Don't compromise in the purchase of a car. You will ALWAYS have to fix something that you didn't know about. Don't settle unless you are prepared and really understand what is going to be required to fix the known problems.
A good car is such a great satisfying experience. There is such a range of cars available now. Some are absolutely incredible, in my opinion. Some were ridden hard and never put away.
In my opinion, a good car "talks" to you. I am teaching my kids about cars. I tell them that one could line up 100 of the same model, same color and same mileage. I think that each car would have its own personality and quirks. Some less, some more. The harder you look the more you will see and know. Since it is hard-earned money, if in doubt, don't.
Further, it pays to:
1-Become a student of the subject: Know generally what to look for, what just feels right and what doesn't
2- It pays to get your knees dirty: Get down on your hands and knees (if no inspection lift is available).
3- Pay a dealer the hour or two to do an "Inspection for Purchase", ideally including a compression test. The dealerships like this because they have the opportunity to potentially sell you future work. It really works well with finalizing a purchase price with the seller.
It is my experience with he 94-95 cars (and I am sure some will disagree with me here) that their quality really varies more than other series, such as the 90-93 cars. I can't tell you why. I have seen really rock solid cars and I have seen (and driven) ones that seem like they are on the road to self-destruction. Odd.
I would be MUCH more interested in a car with a little bit higher miles but have a full documented service history (dealership records ideally) than one with an questionable service history and lower miles.
Finally clustering: After looking at few cars, problems that are part of the "breed' start to become evident. You start noticing certain common problems such as the B-pillar covering coming loose on the passenger side (seat belt cover) or surging under acceleration etc, etc.
In conclusion I say there are two parts: Objective criteria and subjective criteria in considering a car to purchase. The objective is obvious, the subjective is finding out how you really feel about a particular car. I think we see and collect more information than we realize. The same holds true about considering cars for purchase.
I almost purchased a car that met all of the objective criteria.... but something about it kept nagging at me. I went and drove the car multiple times but kept holding back. I didn't know why but I had this voice in my head saying "I don't think so ...". It turned out the vehicle was in a flood. I couldn't tell it at the time but something told me not to jump and buy it.
Hope this helps,
'03 E320 Wagon-Sold
'95 E320 Wagon-Went to Ex
'93 190E 2.6-Wrecked
'91 300E-Went to Ex
'65 911 Coupe (#302580)
Last edited by haasman; 03-02-2003 at 08:25 PM.