Car buying strategy?



Here’s an idea I got from the car guys. Buy a 10-year old “luxury” car-- e.g., Volvo, Lexus, BMW, Mercedes-- in decent shape. Do some research-- and take good care of it. I bought a 1989 Volvo 740 in 1999. Kept it for 9 years-- got my daughters through high school and college.

Gave it away to some monks with 215, 000 miles on it-- still running.

Whaddya think?


I think you lucked out big time.

Buying a 10 year old luxury car from that list can be a recipe for economic disaster, with the exception of the Lexus.

I’m truely happy for you. But I do not recommend this.


10 year old luxury cars regardless of their mechanical superiority as you might imply, have 10 year old, air conditioners, power window mechanisms, remote mirror mechanics, rear defroster wires, automated climate control systems etc. Any of which could make your car “undriveable” in some conditions…with huge bucks on an old car as the only fix. No thanks…cars are becoming more and more disposable…so dispose of them and move on when financially impractical to keep.

Now high mileage newer car ? That’s a different story.


Even a Lexus will be very expensive to repair. It is built by Toyota, but used Lexus parts. That translates to expensive.


Sometimes a question prompts another question in response.

I am curious since you already did it with apparent great success, why are you asking our opinion? It sounds to me like you know more about it than we do. It sounds like you were able to find a good used Volvo, which a lot of people can’t do very well and found the cost to keep it running within your capacity. You should be writing a HOWTO for us.

Also, we have no idea what financial issues are involved in “taking good care of it.” Volvo and BMW repairs tend to be pricey.

So do Lexus, but Toyotas tend to hang in there rather well, which helps. We drove a 1988 Nova “Toyolet” to 248,000 miles, and even if Lexus repairs cost three times as much, it wouldn’t be burdensome no more repairs than we needed.

I am a believer in personal liberty, so if it seems like something you want to do again, it’s your neck, go for it. Use the same care as before in buying a used one, and stay on top of the maintenance and repairs.

If you get a Lexus, be sure to look closely at leather seats, they can be really cruddy once they start breaking up, which is why I would never want them personally. I have read if you keep them well conditioned, they will hold up rather well but don’t want to find out for myself.

If the car doesn’t get wrecked or badly rusted, it seems like you can do a lot of work on them, as expensive as their parts are, for $50,000 savings off the purchase price.


I’ve got bad news for you. There’s been some redefinitions of “luxury” that occured from 1989 to 2000.

Back in 1989, in buying a foreign luxury brand you were paying more for a car that was better designed and made with superior components. You paid more, but you knew it was a car that was built to last, much like your 740. The trouble is, along comes those darn Japanese and they start making high-quality cars that last forever AND are affordable! As a result, the foreign luxury brands have had to switch to the Cadillac definition of luxury, which is that luxury means more bells and whistles.

So the net result of this is that “luxury” brands are now no more reliable than economy brands in terms of basic drivetrain parts, and plus they’ve got all those fancy bells-and-whistles which are just so much more things to go wrong.

(Okay, okay… this process had started before 1989 and it wasn’t just the Japanese who started making good economy cars, but I think my little narrative is still mostly accurate).


Some years ago, MOTHER EARTH NEWS magazine had a feature article on this specific issue. A man tired of constant high car payments for himself and his wife. So, he started buying the reliable Japanese cars with maybe 120,000 miles on them, for cash. This at the time was a few thousand dollars, and I believe the Nissan pickup was one of the bulletproof vehicles he liked, since they would run well to several hundred thousand miles. I imagine the Honda Civic would be on a secondary list but can’t remember any more.

He developed a working relationship with a good used car dealer, who let him know when they had a really well maintained high mileage vehicle.

The cost to keep those things running for 100,000 miles was much less than the interest and payments on a new one. Again, though, he knew what he was doing which makes all the difference in the world. If you can do ordinary maintenance and light repairs that is a major financial boost.


Darned good posting, Jack. I think the reason my answer is different is because I thought he simply wants a cheap way to drive an upscale car. So, even if they aren’t more reliable than the economy models, and I tend to agree on that, he wants more. He sounds like a capable fellow who knows what he wants and will probably succeed. I am not at all disagreeing with you, just stating a different viewpoint.

If he hadn’t already done this, my answer would probably be in line with the other posters.


Luxury cars can sometimes be bargains as used cars. I remember back in the early 1960’s when a 4 year old Volkswagen Beetle and a 4 year old Cadillac in equivalent condition would fetch about the same price, even though the Cadillac cost at least three times as much new. Most used car buyers want cars that are inexpensive to maintain.

At the ten year mark, a luxury car is often not very marketable. It has more things that potentially could fail. I wouldn’t want to take the chance, but one might luck out.


Your strategy might have been valid with a ten year old 1989 Volvo, but falls apart if you buy a 10 year old 2000 Volvo. The 2000 era Volvo are money pits as used cars.