I recently have had the disappointing problem of having to deal with a vehicle that is, unfortunately, nearing the end of its useful life. As anyone in this position knows, it isn’t necessarily the major parts of the car at this point that begin to fail, but rather the stupid, picky little things that seem to nickel and dime you to death. Such is the problem with this decidedly persnickety car these days. It got me to thinking, though, what sense it makes in the grand scheme to even bother with a used car? Certainly, some used cars are going to be better than others, but let’s say you’re stuck in the position of having to buy a car that has low miles, a reasonable price tag, but a somewhat sketchy repair record? You might be better off going with a new car!
New cars have the benefit not only of a great new car smell (which is artificial these days,) but also that you know what’s been going on with that car. You have the opportunity to take care of it properly from the get-go, and if you mind the owner’s manual’s recommended service schedule carefully, drive carefully, and avoid accidents, your car should realistically last you the better part of at least 15 years. If that sounds like crazy talk, consider the stories that come from Volvo owners around the world- buying their car, doing the regular maintenance, and then having it for 25-30 years or longer! This isn’t all that unusual.
The trouble with used cars is that you don’t necessarily know what’s been done to that car. I may have been raced, wrecked, and you still may never know (in spite of what CarFax wants you to think) There could be a hundred different issues that will spring up, many of which may not be covered under warranty.
In my own case, I tend to think along the lines of my truck compared with my wife’s car. Both are now about to tick over 150,000 miles, but my wife’s car has been little more than one problem after another for the last two years. We bought it used, and paid a hair over $12,000 for it. It’s one blown head gasket away from becoming a mailbox. My truck, on the other hand, I paid $11,000 for 11 years ago, brand-spanking new. The only miles it had on it were the ones at the factory, and the dealer break-in and assorted test drives it was on before I bought it. Can you guess all the parts I’ve had to have worked on on the truck? A light bulb. I’ve changed the turn signals out twice along with the usual oil changes and normal maintenance.
Maybe it’s the truck. Maybe it’s the car. It’s hard to say for certain, but I don’t think I could be persuaded to trust too readily that old saw that used car dealers try to pass off about the car being a “creampuff.” The only way it’s a pristine, trouble-free vehicle is if you’re the one who’s taken care of it.
The lesson here is to avoid at all costs buying a car that doesn’t have a warranty of some kind, particularly in these days of cars being completely reliant on electrical systems that are all too prone to breakage. Remember, if the dealer won’t back the car, then they don’t trust it, and it’s a good bet that you shouldn’t, either!