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Buying an old Audi A4 - crazy?


Hey there,

I’m currently looking around for new used car - on a pretty tight budget ($3000-5000). I know I shouldn’t, but I can’t help looking at the A4’s out there, usually between 1998-'01 with 100-160k on the odometer. I really like the look and size of the car, as well as how it drives, but I need to know if it’s possible to find one that isn’t going to be breaking down every 500 miles or so.

If the car has a good maintenance record, is it possible that an A4 with that many miles can still be a reliable car with continued regular maintenance? I’m moderately handy with a wrench and don’t mind fixing things that don’t need a lift or several days, and I’d like to keep repair/maintenance costs below $1000/year. Possible?

If you DIY $1000/year or less is quite possible with a decent A4. However paying a mechanic difficult as parts are pricier than other makes.

Given your tight budget I would skip Audi personally and look for something domestic or Asian first.

Run away…run far away…

When you’re on a tight budget it’s best to put reliability and cost of ownership as priorities over looks and handling. I’d suggest stoppping by the local bookstore, picking up a copy of the Consumer Reports Used Car Buyers’ Guide, and using that as a reference. It won’t show data back that many years, but the data it does show will give you an idea whether a particular make and model can be expected to be reliable and afordable to own or not.

The odds are not in your favor. If you love the car, do much of the work yourself, and can afford $2,000 a year for repairs it just might work out.

On a tight budget, as you say, you should be looking at a 3 year old Hyundai Accent with a stick shift and about 35,000 miles on it. Such a car is easy on gas, costs less than half as much as an Audi to maintain, and will have a good 4-5 years of economical driving left in it.

An Audi is the exact wrong car for your circiumstances, no matter how good it looks.

Damn. I was afraid y’all would say that.

Thanks for the dose of reality.

Back in the late 1950’s, a mechanic I knew advised me to “stick with the Fords and Chevys in buying a used car”. His reasoning was that parts were readily available, both aftermarket and used. He advised staying away from indepents like Studebaker and American Motors as well as imports because of the higher cost of parts. There are probably equivalent cars today to the Fords and Chevys of the late 1950’s and early 1960’a. I don’t know what your needs are, but a 2 wheel drive 4 cylinder Ford Ranger pickup truck might be a possibility for inexpensive parts and easy servicing.