Run away from a used car that's barely been driven in years?
July 26, 2014 4:53 PM Subscribe
I'm in the market for a used car, and I know that it's bad news when a car isn't driven regularly. I've found one that's otherwise good for me. I don't know how little driving is too little, whether the kinds of problems that result could be checked by a mechanic's pre-purchase inspection, and whether my own tough driving patterns make any difference.
The car is a 2009 Subaru Impreza with 17,500 miles. From photos and a call with the seller, it appears to be in excellent shape and the seller sounds sincere. But it's barely been driven since the seller moved away and left the car with a relative in May, 2012. Since then:
-They've kept up the inspections and registration, and left it in the garage.
-He guesses that the relative has run it 10-15 min per week in the community, for a total of <200 miles in 2 years. He did not make any reassuring mention of highway miles or maintenance. He noted this was all just a guess. If this isn't a definite 'run now' situation, I can talk to the relative and see whether he says anything different, and ask for service records to see what I can piece together in terms of dates and odometer readings.
-One repair was made. He thinks it was brake pads or something else brake related, because there was rust there that New Hampshire required addressing. He didn't seem certain of the details, but the records may be with the car.
I'm in no rush, but I've already been looking for a few months, and it's very rare for anything to match my criteria at the price I'm targeting, and I think I could probably get this one into that range. I haven't gone to see it. If I did, before closing a deal, I'd definitely take it to a mechanic for an inspection and run a CarFax (or a better alternative?). But I don't know if the damage done by sitting too much is something a mechanic can see. If I buy the car, I'm also open to doing whatever servicing could help.
My own driving pattern is tough on cars -- I park outside through Boston seasons, don't drive much, and what driving I do is usually 3 non-highway miles at a time. I usually keep cars for 10 years or so. Maybe that means that whatever's bad about a car sitting around will be true of any car once I own it, anyway?
Should I let this car go or try to get more info from the relative, any service records, a mechanic's inspection, and the CarFax? (If I do get more info, I'll update below.)