I have always thought that the best kind of used car to buy is one that the owner didn't intend to sell. That relegates the car to one of two categories...either stolen, or bought from the estate of a deceased person. I have never done the former, but frequently did the latter. Years ago I bought 4 cars I still own by driving through small towns featuring a Cadillac or Buick or Lincoln/Mercury dealer and a prosperous appearing funeral home. I would approach an employee of the funeral home (not an owner) and with some flair, tear off about 1/3 of a $100 dollar bill (you could still get $100 from any federal bank for a torn $100 bill if you present more than half the original bill) and ask the director if when he gets any bereaved persons arranging for a funeral, he asks if the deceased had purchased a car NEW from any of the aforementioned dealers and if the bereaved was interested in selling it at a fair price. I would tell the funeral home employee that if I bought the car involved, he'd get the rest of the $100 bill (and I did pay off). In the meantime, when he encountered such a person, all he had to do was to get that person to take the car back to the dealer from whom the car was purchased and get a written offer for purchase from that dealer, and to send me a copy of the offer. Usually, such an offer will be good for 10 to 30 days and will note any problems with the car and adjust the offer accordingly. I would then go there, inspect the car myself, and if I liked what I saw, offer MORE than the dealer. Usually my offer got accepted. I then arranged shipment of the vehicle to my town, and had my own mechanic do any necessary repairs, etc. In this way, I acquired a 1985 Eldorado in 1996 with 9,600 miles that now has 236,000 miles on it, despite retaining the original and notorious HT4100 engine, and a 1994 Century with 14,600 miles in 1999 that now has about 177,000 miles on it. My repairs average about $500 a year per car and all are done by mechanics, not me. I have been buying used cars this way for over 40 years. I NEVER repair body work...I don't care about the exterior appearance, and my religious institution (consequently?) has never asked for a BIG contribution. I keep my cars in meticulous mechanical condition, especially tires, brakes, and suspension, and change oil every 2,500 miles in winter, every 3,000 miles in summer, always warming the engine 2-3 minutes on winter mornings or 5 minutes when the temp goes to zero or below, and 1-2 minutes on summer mornings. I'd rather use extra gas and oil than buy extra engines. Part of my education was in petroleum engineering, and as a consequence, I have brand preferences for certain weights and kinds of oil, matching them with certain manufacturered engines. As an example, I use only Castrol 5W30 with GM engines 1979 through 1996 on account of the interaction between the detergent qualities of the oil and the non-metallic engine parts/components in GM engines (and Mercedes-Benz also), and when available, Castrol oil filters. If not available, upgraded filters ($5 instead of $2.50) filters. However, I do NOT use oil recommended for engines over 75,000 miles because of adverse chemical reactions between the rings of those engines and the special additives in those kind of oils, as I maintain my cars to achieve 500,000 miles each, and my (4) cars will probably survive my driving years, as I am now 66 years old and generally drive no more than 20,000 miles a year, which leaves about 70 years of driving at 20,000 miles a year distributed among my cars (the other cars are a 1985 Riveria with about 88,000 miles and a 1986 560 SL with about 95,000 miles. All these cars are kept outdoors year around, and are started at least once every two weeks (and all started this morning when it was 6 degrees below zero).
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