Is it worth buying a 10 year old car today?
Short answer: YES!
I have personally owned new, old, and really old cars. In fact, two of the vehicles in my collection are over 20 years old.
You will be surprised at how modern a 10-year-old vehicle looks. Honestly, it is not a very long time in the age of a vehicle.
However, doing some things would help to ensure you don't get stuck with a money pit.
The adage goes that there is nothing MORE expensive than a cheap car.
Buying a 10-year-old car can be a great way to save money without sacrificing quality. But is it really worth it? Let's explore what you should know before purchasing an older car so that you can make an informed decision.
While this is true that maintenance and repairs can pop up more often, the cost savings compared to a brand-new car is significant.
Data shows that new car prices are more than $45,000 today. However, a 10-year-old car can be had for a fraction of that amount.
Ideally, if you are not a car person, here is a breakdown of the age and the cost savings regarding used cars.
AGE OF CAR
2-3 years old
Great for CPO vehicles still under warranty.
15%-20% off MSRP
$400 / yr 1
Higher costs to purchase. May not cover all repairs.
4-6 years old
Fantastic savings off new MSRP. Check service records and accidents.
20%-50% off MSRP
$900 / yr
The warranty is over and out-of-pocket expenses begin.
7-10 years old
Depreciation costs work in your favor. Most of the major servicing should have been done.
60% off MSRP
$1,400 / yr
Major services happen around 100k miles. Check service records.
10-15 years old
12.1 years is the average age of a vehicle on the road today.
70% off MSRP
$2,000 / yr
Have a PPI done to ensure no major issues with the vehicle.
16-20 years old
Pricing would be $2,000-$4,000 for an average $25k car.
85% off MSRP
$2,500 / yr
If you can wrench yourself, it would be best. Auto-shop repairs can add up quickly.
20+ years old
Prices might increase if the model is considered a classic or collectible.
50%-70% of MSRP
$2,500+ / yr
Supply chain and replacement parts may be difficult to source for repairs.
Tips for Buying a 10-Year-Old Car: What to Look For on Older Vehicles?
Vehicle History Report & Previous Owners
Before purchasing a used car, I request a vehicle history report or buy a Carfax on my own. This will tell me exactly who the previous owners were and how they maintained the vehicle. It's important to know this information to make an informed decision on whether or not to buy the car.
Red Flags to Look Out For
It'll tell you if the car has had any major repairs, been in an accident, or faced recalls. This will help you decide whether the vehicle is worth buying. I always purchase a VHR once I determine that I am serious about test driving and considering purchasing.
Checking for previous owners and accidents
When I have the vehicle history report, I will also consider the number of owners. This will tell me exactly who the previous owners were and how they maintained the vehicle. Knowing this information gives me an understanding of the car's condition and whether it has been taken care of properly by its previous owner.
When examining the VHR, there are several things to consider. Notice the number of owners. I like 1-2 owner cars.
TIP: If a car were only owned for less than a year, that is a potential red flag.
In addition, I also look closely for any red flags in the report. Has the car been involved in any major accidents? Was there any major engine work done? Is the title branded?
Repeated electrical issues that were reported recently could be a bigger problem soon. If you cannot get a PPI or a pre-purchase inspection, use the report to help determine the history.
One Owner Cars Are Desirable
The best type of cars to buy are ones with one owner, a long history of dealer service maintenance, and low, low miles. These are unicorns.
However, there are PLENTY of good, solid cars on the market, and there will ALWAYS be an opportunity to find another one. You can look at newer cars, like CPO cars.
If you buy a certified pre-owned vehicle, you may get access to additional benefits, such as extended warranties and other perks. However, keep in mind that even with these options, repair costs can still add up quickly when buying an older car that is out of warranty.
Remember that the average car mileage is about 10k-12k miles per year, so I would not shy away from higher miles.
For example, a 10-year-old car might be approaching 100k miles or have a tick over it with 105k miles.
My Real-World Experience Buying a 10-Year-Old Car
For example, I purchased an Audi A4 from an original owner with dealer services from Craiglist a few years ago. It was a no-brainer since the car was in immaculate condition and was only used for commuting. The seller had no pets or kids, so the back seats were mint. I purchased this for his full asking price of $6,500 since it had 105,888 miles. (There are good buys if you know what you are looking for)
Fast forward 9 years, and the ownership has been wonderful. We did have some major items to replace, like the high-pressure fuel pump, axels, and exhaust, but it still drives beautifully today with 143,888 miles on the odometer.
(Hint: We don't drive much) The Audi is already 17 years old, and at 160k miles, we will get the timing belt done.
While it might be exciting to buy a used car with high miles and a long vehicle history report, you still need to consider any potential repairs required to pass emissions and state inspection.
Unfortunately, many buyers pay expensive maintenance or repair costs, making their good deal into a money pit.
10-year-old cars should NOT have any major issues. If so, I would walk away from the deal. In addition, 10-year-old vehicles should still look new-ish and not have a branded rebuilt title.
One of my rules is to avoid REBUILT titles if you are unfamiliar with cars. Plus, your insurance company might not cover an R-titled vehicle. Do your homework first.
Dealing with Multiple Owners
If there are 3-4 owners, I would only consider if the price was right.
On the Carfax or VHR look at maintenance records. Does it show oil changes and regular inspections? As long as the maintenance is good, the price and the test drive are good, and then I would consider a multiple-owner vehicle.
TIP: If the car does NOT have a current inspection or has recently failed inspection, I would walk away. If you are not careful, engine or emission issues can quickly add up in repair costs. Keep looking for a better one.
Vehicle History Report: Accidents
When looking at a vehicle history report, looking for any red flags is important.
- Has the car been in any major accidents?
- Was there any major engine work done?
Answering these questions will help you understand the condition of the vehicle and whether or not it has been taken care of properly by its previous owner.
In addition, you should also ask questions about why the car was originally sold by its previous owner. If they had serious financial problems or had to move away, this may be a sign that they couldn't keep up with regular maintenance or repair costs for their vehicle.
A vehicle history report is invaluable for anyone considering buying a used car. With this report, you can gain insight into the car's past and make an informed decision about whether or not it's worth bringing home. Get ready to dig deeper as we explore how to check for previous owners and major accidents in the next section!
Pros of Buying a 10-Year-Old Car
As mentioned above, owning a 10-year-old car can be a great option! They are cheaper than new cars; they often have major repairs done by the time you purchase.
Most modern cars have improved over the years, and as long as you avoid high-performance engines, you should have trouble-free years of ownership.
Be sure to download your free guide on what to look for in used cars. I cover my top 3 rules for buying a used car, and this is especially true for 10-year-old vehicles.
Let's next dive into some of the cons to consider.
Cons of Buying a 10-Year-Old Car
When looking to buy a used car that's over 10 years old, there are many variables to think about. Most commonly, you will want to search in google "Model common problems."
The results will help you identify potential issues when you look at the vehicle. This can also include any open recalls that come up.
For example, my BMW had a few airbags recalls and an HVAC connection. The manufacturer typically covers recalls, but other issues may cost out of pocket.
Another disadvantage is higher miles. I suggest that you look at cars with average yearly miles.
Higher miles wear out components like bushings, suspension parts, brakes, and tires.
Potential repair costs and expenses
When I bought my 10-year-old car, I knew that maintenance costs would be more frequent than a newer car, but I ensured the model I was looking at was reliable.
The worst thing to purchase is a beautiful car that has inherent problems. This is why it is so important to ask the seller," Why are you selling your car or truck?"
Depending on their answer, it can help you decide if it makes sense and is worth purchasing.
Repairs will be part of buying a 10-year-old car, but you should come out ahead based on the depreciation curve. For example, most of these repairs cost me a few hundred dollars each time, but it was well worth it in the long run because the car continued to perform in like-new condition.
Ultimately, owning a 10-year-old car can be just as reliable as purchasing a new one if you are willing to put in the effort and expense for proper maintenance and prompt repairs. It is important to remember that with age comes increased repair costs, so it is best to budget for them accordingly!
You can follow the table above on the estimated repair budget per year.
What to Expect from a 10-Year-Old Car
As an automotive enthusiast, I've bought lots of used cars. Buying a 10-year-old car can be a financial win or a budget-busting mistake. Before buying, there are things to consider:
When it comes to buying a 10-year-old car, there are many things to think about. Age, mileage, condition, and value must all be considered.
A car driven for 10 years with high miles could need better maintenance. Check for signs of wear and tear.
- The car's condition. Check if it has high miles – repairs may be needed soon after purchase. Get a Vehicle History Report – this shows accident history, recalls, and more.
- 10-year-old cars should not have: Rust damage, Upholstery tears, Cracked glass, Mismatched paint
- Availability of parts if repairs are needed. The vehicle may no longer be in production – parts could be expensive or hard to find. Research which models are more reliable.
Final Thoughts: Is it Worth Buying a 10-Year-Old Car?
From my personal experience and ownership, it is worth buying a 10-year-old car with higher mileage and a clean vehicle history. Acquiring a good-condition used car for just above book value and incurring lower maintenance costs makes this choice worthwhile and a smart financial move.
Before you take the plunge, consider all the factors that come into play when buying an older car, from maintenance costs to potential repair expenses. The good news is that with some research and due diligence, you can find a reliable vehicle for a fraction of the cost of a newer model.
Remember to have the vehicle inspected by a mechanic if possible. Otherwise, you can bring an OBD scanner to help scan the car for codes.
I'm confident you can find the right car for your goals. Be sure to do your research.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is it worth buying a 10-year-old car?
A: It really depends on the condition of the car. If it's been well-maintained, it could be a great buy. Check out a vehicle history report to get an idea of the car's maintenance history. It's also important to have a mechanic inspect the vehicle before purchasing.
Q: What should I look for when buying a 10-year-old car?
A: It's important to check the car's maintenance records and vehicle history report. You'll want to ensure the brakes, tires, and suspension are all in good condition. Also, look for signs of wear and tear, including rust, dents, and scratches.
Q: Are high-mileage cars worth it?
A: It depends on the condition and maintenance of the car. A high-mileage car could be a great buy if it's been well-maintained. However, it's important to do your research and get a vehicle history report before purchasing.