Buying a used car can be an incredible way to save money over buying something brand new, but something that stops a lot of people from doing it is the unreliability that can come along with it. There’s a lot that can go wrong with a car after all, and when you’re looking at investing in something that you need to be reliable, one of the most common questions that gets asked by the public is about the best age to buy a used car. There’s actually a lot that goes into it, too.
What You’re looking for in a Used car
Before you can really begin to answer the question however, there are a few things you first of all need to ask yourself. Mainly, what is the most important thing to you when looking into buying a used car in the first place?
To put that into practice, context is often a useful tool to have here. Some of the most common selling points of a used car are:
- Low upfront costs
- Low running costs
- Better value for Money
- Specifications and features
- Future resale values
They all have a big impact on the prices that are available to you for a used car in the first place. Once you have that, there are some common denominators that can influence the money you’re looking at.
The Best Age for Low Depreciation
If the main reason you’re looking to buy yourself a used car is nothing more than saving money against a new car, then essentially, you’ll be drawn towards looking at older cars.
Relatively speaking, the rule of thumb with older cars is that age reduces value, and that is not something that changes. If you’re looking to spend less money, that is golden. Vehicle value falls at a lower and lower rate every single year. To reduce how much depreciation you’ll face, you need to buy an older car, or that’s the idea at least.
What is meant by that is that the first year after release, the car could be worth, say, 75% of its original value. The year after, perhaps, 60%. After that, 50%, followed by a gradual constant drop from that point on. This is a general example, but it highlights the point that the drop in value depreciation becomes less and less each year. Depending on where you enter this cycle, you experience different extents of depreciation. That’s really useful to know long term.
We’ll address this again shortly, but the older car, the lower the cost (dependent on other things too).
The Best Age for Value and Reliability
Another large part of the finding the best age to buy a used car comes from this idea of value, but this time, against the idea of a reducing reliability. It only makes sense that older cars become more unreliable as time goes on after all.
Just like before, there is almost a second sense of depreciation in reliability as well as value. As a car ages, things experience wear and tear for longer periods of time. That means that some of the shorter life spanned parts in the used car will be much more likely to need urgent maintenance. This is just the start of it too.
On the other side of the coin in this argument, wear and tear can still take place for the longer life spanned parts as well. This goes for things like cambelts, suspension parts, wheels, nuts, bearings, axels, and just about every other moving part in your car.
On top of all of that still, you finally have the uncontrollable point that the chances of spontaneous or continuous damage increase as well. Every year extra of the vehicle age means that there has been another year of driving. Another year of potholes, bumps, bangs, curbs and stress on the vehicles system all round.
This all needs careful consideration, but is largely down to you and a judgement call on your comfort zones and trust in a vehicle. All brands and models have different reputations after all. Make sure you’re buying something you can trust, or are willing to accept if not.
The Best Age for Overall Benefit
With these two pillars in mind, the best age for a used car really comes down to two things. They are how much you can buy the car for against its original price, how reliable the car is going to be for you when using it, and how much it will be worth when you’re done with it. In theory, this is the magic formula.
In reality, this isn’t always the case. Some people out there are looking for some of these traits over the others. Buying the lowest value car possible until it breaks, for example, is some peoples prepared choice, if just for minor use, but that is certainly a minority and not the wisest investment depending on your standing.
More commonly, people are looking to find the perfect middle ground of all of these things. Generally speaking, that tends to come in between 3 and 7 years old.
3 is much more reliable but a higher cost still (even with the reducing depreciation) because its depreciation is still high. A car that is 7 years old however has already reached a much lower point. The difference of those 4 years, however, means that the reliability won’t be what it could be, and you’re rolling the dice year on year without knowing what you’re looking at (although, that is always the case no matter what you’re buying).
With all of that being said, arguably, the best age to buy a used car should be around 5 years. This is where cars begin to reach their minimums in term of depreciation per annum while still being high quality, advanced in technology, safe, and likely to be reliable as well. This is a generalization, but it is hard to go wrong in this window.
The Mileage Factor
The final thing to remember in this situation is that age is not the sole factor of what determines a car’s worth or reliability. There are multiple factors involved in the value and the reliability fo a car outside of age, and that often comes from aspects like mileage and car condition as well.
Remember to factor these things into the equation for any car that you look at buying, as they are just as important as the age of the vehicle in the vast majority of cases.
All in all, the best age to buy a used car is around the 5-year mark, as this minimizes depreciation and maximises reliability for the price you’ll pay, meaning you’re less likely to have any problems or need to pay any more money for later on which is a common problem with really cheap or much older vehicles.
Ultimately, you can still never determine that reliability or the health of a car by its age alone. There’s always a complex picture painted when buying a car, and most of the time, you’ll never get the full thing without expert help.
Some dealerships may take a large amount of the risk out of the equation for immediate problems with warranties and consumer rights, but these can only take you so far, especially in the long term. Always seek professional help when buying a vehicle to make sure that you know exactly what it is that you’re buying to protect both yourself and your car in the long term.
Any number of things can be wrong with a vehicle under the surface, and it truly does take a specialist with a comprehensive test to be able to spot them all.
For more details on car inspection services like CarExamer.com contact us today.