Why get a Focus?
I have an 05. I used to purchase nothing but used cars because I could fix those cars. I've had this car for 7 years. I have not had to do one major repair yet. I have replaced shocks and struts, and at 60k miles I replaced the brakes with an SVT brake kit- but I still had more than enough pad on there. Most of the problems with these cars are simple. Although I would personally not like the weak brakes of the 00-04 Focis. SVT brake kits can still be purchased for about $900, and you might be able to locate used parts for less. I highly recommend this even though you'll need 17" wheels. My car can out stop Corvettes. I have to be careful who is behind me in case I have to slam on the brakes.
I finally have a chance to repair the car because it has "tumble flap" problems which might be something you could run into when looking at 05+ Focis. It could actually save you some money on the car because typically people think it's valve noise or injector noise. It won't really hurt the car, but it sounds like the engine is coming apart. You could talk down an owner over that. Believe me, the dealers will certainly not give them much for it on trade in. It costs about $300 in parts to repair, you need a new intake manifold. You can save some money if you can find someone with a good used manifold.
The way to tell the difference is to use the mechanic's stethoscope trick. Listen to the valve cover. If the valve cover is silent- then listen to the intake manifold, you should hear your rapping sound there. I wouldn't tell a seller that, but at least you know that the car is not going to self destruct as a result of this noise. I drove mine for 50k miles with horrendous tumble flap noise. Very soon I'll be doing a How-To on replacing the intake manifold. There is already a How-To on removing the tumble flaps entirely- however this reduces low end torque, and makes the car less fun to drive.
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