An Older Used Car With Low Mileage Can Be A Good Find

July 23, 2010

You won’t impress anyone by driving a ten year old vehicle that has very low mileage, but you just might solve your transportation needs very cheaply. These cars are the ones owned by people who drive them far below the 15,000 miles per year average. For example, I purchased a ten year old Chevy Nova with just 1,900 miles on it.

No I didn’t forget any 0’s, this was the car that only went to church and back and of course it was an example of an older car with low miles in the extreme. Just in case you’re wondering, we called a Chevy dealer and asked what a fair price would be for such an unusual buy and used that as a guide at arriving at a sales price.

These cars are out there being sold every day. They are available because their owners want to upgrade their rides or sadly enough because the owners are deceased and the vehicle is being sold by their heirs.

I recently asked an owner of a 1994 Olds Regency if he was upset that his car’s low oil pressure might mean that the car wasn’t worth the effort and expense of the needed repairs. I expected that he had owned it since it was new and that he had some sentimental attachment to the car. Unexpectedly he replied that he had purchased it used and had no emotional capital invested in the car and that it had served him well but that now it was time to move to something different.

This person had always bought low mileage older cars as a way to neutralize the depreciation of a new car. He said that there were always 8 to 10 years old cars with 50,000 miles on the odometer available if you were not too picky, act quickly and pay in cash.

The cars you might expect to find right now are the ones popular in the older group of owners. These tend to be bigger cars like LeSabres or Ninety Eights in the GM group or Grand Marquis models or Crown Victorias from Ford. Features like color and equipment have to be dealt with as the car becomes available and may not mesh completely with your wish list.

Although it may clash with the spontaneity of the deal I recommend that you get a car this age checked by a professional as a guard against the used car dealer who might be working out of his home. Have the service facility look for any kind of fluid leakage, confirm the integrity of the frame and be sure to road test it for problems with the transmission, suspension and steering.

There are a specific set of problems that a car this age might develop that should be checked out. Check each and every feature the car has to make sure it’s still functional. For example, power windows in the rear may have not been used very often and may not work. The sun roof (if so equipped) may not be a problem if it doesn’t retract but if it leaks you might consider it a deal breaker.

You should take special note of the tires, which because of the low miles on the car may be very old. Disregard the tread depth remaining on the tire and check for cracking or dry rot and make every effort to pin down the production date through the DOT number found on the sidewall of the tire. If they are five years old or older factor in the cost of new tires into the decision you make concerning the purchase of the car. Also consider how often the oil was changed even though the car wasn’t driven that much. Look for condensation in the crank case which may be visible on the oil filler cap and ask to see any service history the owner may have retained.

Like any other used car, the older car with low mileage can have unknown pitfalls. But the advantage is that your investment in this older car will not be as high and if you screen your prospective purchase you just might get a real gem.

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