Whether you are looking to buy an affordable set of wheels, or just can’t bear to part with the car you’ve been driving around since college, you might be wondering if an older car is a safe vehicle option. While older cars are more affordable up front, will they end up costing you more in the long run?
Today we are talking all about older cars. How old is too old, what to look out for when buying one, and how to know when one is unsafe for you and your loved ones.
Here is what to look out for when driving–and buying–an older car.
What are the advantages of buying an older car?
It is cheaper.
The biggest advantage to buying an older car is that you will save on depreciation. Depreciation depends on a few different factors:
- Make and model of the vehicle.
- The condition of the vehicle.
- The age of the vehicle.
- The mileage of the vehicle.
But most of the deprecation for a car happens in the first five years where it loses about 60% of its value. After year five depreciation still occurs, but at a much slower rate than in the first years. Let’s consider a new car that costs $30,000.
Immediately Upon Leaving Dealership: $27,000
1 year: $24,000
2 years: $20,400
3 years: $17,340
4 years: $14,740
5 years: $12,530
The rate of depreciation slows as the car ages, and after year five they depreciate at a much slower rate. By ten years, the value of the car will be dictated mostly by the condition of the vehicle.
Different cars will depreciate at different rates as well, so you need to think about what specific car you are looking to buy. The Jeep Wrangler is consistently ranked as having one of the lowest depreciation rates, with a 5 year depreciation value of 27.3%. Compare this to the Nissan Leaf, which has a 5 year depreciation value of 71.7%.
This difference in depreciation values is based on a few different factors, but it really is a question of supply and demand. If you buy a car that is in demand, you will have a better chance of selling it for more money when you look to sell. Larger vehicles like trucks and SUVs tend to hold their value more, but will be more expensive up front.
It is better for the environment.
Sure, new cars have less emissions and tend to be better on gas. But did you know that about one quarter of the carbon dioxide a vehicle produces during its life occurs while manufacturing and delivering that vehicle initially? Additionally, the newer hybrid vehicles use batteries that are bad for the environment. By purchasing a used car, you can help reduce the amount of new cars manufactured.
It’s cheaper to insure.
Not only are used cars cheaper to buy, but they are cheaper to insure. This is because they are usually cheaper to repair and the parts are easier to replace. This is especially true when compared to a lot of new cars which have the latest technology and require specialized tools to repair.
What are the disadvantages to buying an older car?
They are less reliable and will need more repairs.
As cars get older, things are more likely to go wrong. Added mileage and an unknown driving history can all make cars less reliable. They also may lack some of the more modern safety features that are now considered standard.
If you are thinking of buying an older car, be sure to check out the following:
- Exterior body condition. Look for dents, dings, and mismatched paint which could indicate a previous accident.
- Tires. Look at the tread depth and any uneven wear patterns, which may indicate a larger problem with the car.
- Glass. Look for chips or cracks in the windshield, windows, and mirrors.
- Engine. Look at the engine to see if there is any oil leakage.
- Interior car condition. Look at the headliner of the car (the ceiling), the seats and any upholstery. While this is cosmetic, it is worth taking into account when buying an older car.
- Heating and air conditioning. Check to make sure both are in working order.
If you are unsure of what to look for, be sure to take the car to a licensed mechanic to ensure the car is safe to drive.
There is no warranty.
Not only are older cars less reliable, but there is no manufacturer's warranty to protect you if something should go wrong. Repairs can be costly and can end up negating whatever savings you made by buying used in the first place.
There is old technology.
As cars become newer and more advanced, older technology becomes obsolete. Built in navigation systems and touchscreens become harder to update, and you might be left with unusable features.
You may have trouble with financing.
If you need to finance to buy your used car from a dealership, you may have a harder time finding a lender that is willing to loan you the money. It’s not impossible by any means, but the older a car is the more difficult you may find the process to be.
What warning signs should you watch out for with an older car?
Whether you already own your older car or you are looking to buy an older car, there are some warning signs you should look for when driving.
The brakes are acting up.
One of the most important things to keep an eye out for with older cars is the brakes. After all, your brakes are the most important safety feature that your car has. If you notice any issues with the brakes, be sure to take your car to a mechanic right away. Here are some signs to watch out for:
- The brake pedals make noise, such as a squealing.
- The brakes make a grinding noise.
- Your car pulls to the left or to the right while braking.
- The brake light stays on.
- The handbrake is loose.
- You notice smoke or smells coming out of the wheels.
Any or all of these could be a sign of a problem with your brakes. It might be as simple as getting your brake pads replaced, but with older cars you want to be sure it's nothing more serious.
The car is bouncing.
If you notice an older car is bouncing, it can be a warning sign that you need new struts or shocks. It’s important to get these replaced as it can cause the following:
- An uncomfortable ride
- Excessive and uneven tire wear
- Poor control while steering
- Decreased braking ability
- Increased wear on other components
Replacing the struts or shocks can help ensure no further damage is done to the car and help to keep you safe on the road.
There is rust.
Rust can be a minor issue, or it can be a very major thing. There are three types of rust that occur on cars:
- Surface rust: Corrosion on the metal’s upper layer that goes through the paint.
- Scale rust: Corrosion that has penetrated beyond the paint and begins affecting the frame.
- Penetrating rust: Rust that has penetrated enough to cause holes in the metal, such as in the undercarriage, side panels, or frame itself.
Surface rust can be treated by sanding it off and repainting the area. This can stop the rust from spreading, making it merely a cosmetic issue. If rust progresses to scale rust, parts may need to be removed and replaced. If it progresses to penetrating rust, it will need to be removed, but also might be too severe to fix.
If you see rust on an older car, try to assess the damage or take it to a mechanic. Stopping the rust before it spreads is critical if you want to keep your car safe.
The check engine light is on.
The check engine light can mean a number of different things. You can check it yourself with a code reader if you have one, or you can take it to a mechanic to find out what’s going on. It might be something as simple as a spark plug, or something more expensive, such as a faulty catalytic converter. Either way, a check engine light is always something to take seriously.
Is a 10 year old car too old?
There is no cut and dry answer as every situation will differ. Research what problems are most common with the car you are thinking about and try to decide if the trade off is worth it. A car that is ten years old might be perfectly fine for your needs, but chances are if you are looking at a car that is over 20 years old, you will find more problems than it’s worth.
That’s what to look for when driving, or buying, an older car.
If you are thinking about getting an older car, keep an eye out for these warning signs. Buying an old car that is in need of repair can cost you a lot of money in the long run. You might find that you can actually save money by getting a new car, or simply by refinancing your car loan.
Car loan refinancing is quick and easy, just contact Auto Approve today to get started!