Should I buy this car?
October 7, 2019 9:59 AM   Subscribe

My partner and I have the opportunity to buy an old used car for cheap. Should we do it? More details inside.

My cousin is selling a 2008 Honda Accord. He says I can have it (including snow tires) for $1,000. I am considering it. Here are the relevant facts:

1. I live with my partner in downtown Toronto. We own a parking space (came with condo).
2. We estimate that insurance will be approximately $200/month. We can afford this without a dent in our loan repayments/savings.
3. We will not be driving to work (it is a 20 minute transit/bike commute).
4. We will be driving to see friends/family in the suburbs and other Ontario cities.
5. We have rented cars 7 times this year for a total of 15 days, and I anticipate at least another 7 days of car rental this year (Christmas visiting). Car rentals are approximately $50-$100/day.
6. I also rent cars for work but I get reimbursed for that. I would also get mileage if I used my car for work.
7. I would drive out of the city more if I had a car. I have friends who live approx 1 hour away by car but 2+ hours away by transit/train.
8. The car has been taken to all of its checkups and scheduled maintenance. My cousin is incredibly responsible.

We have always assumed we would eventually buy a car. We are basically treating this as a test car, to see if we use it a lot or a little. I have never bought a car before, and haven't had one for years and years. Please give me your advice and your vote.
posted by hepta to Travel & Transportation (20 answers total)
What's the mileage on it?
posted by belladonna at 10:04 AM on October 7, 2019

Excellent question. It has very high mileage: 370k kilometres.
posted by hepta at 10:19 AM on October 7, 2019

370K kilometers on a 10 year old car? Depends on your risk tolerance for throwing $1000 down the drain. Could be fine, could need $5000 of repairs in a month. I would lean towards "hell no", myself.
posted by Automocar at 10:25 AM on October 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

If the tires are in good shape, you can always sell them if it turns out to be a bad purchase. Assuming that the tires are in decent shape?

How's the body?
posted by Ftsqg at 10:40 AM on October 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

1) This was how I acquired my first car after moving to my current job.
2) Many repair bills. Much (w)ow. Easily several thousand more than I paid. Be aware that not driving the car regularly may cause unexpected problems.
3) Save up your money, buy a much newer used car.
posted by thomas j wise at 10:40 AM on October 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Sounds pretty good to me, the small repairs are the tricky mental part, where to draw the line. If it does not need imminent big brake or exhaust replacement and is in generally good shape it's a pretty good gamble. Folks have driven hondas a lot further.
posted by sammyo at 10:45 AM on October 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

At just over 220k miles, for a 10yo Honda product, and -especially- given your #8, I'd say yes, buy this car (with realistic expectations).

I wouldn't buy any 10yo car, or any car with an unknown service history, but in this combination I'd do it.
posted by Dashy at 10:47 AM on October 7, 2019 [6 favorites]

Honda Accords are known for their reliability so the mileage doesn't particularly concern me. I assume your cousin has disclosed all problems they've had with it. Nevertheless you should have it evaluated by a good mechanic, as they'll be able to tell if it's solid or that you'll need a $1,500 transmission repair soon. Also, do your Internet research to see if $1,000 is a reasonable price.
posted by davcoo at 11:03 AM on October 7, 2019

Has the cousin owned it since it was new? If he has and has maintained it properly then buy it.
posted by mareli at 11:03 AM on October 7, 2019

Further updates: the body is good, it has never been in a collision. The car was originally my aunt's, who bought it new (and is not one to skimp on the extras) and then gifted it to my cousin.
posted by hepta at 11:26 AM on October 7, 2019

As long as the timing belt has been changed - the only really *deep* maintenance that can be spendy - go for it.

Change the oil/fluids, change the timing belt, replace tires and brakes as needed, and get another 200k out of it.
posted by notsnot at 11:58 AM on October 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

With the minimum of $200/mo on insurance, your yearly cost excluding gas and any maintenance is going to be $2400. Car rentals of $100 a day would give you 24 car rental days (or 34 days if you include your initial $1k investment). Those are 24 no-worry rentals. There's something to be said about having a car for spur of the moment things. I'd suggest having a mechanic check for expensive repairs like timing belts etc.
posted by lois1950 at 12:00 PM on October 7, 2019 [2 favorites]

Check to see if it has a timing belt and if it has or should be changed. On some cars, if it breaks, the engine is ruined.

Buy it, take pretty good care of it, do all the things and travel that need a car with gusto. Even if it dies in 1 year, it's a pretty good deal.
posted by theora55 at 12:04 PM on October 7, 2019

$200 a month is an awful lot for insurance for a car that you barely drive. I just got insurance for an old car that I barely drive and it was less than $200 for six months through Geico. Obviously, that is minimum coverage. Shop around; you don't need expensive insurance for an old car that you don't drive much.
posted by Kwine at 12:05 PM on October 7, 2019 [4 favorites]

If it's the 4-cylinder engine, I'd go for it. If it's the 6-cylinder you should learn the history of timing belt changes. The 4 has a timing chain (will last "forever"), the 6 has a timing belt which needs to be replaced about every 100k miles. So, should be on it's third timing belt, but all you need to care about is age of the current one! This is "regular" maintenance but it's something that's often forgotten.

The belt isn't something that can be inspected, I mean it can, but to do so is about 90% of the work in replacing it.
Honda's engines are designed in such a way that failure of the timing belt can/will result in a catastrophic engine failure. Replacement is about $500-$1000 (US dollars) so it's something previous owners would remember having done.
posted by ixipkcams at 12:12 PM on October 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

(we have expensive insurance in Ontario, Kwine.)

If you do use it for work (even business trips for work, not like delivery work) your insurance will want to know and consequently make it more $$$. Some employers will expect you to maintain at least their preferred level of public liability insurance if you wish to claim driving expenses, and this can make insurance more expensive still.
posted by scruss at 12:12 PM on October 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

I think a honda with a known service history from trusted relatives is a rare and good find. agree with others re timing belt, that's important to know..

re: question of comparing it to cost if renting a car .. i don't think it's apples to apples, I think the question to ask yourself, assuming you can afford to have a car which it sounds you can, is a different one that's more about your quality of life, opportunities you'd spontaneously say yes to if you had a car ( also -would weekly errands be any easier? fewer Uber /Lyft rides to spend on? ) etc... vs having to go to the trouble/planning ahead required to rent one each time (and remembering that sometimes it's hard to find a list minute spontaneous rental car, or.. it is in cities and suburbs I've lived in on summer weekends) .. so .. ask yourself some qualitative questions like that and see if you can assign a value of some sort there, and factor that value, if any, in.
posted by elgee at 4:02 PM on October 7, 2019

Do it, if only because insurance in Ontario is expensive enough that it's not worth it to have a car that you need collision and/or comprehensive coverage for, you have a parking spot at your disposal, and Toronto's car-sharing options aren't what they used to be. IIRC, $200/month for liability-only coverage in downtown Toronto doesn't necessarily translate to a lot of third-party liability coverage so you might have to revisit your insurance budget if you need something like $2 million of coverage.

As someone who also owns a 10 year old Japanese car with a known service history and has a similar set of use cases for my car: the mileage on this one concerns me. I'd be wary of driving a really high-mileage vehicle for work, for one.
posted by blerghamot at 1:06 AM on October 8, 2019

Your costs will likely be under twenty cents a kilometre. Which means significant tax free income if your company pays the tax maximum fifty four cents a kilometre.
posted by Mitheral at 6:26 AM on October 8, 2019

If $200 a month for insurance is a reasonable estimate, that's a reason not to get it all by itself. $200 a month could be invested in doubling your car rental budget and then some, and that's without even considering maintenance costs and the cost of purchase. That's a no-brainer.
posted by Kwine at 6:30 AM on October 8, 2019 [1 favorite]

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