Author Topic: Buying a "new' car--How old is too old?  (Read 975 times)

DeniseNJ

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Buying a "new' car--How old is too old?
« on: January 28, 2021, 11:28:52 AM »
Looking at a 2009 Pontiac Vibe. I know nothing at all about cars but got a few links from some folks on this site as to what to look for in a used car. This one has 150K miles and is $3,600. The price seems about right from looking online.

So how old is too old and how many miles is too many miles if you are going to buy a new car? Obviously if it's yours already, you'd just keep driving since you know how it runs but if you were putting 4K down on a car, how new would you want it to be?

jrhampt

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Re: Buying a "new' car--How old is too old?
« Reply #1 on: January 28, 2021, 11:40:01 AM »
I think it depends on the model of the car and its track record of reliability.  For used cars, I have gone with Toyota and Honda over the past couple of decades because you can drive them into the ground with very little to no maintenance/repairs needed beyond regular oil changes, tires, and battery replacement.  My current Honda is 10 years old and I bought it used with about 50k miles on it for 7k.  My sense is that a Pontiac with 150k miles on it is not a particularly good choice if you want something similarly reliable, but maybe that's not your criteria.

englishteacheralex

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Re: Buying a "new' car--How old is too old?
« Reply #2 on: January 28, 2021, 12:08:09 PM »
How much are you going to drive it? How handy are you?

We had a 2003 Toyota Matrix (identical to a Pontiac Vibe) that we bought in 2015 for $3k. It had 95k miles. It only lasted five years and then the transmission crapped out. We don't drive our cars much; only about 8k miles/year. My husband is capable of doing a lot of repairs.

I tend to go for econo Japanese hatchbacks in the $5k-ish range, and I don't like buying cars with more than 100k miles on them. Because I know we don't put a lot of miles on our cars, I figure $5k and 80k-100k miles is the sweet spot for the car lasting us at least five years. If I had a bigger commute, I'd probably go for $8k and <70k miles.

The car you're looking at has too many miles on it to be interesting to me, even with our short commutes. It could last another 100k miles, but I wouldn't want to take that bet.

DeniseNJ

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Re: Buying a "new' car--How old is too old?
« Reply #3 on: January 28, 2021, 01:00:52 PM »
Thanks. We don't drive much but I don't want to just toss thousands out the window and need another car in another year. I would like a hatchback. I'll keep looking.

acepedro45

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Re: Buying a "new' car--How old is too old?
« Reply #4 on: January 28, 2021, 02:18:14 PM »
I would take a long hard look at that Vibe. It's one of the favorites on this forum for a few reasons.

1. Most importantly, it is mechanically a Toyota Corolla underneath all that Pontiac badging, which is generally a very reliable make. Pontiac and Toyota collaborated to produce the identical Toyota Matrix and Pontiac Vibe off of the Corolla platform.

2. That price seems decently fair to me, maybe even a little underpriced. I paid that for a 12 year old Toyota Corolla with 147k on the odometer a few years ago and the used car markets have gone bananas since Covid hit.

I am a big fan of buying Toyota Honda at the 12 year 150k mark. It's a very cheap way to own a car for 8-10 more years. Still, if you are not handy or interested in getting handy with a wrench, maybe 150k is too much mileage for you.


acepedro45

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Re: Buying a "new' car--How old is too old?
« Reply #5 on: January 28, 2021, 02:25:23 PM »
And as for EnglishTeacher Alex's experience, I agree that is not a great outcome, but it still means she drove a $3k car for 5 years, which is decent value.

I would guess that for a well-maintained Vibe, crapping out even at 17 years old as hers did is on the early side.

Fun fact about this vintage of Toyota Corollas (and possibly true of Vibes and Matrixes too, I'm not sure): their odometers stop working at 299,999 miles thanks to buggy programming. It is a testament to what tough little cars they are that this defect is actually relevant to a modest proportion of owners.

Paper Chaser

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Re: Buying a "new' car--How old is too old?
« Reply #6 on: January 28, 2021, 04:17:42 PM »
Corollas from that era are super reliable, and as noted that Vibe is just a Corolla in different clothes. Because most people don't realize the Toyota connection, the Pontiacs can be a better deal than their Toyota cousins. If rust isn't a concern, I'd expect that Vibe to be good to 225-250k miles. That doesn't mean it won't need any repair or maintenance, but major mechanical issues aren't common on that platform. If this specific example seems like it's been well maintained and won't need any expensive things right away I'd probably pick it up. If it's going to need new tires and shocks and a bunch of other work soon, then your $4k beater is really more expensive, and I'd probably keep looking. But don't discount the Vibe in general.
« Last Edit: January 28, 2021, 04:24:46 PM by Paper Chaser »

Ecky

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Re: Buying a "new' car--How old is too old?
« Reply #7 on: January 28, 2021, 07:31:36 PM »
Hopefully this is helpful:

When my wife needed a "new" car, we found a 2007 Honda Fit. It had around 200,000 miles, a manual transmission, and was single owner, a female in her mid 30's, who was (she claimed) just looking to buy a more grown up car (an Accord). To me, this is almost the ideal situation.

We've had the car for perhaps 4 years and 50,000 miles, and it has needed nothing. I did a few preventative items such as spark plugs, an air filter, transmission fluid change, and figured I'd do new brake pads and rotors while I was at it (cost maybe $30 for the parts) even though the ones on it still had life.

Even perfectly reliable cars need things periodically though, and a 200,000 mile car is likely to be closer to the replacement point for a lot of little things, such as bushings, shocks, bearings, maybe even (in the case of a manual) a clutch. None of these are big ticket items, but I would be prepared for them to happen sooner than on, say, a 100,000 mile car.

HipGnosis

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Re: Buying a "new' car--How old is too old?
« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2021, 08:52:07 PM »
One thing that concerns me, is part and service availability.
I've heard / read from multiple sources that parts and service are being discontinued by the manufacturers after 20 yrs.
AutoNews(.com) says some quit making parts that only fit specific models 10 yrs after the model is made.  Ironically, the parts that break the most run out of stock first.
Service doesn't just affect OEM dealers - many of the electronics components require communication with the mfg. or equipment only sold by the mfg. to troubleshoot - that could become unavailable.
I use to say that once I'm comfortably FIRE, I'll buy a nice (to me) car that'd be my 'last' car.  But now I'm not sure that's possible.

Fishindude

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Re: Buying a "new' car--How old is too old?
« Reply #9 on: January 29, 2021, 07:19:41 AM »
Cars of that age, in that price range and lower can be great deals, but you kind of have to look at them as "disposable" items.
Incidental repairs costing a couple hundred dollars are fine to do, but I would never do $1500 worth of motor or transmission work on a car of that value / age.
Keep up on the maintenance and take care of it and you can surely get 3-4 years use out of it.

Greystache

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Re: Buying a "new' car--How old is too old?
« Reply #10 on: January 29, 2021, 09:38:53 AM »
My wife's car is a 2003 Vibe with about 120K miles on the clock.  It has been pretty reliable. The most expensive repair was some AC work at about 100K miles. We replaced a starter motor last year.  The biggest problem with older cars is the plastic and electric parts start to fail. These are usually cheap to fix, but they start to pile up. In the last five years, I have had to fix the plastic clip that attaches the window to the power window regulator, dashboard and radio lights, and the motor that regulates the vent/heater air flow. All little things, but something to expect with older cars.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: Buying a "new' car--How old is too old?
« Reply #11 on: January 30, 2021, 03:29:33 AM »
I tend to go by the thinking that a car with typical use is good for 15 years/250,000km (155,000mi), and anything more is a bonus.

Typically anything much older than that ends up getting the 'do not resuscitate' order and once a major issue happens, the cost of repair is weighed against the market value of the car and often ends up totalling the vehicle. If you have a 1998 Dodge Neon with 220,000 miles and the transmission lets go or the head gasket blows, most people would junk it unless they get the parts cheap and DIY.

If you get a decent deal and are prepared to wear the risk of the next major repair totalling the car (or are prepared to DIY repairs/buy parts from the junkyard/etc), then you're likely to get a few years of reliable motoring if the car is in otherwise good shape.

However beyond a certain point you're going to struggle to find spare parts, or newer versions are barely any more expensive but deliver advantages in performance/safety/economy/etc. It'll eventually get to a point where the parts are a special order at the auto parts store and the cars start disappearing from junkyards, especially if it's a less common vehicle. As mentioned, don't forget plastic interior pieces, cooling system parts, electrical/electronic bits/etc.

If you're after something that still has a good few years left in it but is inexpensive, then maybe around 10-12 years and 100-125k miles/160-200k km is a good safe bet. Maybe slightly higher miles/km is OK if you don't drive a lot. Anything older than that I'd want to pay significantly less due to the abovementioned risk. Definitely stick to common vehicles/brands due to parts availability.

However, I've recently inherited a vehicle from 2004. My mechanic has given it a clean bill of health and it has low miles for it's age (120k km/75k mi), and parts availability isn't a big concern as they sold in large numbers here.

For $4000 I'd be looking at something from 2007-08 or so with 200,000km, but the state of the used car market here at present means that's not always easy to find. A 2009 Vibe with 150,000 miles should still have a few years left in it if the mechanic gives it a clean bill of health, but I wouldn't overpay for it.

Car Jack

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Re: Buying a "new' car--How old is too old?
« Reply #12 on: January 30, 2021, 08:16:22 AM »
If you are a DIY mechanic, it might not be a bad option.  But by both age and miles, this is an ancient car and will need at a minimum, the following, assuming it hasn't been done (and for most cars like this out there, it hasn't been done).

All hoses including vacuum and heater
Brake rubber lines
timing chain tensioner and guides
water pump
control arm busings all around
sway bar bushings and end links
ball joints
tie rod ends (both inner and outer)
Trans fluid change
Probably at least 1 or 2 wheel bearings
Probably some exhaust work and an oxygen sensor
air filter
coolant change
serpentine belt
Of course, check the brakes, ebrakes and tires

For all this done right, figure at least a couple grand.  DIY, a grand in parts.  Dealer....four grand.  This is just to get the car in good maintenance and good running order.  You can still lose a power steering pump or alternator or the transmission could puke any time.

DeniseNJ

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Re: Buying a "new' car--How old is too old?
« Reply #13 on: February 01, 2021, 08:23:24 AM »
Well I didn't get to go see the Pontiac Vibe. I told my husband it was in Paterson and he flipped out. "Why don't you look for a car in a good neighborhood?!"

But I saw a handful of them on Carguru, so I'm going to look on there. And I checked out ChrisFix on Youtube for all the stuff to look for. In the handful of cars I've bought over the years, I've never looked at any of this stuff! Very interesting. And his videos show how to do a lot of DIY.

Dave1442397

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Re: Buying a "new' car--How old is too old?
« Reply #14 on: February 01, 2021, 11:32:39 AM »