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Old 9th July 2021, 11:38   #1
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Default Suggestions for buying a used car in San Francisco

My nephew, based in San Francisco, Ca, is in a job with a MNC. He wants to buy an used car costing around $15,000 for his city commutes and for occasional long drives in the West Coast. Being new to his job, the budget is low and maybe he upgrades a few years later.

His message to me reads :-

Quote:
"I got my driver's license in my first try here in Santa Clara last month. Now I'm looking at some used cars to buy especially Hybrids and Plug-in Hybrids. Thought I'll get your opinion as well as you must have seen and read about a lot of them."
I had suggested the Toyota Prius but he said it has ugly looks and a cheap build quality. He asked me about a 2016 Chevrolet Volt put up for sale for $12,995.

I also suggested him to go for a gasoline powered car that he may later replace with an EV or Hybrid. That's because he can tell his grandkids about the ownership tales of a gasoline car, that will soon be history.

He has said that gasoline prices are rising every day. Moreover, he is neither a teambhpian nor a petrol head, who enjoy the roars of their fossil fueled cars.

I would welcome suggestions from members for him on how to go about!

Last edited by anjan_c2007 : 9th July 2021 at 11:49.
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Old 9th July 2021, 13:03   #2
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Default re: Suggestions for buying a used car in San Francisco

One interesting and maybe unique point to consider. The freeways in the Bay Area (like the 101) get extremely busy on a daily basis. There are dedicated lanes for green vehicles like which gasoline powered cars cannot use. That would be a major tick mark in favour of an EV or a Hybrid. Given that your nephew is not a petrolhead, getting a green car would be a no-brainer.

He should get a reasonably priced beater and perhaps upgrade to a Model 3 a few years down the line.
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Old 9th July 2021, 13:25   #3
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Default re: Suggestions for buying a used car in San Francisco

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Originally Posted by anjan_c2007 View Post
My nephew, based in San Francisco, Ca, wants to buy an used car costing around $15,000 for his city commutes and for occasional long drives in the West Coast
For the purpose listed, viz. city and occasional road trips, here are my 2 cents:

1. Used Lexus RX350 or a used Acura MDX would be the best bets. The Lexus in particular is a fast moving item

2. No used hybrids at all, unless one is absolutely sure that the battery pack indeed has adequate life

3. Not sure if a good Tesla will meet the budget and fulfill the road trip requirements

I have no direct experience in the US but have helped a few people buy cars under USD 8k.
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Old 9th July 2021, 21:57   #4
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Default re: Suggestions for buying a used car in San Francisco

Unfortunately at that price he's stuck with a Prius hybrid. If he can stretch his budget to around 20k then he can get a lightly used Corolla hybrid. That should last him a LONG time. If not he's better off getting a used Mazda 3 or a Civic (relatively new) or get a 10 year old luxury car like a Lexus (avoid 10 year old german luxury cars). The Lexus IS is an absolute joy to drive --- way better than any German car.
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Old 9th July 2021, 22:36   #5
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Default re: Suggestions for buying a used car in San Francisco

Looking for a $15 k car in the Bay Area with Hybrid/EV would severely limit his options. I guess there must be a Silicon valley culture where most would drop in a 'green' car over a gas guzzler. The best options at this point would be something from Kia/Honda/Nissan with 4-5 years on its history. Or else something exciting like a used Ford focus or VW Golf. It's never too late to be a petrol head
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Old 9th July 2021, 23:01   #6
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Default re: Suggestions for buying a used car in San Francisco

There are 2015 BMW i3,, 2015 hyundai sonata hybrids and 2016 Ford fusion hybrids in that range.

If he wants to keep it for 2-3 years and go completely green, then he has the option of leasing too. He can get a 2022 Bolt EV, Kia Niro EV which would be in similar monthly payment rate as the used cars above.


If he is planning to go all cash in then just get a used car. You can find lots of deals on Truecar, Carvana or CarMax.

Last edited by ariendj : 9th July 2021 at 23:09.
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Old 9th July 2021, 23:32   #7
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Default re: Suggestions for buying a used car in San Francisco

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Originally Posted by ranjitnair77 View Post
There are dedicated lanes for green vehicles like which gasoline powered cars cannot use.
Starting 2021 the CAV going solo cant use HOV lanes for free. The specific fees for specific freeways can be found here
https://511.org/driving/express-lanes/cav
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Old 10th July 2021, 11:30   #8
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Default re: Suggestions for buying a used car in San Francisco

If he must go for electric let him atleast do so knowing all the issues:

Lithium mining is an extremely competitive and severely unregulated industry causing lots of humanitarian harm in several parts of the world that gets suppressed so that slick folk in progressive states like California can believe they are doing the people and the planet some good.

Batteries are heavy and that effects the cornering abilities of a car. A non enthusiast might say I don't need to corner quickly however this also comes into play during high speed evasive maneuvers.

A used electric might save him some money in the short term however it will likely mean that the battery health would be degraded and will require replacement which could cost a bomb.

If he is complaining about rising fuel costs, tell him to simply buy a used car for under 10 grand and save the other 5 grand for fuel. A quick search on the internet led me to several interesting and boring/reliable choices available for under 10 grand in California. I even spotted a clean looking manual Karmann Ghia VW coupe for within 10 grand along with several relatively modern and reliable German and Japanese offerings.

Lastly, he is in one of the greatest countries in the world when it comes to motoring. The vast expanses of land and freeway network means that he will be losing out on some epic road-trips by buying an electric since as far as I know, owning and running an electric is only convenient in places like California but still not so across the country.

Last edited by IshaanIan : 10th July 2021 at 11:33.
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Old 10th July 2021, 15:15   #9
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Default re: Suggestions for buying a used car in San Francisco

Recently helped find a non-enthusiast friend a car in Portland also in the same price class as your nephew. Most of the people outside of team-bhp or non-enthusiasts see a car more or less as a tool to perform their task of transporting them and their family in safety from A to B. Since your nephew preferred not to have a Prius, citing it ugly, he already belongs here in team-bhp where we all have our opinions on how a car should look, drive etc. I would seriously suggest him for something from the Subaru stable. Btw, AWD is standard on all subarus. Though AWD is not much useful in SF, he may find it useful for his drives around the coastal highways and road trips to the North of the country.

There are 3 possible paths he can take:

1. Certified pre owned cars with warranty - His price will seriously limit him to small hatchbacks/ low cost sedans without much equipment & manuals (NOTE: manuals don't command much used value unless they are enthusiast level cars. So selling would be a problem)

2. Websites like carvana which has an online selling model have a good collection of cars at very interesting prices. They source cars from used car inventories of dealers and most of the time come with a well known history. But still buying car online is not the cup of tea for everyone. Also I read some instances of bad experiences from Carvana. To be taken with a pinch of salt whatever is online.

3. Check out on craigslist to buy a car from a private person. Usually there are quite some good ones with low mileage, 2018+ model year, well maintained vehicles available from private sellers. Negotiations are possible too. Some examples I found from craigslist (with 100miles around ZIP 94102):

https://sfbay.craigslist.org/eby/cto...338362919.html

https://sacramento.craigslist.org/ct...346753983.html

https://sacramento.craigslist.org/ct...338875010.html

https://sacramento.craigslist.org/ct...334963191.html

https://sacramento.craigslist.org/ct...348283573.html

With the limited availability of entry range new cars (due to shortage of electronic chips companies tend to use the ones available in higher profit models), rising demand for used cars, now-a-days $15000 is a very challenging budget but not if you look in the right places. And btw, with $15000 I would not suggest getting a hybrid or plug-in hybrid as these are in most cases old (>5 yrs)/ high mileage / out of warranty / overpriced just because it is SF.

Last edited by carthick1000 : 10th July 2021 at 15:40.
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Old 12th July 2021, 08:56   #10
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Default Re: Suggestions for buying a used car in San Francisco

Quote:
Originally Posted by anjan_c2007 View Post
My nephew, based in San Francisco, Ca, is in a job with a MNC. He wants to buy an used car costing around $15,000 for his city commutes and for occasional long drives in the West Coast.
Where does he stay exactly and where is his work? I'm assuming he doesn't live in SF because an average parking spot downtown itself will cost $ 300-400/month.

Ask him to visit Stevens Creek Boulevard, San Jose one day; there's every possible car dealership within a mile. All these dealerships have certified pre-owned as well as other cars (non-certified / other brands), and of course, new.

Quote:
I also suggested him to go for a gasoline powered car that he may later replace with an EV or Hybrid.
The *biggest* benefit of having an EV in California is what you can use the carpool lane (even if you're the sole occupant of the car) at all times; this alone can bring about a 15-30min difference in your office commute, depending on where you stay/work.

The other thing with buying an EV, ask him to check with his apartment / office on availability of a charging dock.
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Old 12th July 2021, 09:32   #11
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Default Re: Suggestions for buying a used car in San Francisco

As someone who'd lived in this city for 8 years with a car and motorcycle, I have some thoughts and questions:
1. Does he live right in the city? Is there a regular commute to the South Bay or anywhere outside the city on a daily basis? If so, definitely look at hybrids that can take advantage of the HOV lanes. Also, if you're in the city, small is the way to go if you don't have dedicated parking. Street parking is tough depending on the specific neighborhood. Looking at his message, it seems he lives in Santa Clara, which is practically suburbia compared to San Francisco.
2. Unless he is an avid skier or likes to explore off-road trails around California, 2WD is just fine.
3. If a long daily commute isn't involved i.e. high mpgs and HOV lanes not a consideration, then there's plenty of decent options in that range. There's plenty of reliable Mazda, Hyundai, Honda, Toyota options to choose from on Autotrader.com, Carvana, Shift, Carmax etc. My personal pick would be a Mazda 3 hatchback. For a little more excitement and something different, maybe a Mini Countryman. If he's not living in the city and parking not a concern, there should be some CRVs, RAV4s, Rogues, CX-5s in that range
4. EVs that are 5-6 years old may not be a great option. There's likely some deferred battery maintenance, and 5-6 year old EVs won't have the greatest range if weekend road trips are on the cards. As much as I hate it, a newish Prius is a good compromise. Just watch out for ones with high mileage. Many of them will be used as rideshare (uber/lyft) cars and may not be very well maintained.
5. Something to note is that the US car market has gone bonkers currently. New car supply is weak, and the follow-on effect on used cars is insane. My Mini Cooper S convertible is worth 2-3k more today than what I paid for it 3 years ago! Best to shop smart and not get swept up in it and overpay.

I'm very much in the weeds in the SF Bay Area car market (I'm always looking at something or the other), so happy to help.
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Old 12th July 2021, 09:48   #12
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Default Re: Suggestions for buying a used car in San Francisco

Quote:
Originally Posted by anjan_c2007 View Post
My nephew, based in San Francisco, Ca, is in a job with a MNC. He wants to buy an used car costing around $15,000 for his city commutes and for occasional long drives in the West Coast.
Having lived in the South Bay (Sunnyvale) for 2 years and having a lot of friends in SF, I believe I can share some advice - don't buy a car if you live in the city (SF.)
1. All my friends who live in the city of SF don't have cars as public transport is excellent.
2. Car parking in most apartments costs $150-250 a month in addition to the expensive rent.
3. Besides, parking (if available) at prime areas where he'd be visiting for restaurants, cafes, etc is very expensive.
4. Zipcars/car shares have decent availability
5. Fancier the car = higher chance of shattered windows. The thieves frequently targeted my friend's BMW 330i whereas my '12 Ford Fusion was inconspicuous.

If he must have a car, I'd suggest leasing an EV (especially if an upgrade is on the cards in a few years) like Nissan Leaf or Chevy Bolt. Many offices have free charging and there's access to ample charging around the Bay Area. (I know folks who have driven to Sacramento etc with a Chevy Bolt; Just don't attempt Death Valley)

If he must have an ICE car, I'd suggest going cheap (under $8000) with a used Toyota Yaris/Honda Fit or Civic/Corolla for good MPGs. Gas can cost >$4 a gallon in CA, which is probably the most expensive in the country. I'm assuming he will be doing the road trips with friends/SO - would suggest renting a nice muscle car/sedan/crossover and split the cost. Hope this helps.

Last edited by landcruiser123 : 12th July 2021 at 09:57.
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Old 12th July 2021, 11:54   #13
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Default Re: Suggestions for buying a used car in San Francisco

I shopped around the Bay area and central valley for my friend last month and one thing stands out - used car prices are higher than ever before and there aren't a lot of good options. Look away from EV at that budget because he'll have to buy a straight up compromise.

A decent used Civic / Corolla / Camry can be a good option to tackle the $4.xx/gallon gas prices in the Bay area. They give 35-38 mpg on freeways, plus insurance and running costs will will be low. If he ever wants to upgrade, the three-Cs hold the price like nothing else in the California's used car market.
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Old 12th July 2021, 12:20   #14
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Default Re: Suggestions for buying a used car in San Francisco

Quote:
Originally Posted by anjan_c2007 View Post
My nephew, based in San Francisco, Ca, is in a job with a MNC. He wants to buy an used car costing around $15,000 for his city commutes and for occasional long drives in the West Coast.
Although I'm not too much in the know about the US Market, searches on Autotempest reveal that most of the cars currently available under $15k have mileage of at least 35K.

The only electric cars that came up were Toyota Mirai's and old hatches (Nissan Leaf etc). Instead, IMO, Let him drive a ICE Car right now, before changing to something like a Model 3 in a few years.

Majority comprised of VW Jetta's, Chevy Malibu's, (1) Infiniti Q50 and SUV's include the Hyundai Tuscon's and Ford Edges.

Attaching a few for your convenience:-

1. Hyundai Tuscon

2. Mini Countryman

3. Hyundai Tuscon

4. Hyundai Tuscon

5. Chevrolet Malibu

6. Infiniti Q50

7. Chevrolet Malibu

8. Volkswagen Jetta
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Old 12th July 2021, 22:20   #15
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Default Re: Suggestions for buying a used car in San Francisco

Given that there is a huge chip shortage globally, second hand cars have become hot cakes. So getting a user car EV not sure how great it would be...

But that aside, assuming he gets a 5 year used EV for that price, the battery can go on for another 3 to max 5 yrs...Rather why not get a lease of something like a new nissan leaf for say $200pm which will work out to less than 8k overall ?? (plus you get the govt and tax benefits still)..

As in nissan leaf or chevy volt, the point is I think leasing the EV might be a better option.
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