How can I find a dependable used car to buy?

John Paul, AAA Northeast's Car Doctor, answers a question from a reader considering buying an older-model Pontiac Vibe.

The Pontiac Vibe.
The Pontiac Vibe. –US NHTSA via WikiMedia Commons

Q. I’m looking for a dependable used car for a reasonable price. The car I’m looking at is the Pontiac Vibe. I like the idea of this little wagon, and since it is powered by a Toyota engine, it should last a long time. Do you have any advice on the particular model years I should look at? 

A. Here in the Northeast, it always makes some sense to look at the latest model year possible to avoid rust. Some people consider the 2010/2011 Vibe a possible collector’s car because it may have been one of the last Pontiacs manufactured. (For what it’s worth: I don’t think the Vibe will ever be a collector car, at least in my lifetime.) The Vibe offers a comfortable ride, nice use of interior space, and decent handling. Unless you need all-wheel-drive, I would look for a second-generation Vibe, such as the 2009-2010 model with the larger 2.4-liter engine. The 1.8-liter engine is fine but the added 26 additional horsepower just makes the Vibe more enjoyable to drive.  

John Paul is AAA Northeast’s Car Doctor. He has over 40 years of experience in the automotive business and is an ASE certified master technician. Email your car question to