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Written in Granite: Search for preowned car can leave you feeling used

Used cars for sale are on display Thursday, June 24, 2021, in Oklahoma City.  Prices for used cars have soared so high, so fast, that buyers are being increasingly priced out of the market.  (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
Used cars for sale are on display Thursday, June 24, 2021, in Oklahoma City. Prices for used cars have soared so high, so fast, that buyers are being increasingly priced out of the market. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)
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As I write this, Russia’s unprovoked attack on Ukraine remains a fluid situation, and the humanitarian catastrophe deepens in the country of 44.4 million people.

If you think you have problems here, they’re probably small next to the heartache we’re seeing over there.

Still, Americans continue feeling the strain at the gas pump, and then, there are cars and the impact of inflation.

When it comes to finding a decent, used car or truck in today’s overpriced market, it’s all about high demand and low supply. I was tooling around in my late mother’s old Buick Park Avenue and enjoying the ride — like sitting on a luxe leather couch with wheels. It was an elegant, protective tank with low mileage but chewed up gas quickly.

And then came February, my birthday month, and my 2004 relic failed inspection — rust. Otherwise, it was in good operating shape, but I began the hunt for a replacement.

It was slim pickings. I saw a 2012 Nissan Altima 2.5 online for $7,900 that looked perfect for me. It was selling at Roy’s Auto Sales in nearby Hudson. The owner, Roy, kindly called me in the evening after hours and explained that the car had been quickly claimed. He said that used vehicles are going very fast, but sadly, “not enough inventory is coming in.”

It’s time to lease, said a few friends. “You don’t crank up the miles, so you’re an ideal candidate.”

No thanks, leasing is more expensive in the long run, and I don’t fancy being stuck in a two- to three-year contract with a car payment always hanging over my head. You have nothing to show after the deal’s up. At least, I could sell my used vehicle for extra cash.

Several years ago, my used Nissan Maxima rusted out, failing inspection. I put it up for sale “as-is” on Craigslist and got bombarded with calls. One man from Lawrence asked to stop by, saying he was a father of five kids and badly needed a car for his son.

“Don’t worry. In Massachusetts, we don’t care about rust.” He paid me in eight, crisp $100 bills and drove away into the night with his teenage son driving the family car they came in.

I’m the kind of driver who hates spending money on vehicles, repairs, etc. I’d rather keep that money for clothing, makeup and other shallow pursuits. If I put the key in the ignition and it works, then, I’m good to go, but that’s the other challenge that can occur with purchasing a used vehicle.

“If you’re going to spend only a few thousand on let’s say a car that’s 20 years old, be prepared that you could get stuck needing big repairs in the end. It might not be worth it,” my brother Philip tried advising me. He’s a local businessman in the automatic lawn sprinkler industry, and his travels take him across New Hampshire and Mass. to provide service to clients. Philip runs several Toyota Tacoma four-cylinder trucks that have a great reputation for longevity.

My brother has owned a lot of vehicles over the years, and for personal use, he’s a BMW guy.

I just bought a used Honda CR-V EX from a young couple who drove it to me from the Claremont area. In my naivete, I blindly bought the 2004 sport utility vehicle (so cute) on Craigslist. The sellers assured me that there weren’t any issues except for the skid plate that fell off when the vehicle hit a snowbank.

My mechanics shook their heads yesterday after I drove the CR-V EX in for inspection. Nope, it would need about $1,900 in repairs/labor to pass. At this point, I’m in it, hoping for the best, and as the old saying goes:

“Dance with the one that brought you.”

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