Is Three Years The Most Optimal Age To Buy Used Cars?


Buying used cars is a very good way to reduce your transportation expense which is one of your average person’s largest expenses in their lifetime along with housing and insurance. However, there are some pitfalls of buying used cars that can eliminate any benefit of buying used, including hidden problems and poor prior owner maintenance.

Owner maintenance can be remedied by asking for service records. An owner that keeps copies of oil change intervals and other maintenance work are more likely to have taken better care of their car versus someone that does not.

For the average person that just wants to buy a car without hidden problems or repairs, the best strategy is to buy a 3 year old used car. The reason for this is because most factory warranties are 5 years and 60,000 miles. That means when you buy the car, it should still have about 1-2 years and 15,000 - 20,000 miles left on the factory warranty. Any major issues with the powertrain, such as the transmission or engine, will be covered. More importantly, the prior owners will also have had this warranty so any problems that arose would have been taken care of, thus the amount of deferred maintenance will be minimal. Note that you should not be worried about things such as tires or brakes, which are normal wear and tear items that should be replaced regularly. However, if you notice the tire treads are just about gone, you can often use that to bargain for a lower price because they will need to be replace soon.

By buying a 3 year old car, the previous owner will have taken most of the new car depreciation hit for you. There will be a good selection of inventory to choose from because the majority of lease periods are for 3 years. As far as brands go, you can’t go wrong with Honda or Toyota. Hyundai and KIA are also good options because their Certified Pre Owned (CPO) vehicles retain their 10 year, 100,000 mile warranty, whereas non-CPO used Hyundais and KIAs only have a 5 year, 60,000 mile second owner warranty.