Many people believe that buying a new car is the only way to ensure reliability. The truth is that many used cars are just as dependable (or even more reliable) than their newer counterparts. These days, buying a used vehicle is less risky than ever, provided you keep a few things in mind. Here is some advice we would like you to consider.
Importance of Reliability
A survey of potential car buyers revealed that reliability was a leading factor in deciding whether to purchase a new or pre-owned vehicle. In particular, those who claimed they were only considering a new car cited the need to avoid maintenance and repair issues. Over half stated they were interested in a warranty while 46% reported they would rather not be inconvenienced by repairs.
Jake Fisher, the Director of Auto Testing for Consumer Reports, says that people should not just assume that buying a new car means that you will never face reliability problems. Instead, he advises doing research into any used vehicle you may be considering. He believes there is enough information out there that will help you predict which automobiles might perform well and which ones may not.
Higher Mileage Not Unusual
At one point, the idea of driving a reliable, high-mileage used car would have seemed outlandish. However, high-mileage vehicles are becoming more and more common these days. The reason has to do with better powertrains, rust protection, and enhanced lubricants that have led to vehicles becoming more reliable than ever.
The increased reliability has resulted in consumers holding onto their vehicles longer than ever. The average age of an automobile on the road now stands at 11.8 years, which is an all-time high. That figure is also an increase of more than 4% over the past five years.
Older vehicles are also a trend among commercial vehicle owners. Information from the Department of Transportation (DOT) shows that the average age of light-duty fleet vehicles was 11.5 years in 2015. This amounted to an age increase of 29% between 2000 and 2015. The average age of commercial trucks has increased from 12.5 years in 2007 to 14.8 years in 2015 as well.
Driving More Miles
One reason people are more willing to drive higher-mileage vehicles is that we are also traveling more miles each year. Between 2010 and 2015, the number of Vehicle Miles Traveled (VMT) increased by 4%. At the same time, the total mileage of public roads increased by 2.2%. Since we are now driving further, 100,000 miles doesn’t seem quite as overwhelming as it once did.
Improved Manufacturing Techniques
Why are vehicles today more reliable than ones produced 15 or even 20 years ago? Automated manufacturing techniques could play a role. Many automakers are now using robots, which in turn provides greater consistency and eliminates human error.
An increase in robots also results in a cleaner, more sterile factory environment. As such, the odds that dust and particles will get into your car’s engine or other delicate parts have been greatly reduced.
Today’s fuel-injected engines have basically eliminated the need for carburetors. There are numerous advantages to fuel injection, including better performance and fuel economy. With a fuel-injected engine, you will never have to worry about gunk getting into your carburetor and causing performance issues. Accordingly, there is no need to worry about driving a vehicle at very dangerous speeds in order to “burn off the carbon.”
The improved electronics inside modern vehicles have also led to an increase in reliability. Enhanced electronics systems leave fewer mechanical parts that might wear down. At the same time, it will increase the lifespan of your engine. In fact, the electric cars built today are expected to last even longer than most gasoline autos for that very reason.
Timing Chains vs. Belts
At one time, most vehicles were equipped with timing belts that synchronized the engine’s crankshaft and camshaft. These belts were made from rubber and were susceptible to breaking at around 100,000 miles. Replacing them was an expensive endeavor, so many people considered their vehicles finished once the timing belt went out. Others would trade them in so that they did not have to worry about it.
These days, the majority of vehicles have timing chains rather than timing belts. Timing chains are made from metal and will, therefore, last much longer than a belt would. You may still need to replace your timing chain but probably not as soon as you would a timing belt. In many cases, the chain might even outlast the automobile itself.
Difference in Generations
Some vehicles that have a reputation for dependability may suddenly develop issues. This is often the case after manufacturers make significant changes to the features or design of a particular model. In general, the first model year of a new generation tends to have the most issues. That’s because automakers have not yet had a chance to fully work out all of the bugs.
On the other hand, the last model year in a generation is often the most reliable. After years of production, manufacturers have had plenty of time to resolve any issues. Accordingly, an older model may sometimes be more reliable and have higher customer satisfaction ratings than a newer one.
An example of this is the Subaru Impreza, which had exceptional reliability prior to its redesign in 2017. After that, its reliability fell to below average, with around 20% claiming they experienced problems with rearview cameras and display screens.
Choosing a Used Car
Just because cars are lasting longer these days does not mean you should not use caution. Before buying any automobile, perform some research to see what other people’s experience has been. When choosing a redesigned model, look at the brand’s overall history or wait until there is more information on that particular generation.
You may also wish to have your vehicle inspected by a mechanic to verify that it is still in good condition. A full mechanic’s inspection can cost an average of $100 to $150 but can help you spot things you might otherwise have overlooked.
Perform your own inspection, looking for signs that a vehicle may have been involved in an accident. A few things to look for are dents, dings, and mismatched body panels. Paint overspray might indicate poor-quality body panel repairs as well.
Getting a History Report
Having a full car history report can also tell you a great deal about a vehicle. Even so, you should not rely on it entirely. Some information concerning accidents or repairs could be missing from a report, so you should use it only as a guide. Reliable report providers include CarFax and AutoCheck.
Avoiding Water Damage
Avoid any cars that show signs of water damage. These include mildew, silt, or water-damaged carpeting. Some owners will attempt to cover musty odors with air fresheners. Consequently, you should be leery of any strong fragrances coming from the interior of a vehicle.
A vehicle’s carpet and upholstery should be in keeping with its age. If the carpet or seats have recently been replaced, you may want to find out why. You should also keep an eye out for upholstery or carpet that is stained or does not match.
Consider Late-Model Used
If you are concerned with reliability, a late-model used car can provide you with many of the same benefits of a new vehicle. Many still have most of their factory warranty remaining or are eligible for an extended warranty. You may even be able to enjoy prepaid maintenance or free loaner vehicles in the event your car does eventually need repairs.
You may be tempted to purchase a very inexpensive used vehicle. However, Consumer Reports advises against buying just any vehicle. Instead, the company recommends looking for an automobile with the style and features you want. In doing so, you are more likely to desire holding onto that car for an extended period of time.
Used Vehicles Are a Great Value
The right used vehicle can provide you with an exceptional value for your money. Research different makes and models to find out which ones are most likely to be reliable. Learn as much as you can about an automobile’s history, and perform your own inspection to uncover any hidden problems.
Once you have found the right vehicle, keep it in great shape by having regular maintenance performed. Take care of small repairs before they have a chance to become bigger ones, and always use high-quality parts. So long as you do these things, the odds that your automobile will last 200,000 miles or more is rather high.