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Purchasing Old Cars
In today’s economy, people are holding on to their cars longer than they normally would. This is due to job losses, fear of job losses, market uncertainty, they want to keep their cash or the quality of new vehicles. When they finally decide to get rid of their old car, chances are good that they will trade in the car because doing so is the easiest and cleanest way to make a deal.
So now you come and maybe you are not in a position to purchase a new vehicle, so you are looking for the best car that suits your personal needs and budget. There are many to choose from. Here’s the problem: You get that automobile that “Grandma” drove to and from church every Wednesday and Sunday for the past 10 years and never went over 40 mph. It may have the original tires! (may be dry rotted) The back seat has never been sat on, the original floor mats are there and the car looks like it came off the assembly line, look under the car and it looks like it hasn’t never driven in the rain, with the exception of some faded paint, especially on the top of the bumpers, looks great! In this case, beauty is really only skin deep.
Older cars have problems in many places: First, if “Granny” only drove it at 40 mph for 3 miles twice a week, the miles are sure to be low and “Granny” probably didn’t drive it often. This means that the engine never warmed up enough to burn off the carbon from the extra fuel when it was started. Engines need to reach operating temperature for everything to work properly. Second, just because it hasn’t been used much doesn’t mean it hasn’t aged. Moisture is drying on the vinyl seats so they can start to crack, the lube for the power windows, seat rails, door/hood/trunk hinges is drying (let the squeaks start and rattles), wheel bearings, rubber cooling hoses and the list goes on. growing up. Now for the main issues, there are seals on many of the mechanical parts, brakes, fuel, transmission, a/c and let’s not forget the rubber seals around the windows and doors that will dry and serenade you with wind noise or worse, damp.
Now I have heard that some car models like a Mercedes will cover many miles. This may be true, I bought a 77 450 SLC and I can tell you firsthand that everything I told you about has happened. The fact is that once a vehicle like this is restored you have a pretty good car. I did it 10 years ago and it has become a garage queen just to keep up the mileage and exposure to commuting. I have friends who tell me that if a car has 165,000 “road” miles it is better than a daily driver. This is true to some extent. The age of the car tells the story with worn parts and high mileage certainly brings certain parts such as: engine, transmission, power steering components closer to rebuild or replacement.
The question you have to ask yourself at the end is “How much does the car cost, how many miles do you or your mechanic think the car will have before major expenses are incurred and how much will it cost you to drive per month?”. Let’s say a 2002 Acura with 150K in what appears to be “good” condition can be yours for $4200. Now, if the car was well maintained, the owner has the records, it can last you another 3 years or 50,000 miles. If all goes according to plan, you only pay $116 per month for the 3 years. Not bad. Now you sell the car that is now 11 years old with 200,000 miles for $1,200. You got a good deal because you drove a nice car for 3 years for $3000 or $83 a month. Congratulations! BUT what if major engine and/or transmission repairs are needed, it’s easy to spend another $1,500 on those repairs. So do the math.
Old cars can be a great answer to a financial problem, and if you’re lucky, all you’ll need to spend your hard-earned money on is basic maintenance and minor repairs.
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