how old is too old/too many miles for a reliable used car

when i need to buy another car (i’m looking at Ford Tauruses now), i am not really looking to buy one more than 5 years old or with more than 60k miles on it for fear it will have problems. I want it to last for about 3-4 years without any major problems. What are the major considerations you must take into account when looking for reliability in a used car? I know age & mileage are big ones, and the manufacturer & model are important too but is there anything else?

I realize its largely a mixture of the model & make of the car, how well it was maintained and luck to determine if the car lasts w/o significant problems. I once had a 12 year old Taurus with 120k miles that worked fine but my 6 year old Plymoth blew a gasket at 120k. But in the end they both started falling apart at 120k.

How old of a car with how many miles would some of you be willing to purchase if reliability and low upkeep were your major concerns?

This is kind of a stupid question i guess, as the cost of a 2 year old car (at least a Taurus) with 35k miles is about 9k while a 5 year old with 65k miles is 6k, so the monthly cost on the newer is only about $80 a month higher (200 vs 120), and the resale value is going to be higher while the odds for malfunction are lower. Perhaps i should go ass out and just buy a 2 year old model and avoid the whole risk factor of being left for dead on the interstate at 2am or until your brakes go out at a stoplight going 40 mph, both of which have happened to me.

Damn my inability to proofread my rewrites.

The last three cars I’ve purchased had 70K, 66K and 74K miles on them. It depends a lot on the make and model as to when the wheels are going to fall off, but almost anything made in the last five or six years and reasonably maintained should be able to make it to 150,000 miles.

Shop for a car that you can get with a warranty; many used car dealers offer them for cars 5 years old or younger.

i was thinking of just using an independent auto warranty company.

thats an extra $1500 but offers a $0 deductible warranty that covers everything up to 100k miles.

It has a lot more to do with the reputation of the car and the way the car was cared for than age or mileage. I would easily recommend a 1995 Toyota Corolla with 75K miles, but I would tell you to run from a 1995 Ford Windstar with 75K miles. Do some research about reliability records, and make sure the particular car you buy has been properly serviced throughout its life.

You can ruin an engine in one year and 20,000 miles if you don’t change the oil.

-Andrew L

Yeah, i change the oil every 3 months. Its only $8.

I was looking at a Taurus, alot of the info i’ve read says they are reliable.

Depends on the car. VW Beetles have gone over a million miles with regular maintenance.

I wish you’d told my old VW Golf – it was fatally crunched by a '95 Windstar while innocently minding its own business.

That Golf had 230k miles and was running great, which I think suggests that it’s hard to set a fixed number of miles at which reliability disappears.

I once bought for a friend a Subrau with 96k miles – paid $800. He put on another 110k with almost no problems. Another friend has a Saab 9000 with 88k miles that is clearly possessed by demons – prolific, malicious, sadistic demons. Go figga.

Since you’re looking for advice more than facts, I’ll move this thread to IMHO.

moderator GQ

My opinion is that the older foreign cars tend to last longer once you get over 100k (I’m talking Nissan, Toyota, etc. Not nec. Kia, et al) I bought a '91 Toyota Celica 3 years ago with 125k on it, and it now has 170k. I’ve never had any problems with it (okay, I had to replace the bulbs in the headlights :smiley: )
My mom OTOH had a Taurus '92 Taurus that blew a head gasket (after many expensive repairs) immediately after it hit 100k (this was late '97)
Obviously, YMMV

Your best bet, if you don’t know much about cars, and it seems that you don’t if you’re asking this, is to buy a Toyota Corolla or Camry or a Honda Civic or Accord. Those models have a long history of reliability, and since they are so common, parts are easily available when needed, either new or from the junkyard. Some problems that they had previously, like a tendency to rust, had been addressed by the model years you’re looking at. Any of those cars could be expected to go at least 150K, and more likely 200K. You may need to do some major maintenance, like belts or shocks on an older car, but it will still be a good value.

The way I see it, cars have “life stages” just like people. There is youth, where there are probably no health problems. There is adulthood, where things slow down and might start looking a little worn, but everything is still perfectly functional. There is middle age, where things start to go wrong and various quirks start to manifest themselves, but everything pretty much still works the way it is supposed to. Then there is old age, where things start breaking down, and you’re grateful for any time you have left.

It seems like you’re looking to buy an “adult” car–often a great value. The coveted youth is gone, so the price goes down a lot, but you’re still far from old age.

Her Taurus have a V-6 in it? Ford’s had a real problem with their V-6s, to the point that they’ve done a massive recall (though they don’t like to tell people about it) on them. One Ford mechanic stated that if he had one of the cars with the recalled engine (Ford will replace headgaskets/reimburse expenses/replace the engine), that he’d drain half the oil out and refill the crankcase with anti-freeze and drive it until the engine seized so that Ford would have to give you a new engine because apparently the version of the V-6 that Ford was building in the late 80s-mid90s was so bad that they never should have been made.

My Honda Civic DX hatchback was 10 years old when I sold it, and had 143K miles on it. It ran really well, and I got 37 MPG from the last tank.

You’d do well to look at the Hondas, as Green Bean said, they have a proven track record for reliability.

BTW, I’m now on my fourth Honda, they’ve done that well for me.

I am able to afford new, but for my last four or five cars I’ve bought used and been very happy.

What I go for are cars which have been turned back in at the end of a lease. These cars are generally low-milage and well-maintained (otherwise the lessee gets clobbered with penalties).

In our area, there is no explicit “Buy a lease turnback” program, but if you look for a two-year old vehicle with 25,000-35,000 miles on it, this is almost certainly what you are getting.

For example, I bought a two-year old Mercury Sable sedan with 25K on the odometer. At the time, it would have gone for about $18K new, and I got it for about 11. Four years later, it had about 88K on the odometer, and I got about 4K when I traded it in, again on a used vehicle.

I have owned five cars bought under similar conditions. I keep them for four years, and in each case they have given almost completely trouble-free service. I do have them serviced regularly (every 5000 miles), and I have occasionally had to have brakes or a muffler replaced, but otherwise they have been every bit as good as a new car, only cheaper.

Note: Volvos tend to last longer, so I buy four-year olds with 40-50K miles on them. What you get is a $35K car for 18K or so. I am on track to keep my current one (an 850 wagon) for at least four years. My last Volvo I kept for six (although the trade-in value on the then ten-year old car was pretty small).

So I get all of the benefits of a new car, but I let someone else take the depreciation hit that happens when you drive a new car off the lot.

I’ve read the rule of thumb is no more than 15K per year on the car.

Also, Car Talk has a good website with good info on how to buy a used car. And once you’ve narrowed it down to something you want to buy, you MUST have it thoroughly checked out by a mechanic you trust before you buy.

That 15K rule also largely depend on your location, niblet.

Living in Pittsburgh, I could put about 10k miles on my car that would be a lot rougher than 20k I put on in Atlanta. Sub-zero temps, city traffic, shitty road coinditions in Pittsburgh vs New highway miles in good weather in Atlanta.

I don’t think there’s a clear cut answer for the OP…too many variables. Make/Model, driver maintenence, car driven by a grandma or a 16 year old, etc.

I’d also recommend looking at a Camry or Accord if you are looking in the Tauras price range. When I got rid of my last Toyota, it was purring like a kitten at 170k – no discernable difference from when I got it at 42k.

Tuckerfan, my mom isn’t 100% that is was a V-6, but she’s pretty sure it was. She traded it in immediately after the gaskets blew (without fixing them, left that to the dealership). In an odd sort of way, it’s nice to know that we weren’t the only ones having all those problems!:stuck_out_tongue:

Many people consider mileage to be of lesser importance than age in buying a used car. The rationale is that a car driven many miles per year is likely driven mostly in highway traffic, which has less wear and tear than stop-and-go city traffic. Also, the reliability and quality of cars has been steadily increasing over the years. So in buying a more recent car you are generally getting an inherently better machine in addition to one that has been used less.

It is well known that Hondas and Toyotas last far longer than the American models, as other posters have noted. Problem is that this is so well known that this tends to be reflected in the price of the vehicles, when sold used. So you don’t end up gaining that much - an older Honda might cost more than a much newer Ford.

I would suggest - if you could do with a smaller car - a Geo Prizm (or Chevy Prizm or Nova - the name has shifted a lot over the years). This is essentially a Toyota Corolla and is about as reliable, but the price as a used car is closer to the price of other US models.

Ford Taurus? Are you kidding? There have been so many messages on the board about them & issues with them, I would never get one of those, esp a used one.

American cars seem to go to a 100,000 mile point. Foreign cars much much longer.

I would say for used car limits, 80,000 miles foreign car & american car 30,000 miles…

Alright. I think i will switch to looking at Toyota Corollas or Honda Civic sedans instead of Ford Tauruses. The Accords & Camrys are about $13k for a late model car, but Corollas & civics are still in the 8-10k range. All i really care about is whether the frame is a Sedan and if a later model can be had for under $10k.