Used Cars Shopping in Los Angeles: Choosing a quality Used Car for Los Angeles by Brian Tucker

The city of Angeles (Los Angeles) contains millions of used cars for sale. Having just recently, returned to this huge metropolis from a fifteen-year hiatus, I was perplexed with the problem of having to find a quality used car. In those fifteen years, I lived with public transportation, bicycles and motorcycles and I lived in cities that owning a car is not required. Having a car in Los Angeles is a necessity even though I’m on motorcycles ninety-percent of the time. And if you were wondering, I was living in the following cities: Oakland, San Francisco, New York City, Munich, Augsburg and Hamburg.

Here’s what I needed:

–         I wanted something small (That can fit in a small duplex garage – I have two motos, a road bike and lots of tools!)

–         I wanted quality

–         I wanted reliability

Here’s what I wanted:

–         I wanted something fun (At 41 year’s young – I deserved something fun!)

–         The few times I do drive, I wanted it to be an “experience”

2002 Mini Cooper S version Sterling Silver with options

Options (with my vehicle):

  • Leather Seating
  • Power Glass Sunroof
  • Stability Control
  • Steering Wheel Audio Controls
  • Steering Wheel Cruise Controls
  • Trip Computer
  • Rear Spoiler
  • Leather Steering Wheel Trim
  • Front Fog/Driving Lights
  • CD Player – No Bluetooth integration

What I “settled” for: 2002 Mini Cooper S version – Sterling Silver with at 144,000 miles with the above options.

In my mind, this is the car that I wanted for the last 10 years. This exact car, model, year, color and options. I was patient, found it, had cash and bought it. Now this is no fair but I’m a home mechanic. I helped my father and brothers remove engines so, I knew what I was getting into and I wanted to do some engine work to “learn about the car.” The car had been “used” (not raced or abused) and the body was in pristine condition.

Vehicle Inspection Tips

Tip 1: Save your money – Cash Talks!

Tip 2: Inspect the undercarriage  – I found 5 leaks! ( I also planned on overhauling the engine)

Tip 3: Make sure it’s not a Salvage Title and it has a “clean” title – ask for a Carfax Report

Tip 4: Inspect the engine compartment for belt and hose wear – I found “bird feathers” in the engine and I came to the quick conclusion that at one time, a bird was “nesting” near the supercharger!

Tip5: Inspect the tires – The tires on this particular Mini Cooper were at 50%

Tip 6: Check your excitement! This can be hard because when you’re excited it’s easy to miss things – I missed that the car had no white back up light!

Tip 7: Ask for any maintenance records, up front.

Tip 8: Take a friend along – for support – I didn’t have this luxury – but I knew what I wanted

Tip 9:Befriend a Mechanic  – I have a story about this: I bought a second back up motorcycle from guy that owned a 2002 Mini Cooper S version that he put some money into. What impressed me was that he was a Master Mechanic with a Lathe in his gargage – A Lathe is used to machine parts! I keep his phone number and told him about my wanting of a 2002 Mini Cooper and that I plan to hire him to overhaul and we did! (That’s another article….)

Tip 10: Buy from a Quality Dealership or Auto Broker – The auto broker I bought from was quality – he was upfront, honest and provided me a carfax report. The car came with a limited warranty, which you can’t get from a private party.

Keep these ten tips “in mind” upon inspecting the vehicle.


–         The more you find missing, worn or wrong with the car you can use to negotiate the price down

–         Mini Cooper S versions have strong resale value – The one I wanted was in a premium color, with premium options, with a new clutch. The car broker was surprisingly firm with their price: This confidence surprised me. The lesson: If the seller knows that the car “will” sell and is “highly desirable” than you might have to just pay for what they’re asking: Do some market research. I knew what I wanted and it was hard to find that particular car, with those options in the most desired color. In life, if that’s what you want: accept that you might just have to pay for it. And I was willing to pay for it.


I ended up paying $7600, cash, for my Mini Cooper in September 2011. After my mechanic friend, inspected it, he came to the conclusion that I paid for exactly what I should of paid for the car. That was great to know and my friend and I ended up removing the engine, replacing all the major gaskets and replacing worn parts. Stay tuned for that article.


Good Luck –Never Settle & Happy Hunting!