How old is too old?

I can buy a 1982 Honda Accord for $1500. It has 85K original miles on it. It has not been driven on a regular basis since 2003. If I buy it, what should I be thinking that I will have to replace, other than the obvious (tires, battery, filters, etc.)? I just wanna avoid the really, really big repairs if I can.

If you can get it for $500 maybe. 85k is meaningless on a 27 year old car.

Do Lots Of Little Repairs = One Really, Really Big Repair?
You already listed tires, battery, and filters. You’ll problably need belts and hoses.

Define " It has not been driven on a regular basis since 2003."

Also, describe the climate where this car has been moth balled.

I have seen old cars that were sitting for a long time develop oil leaks because of aged seals, brake calipers and rotor problems due to corrosion, radiator and heater core problems because of precipitation, etcetera. What about the transmission?

This car’s got a timing belt and an interference engine. How old is the belt? A belt older than 7 or eight years should be changed before this car hits the road. Figure several hundred bucks, unless you do it yourself.

$1,500 seems too high to me. I think $500 would be more realistic. Are you going to tinker with it yourself or pay somebody? It could work out for you or it could cost you more than a car with one really, really big repair. It’s a dice roll.

Also, does this car have air bags, ABS, and other safety features found on a modern car? I’d find out.


You are going to spend money on this car just due to age. In addition to what you mentioned you need to change every fluid in the car. That means new coolant, transmission fluid, brake fluid, etc. All the belts and hoses should be checked and replaced unless they look like newer replacements already. Have the brakes checked for pad wear and that all the calipers work without binding.

New fluids will help, but you can’t reverse father time on old parts. You can expect the radiator, heater core, alternator, power steering pump, steering rack, CV joints, wheel bearings, yadda yadda; to all be old and prone to fail.

If you can do some work yourself you might make this work. If you have to pay for every repair the car could frustrate you. If lots of the parts I just mentioned have been replaced recently the car might be worth $1,500. Since it hasn’t been driven much since 2003 (6 to 7 years) then I’m guessing nothing has been replaced recently, as in the last 2 years.

Don’t be overly swayed by low mileage, in this case it is the years you are fighting. The low miles isn’t much of a factor.

If you buy this car, you need to immediately take it to a mechanic for replacement of the timing belt (along with the water pump, serpentine belt, and belt tensioners). While it is in the shop, also have the brake fluid changed.

Failure to do both of these jobs right away puts you at risk of engine damage that would exceed the book value of the car, as well as brake failure.

After those high priority jobs are done, then you can look at lower priority things like the battery, tires, etc. Just be prepared to spend as much on preventive maintenance within the first couple of months as you spent for the car itself. And, despite the low odometer mileage, be prepared for the repairs that are inevitable on a 27 year old car.

Safety would be my first consideration…how well will you be if the car is in an accident???

It would be a good idea to have someone check the brake lines and hoses too. All metal lines should be inspected. Also, most people forget about the rubber line that goes from the body to the rear axle…that should be replaced.

As others have said, don’t pay much for this car. In spite of the low mileage, you still have to change a number of things:

  1. Change transmission fluid and filter
  2. Change timing belt, water pump and maybe the tensioner
  3. Pressure check the cooling system, and change the coolant.
  4. Replace all hoses and drive belt(s).
  5. New battery
  6. Likely new tires, subject to careful inspection.
  7. Check brakes and change brake fluids.

The above list assumes the car was well maintained and is in good working condition other wise.

So, if you pay $500 max for this car you may stilll have to spend about $2000 to get in safe operating condition.

I once bought a 19 year old car with only 20,000 original miles on it. I needed to do engine work, rebuild the entire front end, do the brakes and a number of other things.

Does this still have a carb? I wouldn’t buy it if it does. $1500 is too much, like the others say. If you’re wanting daily transportation you can do better.

Define “on a regular basis”. Does that mean it’s been sitting and hasn’t even been started since 2003? Or was used as a second car with all the maintenance being kept up, but just not driven all that much? Somewhere in between? I’d be just as concerned if you were looking at a 2000 Accord that’d been sitting since 2003.

There are obvious issues with owning an older car (poor safety, lack of airbags, ABS, etc), but just age by itself shouldn’t be an instant disqualifier IMHO. Although I may be a little biased because my daily driver is an '86 Accord. Older cars aren’t for everyone, but if you’re a little handy and/or know a good older mechanic, an older car can end up being a decent daily driver. Frankly, ANY car that you buy in this kind of price range is going to be a bit of a crapshoot and I would take a well-maintained older car over a junkier newer car any day of the week.

I’ll agree that the car is overpriced unless it’s in perfect condition and has all the maintenance receipts, including a recent timing belt.

Why not? The kind of mechanic you’re going to have to take an '82 Accord to will have no problems getting a carb running right.

Why put up with a carb these days? FI is just a better way to go. If this is a hobby car, fine, but that’s not what it sounds like.

$1500 for the car, plus lets say $300-$400 for new parts,tires,battery,etc. You’re close to $2,000 for a non-collectable, 27 year old economy car, with a carb no less. If you trying to find a daily driver, you can do better, much better for the same money.

FI gives better performance, but I think it’s safe to say that performance isn’t really going to a major priority for someone who is looking at an '82 Accord. A carb provides decent drivability and will be much more reliable than a 27-year old FI system, so assuming they have decided they’re willing to put up with everthing else that comes with this ancient vehicle, I hardly think a carburetor should rule it out.

I have an older Honda and one thing that I would be concerned about with an "82 would be suspension parts and bushings . . . a major safety issue. I wouldn’t be afraid to buy it but would have the suspension, along with the other safety issues, checked as soon as money would allow. Others have mentioned those parts (brakes and so forth). The carb issue would not be a problem for me, as it can be addressed and corrected if needed. Older Hondas are tough and simple to work on. I’d go for it, but not for $1500. Offer him a grand. Rocketman

The carburetor is likely to have floats that are filled with gasoline. If they are “sunken” floats the car will not want to run well after it warms up a little. The floats are easy to change and the carb doesn’t even have to come off. The replacement floats are metal.

Only adjust the float level with the carburetor top off and upside-down. (I think the floats are attached to the top of the carb.) Never try it with the carburetor together or you will have a problem. The carb has three barrels, a primary, secondary and another tiny one for the auxiliary combustion chamber.

It is a CVCC engine in the car with an auxiliary combustion chamber where the spark plug is. When the plug fires, the rich mixture in the auxiliary chamber ignites and blows into the main combustion chamber where the mixture is leaner.

This works great on an old engine if the Winter temperatures don’t get lower than about +20 degrees F. Any lower and the engine won’t want to start. This is due to the retarded timing needed to prevent the auxilary intake valve from burning out. Ignition timing is set with the vacuum advance hose connected.

When this car runs, your highway gas mileage will be over 36 MPG (manual trans)if this flaky new fuel isn’t too messed up. It is a fine running powerful car but has one major fault that is easy to deal with. There is a vent at the top of the manual transmission that has a hose attached that hangs down to the side of the trans. If the hose is broken off at the top, water will get in the transmission and ruin it. Always check this hose and if it has broken off, change the transmission oil and replace the hose which is only rubber.

That’s the secret information that you should know. Also, if you take the rocker cover off, don’t forget to reconnect the heavy cable on it that grounds the engine to the body, or the alternator will burn out.