Ballaban’s used car, just before he bought it.
Photo: Yoel Espino

As Jalopnik’s resident car buying expert and professional car shopper, I get emails. Lots of emails. I’ve decided to pick a few questions and try to help out. This week we are discussing the best place to list your used car, getting a used Lexus vs a new Toyota, and warranties on salvage cars.

First up, is there one best place to list your car for sale?

I’m looking to sell our minivan and am not getting bites on Craigslist (our price is probably too high, but that’s a different issue). I don’t buy used cars and really don’t know which sites are best in which to list them on. Yeah, last time I was in the market for a used car I grabbed one of my brother’s AutoTrader magazines printed on newsprint in black & white, back in the 80's.

Is there a guide on which sites to use? Got suggestions? I’m thinking of Ebay Motors, Cars.com, Autotrader, etc.

Craigslist is a good place to start, it’s free and if you have something on the lower end of the market, say under $15,000, CL usually will get you good results if the car is priced right. However, a lot of folks don’t realize that the large third party listing sites like Autotrader, Cars.com, CarGurus, etc...all have pretty reasonable prices for listings. Cars.com will give you a free listing with up to five images for 30 days and most basic listing packages range between $25 to $50 on a variety of sites.

You mentioned good old-fashioned print listings and, depending on the car you have and your local market, you may want to put an ad in a local paper or used car guide. There are still a lot of folks (okay, Olds) looking for cheap cars that aren’t the most tech-savvy and are and still peruse the local classifieds. However, sometimes these ads can be kind of pricey. The goal here is to maximize the amount of eyeballs on your used car but not spend a ton of money doing so.

If you have something that’s not that old and you want to move it quickly, startups like Vroom and Carvana will sometimes buy your car without having to buy one of theirs, and will even pick it up. Both sites have online evaluators to give you a ballpark as to what you can expect.

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But is it better to buy a used luxury car or a new mainstream model?

I’m a guy who buys and holds cars for years; I’m still driving (a) 2002 Yukon and my wife a 2005 Prius. She wants and really needs a new car. I was leaning toward 2019 Honda CRV or 2019 Toyota RAV4. I just read about Honda engine problems so I’m thinking Toyota. BUT...would a late model RX350 be a worthy contender? There’s no way I spring for new one.

It all depends on your budget and priorities in regards to tech. The Toyota RAV4 is going to have the most up-to-date infotainment and safety features (within the Toyota lineup). Lexus will give you some of the features, but cars that are two or three years old don’t have things like Apple CarPlay or Android Auto or the latest advanced safety features. But if you aren’t as concerned about that stuff and just want something comfortable, reliable, and a little bigger a used/CPO Lexus would be a good option.

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And finally, does a salvage title void any warranty balance?

I live in California, I’m not very familiar with purchasing a salvage vehicle. I’m trying to buy a secondary car for under 10k. There is a 16 Malibu for sale in the 10k region in my area. The guy who is selling the car says the car didn’t have much damage on it when he bought it in the auction, the car was impacted between the driver side doors. The car currently has about 30k miles on it. I’ve read that some people have had a good experience with their salvage title vehicles. The engine seems to be in perfect conditions. Unfortunately, I’ve read that 16 Malibus and Cruzes have a common problem when it comes to engine misfire being caused by bad pistons. This issue was present on the 1.5 turbo engines. My question is, do salvage vehicles maintain their powertrain warranty when such known issue is known? I ask because say I purchase the vehicle and down the line, the issue comes up. The car seems to be a great offer, but this issue worries me.

I usually recommend avoiding salvage title cars at all costs, especially if it is meant to be a daily driver. If you are going to buy a cheap salvaged Lotus and turn it into a race car, that’s another story. Of course, you can pick up a car that is generally pretty good despite having the salvage issue, but you need to be extremely careful. Always get cars like this inspected by an independent mechanic to spot any severe trouble spots.

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And as for the warranty issue, I relayed this question to consumer protection attorney and friend of Jalopnik, Steve Lehto. “Check the warranty language to be sure but most companies void warranties on salvage vehicles. It’s not the damage that matters, it’s the designation,” he said.

Good advice.

Got a car buying conundrum that you need some assistance with? Email me at tom.mcparland@jalopnik.com.