Reader Question: Buy This Mini?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Jane asks: We need a car ASAP and are looking at a used Mini Cooper hardtop for about $6k with 139 miles on it. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

My reply: First some general thoughts: The Mini Cooper is a fun, personable little car. Also a surprisingly practical one in terms of its roominess inside. It can carry more than you’d expect. Great gas mileage, easy to park. And, fun! The ride can be a little firm, but that’s a subjective. I personally really like this car.

There were, however, some quality control issues with the earlier models. Bear in mind that these Minis are German rather than British. BMW owns Mini and many of the Mini’s parts are shared with BMWs. This can be problematic because BMWs are luxury cars and they often have finicky (read, problem prone) electrical systems. And so do Minis, sometimes.

As with any used car, the condition of the specific car you’re considering is probably the paramount consideration – more so than price, even. Because a “good deal” on a bad car is a terrible deal.

Iron Rule: Never trust the seller, whether a dealer or an individual. Before you commit to buy, have the car looked at by an independent mechanic who is competent to check it over for you. Even if you have to pay $100 for an hour of his time, it is money very well spent if it saves you from buying a car that will soon need a $3,000 transmission. Ask for service records and be wary if they’re not available.

This particular car could be a gem . . . or not. The price is low – but the mileage is relatively high. It may need a lot of maintenance soon… or not. If it was done by the prior owner… or not. I’d be especially concerned about the clutch and transmission, suspension bits such as struts, the brakes and any major scheduled maintenance (see the owner’s manual) the engine and other systems require at/around the indicated 139k mileage.

If the car is generally sound and doesn’t need anything major, soon, it would be a great little runabout for very little money.

But if the car does need something major, soon – that low price could quickly become a major expense.

It’s definitely worth considering. But consider it very closely. I wish it were down the street from me as I’d be happy to take a look for you and then have my buddy and Ace Mechanic throw it on the lift and take a closer look!

Please keep us posted…

. . .

Got a question about cars, Libertarian politics – or anything else? Click on the “ask Eric” link and send ’em in!

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