my fingers intact. I can get around a car pretty well also.
 
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May 7, 2018
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Northern KY
A man after my own heart... except for the buying new part... it would have to be a heck of a deal to convince me to be the one to eat the initial depreciation on a new car...

In no event however (new or used) would I buy a depreciating asset on credit.
Right now there’s really not much of a penalty over buying used unless you’re comparing to a 15+ yo hooptie. MSRP looks reasonable compared to cars with 25-50k on the clock.

In spite of the fact I was in a relatively low income profession (public school teacher) I always bought new cars, mostly because that’s what my dad did. He paid cash and immediately started saving for the next one in 10 years. I’ve bought several used boats, tractors and mowers but only one used car as a post-retirement beater. So far that’s turned out OK, but not without some issues.
 
Joined
Jun 15, 2003
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I like a FWD compact-to-midsize that I can tow home on my tow dolly, so I don't have to bother my wife for a ride to the car, and I don't get plates & insurance right away so I can take my time fixing it.

I'm ok with rusty brake & fuel lines, and localized rust on rocker panels, if it means the price is right.

Fine with bald tires, I can find tires, and mount them myself.

Strongly prefer something happy with its OBD self, but I wind up with a lot of clunkers with dead batteries so there's no way of knowing.

I'm getting out of stuff with blown motors or trannies, had about enough of that.

I like a seller who's not a car person and just wants the thing gone.

I've been out of the used car game compared to my previous self, these current prices have me sitting home. Got my new commuter, got a camry for the kid to learn to drive on, sitting tight.

The prius that I like has a straight depreciation curve, with all points being about the same value. Expected from a commodity vehicle. So I like to buy either new or extremely used.
 
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Mar 30, 2015
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I think all of these parameters need to be set in accordance to where you live. When I lived in the Midwestern "Rust Belt", it really didn't matter how well you tried to maintain a car, or keep it. Because the road salt and weather made it a losing battle.

About all you could do there, if you spent money on a really nice, new expensive vehicle, is to buy a "beater" to drive in the Winter months. That adds expense, but saves the new vehicle from an early grave.

I never realized just how bad this was until I moved to the desert Southwest. Cars out here remain like new with just reasonable care. I purchased 2 new vehicles just after I retired in 2014. A 2015 and a 2018. Unless they get stolen or wrecked, I have no doubt they will be the last new cars I ever own.

Both look and drive today like the day I drove them home from the dealer. Because the climate out here preserves them well beyond the distance I'll end up driving them. There is no way I could say that if I retired in the rust belt.

In a working lifetime this easily amounts to well into 6 figures in added vehicle expense. Due to the fact the climate destroys vehicles in short order back there..... Regardless of how good you are at maintaining them.
 
Joined
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Dripping Springs, TX
I’m from the rust belt (Wisconsin) and now live in central Texas. There was a point where I hadn’t been able to visit up north for about 5 years. When I finally did get to visit my folks, I was shocked by how rusty even “late model” cars were, particularly Mazdas and full sized pickups. I even saw a rusty Honda Pilot. This was in 2015. If I had to live up north, I would buy used 10-30 year old daily driver cars from Texas to California.

My sweet spot is finding sub-$3,000 70’s cars/trucks with no catastrophic mechanical problems and cosmetic interior/exterior issues. Mileage has ranged anywhere from 33k on the ‘74 Mark IV for $1500 (plus shipping from Long Island) a couple months ago to 212K for a $1,000 ‘77 Ford F-250 Super Cab with a freshly-rebuilt 460 in 2013 (needed a u-joint, carrier bearing). In that mix, there’s also my ‘76 Gremlin, ‘74 Bonneville 2 door, ‘76 coupe DeVille, 85 GMC conversion van and ‘79 Bronco.

For daily transportation, it would be sub-$3000 (was $2000 a couple years ago) Toyota-built cars from the 90’s and 2000’s or Panther Platform Ford products at or under 200k and must have working a/c. My DD 2000 Town Car was a bit of an splurge at $5200 (in 2016) but it was mint with only 39k (now 142K).
 
Joined
Jan 21, 2011
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California
I will probably never buy a new car my entire life. Brand matters to me. I prefer a design that had been in production for several years so the examples I look at buying will have most or all of the bugs worked out and any recalls completed. Completely avoid first year redesigns.
I usually look for something 3-6 years old, 40-80k miles, service documentation, body and interior in fair shape, not needing any major repairs, around $10-14k depending on the type of vehicle. I care less how they look and I care more how reliable and efficient they are. The big point for me is to let someone else take the financial hit of depreciation, and get in while the vehicle still has at least half of its life remaining, on a solid design.
 
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Nov 27, 2018
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CA
Drive train commonality and longevity across the manufacturer.

Typically means more enthusiast and online forum interest and support.
 
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