A new car isn't affordable for everyone, no matter how many lectures about how it's a better buy in the "long run"--and with recalls and performance problems showing up on new cars just as much as any other year, it's not always sound advice. You may want to go with a tried and true car or truck model that you know can be maintained, repaired easily, and upgraded, but you need to know what such a car looks like in the first place. With a few inspection points, you can get beyond kicking tires and checking for sawdust in the engine by going straight for the details that matter.
Common Component Types
If you're not into modifying, kitting, or "suped up" cars, you may not realize that many of the components under the hood and throughout the vehicle body are used across multiple makes and models. It's more about how these different pieces of the puzzle are put together, and very rarely a modification that increases performance or lifecycle quality.
To get the best combination of budget and performance, you want a vehicle that has common, affordable aftermarket parts that aren't showing up in repair shops due to poor quality. This means that you need to look for different vehicles that don't have major performance issues with the same general sets of parts. These kinds of matchups are called Twinned Vehicles.
Sometimes, "good performance" can be subjective. An example would be the Pontiac Sunfire and the Chevrolet Cavalier, which share the same engine and components in some years and market versions.
There are a lot of opinions about which car performs better, and different testimonies about having to take the vehicles into the shop for various reasons. You should be concerned about those reasons, especially when the specific components are discussed and whether they're in other car models.
Finding Long-Lasting Components
Plentiful replacements are a great comfort because anything could happen to your vehicle, but it's just as important to look at quantifiable performance and quality. It's hard to find measurements and claims to trust because of how deeply advertisement is woven into vehicle testing, but there are a few ways to get your own answer.
Consider a Toyota car or truck. The most expensive components would be the engine, catalytic converter, cylinder head gasket, timing belt, fuel pump, and the transmission. You want to speak to mechanics not about a specific make or model only, but whether specific Toyota-sourced vehicle parts are standing up to the test of time.
Toyota is a good survey figure because of their lower failure rate and high vehicle population in the United States, meaning you can count on great individual part quality and a large supply of used and new replacements because of high participation rates. By looking through not just their advertisements, but their failure rates and how easy it is to overcome a rare failure, you can figure out what kind of used car to get within your budget.
Speak with a used car professional to talk a little deeper into shared components and replacement ideas. Looking for parts for used Toyotas? Click here!