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nayeight's avatar

Is it worth it to buy a used vehicle and add mods or just buy new?

Asked by nayeight (3337 points ) April 30th, 2013

Hi Fluther, it’s been a long time. Life is crazy and I have some things that I need you to help me figure out. My beloved bright green 2008 Honda Element was just recently totaled in an accident with a light pole. I am devastated and I really want another one, only Honda discontinued the Element in 2011. I have found a beautiful cobalt blue 2010 in good condition with 27k miles on it that I can get for around $17k through a relative. It has pretty much all the same things my 2008 Element had in it but now that I’ve been out car shopping I want more.

It’s 2013 for crying out loud! I want bluetooth audio! Possibly navigation, remote start, and a kick ass sunroof to top it all off as well. I want gadgets. I’m definitely looking for a SUV/Hatchback and better gas mileage is a plus but not a deal breaker. I’ve searched and searched but nothing popped out at me until a friend of mine showed me her brand new 2013 Hyundai Tuscon in the same cobalt blue color as the 2010 Element I’m looking at. It has bluetooth, navigation, and most importantly a huge panoramic sunroof that kicks major ass. I can get one for around $28k or I could save a little money and get a smaller, sportier Hyundai Veloster with the same package for about $24k.

A benefit of going with either of these cars is they would be new, they offer better gas mileage than the Element, and they have the option of coming with everything that I want. The downside is they are more expensive and they are Hyundais, I think Hyundais are boring. I’m the kind of person that likes to walk out to the parking lot and have no doubts that the bright, strangely shaped vehicle in the lot is mine.The Veloster is a little sportier but I am really just in love with the panoramic sunroof and all the features the Hyundais have to offer, but not so much the cars themselves.

I felt like I belonged to a special club with my Element and I feel even stronger about that now that they have been discontinued. The Element is truly my dream car and there is just nothing like it out there. My dad recommended looking into getting bluetooth, navigation, remote start, and possibly a panoramic sunroof installed in the used Element that I am interested in that way I could have the best of both worlds. My insurance company gave me around $12k for my totaled Element so I planned on using that as a down payment for whatever new car I get and financing the rest. I’ve attempted some research on car mod installations and it seems like the bluetooth & navigation will probably run around $2—$3k, the automatic start should be another $1k, but the panoramic sunroof is tricky because I want a huge glass one that looks just like the one in the Hyundais. If it can be done I would say it will probably cost me between $2–3k, maybe more and I would probably use some of my down payment money to pay for the installations.

My question to you is would paying almost $7k (or more) in modifications on a used vehicle be a waste of time and money? I plan on keeping my next car for at least 5 years and if I decide to go with an Element I will probably keep it until the wheels fall off, even if I keep it as a weekend car and get something else down the road. Would I be better off to just get a Hyundai with all the bells and whistles? Has anyone else out there ever been in a situation similar or ever added any major installations to their used vehicle? Any advice you can give is welcomed. Thank you!

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16 Answers

raven860's avatar

Just get a new 2013 Honda Accord.

raven860's avatar

Used + mods can = unreliable, expensive, higher gas bill and high insurance rates.

If you want a gas saver, check out TDI (diesel models) from volkswagen. Namely the Jetta and golf. And yes go for a brand new one (2013).

Dr_Lawrence's avatar

Cars are always terrible investments. Overspending on a used car may be unwise. Be very selective what you add to the used car you buy. If you can’t live without some feature, perhaps you need to choose a new car that comes with all the features you want. Aftermarket installation of gadgets can be way too costly.

raven860's avatar

Forget Hyundai. Hondas are better. I would have recommended the Honda Civic but somehow the engineers managed to screw up the current generation after years of getting it right. Honda Accord is not that much more and well within your budget and I believe it comes with bluetooth as a standard feature.

nayeight's avatar

Nothing in Honda’s current lineup appeals to me except for the Crossover but I think it is overpriced for what it is. There is nothing in an Accord or a Civic that stands out to me. They come in boring colors and they look, well, boring. I know Hyundais aren’t made as well as Hondas but that’s not what’s important to me. I want a car that I can enjoy. The panoramic sunroof they have is a wow factor and I’m looking for something with a wow factor. Does that make sense or do I sound like an idiot?

raven860's avatar

Well, I did not read your entire post earlier…but now I have.

What about a vw beetle convertible?

nayeight's avatar

I like the beetles I’m not a convertible person. Also, if I’m buying new I didn’t want to go over $25k which is why I thought about getting the Veloster. If I’m getting a bigger vehicle with more space then I’m willing to go up to $27—$28k but that is my max budget. So you really think I should just buy new? What about the attachment I have to the Element?

raven860's avatar

The reason I would not recommend to modify an element is because custom work can be pricey and unless you are very rich and can afford it, ( cost of it, insurance and maintenance).

If you have the money then sure…go ahead!
If the joy of owning one is really worth it to you then well once again…go ahead!

Otherwise, to me, it makes more sense to buy something practical for now and later get a ‘weekend car’.

The reason I say new is because it will be cheaper in the long run ( mileage, insurance, maintenance, service). If you think you can’t live without your element then go get the element.

When getting a used car, i typically would say go get a certified pre-owned one with a 2 year warranty. But given the changes you plan on making, the warranty might get entirely or partially void ( i think).

Also, unless you want the nav and Bluetooth to be inside the dash of the car….it will only cost you $200 – $300 at max for an external nvai+bluetooth unit. The panoramic roof however might cost you upto $2000

raven860's avatar

Okay, given your situation, I would go about doing so.

1) Find out who is willing to do a panoramic roof for you on an element and get some quotes from a few business.
2) Ask the dealership you purchase the element from about how it will affect your warranty.

marinelife's avatar

New cars are a waste of money. They devalue by thousands the second you drive them off the lot.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I know I am going to sound boring and conservative – like your dad, but… Can you really afford a new car now? Do you have the kind of money to lose so quickly. Do you want to be defined by the car you drive?
That new car you buy today will be worth $5000 less the day you drive it off the lot. All that super zippy electronics you love now , in three years will be as dated and stone-tech as a 3 year old iPhone or GPS. And you will have the added pleasure of paying 4x the price for it and no way to replace it easily. Today Bluetooth and USB are the hot setup. But tomorrow there will be “Whitetooth” and USB 3, 4, 5 and Laser synch. .
Look, you can even drive a 10 year old, reliable car and have the latest gadgets in it by carrying your smart phone with good apps and external speakers.
I won’t bore you with the math but let’s say you drive 12000 miles per year and get 35 mpg. You will use 343 gallons per year. If you get 40 mpg you will use 300 gallons per year. Is it really worth spending all that money to save 43 gallons per year that only cost $160?
Go with the older car from the relative, trick it up with the moon roof if you like and maybe add tinted windows if legal. Then use the $400/month saved to update your phone, pay for gym membership, travel, invest in a 401k, buy tires, update your house, plant a garden, pay off a loan, etc. There are so many better choices than a new car purchase.
I will give you a hug for saying “I plan on keeping my next car for at least 5 years and if I decide to go with an Element I will probably keep it until the wheels fall off”.
But I’m just a boring guy, old enough to be your grandfather. What do I know?

Let us know what you decide.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@nayeight LuckyGuy just gave you the best advice you’ll ever get about a car. As an investment there’s nothing worse than a car.

LuckyGuy's avatar

I forgot to add, buy an AAA membership. The money you save on one week’s worth of car payments will pay for it. With that membership you will have emergency road service that often comes with a new car.
(@Adirondackwannabe Thanks!)

rojo's avatar

I gave up buying new cars decades ago. Pretty much decided exactly what @LuckyGuy laid out. I usually drive a vehicle into the ground (it is less painful than driving it into a light pole) and then find another low mileage one that is not stylish enough or new enough for the present owner. I get a good car and they get to satisfy their desire for self gratification and peer approval.

rojo's avatar

Just a heads up, a town with a military base is a great place to look for a used car. Lots of kids out on their own for the first time overextend themselves and are forced to sell their new vehicles when they find out they can’t afford them. Just make sure you do a good mechanical check before you buy. They tend to be hard on their vehicles.

raven860's avatar

I don’t like used cars. If you want to save money…then buy a cheaper one and not a used one. If you can’t afford $10,000 then either look for a motorcycle or public transport and save up.

The only reason I would say you should get an element (given the cost of obtaining it) is because I know what its like to want a car/something really bad. Of course from a practical sense, it makes no sense. In fact buying a car does not make sense. But if driving is something you find pleasurable then buy something you are going to enjoy rather than hate. Just like many other things, an enjoyable and fun car, the car you like, can have many wonderful effects on you when nothing else can do the same.

I don’t like used cars because just like getting used clothes or most of anything else I/we own I don’t want 2n-hand/hand me down items. You never know what the previous owner did to them or how they were treated. Unless you are a student or someone on a really tight budget, buying used is a way to get a car that you cannot afford new. If you want practicality, there is a product in the market for almost everyone.

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