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How Old is Too Old for a Used Car?

When you’re considering buying a used car, it’s important to take the vehicle’s history and status into account. Buying used provides perks like lower prices, more variety in year, make and model and the opportunity to save on freight charges, and, depending where you live, sales tax. However, many used car shoppers eventually ask themselves: how old is too old for a used car? Here are some factors to consider:

Vehicle safety

Typically newer, more expensive models have more safety features. If the quality and quantity of safety features are important factors, do some research into when certain options became available and consider this when deciding which model years to look into. Keep in mind that dual airbags were not legally mandated until 1998 and anti-lock brakes and side airbags only became common in the late 1990s and early 2000s. If these are features you prioritize, you may want to limit your search to vehicles made after these times.

In addition to the vehicle’s model year or odometer reading, accident history is something to consider. It’s not related to the age of the vehicle, but does play a significant role in determining its current condition. Get a CARFAX Canada Vehicle History Report to find out about the vehicle’s history, but keep in mind that if it has been in an accident, that doesn’t mean that it’s unsafe. If repairs have been done properly by a reputable source, it could be an opportunity for you to get into a higher-end vehicle at a lower price since damage history impacts value. Once you’ve reviewed the accident history report, take that report to a mechanic for a pre-purchase inspection to make sure the repairs were done thoroughly.

Dependability of your vehicle

If finding a reliable, well-maintained used car is your top priority, dependability can rest largely on how many kilometres the car has covered, as well its make and model. It’s a good idea to consider how you’ll deal with repairs down the road – the older the vehicle the more likely it’ll need some work, even if that means regular wear-and-tear like tires, wiper blades, brakes and battery replacement. Some suggest not buying a car that’s over 20 years old, as it can be more difficult to find parts for these vehicles if they’re needed down the road.

The average Canadian driver drives 20,000 kms per year. This means that the average 10-year old car has travelled around 200,000 kms – which is a lot of road-time and wear-and-tear. Do some research on the particular make and model you’re considering to find out how long it typically lasts and how much maintenance is required to keep it running smoothly. That will help you determine if the vehicle is too old, or if it’s just right for you.

Technology and equipment

Just because you want to buy a used car at a great price doesn’t mean you’re not interested in luxury features or up-to-date technology. A newer-used car is typically a better choice for certain tech and luxury features than older models for fairly obvious reasons. For example, a decade ago you would only find heated back seats in the most high-end vehicles and today, this feature is available on makes and models in both luxury and economy segments.

When it comes to recent technologies like mobile interface, adaptive cruise control and automatic climate control, they’re more likely available on vehicles less than five years old.

Car warranty

Finally, before you buy a used car be sure to check the warranty. Vehicles that are only a couple of years old may still be covered by the original manufacturer’s warranty. If you’re looking for a vehicle that's more than 2-3 years old but still prioritize warranty, consider looking for a Certified Pre-Owned (CPO) vehicle. This will typically mean buying from a dealer, but CPO cars usually have a decent warranty on them that can provide peace of mind, and recourse if something goes wrong. All major car manufacturers have their own version of a CPO program – learn about CPO here.

For older models with no warranty in place, you will need to consider potential future repairs and what they may cost.

There are many factors to consider when deciding how old is too old for a used car. Consider the factors discussed here, and look into the vehicle’s damage history, recall status and Canadian lien status by purchasing a CARFAX Canada Vehicle History Report + Lien Check. Then, take the vehicle for a test drive and have it inspected. This way, you’ll be confident and have peace of mind with whatever decision you make.