I don't think I ever updated this particular thread on the purchase of my new Prius (nicknamed Elvis), but if anyone is interested, I did post a separate update about 4 or 5 weeks back. Just do a search for it. I will say this...
Going through the car buying process was agony...especially because it was/is probably the WORST time to buy a vehicle in the history of mankind (parts shortages, chip shortages, shipping slowdowns at the ports, Covid, etc.). However, in hindsight, I'm REALLY glad I took things slow and didn't rush, as that's almost always a recipe for disaster. Since almost all of us here live in our vehicles, the process really should be looked at as a home buying experience, and nothing less. If the average person's car breaks down, no biggie, they can leave it parked somewhere until it's fixed and take an Uber, bus, or even walk or use a bike to get around. With us nomads on the other hand, if our car isn't operable, our HOUSE isn't fully livable. Tremendous difference. So, my biggest advice for anyone purchasing ANY type of vehicle to full-time in is...
1. DON'T RUSH - Again, you're essentially buying a home, not a car. Most people aren't going to look at 1 house and purchase it. It's a process. One that could very well take months if you want to find the best (most dependable) vehicle at the right price...especially in this crazy market.
2. DON'T GO BY EXTERIOR CONDITION - Most professional car sellers (and even novices) know that a good looking car is eye candy, and can fetch more money than an ugly duckling. But the reality is, exterior aesthetics matter little. Instead, it is the INNER WORKINGS of a vehicle that are critical. Most of us aren't made of money. We need a reliable home-on-wheels that will last for at least 4 or 5 years without any major upkeep/repairs, so that we can build our nest egg up during that time, so when the car DOES eventually need major work, you'll have the funds to pay for them comfortably, or maybe consider buying another vehicle. Unless you're extremely knowledgeable about cars (which I'm not), it is HIGHLY advised that you get it properly inspected by a local mechanic or via one of the many online inspection services like POMCAR, Lemon Squad, etc. They're pricey and aren't perfect, but they at least bring peace-of-mind that the car's major components (engine, transmission, heating & cooling, etc.) are all in working order.
3. DON'T PUT ALL OF YOUR EGGS IN ONE BASKET - When I started shopping online for a used car, I almost exclusively went through Craigslist. Big mistake. That website has changed a LOT in recent years. I found myself wading through hundreds of scammers, curbstoners (amateur, non-licensed, backyard car sellers), and a host of other unscrupulous types. The amount of LEGITIMATE private-party sellers on CL is maybe 1 out of every 15-20 ads you see posted who claim to be selling their individual car. There ARE still good cars on CL, but you really have to put the time in to separate the honest sellers versus the ripoff artists. Believe it or not, I had MUCH better luck using Facebook Marketplace, which was totally new to me. Most of my best leads came through there, as well as the car I ultimately wound up buying. I found MOST of the sellers on there legit, but you still have to do your homework as slimeballs have infiltrated that platform, too. *When you come across an ad on there, look closely at when their FB page was created. Most of us have had FB pages for many years now. If the seller just created their page within the past 2 or 3 years, I'd say to take a pass. Lots of scammers set-up FB pages just to sell stuff under fake identities. **Also, check out the activity on their page. Does it look real? How far do the posts go back? Lots of photos posted? You get the idea...be a detective and protect yourself.
4. DON'T LIMIT YOUR SEARCH ZONE - Buying a car even in the best of times is excruciating. Now it's murder. Gone are the days of filtering your online car searches to within 25-50 miles of your location. I was using search perimeters of up to 300 miles...and was still missing good cars that sold too fast...sometimes in a matter of minutes! In normal times, it is ALWAYS better to buy local, but these aren't normal times. If you are having a trusted mechanic do a PPI (pre-purchase inspection) on the vehicle - which you should anyway (see #2 above) - then the car could really be located anywhere, and this will help provide you with more/better leads due to having a wider search base. My sticks & bricks is in NJ. I wound up purchasing Elvis from an older couple in NH!
Hope this info helps some of you out there, as the car buying market is crazy right now. Take your time, do your homework, and most importantly, use common sense