Newer or older used car?

Please help! While we could use a new car we can’t quite swing it yet but when the day comes we need to know, newer or older? She wants something old and simple, limited electronics, gadgets etc etc thinking that maintenance will be less and it will cost less up front. She is thinking something along the lines of an early 90s Volvo wagon. I am a firm believer in Consumer Reports ratings and want to go newer along the lines of an 07 Hylander Hybrid for its great ratings and lower fuel costs. Regardless of the models, generally speaking, is it better to buy old and simple or new and reliable? Keep in mind that we would never even change the old ourselves. Please end this dispute.

Over 10 years = lots of maintenance, regardless of brand. Old Volvos, especially! I’m also a CR fan for general trends, but the maintenanace the individual car got will be especially important. But I would stay away from a used hybrid, the costs won’t be paid back in mileage, and there are lots of complicated systems to worry about. So you’re both right!

What about a compact SUV? Try the Escape/Mariner/Tribute, CR-V, or Rav4. You could get the triplets as a hybrid if you want, but it may take a while to make up the difference in fuel costs. Especially if you do mostly highway driving.

Oh, yeah… avoid the older cars and trucks. They are more dangerous than newer ones and anything old breaks more often.

If she really wants old and simplistic, find a mid 60s Chevy Nomad station wagon.

If she wants an old Volvo:

An early '90s Volvo will quickly become a bottomless money pit. You’d be much better off picking something “newer” and recommended by CR.

Newer vehicles have many more safety features, as well. That may help you convince her.

And, no, the idea that old Volvos are “tanks” and can survive anything is not true. Newer vehicles are constructed differently than older vehicles. If there’s going to be a crash, I’ll take the newest car I can find.

Mileage and age are the 2 best indicators of a cars potential reliability, conclusion the newest car with the least miles is the best bet.

Anything over 8yrs/150k incurs lots more problems whether deemed maintenance or repairs. Anything before OBD-II (1996) is much harder to diagnose.

The point on OBD-II is very important. Look at nothing older than '96 to avoid problems with inspections and to make maintenance easier. Also, cars newer than 2000 will have better safety equipment (airbags, abs, traction control, stability control).

Early 90’s Volvo’s were NOT very reliable vehicles. When Ford bought them out in the mid 90’s Volvo’s reliability DRASTICALLY improved…what does that tell you.

Use Consumer Reports as a guide…NOT a bible. Their data has been PROVEN to be flawed. While it is a good guide it is NOT fool-proof. A prime example…you’ll find one car sold by Chevy…that’s maybe rated average…but the EXACT SAME CAR sold under the Pontiac badge is rated WORSE then average…that’s statistically IMPOSSIBLE.

As for the Hybrid…Yes they do get better gas-mileage…but you really need to look at your situation to determine if it’s right for you. They do cost more then their non-hybrid versions. If you only put 10k miles on a year and only keep the car 5-7 years then you’ll NEVER get paid back the extra you paid for the hybrid.

I’d consider a 3-4 yo Honda Civic. They last a LONG time with minimal maintenance. Should be able to last 200k+ miles with little or no repairs…just keep up with the general maintenance.

Anything before OBD-II (1996) is much harder to diagnose.

You mean anything before OBD-II but after the early 70’s when they started adding pollution control devices and computer control. Diagnosing a problem on a car from the 60’s is a LOT easier then any car today.

An older vehicle is, ideally, a mechanic’s car; that is, a mechanic could best enjoy the lower entry price, and the higher rate of maintenance. Plus, a mechanic knows when some things don’t have to be fixed, and, yet, keeps the vehicle safe and reliable.

A minority, I’m sure, point of view. Your best bet really is a low mileage couple of year old vehicle totalled out by an insurance company and restored to service by a competent rebuilder. When you can find them, they sell at a substantial discount from similar cars because they come with a Salvage title. But that doesn’t matter if your plan is to drive them into the ground over a decade or two, then scrap them.

As a three car family, we’ve owned a number of them, and they have been fine. Only one of them needed a lot of work, and it’s problem wasn’t that it was rebuilt, but that it was a Dodge Neon. None of the problems were related to the rebuilding which came about due to the car being in the wrong place when a very large tree fell down.

Yes, by all means, select a bottom of the line model with as few frills as you think you need.

If you go with an early 1990s or older vehicle and live where air conditioning is a necessity, you might want to watch out for R-22 air conditioning systems. They may be even more expensive to repair than the more modern P-134a systems because the ozone layer depleting coolant hasn’t been made in the US for 17 years.

Personally, I’d recommend against an older vehicle unless you plan to do your own maintenance. There are a gazillion parts in a car and some parts die of old age rather than wear. Even though older cars have fewer things to break, some of those things will break just because they are elderly. Parts availability can be a problem for many cars after 15 years or so.