I understand how she feels, not wanting to get rid of a "low mileage" car. I had two 1997 BMW 328i cabriolets, and they were beautiful cars, with about 75,000 miles on each one. I sold them both for about $6500 each, as they were, at the time, merely older used cars, and no longer the $44,000 Teutonic Autobahn-burners that they were when new. I learned a valuable (and expensive) lesson - cars are like fresh fruit - use 'em or lose 'em. "Low miles" means nothing really, compared to age itself.
The reader also says they have the money to "afford" a newer used car or a new car. So it is not a matter of trying to scrimp and save here.
Actually, she might have held on to the car too long. Now needing major repairs that exceed the value of the car, it is likely it won't generate much in trade-in or private party sale. Sometimes the best time to sell a car is before it is utterly clapped out, when it still represents some transportation value to someone further down the food chain. It is hard to sell car when "everything works fine" but on the other hand, if you can see down the road that in a few years, everything won't, maybe it is time to sell now.
It is not as though she saw a shiny new Camaro in the showroom and decided she "had to have it" to impress people at work. Or worse yet, buying a clapped-out used car on a whim.
Of course, the best deals can often be had from an individual seller, but many folks are not comfortable with that. Buying and selling a car directly can have its pitfalls! Curbstoners and other con artists are out there. But then again, many dealers are crooked, too.
Buying a brand-new car is also an option - an expensive one. The steep drop in resale value the moment you buy the vehicle is one reason to seek out a lightly used one. There are other hidden costs, such as sales and title taxes, which can also be steep. If you must buy new, there are also bargains to be had, as the market has sharply declined in the last quarter as the Trump recession takes hold. Unemployment is at its lowest level since May of 2007. Hmmm... 2007. I remember that year. What happened the year after that? My recollection is fuzzy. Something about bailouts and foreclosures and layoffs and $5 gas and bankruptcies. Nah, that didn't happen!
And today, there are chains of car dealers, such as CarMax, which have rows and rows of such cars, at standardized prices. And today, you have so many tools available online, including CarFax, Edmunds, KBB, NADAguides, as well as a host of buying services. The playing field in the car business has been leveled quite a bit.
The wrong thing to do? Wander into a car dealership with only vague ideas of what you are looking for, behave as though buying a car was some great privilege, and not to research first which make, model, and trim level you are looking for - very specifically.
When we bought the Hamster, we decided exactly which model we wanted, down to the color combinations, and I contacted several dealers to find just that car - at the best price. Edmunds and other sites have estimators as to what is a "fair" price to pay (and expect to pay a fair price, not a "steal" - you can drive yourself nuts trying to "steal" a car, and often end up ripped off, as dealers who offer "come-on" prices often hide real charges in the deal).
One dealer claimed to have the car, but when we arrived, both the interior and exterior were the wrong colors. The salesman said, "Well, it's sort of the same thing, right?" and we walked away. If someone is dishonest from the get-go, it ain't going to get better later on.
We finally found the right car, and pre-negotiated the price over the phone, as it was a couple of hours away. And when we got there, the car was sold at the price we discussed. What was sad, while waiting, was to watch other people coming in, trading in perfectly good (3-5 year old) cars, and begging for permission to buy cars twice the price of ours, with a credit rating half as much. They viewed the transaction as a privilege - maybe the nice banker man and car salesman would let them have the car! Obviously, you give up what little leverage you have if this is your attitude.
So I wish my reader good luck, but I can't advise them whether to buy new or used, and what make or model. But yes, a 1997 car is probably ready for a trade. Do the research, do the math, do the numbers - and good luck!
UPDATE: It is scary how the Internet works sometimes. As I noted before, most companies today have armies of "groomers" who use search bots to scan the Internet for mentions of their company. They then try to groom their image as I noted in an earlier posting. This is not necessarily an evil thing, just good PR in most cases. It is only "evil" when people resort to trolling or arguing to try to discredit a posting, and in most cases, the companies doing that are bad actors to begin with.
But getting back to grooming, in response to this posting, I received the following missive:
I work in public relations for CarMax and I enjoyed reading your article Should I Buy A New Car? Maybe. Thank you for mentioning CarMax in your post! It would be awesome if you would consider adding a link to the CarMax cars page as an additional resource for your readers. Also, we’ve been building out a lot of new content on the CarMax research page that may be of interest to you. The Ultimately Guide to Commuting, 12 Great Ways to Save Money on Your Next Used Car and 7 Great American Cars Under $15k are all content pieces you might find interesting.Thanks for your time and consideration!All the best,Lindsey Duke
CarMax Public Relations
Well, Lindsey, consider it done!
I am not endorsing or criticizing CarMax, just using them as an example of a place that has a lot of off-lease cars for sale. A better deal can be had from an individual owner, but it is a lot harder to find such deals and does require some acumen on the part of the buyer.
I have never used CarMax or received any remuneration from them. It is interesting to me, though, the business model of trying to standardize what was in the past, a very localized and unorganized (and often corrupt) small business - the used car dealer.
By the way, if you want to waste some time on YouTube, there are a number of videos on there where people take exotic and unusual cars CarMax to get a purchase offer. Supposedly CarMax will buy your car even if you are not buying one from them. But of course, they are in business to make money, so they offer only wholesale purchase prices, not retail. And junkers and oddball cars and exotics are just something they'd have to wholesale, so you are not going to get a top offer. I am not sure why people make such videos to begin with, other than to show off, I guess.