Is it smart to buy a car with unusually low miles?

Hi, I am looking at a 2007 subaru outback with only 5,500 miles. Oddly enough as nervous as I get with cars with too many miles…I seem to be equally nervous to buy a car with very low miles!

Is it bad that the car may have been sitting around a lot without being moved? We have no maintenance records since it is being sold through a dealer, but I believe they said it had been a lease… so I would assume the dealership would have required the oil to be changed at least once a year and whatever other maintenance might be required (probably not much). Are there any concerns we should have if we purchase this?

How do people feel about cars with unusually low miles? On one hand I feel as though we would be getting an almost new car for several thousand less…but I know the body, tires, etc. are really two years old. I worry because my mother has a mazda wagon that sits for 3 months while she goes to florida every year, and inevitably it ends up with problems every time she comes back.

Curious on other’s thoughts… thanks in advance.

“I would assume the dealership would have required the oil to be changed at least once a year and whatever other maintenance might be required”

Unfortunately, some of the sad stories told on this site would seem to disprove that theory.

If you hang around on this site, you will see sad stories of people who bought relatively new cars that looked good but had premature mechanical failures due to lack of maintenance. One of them was a young woman who bought a Jeep Liberty (3 years old, I believe) and after catastropic failure of the engine, it turned out that the oil had never been changed by the person who had leased it for 3 years.
Because the required maintenance had never been done, her warranty coverage was void, and clearly, the dealership had neither “required” the previous lessee to do maintenance nor had the dealerhip done any maintenance when they took the vehicle back as a trade-in.

A two year old Subaru should have had its oil changed at least 3 times already (preferably 4 times), regardless of odometer mileage. Personally, I would not touch this car unless I could confirm that the oil had been changed, and that all other warranty-related maintenance had been performed, as per the mfr’s schedule.

If you assume that a dealership “required” a lessee or an owner to have maintenance performed, or that the dealership voluntarily performed maintenance on a car, you are likely to wind up being sadly mistaken.

VDC thank you for your help. Unfortunately I am not sure we will be able to get any info on oil changes. I believe one of the salespeople said it was driven down from NY, however, my husband thought they told him it was purchased at auction. I have to try and get more info and find out where it came from. The auction info actually scares me too… but I am sure many cars are purchased at auction by dealers?

I could get a carfax report… but this won’t answer the critical details about regular maintenance I assume. Is there any way for the dealership to verify this kind of information from the dealer it was originally leased through? I think if we ask them they will laugh at me.

This is being sold at a large subaru dealership and the salespeople told me they inspected the car thoroughly and wouldn’t have purchased it if it wasn’t in good condition??? God I don’t know what to do.

We are also looking at the Forester, Honda CRV and Toyota RAV4. Problem is we want a newer car (2007 or newer) with low miles (under 20k) for under 19k. We seem to be running into a lot of Foresters, but very few honda’s or toyota’s that fit our requirements. I was really intrigued about owning a outback with so few miles… hmmm…

Thanks again!!!

I assume that the factory warranty still applies, so you should have at least a year under this warranty. You should have an independent mechanic check the car just as you should for any used car. If the car has the balance of the factory warranty and hasn’t been in accident or flood (your mechanic should be able to see evidence of this in his inspection), then the car is probably o.k.

5500 miles in two years means this vehicle has probably spent its life traveling short distances.

5 miles to work and five miles home each day, 5 days a week for 50 weeks a year, with an occasional trip to the mall or grocery store, would add up to just about 5500 miles, wouldn’t it?

This is the hardest life a vehicle will ever know. The engine and drive train never have a chance to warm up. Unless you know the owner and can verify the conditions under which this car was driven you might be wise to avoid it.

If, on the other hand, the car was used for infrequent highway travel and the miles were added 100 or 200 at a time, you’d have nothing to worry about.

Trouble is, you don’t know.

The problems you mother has with her Mazda are not necessarily related to this question. Her car sits for three months at a time, probably with no preventive steps taken. It’s understandable she has problems.

The vehicle you’re looking at may never have sat for more than a day or two at a time. Again, we’re all guessing because we don’t have the necessary information.

I’d get the carfax report and see what is discovered. It will tell you if the car was a rental, lease, or owned title. It will tell you where the car was sold originally and where it was registered, and if it was an auction car. It may indicate some service work, but service is sometimes captured by carfax and sometimes not. There is another service similar to carfax so you can shop for a best price for this kind of info.

Anthing is possible, the car could have been purchased and the owner passed away and the car may have sat for some time while an estate settled. Or, it could have been damaged and sat waiting for parts for a repair. It could have been a retired couple that used the car infrequently. It could have been in a flood and was repaired and shipped to an “non flood” area for resale. You just don’t know.

If the factory warranty is still valid, I’d go ahead and buy the car. If there is no factory warranty, that means there is something in the history that voids the warranty and then I’d leave it and look around some more. I think most factory warranties are transferrable and Subaru is 3 years and at least 30K miles so the warranty should be available, if indeed it is a good car.

A dealer warranty is not a factory mfger’s warranty. Neither is an “aftermarket extended warranty”. I am talking about the same warranty Subaru would offer on a new car. Get clarification of the warranty that comes with car and the carfax report and if you are still concerned, then pass on it.

My guess is for a few more dollars you can get a new car in this market, and perhaps that is the best way to ease your mind. All used cars are for sale for a reason. Sometimes you can determine the reason and the car is fine, other times you discover the reason after you own it and then you own the problem as well.

‘Unusualy low’ is a relative term.
My 06 Escape hybrid 22,000.
my 92 Explorer 135,000
And my 1979 chevy short stepside pickup…70,000 total miles on it !

Low miles might not be the issue here.

Re-sale value of low mileage, add $2000.00…
getting the true story behind it ???

I would worry about 2 things; first of all, this car may be lemon that was returned by a dissatisfied customer. CarFax will not uncover this. It needs to be thoroughly checked out for problems.

The second possibility is water/flood damage. Dealers are not supposed to sell these cars to the public, but some unscrupulous ones no doubt will.

A third possibility is that the previous dealer who owned it went bankrupt with some unsold cars, and this one, a demonstrator, was bought by the current dealer. That would account for the long transition time. The latter would be a favorable situation.

A dealer may truly not know if it was a flood car or not either. Someone could have had a Katrina car, then traded it up north without disclosing that information to anyone.
And to further ken green’s statement, my 99 civic just clicked over to 94k miles saturday. I bought it in 01 with just over 46k miles on it

Don’t believe ANYTHING a car salesperson tells you. The auction part could indeed be true (see my later post), if another dealer went bankrupt and all the inventory was sold off at the auction. Your low mileage car would likely be a demonstrator, or lease return from a person who could not keep up the payments.

In any case, it’s a 2 year old car, and you should pay no more than for any 2 year old car on a used car lot.

Any used Subaru is a risky buy unless it has had a thorough inspection.

bscar; there’s low mileage and there’s low mileage. My mother-in-law’s 1994 Pontiac Sunbird has only 40,000 miles or so on it, and the oil has been changed twice a year. But they are very hard miles, since it’s all short trips.

I would personally avoid such a car. On the other hand, there are people who barely drive in the winter, and put some miles on in the summer. Such cars are a much better buy.

My wife now only drives 6000 miles per year but she makes long enough trips to get the engine well warmed up and the car is always garaged. She has 120,000 miles on the 1994 car and the engine is still in close to new shape. Oil and filter are changed every 3000 miles.