Is Buying an Old Car a Good Idea, Even If It Is Pristine?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Jan 04, 2018

Dear Car Talk:

I've got three worn-out old cars and likely will have to replace one or another soon. My neighbor has a 1992 Buick Regal. He wants to sell it -- the first $2,200 gets it. Having always purchased pre-owned automobiles in the past, I know what kind of challenges a 25-year-old car can bring (there aren't any more in the junkyards, for one thing).

But this car is perfect: Showroom condition, inside and out. My neighbor is proactive about maintenance. He replaced the alternator just because he thought it might wear out someday. The paint is double-coat, waxed twice a year. There are no cracks or splits in the upholstery. No leaks. No dents. No scratches, even. What do you think? Can I depend on a 1992 Buick to be a daily driver? -- Bob



Well, Bob, you say you've got three worn-out old cars. So what's one more?

I think it's great that your neighbor has kept it up well. That certainly improves your odds of making it to work and back a few more times.

But it's a 25-year-old car. And even though he may have replaced 100 parts with brand-new ones, there are a thousand parts that haven't been replaced. I'm guessing the transmission is original, the differential is original, the water pump and the fuel pump probably are original.

And he's probably getting rid of the "perfect" car because he's got a feeling he's on borrowed time. And you will be, too. But it sounds like you're willing to accept that. And if so, go for it.

My advice would be to keep doing what your neighbor has done. Do all the regular maintenance, change all the fluids on time and, most importantly, drive it gently. That'll increase the time it takes for this Regal to look and drive like your other three cars, Bob.

And look on the bright side: At least you know you won't need an alternator anytime soon. And given how well he's kept up its appearance, you'll look great in it when you do get towed. Good luck. Hope it surprises everybody!


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