What's the Oldest Used Car You Should Consider? (2024)

ByDoug Demuro


Quick Facts About Older Used Cars

  • The early 2000s cars are a good starting point for essential safety features like dual airbags, anti-lock brakes, and stability control.
  • Finding parts to repair cars over 20 years old can be challenging.
  • Older luxury cars often have higher maintenance costs, making them more expensive in the long run.

New car prices are at near-record levels, and many drivers consider older used cars to meet their commuting needs. But how old is too old for a reliable car? While there are no rigid rules to follow when shopping for vehicles of a certain age, there are a few key factors to consider. Below, we’ll examine the most important things about purchasing an older used car.

  • When Is a Used Car Too Old to Buy?
  • What to Consider When Buying an Older Car
  • What Is the Best Age to Buy a Car?

When Is a Used Car Too Old to Buy?

As vehicles age, their safety features can become outdated. With modern technological advancements, consumers may discover older cars don’t meet their personal safety standards. This is often true for buyers shopping for family-friendly vehicles like full-size sedans and SUVs.

Additionally, maintenance costs can quickly add up as cars age. Parts are harder to find, and labor is more time-intensive. If these concerns make you uneasy, avoid cars over 20 years old. This rule of thumb may help ensure your vehicle choice is still safe, reliable, and affordable.

What to Consider When Buying an Older Car

While vintage charm and potential lower purchase prices lure some shoppers, critical factors come into play when buying an older car. As mentioned above, many of the safety features and technologies we’ve gotten used to in modern vehicles weren’t even on the radar as recently as 12 years ago, the average age of cars on the road today. Before you commit, pause to consider what matters most to you.

MORE:Should You Buy a Car That Has Been in an Accident?


Many used car shoppers have two ideas regarding safety: The more expensive the car was originally, the better it will be. And the newer the vehicle is, the better it will be.

Keeping those two notions in mind, here are a few general guidelines.

  • Front airbags became federally mandated for the 1999 model year. Side airbags aren’t mandatory, but many automakers started including them as a safety feature in the 2000s.
  • Since model year 2012, all light-duty vehicles have electronic stability control, though the feature was standard on many higher-end cars before that.
  • Vehicles with anti-lock braking systems were commonplace in the 1990s and became required equipment in 2013.

Although it depends on the car, we believe the early 2000s are an excellent place to start your search if you’re interested in safety. You’ll have other now-standard features like front airbags, anti-lock brakes, and side airbags. Check your car’s equipment list to ensure those items are included.

New vehicles have included rear-view cameras since 2018, though the feature was often included in premium cars earlier in the 2000s. Automatic emergency braking is standard in 90% of new vehicles in 2023; you can find it in about 65% of cars from 2015 and later. Both of these features improve safety and are incentives to seek out a newer used vehicle.

RELATED: Do Airbags Need to Be Replaced at a Certain Age?


If reliability is your top priority, you probably don’t want to buy a vehicle that’s too old. After all, the older a car is, the less reliable it’s likely to be, even if it’s a well-maintained, low-mileage vehicle with a good reputation, such as a Toyota or Honda.

Reliability depends on the vehicle and how many miles it’s covered. We wouldn’t go beyond the early 2000s for any daily driver because parts can be harder to find once a car crests 20 years of age. For higher mileage vehicles with more than 150,000 miles on the odometer, we might recommend trying to find a newer model year than the early 2000s.

RELATED:What’s More Important When Buying a Car: Miles or Age?


What if you want the latest and greatest technology from your used car? Once again, this depends on your chosen vehicle, but generally, newer vehicles will be better than older ones.

For example, 10 years ago, heated rear seats were considered a tremendous luxury reserved for only the most expensive cars. Today, the feature is on the options lists of most family sedans and even some compacts. It’s the same story with automatic climate control, adaptive cruise control, and ventilated front seats. A panoramic sunroof and many other items once considered luxuries have become relatively commonplace today.

As a result, we suggest going for the newest possible model you can find if you’re looking to maximize your equipment. If you choose a high-end luxury car, such as a BMW or a Mercedes-Benz, beware of potentially high maintenance bills that can make these vehicles even more expensive to own as they age.

MORE:Used Car Buying Guide

What Is the Best Age to Buy a Car?

According to data from Cox Automotive, Autotrader’s parent company, the average new car transaction price is over $48,000, and the average listing price for used cars is over $27,000. If these numbers are outside your budget, you must balance age, cost, safety, and reliability. Cars older than 5-7 years will often be priced lower than average while still having the modern features that impact your daily driving experience. Some may also still be covered under the factory warranty. Cars older than eight to 10 years will be a riskier option, depending on the driving and maintenance history, while vehicles over 15 to 20 are usually nearing the end of their service lives.

Related Used Car Buying Articles:

  • How Do You Finance a Car That’s More Than 10 Years Old?
  • Classic Cars: Tips for Buying and Owning
  • Who Buys Junk Cars?

Editor’s Note: This article has been updated with new information since it was initially published.

What's the Oldest Used Car You Should Consider? (2024)


What's the Oldest Used Car You Should Consider? ›

For most buyers, considering a used car that is around three to five years old can be an optimal choice, as it likely still retains modern features without the steep initial depreciation.

What's the oldest car you should buy used? ›

Cars older than eight to 10 years will be a riskier option, depending on the driving and maintenance history, while vehicles over 15 to 20 are usually nearing the end of their service lives.

Is buying a 20 year old car worth it? ›

Older vehicles often require more frequent maintenance, and some components may need replacement due to age-related wear. The overall cost of ownership can increase significantly as the car ages, potentially outweighing the initial savings on the purchase price.

What is considered old age for a car? ›

For insurance and registration purposes, the age of a classic car, in most cases, is at least 20 years old but not more than 40 years old.

How many miles is too many for a used car? ›

Often, 100,000 miles is considered a cut-off point for used cars because older vehicles often start requiring more expensive and frequent maintenance when mileage exceeds 100,000.

What is the best age to buy a used car? ›

The optimal time to purchase a used car is typically between 2 to 5 years old. Within this age range, the vehicle has already experienced the most significant depreciation, yet remains relatively new and in good condition.

What matters more, car age or mileage? ›

In conclusion, while it's a good idea to consider both the age of a vehicle and the mileage on the odometer, how it was maintained is the key. A 10 year old car with 100,000 miles may have received more maintenance and upkeep then a 5 year-old car with 50,000 miles.

At what age do cars lose the most value? ›

The first year faces the most significant depreciation hit to the car's market value, with most vehicles losing about 20% or more of their original value. The loss continues to decline from there. Cars often shed about 60% of their original purchase price within the first five years.

Can a car last 500000 miles? ›

A 500,000-mile used car or truck has obviously seen its fair share of wear and tear but if the damages wear repaired immediately and the parts were changed when they were supposed to, the vehicle is bound to survive long. Even when it comes to your ownership, you have to maintain the maintenance routine.

What is the sweet spot for used cars mileage? ›

As a general rule, lower mileage is better than higher mileage. Consider the fact that the average driver puts between 12,000 and 15,000 miles on their cars per year. This means that you can expect a 5-year-old vehicle to have between 60,000 and 75,000 miles on the odometer in order to be considered average.

What is high mileage for a car? ›

Traditional wisdom used to warn car buyers to keep away from vehicles with over 100,000 miles. Put simply, though, the 100,000 mile-marker is no longer a good indicator for buying used. If a vehicle has been properly maintained, it can last several hundred thousand miles.

What is a 15 year old car considered? ›

Listed below are a few different classic car types and how they are defined by the state of California: Antiques - Any vehicle 25 years or older. Classics - Cars between 20 to 24 years old. Collectibles- Models between 15 to 19 years old.

Is a 25 year old car a classic? ›

Classic cars are at least 20 years old but not older than 45 years, while vintage cars are 25 years or older. Antique cars are even older, at least 45 years old. Keep these classifications in mind, as it can get even more confusing when searching for cars online.

What is the most reliable car brand? ›

Luxury brand Lexus gets ranked first, with models like the 2023 Lexus GX proving to be the most reliable. They are also doing well in the hybrid model section.

When buying a used car what is bad mileage? ›

It can be somewhat risky to buy a vehicle that has racked up more than 100,000 miles. Even if it's well-maintained and has about 100,000 miles left in it, such a car is already past its prime. Generally, vehicles are likely to start experiencing problems after the 100,000-mile mark.

Is it worth fixing a car with 200k miles? ›

Depending on the car's value, repairing it might be worth the money to keep it going for a few more years. However, most modern gasoline-powered vehicles will start to struggle after the 200,000-mile mark. Electric cars can usually make it up to 300,000 miles before they're considered well used.

Is 10 years too old for a used car? ›

Reliability of Established Models: Many well-known car models are designed to last well beyond a decade. If the vehicle has been consistently maintained and has a reputation for reliability, a 10-year-old car can still offer dependable transportation.

What year is a good year for a used car? ›

Newer Is Safer

If you're looking for a 10-year-old used car, you should focus on models that offered those features and make sure the example you're considering has them. If you want the widest selection of cars with the most important safety features, consider cars starting from the 2012 model year.

Is buying an old car with low miles a good idea? ›

Buying a low-mileage used car is a great decision, but finding one for sale might be challenging. Avoid scams by comparing the odometer reading with mileage on the vehicle history report, maintenance records, and signs of wear. Get a comprehensive inspection and review the maintenance history before making a decision.

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