Is an 18-year old car a good buy?


I’m currently in the market for a used car, with a budget around 5k.

I recently found a 2003 Chevy Malibu with 35,000 miles on it for the same price. The low mileage seems enticing but I’m just curious if the age of the car should be a concern.

I did look up the car’s history, and it shows it was owned by a local government agency.

I do plan on having a mechanic inspect it but was just curious if the age should be a concern. I know 5k isn’t a lot for a nice vehicle, and I need something for daily work trips, etc.

Thanks for the help.

a car owned by a govt. agency with 35k on it seems a little odd. i am sure there had to be other owners. they wont keep a vehicle that long.
in any case a 18 year old vehicle is bound to have a lot of problems. just my opinion


Since it was a government car you might be able to get the maintenance records. I’m concerned with cars that have very low miles, they might not have been maintained correctly (too few oil changes, coolant changes, brake fluid changes, etc).

1 Like

These are the kind of cars that relatives give to other relatives or sell for $500. Low mileage might be enticing but things wear out with age and a hardly driven 18 year old car might mean it just never has proven itself on the road. Just my humble opinion but I wouldn’t be impressed with low mileage alone and pay a premium for it.

I should add though that these are crazy times and a lot of old wisdom can be thrown out the window.

1 Like

sounds strange, unless this is “sleepy hollow town department in charge of turtle crossing in Anchorage” :slight_smile:

IMHO, it may rack up a lot of engine idle hours on the clock, so it’s not necessarily a bargain it looks to be

all the things of rubber and plastic are 18 years old, so every plastic clip you touch and every rubber house (read: brake lines and engine vacuum/coolant) are brittle and I would replace these preemptively or as you get there with routine work

1 Like

Let the mechanic answer that question . Used vehicles prices are out of sight right now . If it looks decent and drives decent then someone will pay that price . It might as well be you and hope for the best .


If the car spent its life in the rustbelt, it might look pretty bad underneath. If it spent its life in the desert heat the plastics will be brittle. If it was a support vehicle, it may have the equivalent of 150,000 miles idling. Plus, only mechanical parts are available for the car. GM no longer makes the Malibu specific parts for the car. Keep all this in mind once the inspection is complete.

1 Like

KBB Private Sale value for this car, assuming it’s the top model and in Very Good condition, is $3,000 - $5,000 so the Seller’s not giving anything away.

They’re actually asking close to Top Dollar for this car so you need to have it carefully inspected and researched because If you decide to unload it, you’re going to have a tough time getting your money out of it.

That may have been true 25 years ago, modern vehicles last a lot longer. In 2008 I bought a 1993 Dodge for $600 with a failed transmission. Body and interior were good so it was worth repairing. Paint was bad, but still made for transportation for someone.

In 2012 I paid $1800 for a 2000 Dodge with a slipping clutch, a filthy interior and a few other needed repairs but worth fixing up.

I don’t buy new cars, $15,000 to $20,000 in depreciation every 10 years is for the rich, not me.

Age is always a concern but it’s really down to what condition the vehicle is actually in, My grandpa’s '86 Toyota Camry only had about 45,000mi on it when the estate sold it in 2006 but we had to repair visible rust on the trunk lid a year or two before and being in Hawaii for 20yrs there was likely rust that we couldn’t see. Ran and drove just fine and should have given the new owner several more years of service provided the annual safety check didn’t turn up major problems.

Well gee in 2008 I sold my 22 year old Riviera to a needy girl for $50. Full tank of gas, new battery, waxed and polished, tires ok, great interior, etc. I knocked the price down from $100 because it needed a new light switch which I found on-line for $50. It did have 350,000 miles but ran great. For $600 I wouldn’t be able to sleep at night.

Yeah she stiffed me though by not doing the one thing I asked her to be sure to transfer the title.

1 Like

Yeah, ordinarily I’d say $5,000 for a legal-voting-age Chevy that isn’t a Corvette is insane, but these days it’s downright cheap.

Is the car red, by any chance? Maybe it was a small town fire department’s chief car, which would explain the low mileage. But as others mentioned, that would mean it spent an awful lot of time idling, which would mean it’s got more wear than the odometer indicates.

If this is a dealer price, $5k is reasonable for this car. If it’s a private seller, it’s insane. Less than a year ago, you could have bought this car for under $2500 private party. Has your income doubled during this past year? Mine sure hasn’t.

Not right now, it’s a seller’s market. Only way to know it’s too high is to find a comparable one for less. The Malibus on are in the $6,000 range, with 100k-150k miles.

Has the Law of Supply & Demand ever taken anyone’s income into consideration before selling prices are established?

Back in the '50s when rental apartments were in very short supply in the NY/NJ metro area, it was the norm for landlords to demand–and get–under the table “key money” in order to allow someone to rent an apartment. This, of course, was not legal, so the guy from whom we rented an apartment demanded that we buy an overly-ornate dining room table, chairs, breakfront, and longboy from him. My parents did so, even though they despised the style of that furniture.

If we didn’t spend our money–which we could barely afford–on that forced furniture purchase, someone else would have, and none of those extortionate landlords cared about anyone’s income.

Whether the desired merchandise is a new car, a used car, a lb. of apples, a home, or an apartment, the prices are set as they are for one simple reason. The seller can do it.

1 Like

While the Law of Supply and Demand hasn’t been repealed, does anyone seiously believe that in a year new and used car prices will remain inflated?

When this Chip allocation problem self-corrects (I’m guessing in about a year) I expect some current buyers are going to be kicking themselves.


I hope so. I hope prices drop before my van does.

1 Like

Similarly, for about one year, homes in my area have been selling for anywhere from $125k to $250k over their assessed value. This is mostly because people are fleeing from more congested areas as a result of the pandemic (and also because more and more of them can now work from home), and these homes are typically sold in just a couple of weeks, following a bidding war.

These purchasers are likely to be kicking themselves in a year or so, but right now the Law of Supply & Demand is drastically driving up home prices in this area, and it appears that a LOT of people are willing to pay those prices. If people weren’t willing to pay these inflated prices, then the sellers wouldn’t be able to hike their asking price as much as they have.


Maintenance is KEY. I’d have to have solid proof that the vehicle was well maintained before I bought an 18yo car.

Reminds me of when I lived in Florida every time a hurricane was predicted everyone made a run on the grocery stores for bread and milk also the home depot’s type of stores hardware and others stoking up on plywood and generators at inflated prices and after things got back to normal I don’t know what happened to the generators but a lot of the plywood was setting on the curb for trash pickup.