How to Handle a Rarely-Driven Used Car

December 15th, 2015 by

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If you’re searching for a used car, you may come across some peculiar listings. If you’re lucky (depending on your point of view), you may come across a vehicle that has barely any miles on the odometer. How do you approach these vehicles? Do you jump on the opportunity to own a practically untouched vehicle, or do you avoid the vehicle because of its lack of action?

It’s certainly an interesting question that we’ll explore below. You can hopefully use this information if you ever come across a similar used car in Albany, New York

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Doug DeMuro, a writer over at Jalopnik.com, received an interesting scenario from a reader named Herb. After having recently bought a 2005 Subaru STi (a sports car that typically runs for around $17,000 on the used market) with 88,000 miles on it, the car enthusiast came across a curious listing on AutoTrader.com.

A New York dealership was selling a decked out 2005 Subaru STi (including Obsidian Black Pearl paint and gold wheels). The odd part? It only had 149 miles on the odometer. After contacting the dealership, Herb learned that the previous owner had traded the Subaru and a 2009 Nissan 370Z (with only 314 miles) for a new Hyper Blue STi Edition. Herb also secured a CarFax report and the original sale document, learning that the previous owner lived on a giant estate and kept the vehicles in a climate controlled garage for a decade.

Herb ended up purchasing the little-used car, and he made sure that the vehicle was completely inspected by a mechanic at the Subaru dealership. However, the new owner had some apprehension about his purchase. Does he store the vehicle and use it as a show car? Should he sell his other STi? Should he have avoided the purchase entirely?

Doug was understandably stumped by the situation with the previous driver. Beyond the fact that he compiled less than 500 miles on a pair of cars over the span of a decade, the writer questioned the original owner’s strategy. If they had wanted to preserve the vehicle to get maximum value down the road (which would be the only logical course of action), why were they trading the cars in?

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Regardless, the writer first suggested getting the car checked out by a separate mechanic who may be familiar with rarely-used cars. Vehicles aren’t necessarily meant to be stored, as all of the various parts of a car’s mechanics work the best when they’ve been consistently used. After ten years, there’s no guarantee that these parts are going to even be working to half of their abilities, and there’s a good chance that many of the rubber, plastic, or metal parts may need to be replaced.

Overall, Doug wouldn’t have made the purchase. There isn’t much use for continuing to store the vehicle. Unless you run into a low-mileage antique, there aren’t too many cars that are going to impress on the show circuit or at museums… especially vehicles from the past 20 years.

Under that logic, you’d sell the 88,000-mile Subaru and drive your “new” low-mileage ride. However, this would likely be accompanied by some anxiety, as Doug admits that he’d be thinking about the thousands of dollars the car’s value would drop for every 500 miles.

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Overall, we’d suggest doing all of your homework on a low-mileage used car before making the purchase. You may have to invest more money into repairing the vehicle’s parts, and that’s after you’ve already dished out some extra cash to secure the low-mileage ride (as compared to, say, a 50,000-mile car). Therefore, we’d suggest being cautious before making any commitments.

Posted in used cars