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Buying an older car with low miles.. that has had 3,000 miles put on it in the last 8 years

I’m in love with the older VW Cabrio Convertibles. Someone help me (mentally).
I found one with about 33,000 miles on it at a VW dealership. According to the CarFax, the last maintenance was in 2003 and the vehicle then had 31,000 miles on it before it was offered to the dealership in 2011. I’m guessing it hasn’t been driven in 8 years.
Dangerous? Should I run? What sort of maintenance should I ask about if the car hasn’t been run for 8 years? They’re asking $8,000 for it… I was thinking more like $5,000 and throw in some kind of warranty… although everyone else says I’m crazy for even considering an older car.

Can’t offer you any mental help, but I’m sure if you look in the yellow pages, there are lots of Psychiatrists in the area who will happily take your money, and tell you it’s all about a problem with your mom. :slight_smile:

First, don’t put too much faith in a CarFax report. There are very few things that are mandated to be reported (in fact, unless I"m mistaken, nothing really is “mandated” except maybe airbag repairs). Any number of repairs can be carried out, and nothing will ever show in that report.

Have a good independent mechanic do a full inspection. Expect to spend $100 or a bit more for that inspection. I wouldn’t rely on a dealer inspection, either.

As far as I can tell, VW didn’t make a Cabrio in 2003, so that appears to be false information. The last year I can find is 2002, and the value for the GLX (top of the line) is ~$5600. So their 8K is out of line, regardless.

Couple sites you can use to research:
Kelley Blue Book


Thank you, Chase! I’m looking at a 1998 Cabrio GLX. One owner, who hasn’t driven it in 8 years. The CarFax is loaded with listed maintenance every 3,000-4,000 miles, must be oil changes done at the dealership?
More research to be done. I guess I’ll be waiting on the “new” car; besides, everyone knows the right time to buy a convertible in Minnesota is once the snow hits the ground. :slight_smile:

1998…sorry, either I missed it, or I’m just not that great at comprehension. That’s even worse. It’s valued at ~$2500-$2900. I would start my bartering at $2K, and point out that a Carfax is relatively useless, and tells me nothing useful about a car. Have you owned a convertible up there before? If not, remember it’s going to take it a very long time to warm up in the winter.

Wow. I wouldn’t touch this car with a ten foot pole, and someone wants three times it’s blue book value for it…

The fact is at a dealer means someone has to made an effort to get the car running. The main issues would be bad gas in the tank, fuel lines, and injectors. If the car is running smoothly with good power the dealer likely purged out the old gas and repaired or replace damaged fuel lines and injectors already.

Even if it runs it is still a very old car. Everything rubber on the car is suspect, timing belts, serpentine belts, hoses, bushings, mounts, everything. If the car has a timing belt it should be replaced before you take it home from the dealer. Other hoses and rubber parts can be inspected and replaced as needed. Likely you should have new tires on the car as well, they are way too old if they are original.

It could be a fun, hobby and weekend car, but I don’t see it as a dependable daily driver. If you buy it budget some money every year for repairs, like $1,500 to 2,500. Low miles in a car this age is better than 250K miles, but isn’t anything like a “new” car.

Have you driven this car?

I’d be concerned about fuel system problems in any vehicle that has been sitting so long. Two years is enough to cause problems.

Used car prices are really high right now, but even so the dealer is hopelessly optimistic. I’d be very careful. Think with the head, not the heart.

Is there any sort of warranty with this car?

Uncle Turbo is right on about the belts, etc, ESPECIALLY the timing belt. If that breaks the engine is toast.

Thank you so much.
mcparadise - think with the head not the heart. That’s been difficult for me to do since I started dating (haha). Since I left the dealership the practical side of me is kicking in and I’m starting to agree with Mark9207 - not touching it with a 10 foot pole.
and UncleT… I’m just out of college and am too strapped for cash to own a hobby car.
Thanks again, for talking me out of a NIGHTMARE! Thanks from my Dad, too, I’m sure. haha

I think you’re making the right move. Carfax is worthless and while the car may be fine it’s way, way overpriced even at 5k. Low mileage does not necessarily mean the car is worth a premium price.

From all I have read on this URL, older VW’s can at times be high repair in the best of times. No personal knowledge, thank God, but that is the general consensus I have seen over the years. Here in Mexico where labor is very low, it wouldn’t matter, but at labor rates in the US, it adds up quickly.

It’s very possible the car is in great condition, but not worth $8000. I have a '97 Escort wagon that I bought new, it’s a 14 year old car with 32K miles on it with probably over 90% of those being highway miles. It still drives like new, I never have to make any repairs and has been garaged practically ever since I’ve owned it. When I lived in NC it had to pass an emissions/safety inspection every year and sometimes from one year to the next it had been driven less than 1K miles.

The dealer is hoping for an uneducated buyer to show and be wowed by likely great condition (appearance) and low miles and plop their cash down. Even if they bargain it down by 1/3 off they are making money hand over fist.

Personally I would move on. However if it maybe passes muster with an independent mechanic it likely is worth maybe $4000 in exceptional condition.

If the car is loaded and in excellent condition, it is worth about $3900. If you like it after a long test drive, you might offer something like $3800 contingent on an inspection by your mechanic. Edmunds mark-up for low mileage is $743, not several thousand. But it has to be in excellent condition with new tires (not 8 years old), a great top (including rear window), and freshly changed fluids (brake, coolant, transmission). Absolutely everything has to work. If they won’t come down to half the asking price immediately, walk out. If you are seriously interested, leave your number and tell them to call when the get serious about selling the car.

It could have had only 3k miles put on in 8 years, or someone rolled the odometer back to make it look like it had lower miles than it really does. OR the odometer broke on it and no one fixed it

Dealer called me this morning and offered to take off $1,500 for hail damage they “were” going to fix. I said no thanks, mentioned the carfax, a few details you all have brought to my attention, offered them $4,000 after having an independent mechanic take a look at it… and… drum roll… the conversation was over. Maybe they’ll think of me in the winter months when the car is still on their lot…
Thanks again, you guys.

Good job MayNayz! If you get a call back, remeber to dock them the additional $1500 for hail damage in your new offer. Remember what the police say: “Anything you say can and will be used against you.” Your the cops and they’re the perps.

Agreed…good job. They may call you back with a better offer, too. It costs money to let a car sit on a lot. After holding it for a while, providing they don’t find a sheep to buy it, they may just want it gone.

Keep all your notes. :wink:

I also agree you made a good decision. Even $6500 for a '98 model (soon 14 years old) sounds too high even with only 34K miles on it. The circumstances might be slightly different if you were buying from a close family friend and you knew the total history of the car. As I said in a previous post my '97 Escort only has 32K miles and is in like new condition, I wouldn’t take $6500 for it, because I know I can drive more value than that out of it, but I also know no one would pay this much especially not knowing the car’s history. The very most I’d pay would be NADA value which is usually about the highest value as far as valuing used cars. Another thing to consider is what if you bought the car and it got totaled shortly afterward you’d take a hit and lose a few thousand dollars over what the insurance company would pay for it.

Bscar’s point about the broken odometer may be correct, except that carfax shows several maintenance times and miles over the years. I think those would be hard to falsify, though I agree that Carfax is not perfect.

worst case scenario is the other thing I mentioned, the rollback on the odometer.