I drove a new car once. My old one broke down and I got a good deal on a rental with unlimited mileage so I could continue going to school and complete moving to my new rental. The car had point six miles on it when I picked it up so I'm quite certain I was the first person to rent it. It was quite a luxury for a young college student and mother even though I've never been much of a car person. Get me from point A to point B as cheaply and quietly as possible please. I've never purchased a new car even when I made a decent salary. What's the point?
My first car cost fifty dollars. No it wasn't a Model T, I'm not that old, but it was junk and I had a friend of a friend take pity on me when I really needed wheels and give me a super discount. It burst into flames when I was taking my sister to the mall. I know what it feels like to have flames licking the side of your boots while you toss your children car seats and all into the grass on the side of the road. But that's another story. I'm getting off topic.
I've had more cars since then, some good some bad but I have learned the single most important lesson. MAINTENANCE! Being poor, this is the main expense my emergency fund has fed. In a rural, or semi-rural area you must have a car for independence, to get to work and or school, and to transport any number of things. You cannot always rely on someone else. Not having transportation really limits a family.
It's always a good idea to shop around and try out a few mechanics until you find one you trust and feel comfortable with. Once you find a good one show loyalty. They will appreciate it and treat you well. Most will be honest and let you know when something can wait for repair, and some will explain how to repair something easy yourself if money is an issue.
When I buy a used car I also buy a used Haynes or Chilton's manual for that exact car. Even if you have zero skills when it comes to mechanics, your mechanic may find the specialized manual useful when doing major repairs. I've used every manual I've bought more than once.
I wouldn't trade my car for anything right now. We drive a 1994 Honda, a gift from my husbands' aunt when she upgraded. We get oil changes regularly, repairs like timing belts and tuneups when suggested. Sometimes we go a bit longer before we get routine maintenance but that is only because we are saving up to pay cash. We treat this car right and don't make it wait.
I see other used cars with black thickened oil that has probably never been changed, transmission fluid leaks, and old windshield wipers that have worn away and scratched the windshield. I've heard cars with clearly bad brakes screaming on the road. It makes me sad because these cars will probably die and hopefully we will still be driving our beloved Honda decades from now. A used vehicle is so much better than new when it has been well maintained. They depreciate so quickly why buy new?
We've recently passed 200,000 miles. I'll make sure to have an update post one day and let you know what it's like at 250,000.