I recently bought a 15-year old car. Buying an old car, especially one that old, isn’t something I would usually consider, but this car ended up being the perfect fit for me. Check out these tips to see if you can find a hidden treasure of your own.
Tips to Buying an Old Car
Recently, my neighbor, Kathryn, had mentioned how she’d brought her car, an old Audi A4 to the shop, and how her mechanic had offered to buy it from her. I soon realized that I was also interested in taking it off her hands!
1. Vet the Previous Owner
Lucky for me, I knew the previous owner personally, but you may still be able to get some info about the previous owners from a used car dealership, if that’s where you’re buying the car. If not, you can at least check the Carfax!
Kathryn is the kind of person you could bump into on the weekend, hair and makeup neat as a pin. Her house is always in perfect shape. Sometimes the description of a person has no bearing on how he or she keeps a vehicle. In this case, the assumption that her car would follow suit was accurate.
It turns out, that over the 15 years Kathryn owned her 2001 Audi A4, she had tracked all its regular services. That included those performed by the dealership until it was 12-years old, which I’d refer to as “serviced-to-a-fault.” We were lucky that the car had only had one owner. It can be hard to track down all the service history if there have been multiple owners over the years.
2. Condition of the Car (Interior and Exterior)
Since she’d bought the car, it had been garaged, and the paint job was in far better nick than our much newer car, which bears many savage scars of downtown Boston-parking. The A4’s interior was also in great shape, not revealing any of the tell-tale signs of her new parenthood, by which I mean Jackson-Pollock-like milk spatters in the backseat, accompanied by cheerios wedged into every imaginable crevice.
3. Vehicle Mileage
And then, the holy grail that sealed the deal – this car had only 80,000 miles. If you don’t have a calculator on hand, the car hadn’t even been driven 6,000 miles per year. It had half the mileage of what one should expect of a vehicle “of a certain age.”
4. Consider the Type of Car You Need
In addition to its great condition, the old A4 was the perfect car for my lifestyle. It would serve as a second car for a couple of city-dwellers in with a new kid. Until this point, we’d been cramming our baby into the backseat of a BMW 1-series. On that note, yes: it is possible to squeeze a rear-facing infant car seat into a 1-series, as long as it’s mounted in the middle and neither parent is very tall or has back issues. So that was feeling a bit like a clown car.
Also, the Audi’s all-wheel drive could see us through the hilarity of Boston snowstorms far better than the fool’s errand of driving through snow with all-season tires on a rear-wheel drive car. The old Audi would be our grown-up car, and our winter “getter.”
5. Run the Numbers
Once the vehicle’s status was confirmed as pretty close to perfect, we went onto old faithful, KBB.com to see how much it was worth. We were delighted to discover the A4, despite its unbelievably low mileage, clocked in around $4,000. There was no letting this car go to Kathryn’s mechanic, great as he may be.
This was way too good a deal, and it couldn’t have arrived at a better time. These days, subprime auto loans are on the rise, and the average length of a car loan is now a frightful 68-months long (or 5.7 years for the calculator-less). We tend to fall firmly in the “only buy used cars” camp. Those recent headlines are just one more reason we figured this 15-year old car was an ideal find.
6. Understand What to Expect
In order to keep this gem on the road and humming along, we knew we’d have to commit to a good deal of auto repair and maintenance. Not just the wait-until-something-breaks kind! And around here, that’s easy — every Openbay employee who owns a car maintains that car through the platform.
Getting auto repair through Openbay is a great excuse to speak with different local shops to get feedback, to experience the customer side of the business, and to share potential points for improvement. Plus, we figured buying a 15-year-old car would be the perfect excuse to write some blogs about all those services. So there’s more to come on this old car, from oil changes to a looming timing-belt replacement. Word on the street is that the belts on this car tend to go early.
More to come from the road, as we do our part to put some miles on this old car.
If you’re also interested in buying an old car, keep Openbay in mind when you need some maintenance!