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Old 13th April 2019, 12:48   #1
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Default Used Cars: How old is "too old"?

This is something that is at the back of every potential car buyer. It is a huge psychological factor that I thought deserves its own thread.
  • "Less than 30K kms".
  • "Three years old, max"
  • "Up to five years old"
  • "Must be current model"

We all have some kind of subjective "limit" in our minds. At times, it tends to vary. A 5-year-old Maruti is "fine", but a 5-year old Fiat is not. Perceptions based on brand and reliability.

But deep inside, many of us want to own older cars, and we don't know exactly how old is "too old" for the average person to own hassle-free, for everyday use.

A few cars many of us would like to own, in varying levels of vintage.
  • Punto Abarth
  • First-gen Figo
  • Palio 1.6
  • Ikon
  • Previous-gen Fiesta
  • Gypsy
  • Original Zen
  • First-gen Honda City
  • Older Mahindra jeeps
  • First-gen Maruti 800
... and so on.

And in bikes,
  • First-gen Karizma
  • First-gen Pulsar 180
  • The original CBZ
  • RX100 / RX135
  • Shogun / Samurai
  • Jawa / Yezdi
  • RD350
... and so on.

But, hesitations hold us back. Like,


"Can I get spare parts?"

"What if the brand packs up and leaves the country? What will happen to spare parts and my resale?"

"Will it be reliable? Will it just leave me stranded on the highway?"

"Where will I service it?"


Questions and worries like this hold us back, in many cases, from buying the car or bike of our dreams.

I can't help but help questioning, at least in some cases, whether our worries are unfounded and irrational. But if that is so, it raises a question - how old is too old, really? It does vary from person to person, and perception to perception, but are there any objective ways to decide what draws the line? Brand? Historical reliability? Hearsay?

Some people just skip the hassle of thinking through this, and go with an "always new" policy.

What is your way of deciding this?

In fact, I was even wondering if something like a subjective team-bhp vintage ownability score would help potential buyers.

Post your reasons why you would buy (or avoid) certain models up to or beyond certain years, and why.
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Old 13th April 2019, 13:06   #2
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Default re: Used Cars: How old is "too old"?

Buying an old(er) car, I'd always prioritise the vehicle's usage age, rather than chronological age. A car can be pristine at 10 years old with proper care, can also be trashed in one.

That said, buying a car that no longer has manufacturer support, it's hugely important to figure out independent support options, costs, parts supply (manufacturer or 3rd party, quality etc.) and the viability of all of them. To quote a layman example, parts of the country have good options to service FIAT cars, and I've known happy owners. I've also known others at their wit's end because A.S.S. sucks and no competent independent garages exist in a reasonable vicinity.

Last but not the least, I wouldn't consider an older car needing TLC as a daily driver or for rough usage. The beater needs to meet the 'takes a licking but keeps on ticking' axiom.

Last edited by Chetan_Rao : 13th April 2019 at 13:08.
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Old 13th April 2019, 15:01   #3
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Default re: Used Cars: How old is "too old"?

While buying an older car, the points that I keep in mind are:
+ Manufacturer support i.e, parts supply, dealer networks.
+If the car has had a popular run, there would be a higher circulation of spare parts in the market.
+Reliability of the brand.
+Definitely will not pick up a car whose manufacturer has left shop in the country, affects spare parts and resale value, no matter how many promises the manufacturer makes while leaving the country.
+ Also, now with the new laws put in (in NCR), would not pick up a car which is 7+ years old (diesel) or 10+ years old (petrol).

Besides these things to keep in mind, it is also on how you can maintain the car and how affordable are the increasing service costs year by year.

IMO, It depends on individual to individual to decide on How old is "too old". Looking at individual factors.
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Old 13th April 2019, 17:27   #4
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Default re: Used Cars: How old is "too old"?

I bought a Chevy (Subaru) Forester in 2010. Car had done 25k and was 5 years old when I bought. I bought it as a second car (I had a Honda City AT for regular use) and I was planing to keep the car for 2-3 years and sell it off. I knew that the spares and service are going to be an issue.
But eventually, I wanted to keep only one car and it was the Honda city which I decided to dispose off. This was purely a 'heart' vs 'head' decision.
Now, for almost 9 years, Forester which is notorious for non-availability of spares, has been my daily drive. Car has done close to 1 lakh and it will be a tough proposition to replace it.
Few points:
  • It is a Japanese car, and the spares were/are available from multiple sources. Yes they are expensive and take time to arrive
  • You need to be technically inclined to maintain such old car
  • If the car is well maintained and is known to be fundamentally reliable, you don't have to fear about getting stranded on the road (In my case, car has never failed while on a trip. Only major breakdown was when the ignition coil failed and the car was out of action for couple of weeks. But I have been regularly importing and replacing parts as part of the maintenance. Some of the repairs were also supported by the local Jugaads )
Now that the car is almost 15 years, I will be forced to sell it. But considering the meager amount it may fetch for a car which is is still a competent and in good condition, I may even decide to keep it for a year or 2 (or until there is a new law to scrap old cars)

Last edited by Guna : 13th April 2019 at 17:30.
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Old 13th April 2019, 19:29   #5
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Default re: Used Cars: How old is "too old"?

The sweet spot for me is when the car's value has fallen off a cliff, but is still "new" enough and can be covered under extended warranty. My last 3 used purchases reflect that:

2003 Honda City Vtec = Bought when it was 1 year old / ~3500 km for 7.25 lakhs (price of new was 9.75 lakhs). Took extended warranty for 4 years. Risk = zero.

2007 Honda Civic 1.8 V-MT = Bought when it was 2.5 years old / 7400 km for 8.10 lakhs (price of new was almost 16 lakh). Still had 1.5 years warranty left. Zero risk.

2013 BMW 530d M-Sport = Bought when it was 16 months old / 19000 km for 42.50 lakhs (price of new was ~70 lakhs, company registration). Took the 6-year extended warranty. Zero risk.

I don't think I'd ever buy a used car over 4 - 5 years old and with over 50,000 km on the clock. That's my upper limit. Somehow, I have always ended up with deals way under that self-imposed ceiling.

Last edited by GTO : 15th April 2019 at 08:07.
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Old 13th April 2019, 20:54   #6
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Default Used Cars: How old is "too old"?

Personally, I have never bought an used car as my main ride. Nothing against used cars, but my usual car ownership lasts for 5 years on an average, so always better off buying new.

However, I have bought 2 used cars in the past for my wife, since she was learning to drive and the car was being very sparingly used. Both under 3 years of age and less than 20k on the ODO. I got the right depreciation, about 30% off the original value and they were reasonably well maintained. But I struggled to sell both these cars as a 2nd owner, even though both cars were less than 5 years and 25k on the ODO. The moment you are the 2nd owner, the resale plummets.

I do not think we can argue about certain fundamentals of buying a used car, which are accident free history, reasonably maintained, no noticeable mechanical niggles etc.
These factors apart, I think from the perspective of a buyer, 3-4 years with about 25k-40k seems ideal to me. The car would be still under warranty and under 40k in 3-4 years does not seem too heavily used.

And from a sellers perspective, I think 5-6 years with about 50k is right. About 50% depreciation, I guess. I have sold my Dzire at about 4.5 years and my Rapid at about 6 years, both at reasonable resale values, although the Maruti fetched better.
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Old 13th April 2019, 23:48   #7
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Default Re: Used Cars: How old is "too old"?

As a person who has purchased 3 pre-owned cars, my kind of thumb rule has been under 4 years and may be less than 25-30k. I guess I would compromise on the age in years if the rest of the parameters fall in place.

If it is a mass market car, I would not worry too much as to whether it is in production currently as spare parts and service will be taken care off.

A 2-3 year old car would be in my opinion a sweet spot. New enough to ensure there is a good amount of warranty left and at the same time old enough for it to depreciate just enough so as to get a good deal.
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Old 14th April 2019, 01:03   #8
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Default Re: Used Cars: How old is "too old"?

Would be nice if any current owners of older cars can chime in too, as to how bad it is.

Like someone who owns a Contessa or 118NE, for example. Or a carb Zen. I sometimes dream if buying an older car like this, but uncertainty about being able to maintain it always turns me off.
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Old 14th April 2019, 08:13   #9
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Default Re: Used Cars: How old is "too old"?

If you buy used keep the car for seven to ten years at least, or as you get past a lakh fifty thousand km or so, then take a call on selling. You will have got your money's worth out of the vehicle by then.

Quote:
Originally Posted by motorworks View Post
but my usual car ownership lasts for 5 years on an average, so always better off buying new.

However, I have bought 2 used cars in the past for my wife, since she was learning to drive and the car was being very sparingly used. Both under 3 years of age and less than 20k on the ODO. I got the right depreciation, about 30% off the original value and they were reasonably well maintained. But I struggled to sell both these cars as a 2nd owner, even though both cars were less than 5 years and 25k on the ODO.
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Old 14th April 2019, 11:24   #10
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Default Re: Used Cars: How old is "too old"?

This is indeed a difficult question as how old is “too old".
- Many a time while buying a car, it comes down to the price at which we are being offered.
- I purchased my 1st car in 2003, Maruti Zen VX, 3 year old at 2L when the original price of new car was approx 3.8L. Though I was looking for Maruti 800 but ended up buying Zen.
- In my view 1st time owners, who have just started driving go for old cars to get driving perfection. So that their 2nd or new cars do not get many dents/ scratches.
- Availability of any car model from the manufacture is very important, which ensures continuity in supply of OEM spares. If any car is discontinued from the manufactures, then there is a steep fall in old car price.
- Many a time people buy Classic old cars as their 2nd or 3rd car, hence their daily commute is not affected.
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Old 14th April 2019, 11:44   #11
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Default Re: Used Cars: How old is "too old"?

If the car manufacturer is not supplying the parts any more (as it happened with the Opel cars which were sold in India), one should check if there are third party/OEM parts suppliers which support the specific car model. In case of my Forester, other than original Subaru parts, I have the option to go for the numerous third party parts that are available. I believe that this must be the case with all the Japanese cars which were sold in Europe and other parts of Asia (and US to an extent).
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Old 14th April 2019, 12:24   #12
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Default Re: Used Cars: How old is "too old"?

I think no car is too old till there are sufficient numbers of them still plying on the road. Yes I would be wary of buying a car that in the first place was a bad/slow seller and has long been abondoned by the car manufacturer or in case the car maker has exited the country itself making servicing and spare availability a big concern.

In my case my first gen Figo TDCi is now almost 7 years old and done less than 60k kms. Touch wood, its been running wonderfully well and never needed anything more than regular servicing once a year. Now I plan to spend some money on the suspension, new rubber and general wear and tear items to make it run trouble free for atleast another 5 years. I say this is a much cheaper option than buying another 8L car to get the thrills of a new car at the same time to avoid maintenance costs and costs of new parts in an old car.
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Old 14th April 2019, 16:37   #13
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Default Re: Used Cars: How old is "too old"?

I have bought used cars twice - and both the times, I gave zero weightage to age/kms run. However, to me, age of the vehicle is a useful metric to analyze the asking price.

Last edited by SmartCat : 15th April 2019 at 00:23.
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Old 14th April 2019, 19:37   #14
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Default Re: Used Cars: How old is "too old"?

Got a used car as my first, bought from my brother, 2.5 year old with 19k on odo for 3.1L. This is for the SMT trim. Personally for me hard stop will be 4 years/ 35-40k km. Anything more than this will always be out of consideration.
Note: I would prefer the primary car to be new, if it is used then only from Honda, Toyota and Hyundai depending on condition but this would be last choice.

Last edited by aniyo : 14th April 2019 at 19:38.
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Old 14th April 2019, 21:39   #15
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Default Re: Used Cars: How old is "too old"?

I have never bought a pre-owned car so cannot quote any personal experience here.

However, if I decide to buy a pre-owned (am more inclined for next car) it would definitely be after considering the age and brand(incl historical resale value) of the car - since both these factors would play a significant role in the quoted price after initial depreciation wear-off.

So, for a luxury European brand (Germans, Swedish, Brit) the preferred age for buying could be >1-1.5 years, as an example.
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