What's the "sweet spot" age/mileage for a used car purchase?

What's the "sweet spot" age/mileage for a used car purchase?

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Discussion

Ari

Original Poster:

16,066 posts

174 months

Thursday 26th April 2012
quotequote all
I have a theory (based on nothing but instinct and wishful thinking) that the "sweet spot" for buying a used car is at three years old with a typical (circa 30,00) miles.

My logic is, it will have shed about 50% of its value but still be new enough to look, feel and drive like a fairly modern car and ought to still be reliable and less liable for big breakdowns and bills.

Keep it for another three years and you get 90% of the drive and benefits the first owner had (apart from warranty of course) and if it halves in value again over that time then its cost 50% of what it cost the first owner.

So as a simple example, buy a 3 year old car that was £40K new for £20K, run it for 3 years, sell for £10K (or hopefully more). First owner lost £20K in depreciation, you've lost £10K for the same period in the same car.

This is absolutely not a new car buying bashing thread. I totally get the benefits of a new car and would buy new myself if I could easily afford it so that I could shoose the spec, know how its been treated from day one, and got the full benefit of the warranty.

But, buying secondhand as I have to, I reckon the above is my "sweet spot" and wondered how others saw it and what they felt was the best used car buying/selling strategy for them.

chris182

3,823 posts

112 months

Thursday 26th April 2012
quotequote all
I'd say about 20-25yrs old. Zero depreciation, low purchase costs for the metal you get and they can drive as well or better than most boring new cars if you get the right one! Should be reasonably reliable too, as well as having low VED. It's a win/win really!

kambites

60,236 posts

180 months

Thursday 26th April 2012
quotequote all
For a "modern" car, I'd say around 3-6 years old; mileage anywhere can be anywhere from 20k up to 120k depending on the type of car.

RizzoTheRat

19,805 posts

151 months

Thursday 26th April 2012
quotequote all
Surely it depends on the car. Some brands depreciate fast while others hold thier value due to the percieved prestige or build quality, likewise big engined luxary barges depreciate fast as they're the kind of thing most owners prefer to have new and many second hand buyers avoid because of the fuel bills, while diesel hatchbacks hold thier value well due to buyers wanting economical cars due to high fuel prices.

Captain Muppet

8,537 posts

224 months

Thursday 26th April 2012
quotequote all
There is no sweet spot. Just buy cars you like for money you can afford.

I know too many people driving tedious cars that were "a good deal" for the age and mileage. Sod that.

S3000

511 posts

118 months

Thursday 26th April 2012
quotequote all
im always looking for low miles.. the age plays the second role in my book.
Bought my 330d as a 10 year old car with 36K miles... zero problems so far,except small things.
Prior to that i had a good experience with a 5 year old WRX,used it for 6 years/60K miles before selling.


Otispunkmeyer

10,582 posts

114 months

Thursday 26th April 2012
quotequote all
No sweet spot I dont think... just baddly looked after cars and cars that have been cared for.

Still would probably avoid something that was close to its major service mileage (ie the point at which costly things like cambelts need doing) if there isnt any proof of such service having already been done. Would rather take the car with more miles, but the major servicing done and out the way.

End of the day you have to go round each car and check thoroughly to make sure you are getting what you want. Cant just go off mileage or age.

Probably a useful thing to have stikied here on a wiki somewhere would be a generic used car checklist/guide. Things to look for when purchasing second hand drives.

Johnboy Mac

2,666 posts

137 months

Thursday 26th April 2012
quotequote all
Ari said:
So as a simple example, buy a 3 year old car that was £40K new for £20K, run it for 3 years, sell for £10K (or hopefully more). First owner lost £20K in depreciation, you've lost £10K for the same period in the same car.

The sweet spot there could be considered as 6 years/£10k providing the car was serviced & maintanined. Then selling at 8yrs/£6k.

And, as mentioned it very much depends on the car in question.

Horses for courses.

Ozzie Osmond

21,189 posts

205 months

Thursday 26th April 2012
quotequote all
Rough rules of thumb,

  • Cars last 10 years and 100,000 miles
  • Cars lose half their value every 3 years
3 years is a good time to buy. Save half the money; get 2/3rds of the life!!

Ari

Original Poster:

16,066 posts

174 months

Thursday 26th April 2012
quotequote all
S3000 said:
im always looking for low miles.. the age plays the second role in my book.
Bought my 330d as a 10 year old car with 36K miles... zero problems so far,except small things.
Prior to that i had a good experience with a 5 year old WRX,used it for 6 years/60K miles before selling.
See now that's interesting because I'm the other way around. Less worried about miles, more worried about years. So I'd rather have a 3 year old 50,000 mile car than a six year old 30,000 mile car.

kambites

60,236 posts

180 months

Thursday 26th April 2012
quotequote all
Ari said:
S3000 said:
im always looking for low miles.. the age plays the second role in my book.
Bought my 330d as a 10 year old car with 36K miles... zero problems so far,except small things.
Prior to that i had a good experience with a 5 year old WRX,used it for 6 years/60K miles before selling.
See now that's interesting because I'm the other way around. Less worried about miles, more worried about years. So I'd rather have a 3 year old 50,000 mile car than a six year old 30,000 mile car.
I mostly try to buy on condition, but will look for very different problems when inspecting a car depending on age and/or mileage.

SSBB

646 posts

115 months

Thursday 26th April 2012
quotequote all
Ari said:
See now that's interesting because I'm the other way around. Less worried about miles, more worried about years. So I'd rather have a 3 year old 50,000 mile car than a six year old 30,000 mile car.
+1 for me. Mileage is also easier to fiddle.

Eighteeteewhy

7,259 posts

127 months

Thursday 26th April 2012
quotequote all
Ari said:
See now that's interesting because I'm the other way around. Less worried about miles, more worried about years. So I'd rather have a 3 year old 50,000 mile car than a six year old 30,000 mile car.
That's just odd. wink

nonuts

15,855 posts

188 months

Thursday 26th April 2012
quotequote all
Ozzie Osmond said:
Rough rules of thumb,

  • Cars last 10 years and 100,000 miles
  • Cars lose half their value every 3 years
3 years is a good time to buy. Save half the money; get 2/3rds of the life!!
10 years and 100,000 miles? Guess my M5 is dead then as it's 11 years old and has done over 160,000.

fozzymandeus

776 posts

105 months

Thursday 26th April 2012
quotequote all
Looks like "no sweet spot" wins it so far due to all the more specific suggestions being based on entirely subjective arguments such as "last 10 years/100,000 miles".

You could buy a 2 year old car that has been an abused one, and was a friday afternoon job to start with. It'd have so many niggles and issues that a year's manufacturer's warranty wouldn't sort it out (to and fro over 12 months then "sorry sir").

The answer: research, view, inspect, purchase - and make sure it hasn't been nicked.

longblackcoat

4,441 posts

142 months

Thursday 26th April 2012
quotequote all
There's no absolutes - depends how many miles you do, how wedded you are to a warranty, how often you change your cars etc.

For me, however, a 70,000 mile ex-fleet car which is two years old is ideal. It's got lots of miles, all of which will have been motorway, it'll have probably only ever had one person in it, the servicing will have been done on time (the lease company will give you a printout), and it still has some warranty. The high mileage will have driven the price down, but there'll be no rust or anything like that. Buy it, run it for three years and 40k, and you'll still get a fair amount back for it so long as you buy something sensible to start with. High-mileage diesel Mondeo/Passat estates shift very easily; a Micra with the same mileage will not.

hairykrishna

11,161 posts

162 months

Thursday 26th April 2012
quotequote all
Ozzie Osmond said:
Rough rules of thumb,

  • Cars last 10 years and 100,000 miles
That might have been true historically but, in my experience at least, for a lot of 90's era onwards cars 100k is nothing. I know it's a clique but I had a 540i with >100k miles on it that genuinely looked and drove like it'd rolled out of the showroom the day before.

otolith

42,774 posts

163 months

Thursday 26th April 2012
quotequote all
Ozzie Osmond said:
Rough rules of thumb,
  • Cars last 10 years and 100,000 miles
rofl

Decky_Q

1,087 posts

136 months

Thursday 26th April 2012
quotequote all
There has been almost no pattern to the age, mileage or cost of the cars I buy,

But I advise my friends when they ask me to look for cars for them, to look for something they like with 90k+ and asking around £3-5k. You always seem to get very good cars (reliability and gadget wise) and a good choice of cars. At this point 100k mile anxiety is a good bargaining tool and these sellers are usually trying to get rid before it hits 100k. The models are still being made so look modern, and they have depreciated to the point where it costs less than £1k a year in depreciation so selling up and getting most of the investment back is possible if neccessary. I also advise against buying diesel unless mileage is properly high.

That said I bought my first 2 vehicles new, then 11years old with 75k, then 2.5yrs old with 60k, then 4years old with 16k, and lately I took my own advise to save cash and got 9yr old with 97k.

All of them were bargains and served me well.

kambites

60,236 posts

180 months

Thursday 26th April 2012
quotequote all
otolith said:
Ozzie Osmond said:
Rough rules of thumb,
  • Cars last 10 years and 100,000 miles
rofl
Out of interest, what do you think the average life expectancy of a new car bought today is, in both mileage and age terms? I'd have said under ten years, looking at the average age of cars on the road around here.