Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

On in yrs vs mileage

so I’m trying to buy a used car. really can’t really afford more than $20k. if I have a choice btwn $19k for a 10yr old car with 35k miles and a 5yr old with 80k miles, which way should I go? and pls explain why.

assuming they both are fair market what should I keep in mind

thanks, cs

Neither. You can buy a new one for that or at least one a year or two old with 30K on it and a warranty yet. A 10 year old car is a 10 year old car regardless of mileage and worth little. Even might be worth a little less with low mileage because its been sitting around quite a bit and deteriorating rather than being used and kept in shape. Need to expand your search a little.

A 10 yr old car with only 35k miles would have traveled only ~3,500 miles per yr, on average.
Cars which are used like that are almost always used for a lot of short-trip, local driving, and that tends to increase the probability of a build-up of sludge in the engine, as well as reducing the life of the exhaust system and the battery.

Then, to compound matters, many folks who drive very little–like that 3,500 mile per year driver–fail to recognize that maintenance should done on the basis of elapsed time, in addition to odometer mileage. They seem to not notice that…for instance…oil changes are supposed to be done every 6,000 miles or 6 months, whichever comes first, and wind up changing the oil every 6k miles–which is far too long for that type of engine abuse.

So…IF you can find one of those 3,500 mile per year cars that comes with maintenance records proving that maintenance was done at least every 6 months, then you might want to buy a car like that. Lacking records, I would avoid a car like that at all costs, due to the likelihood that the engine is filled with sludge and that other vital maintenance was skipped because of the low odometer mileage.

In addition to making sure that things like oil changes and trans fluid changes were done on the basis of elapsed time, make sure that any timing belt-equipped car that you buy had its timing belt replaced on the basis of elapsed time also. In most cases, this means replacement at least every 8 years.

Do NOT take anyone’s word that a car “has been well-maintained”.
Only trust hard copies of maintenance receipts.

$20k and 10 years old? Are you buying a 1 ton diesel truck or an upscale Euro model like Maserati or Mercedes?

I would investigate a nice, new compact car. My daughter just bought a new 2012 Chevy Cruze LS and it’s a very nice car.

Cars that expensive are probably luxury cars. At 10 years old, you are likely to have repair issues no matter what the mileage is. And they will be expensive repairs. If you can’t afford $2000 to $3000 a year for repairs, then find something more practical.

I would also suggest that anyone with a 10 year old car with 35,000 miles on it likely has an inflated opinion of what the mileage is worth. Let’s say it’s a 2003 BMW 760Li. From a dealer, the car would be worth about $17,700, including $1560 for low mileage. From a private party, it would be worth about $15,000. OTOH, if the 10-year old car is a Mercedes Benz SL55 AMG, $19,000 is not a bad price. It’s also an average price for a 2003 Z06 from a dealer (with 35,000 miles); about $3000 high from a private seller.

What 2 cars do you have in mind @cs2eye?

thank you much everyone. its a pipe dream (maybe a mid-life crisis!) which i should squelch now! and i do need to be more practical (have you all been talking to my wife?!)

@jtsanders, its not a mercedes but an infinity FX35 i was looking at, from a dealer nonetheless.

My 79 has merely 71k miles on it …
BUT a boatload of senior citizen issues.

At 71k it’s on its third set of tires.
3 months ago I replaced both fuel filler neck hoses…so cracked it would leak on the ground if filled to near full.
I glued on a new inside mirror last week. PARKED on the side of the house, the mirror fell off taking a chunk of glass with it.

Age will effect everything plastic and rubber.

If I had $20K to spend on a car I’d defeinitely be looking at new cars. There are plenty of good new vehicles for that price.

20k for a midlife crisis car would lean towards a Miata or Mustang

I think the 2003 FX35 is overpriced. Edmunds prices a full loaded 2003 AWD in outstanding condition at about $15,500 from a dealer. A 2008 RWD FX35 with 76,000 miles with no options is worth over $21,000 in outstanding condition. Without knowing any more, I’d focus on the 2008. While it has high mileage, the deduction is a bit over $1000 - about the same as the added value of the low mileage on the 2003. If you are looking for value, the newer FX35 seems like a better deal. Give us some additional information and maybe we can help you figure out how good a deal it is. Is it AWD or RWD? What options are on it (ask the dealer for a list)? Do you see anything wrong with the SUV? This would be worn interior, scratches on the paint, worn tires; just anything that isn’t top notch. How well the dealer reconditioned it helps determine price, too.

Forget something that old,for that money.Believe it or not there have been improvements in 10 yrs,I personally do not like an high priced old car(unless its a classic,past most major issues)-Kevin

Cars have given life expectancies. Unless you have owned and maintained the car from day one, I wouldn’t depend upon any ten year old car or pay that kind of money for one. Everyone is spot on…shop around if you have that much money to spend. You may like the features of an old luxury car but they are still " old" features.

in both cases, I would presume you are referring to a luxury car, and in that case I’d go with the low millage car,

if you don’t want the high maint costs associated with luxury cars it is best to get a gently used lux car still with at least 2 years (40K mi) left on the warranty.

good luck