How Old Does a Used Car Need to Be Before It’s a Good Deal?

When shopping for a used car, there are plenty of factors to consider including the car’s age, price, and condition. And while used car pricing has been the talk of the town lately, the car’s age is definitely an important part to focus on. But what is the ideal age to search for when shopping for a used car?

There is a “sweet spot” when it comes to used cars

used cars are for sale at a dealership
Used Cars At Dealership | JIM WATSON/AFP via Getty Images

While your budget will certainly have an effect on the potential used cars that you can buy, it could be worthwhile to understand how old of a car you should look for. According to Acorns, the “sweet spot” in age for a used car is around three to four years old with 30,000 to 40,000 miles on it.

Although the price of a used car that’s only three or four years old will be higher than one that’s older, buying a “newer” car can have some benefits. First, many used cars that are only a few years old have updated tech and safety features.

Things like Apple Carplay, a rearview camera of parking sensors aren’t available on older cars. Also, a newer used car will have fewer miles and less wear and tear than an older one, so there is a trade-off when it comes to paying a lower price for an older car with higher mileage.

Edmunds reports that the average price for a three-year-old car is $28,289 compared to an average price of a five-year-old car, which is $23,110. While saving $5,000 off the bat sounds like a good deal, it’s important to consider what the older car doesn’t have in terms of features, in addition to any potential repair costs sooner down the road.

Older cars can still be “good deals”

Potential car shoppers walk around Charles Hurst Usedirect used car dealership on Boucher Road
Car shoppers at a dealership | Liam McBurney/PA Images via Getty Images

While buying a car that’s three to four years old is ideal as far as its condition and features, an older car can have some redeeming values. Obviously, if you’re on a stricter budget, then buying a five-to-10-year-old car will likely keep you within your means. In addition to being cheaper, many older cars have all of the basic features you need every day. However, you will need to pay closer attention to the car’s condition and any potential repairs later on.

Consider a pre-purchase inspection and a vehicle history check

A mechanic works at a car shop
A mechanic works at a car shop. | (Photo by JOAQUIN SARMIENTO / AFP) (Photo by JOAQUIN SARMIENTO/AFP via Getty Images)

If you plan to buy an older car, be sure to get it checked out by a qualified mechanic first. A pre-purchase inspection typically costs around $100 and will take around an hour to do, but the time and the money spent could be well worth it. A good inspection can uncover a lot of repairs and costly maintenance items that could blindside you in the future.

Also, whether you’re planning to buy an older car from a dealership or a private party, be sure to check the car’s history report. Sites like Carfax and Autocheck are great resources and their reports will tell you pertinent information like the car’s maintenance and repair history.

Lastly, remember to take the car on a 20 to 30-minute test drive and check for any strange noises and make sure that you’re comfortable with the car that you’re buying. If the car’s history and condition check out fine, then there’s a good chance that you’ve scored a good deal on a used car, no matter how old it is.

RELATED: Consumer Reports: How to Avoid High Used Car Prices Right Now