Factors in buying a car with unusually low miles

#1

It’s me again, the college kid looking to get rid of the old Accord.



Now i’m looking at a 2001 Mazda Protege’ with 22,000 miles. Yes, 22,000.



My major question is whether or not the Timing Belt will need replacing soon regardless of the miles.



Also I would imagine the oil should have been changed at least 3 times by now… correct ?



The car was “rarely driven” in the last 3 years. The seller is a family who out-grew the car.



Am going to test drive ASAP.



What other questions would you ask other than the Timing Belt issue and having the oil changed at least 3 times ? Thanks.

#2

Ask for any maintenance records,look at the tires’ inside info…there will be a bunch of numbers .the last four digits will give the date of manufacture…You might need new tyres(a few $$).Good/new gas in the car?Well then give it a spin see if you want it.Belts and hoses and tyres are age dependent.Be prudent as to their condition.Eight years of belt life is iffy/ready to give out any time.I would spend the few grand on this car and keep for the next years.

#3

Yes, the timing belt needs to be replaced now if it has not been done.
Accessory belts will also need to be replaced if original.
JMO, but considering the scant use the car has gotten (assuming there’s no odometer funny business going on) it should have gotten far more than 3 oil changes during this period.

I would advise inspecting a few things on the car to at least try and verify that this low mileage is correct. A lot of scuff marks around the ignition switch, worn rubber on the pedals, numerous bug/rock chips on the nose of the car, etc. could point to a vehicle that has way more than 22k miles on it.
People have been know to buy an instrument cluster from the salvage yard or off of eBay, change it out, and voila: instant low miles car with the old 100k miles cluster off to the garbage can.
An hour of time, a 40 dollar cluster, and the value of the car just went up a grand.

Not saying this is the case here but it’s something to keep in mind.

#4

Timing Belt Timing

This car came with a 1.6L or 2.0L engine. The Gates Belts site does not list either as an “interference” type engine. A breaking timing belt will make the car stop running immediately, but shoudn’t result in engine damage. Verify this with a Mazda dealer/Mazda mechanic. Also, inquire about the cost of replacement. It might not be a big deal. I wouldn’t think the owners would have replaced it and although it is maybe recommended I wouldn’t run right out and put a timing belt on. Be aware that if it ever breaks it could be dangerous in traffic, but so can other mechanical failures.

Before buying any car call your insurance company and see what the difference will be in cost. They can differ greatly. Also, sometimes an older car won’t need collision coverage and it would make sense on a newer car, adding cost.

Depending on price, this car could have potential. The people selling it should be the original owners since it has such low miles. See if they bought it new and if not see what the story is.

#5

The timing belt will need replacement. It’s highly unlikely that it has already been done, but its age requires it.

The oil should have been changed at least once per year, regardless of mileage. This, too, is unlikely, but you never know. Ask if the current owners have records.

This could be a good buy, but don’t be surprised if a few minor little problems crop up. I’d look very closely at the tires. If the car was garaged they may be OK, but if it’s been outside the tires may be dried out from the sun.

By the way, it’s still a 7-year-old car (nearly 8 now) regardless of the mileage. Keep that in mind when you make an offer.

I’ve always liked the Protege, and I hope this turns out to be a good car for you.

#6

The motor oil should have been changed at least yearly so 7-8 times.

Other items likely never touched are the brake fluid, coolant and automatic transmission fluid (if applicable) that required replacement at least half way through the life of the vehicle.

Verify if timing belt is interference application, if not I would drive it a while, the worse that happens is a break down.

#7

How Much?
I’m curious.
How much do they want for it?

We have to get you into a "new"er car soon! This is a lot of work!

#8

$6500!! I will probably have to negotiate it down to around $6k because of the timing belt issue.

Thanks for all your help!

#9

You’re Welcome!
Please let us know what happens.

#10

There ARE NO “ISSUES”. If you like the car, buy it and drive it before someone else does.

#11

Just remember there are lots of these around, and $6000 is a good, not amazing price. Lots of $6000 and under Proteges near me, with 60-100k miles, of course.

#12

Ok I just talked to the seller (who is selling the car on behalf of his good friend) and they do not have any receipts to prove that the oil has been changed. Now what ? Should I still bother test driving the car ? ::confused::

#13

I have a colleague that bought a Mazda Protege about 2000 or 2001 and thought the car was wonderful. He was having the oil changed at the Mazda dealer a couple of years later and the dealer was having a sale. He bought another Mazda Protege and now has two. He had had all makes of cars and claims that the Mazda is the best car he has ever owned. I would have a mechanic check this car out. If it checks out o.k., I think I would grab it.

#14

Call the seller (whose selling on behalf of the owner), and ask them to ask the owner when they recall the oil was last changed.

Then look at the car one last time, and CHECK the oil dip stick. If response was oil was changed within the last 6 months but the oil is pretty dark, someone’s not being honest with you. But, that wouldn’t nix the deal. (Oil changed but not driven much should be amber in color)

#15

So what is the story behind someone selling a car on behalf of someone else?

There could be (and it happens a lot with both of these scenarios) one of several things.
One is that the person selling the car can play dumb (not my car, I know nothing, and the actual owner can claim they never made any claims about the car before the sale) and if anything hits the fan later it will be impossible to claim who said what.
Two is that this “seller” could actually be a car salesman and the “good friend” is actually a car lot.

#16

Now What?

You state: “Ok I just talked to the seller (who is selling the car on behalf of his good friend) and they do not have any receipts to prove that the oil has been changed. Now what ?”

You can take a test drive. Ask to meet with or speak with the owner. That shouldn’t be too difficult for the seller to accommdate. It’s a good friend. See if you get a cockamamy response to a simple request.

Did the owner already “sign off” on the title. Ask to see the title or find out where it is. Do this before you waste any more time.

I have walked away from many a “really good deal” (some that I regretted) that was sending out “bad vibes”. Should these vibes continue downhill, walk away. Buying a car shouldn’t be rocket science, but a simple transaction.

I buy when all my vibes are “good vibes”.

P.S. Hang in there. You are going through the buyer’s learning curve and have already gotten your feet wet. It’s like I said before, shop long enough to be able to spot the good deal when it comes along.

#17

Hello Jeff! It’s Rocketman . . . we talked last year when you were looking for advice on your Honda. How’s the Accord running for you? Any problems since then? Didn’t you want to take it on Spring Break to Florida? Just curious. Good luck with your new Mazda, if you decide to take it. Rocketman

#18

I suggest driving the car, and if you like it make an offer. Sometimes you just have to go with your gut feeling. If you don’t like the car walk away, but if you can’t find anything wrong buy it.

You’re making this too complicated. MOST people don’t keep records and can’t remember when they last changed oil. That’s why dealers send out reminders.

#19

I don’t think anyone here has mentioned this: run a carfax report on the VIN. It’s inexpensive (in the order of $30 for a month’s worth), and provides a chain of title, and will offer an alert it it detects mileage discrepancies and damage issues. Imperfect, yes, but useful.

Timing belt: Some cars never need a new belt depending on design and use. If the car has been driven like a cream puff then elapsed time should not be even a consideration. If the car was driven by a crazed teenager with either the gas or the brake always pressed to the floor, or if it was a tow car, or always driven through the Alps, then ask Mazda what to do.

The tire idea is a good one as sidewalls do deteriorate over time.

Check the fair market value at Edmunds for the condition and mileage.

If the price is right then there may be no rationale to seek a lower price based on the pereceived need for a timing belt or any other work. I see many people walking away from a bargain because “the seller wouldn’t come down” as compensation for some issue. Coming down on price on a good price to begin with is not a good thing to insist upon.

Note that some cars with very low mileage have been used as security vehicles and have spent thousands of hours parked at idle, with commensurate engine wear, and this makes is wise to check the title history.

#20

Hi Rocketman,

I took the car to FL on spring break and had no problems.

But now the window is seized on the driver side (stuck cracked open) and that carb is pretty much shot. Runs like garbage when started cold or hot (provided the engine has been sitting long enough for the fuel in the carb to boil over and screw everything up), that kind of hot start.

Needs new tires too. Parents will disown me if I spent $$$ on a 22 yr. old car, especially an unsafe one.

Really I have my heart set on another Accord but it’s hard to find one with under 100 grand miles (another parent stipulation for them to lend me $$). Isn’t it sad i’m 22 years old and still have my car buying hands tied by my folks ?