Places That Buy the Oldest Used Cars
Across the country people are looking to buy used vehicles and skip out on ever-increasing new car prices. But how used is too used?
In a new study of used cars sales, LendingTree analyzed auto loan offers for borrowers in the top 50 U.S. metros (based on population). We were curious to see the average age of used cars financed in each metro, as well as which makes of used cars were most popular.
We discovered the national average age of a used car people sought to finance was six years old. But some parts of the country prefer older used cars more than others.
In this study, we’ll cover:
- The top areas for the oldest used cars
- The top areas for the newest used cars
- What to look for when getting a used car
- How to finance a used car
Places where car buyers purchase the oldest used cars
- Portland, Ore. Portlanders sought the oldest cars in the U.S. Vehicles at least 7.45 years on average were what people sought to finance.
- Salt Lake City ranked second among cities where people sought older used cars. Car buyers in Salt Lake City sought loans for cars aged a bit over 7 years.
- Seattle, which is less than a three-hour drive away from Portland, ranked third nationally for seeking to buy the oldest cars, with an average car age of just under 7 years.
- Midwest. The heartland of the U.S. largely sought older used cars, with cities from Denver to Milwaukee financing cars 6.34 years or older.
- East Coast outliers. Two cities in Virginia were the only cities on the East Coast that sought out older used cars. Virginia Beach ranked fourth and the commonwealth’s capital, Richmond, ranked fifth with people in both cities seeking cars aged 6.78 and 6.52 years old, respectively.
Places where car buyers want newer used cars
- Florida drivers really prefer newer used models. Miami car buyers wanted used cars under the 5-year-old mark, purchasing used cars with an average age of 4.76 years. Orlando, Jacksonville and Tampa, meanwhile, followed suit, with the average age not exceeding 5.86 years.
- Texas. Texas has three of the 10 largest cities in the U.S., and all of them, including the capital Austin, have an appetite for younger vehicles, according to our study. Houston ranked as the second in the country for drivers seeking younger used cars, with an average age of 5.08 years.
- New Orleans ranked third among metros seeking newer used vehicles. The average age of the desired used car in New Orleans is 5.33 years.
- East Coast. New York City is also a large market for newer used cars. People sought loans for cars with an average age of 5.40 years, placing the Big Apple fifth on our list. It sits in a chain of major cities that also like newer used cars from Washington D.C. to Boston, which ranked ninth and tenth respectively.
Chevy is the most popular make among people buying used vehicles
Chevrolet was by far the most popular brand for used cars overall. Out of the top 50 metros, it was the most popular brand in 31. Nissan was the second-most popular overall, being favored in 10 out of the 50 metros.
For cities that favor the oldest used cars, the most popular car brands were largely American. In 17 out of the top 25 cities seeking older used cars, Chevrolet retained its spot as the most sought-after brand. Ford, however, claimed the top spot in Portland, Ore., where people buy the oldest used cars in the nation. Only six out of the top 25 cities buying older used cars favored foreign brands, with Nissan claiming five and Toyota claiming one metro.
For cities that favor the newest used cars, foreign brands came more into play. Chevy still claimed over half of the cities, 14 out of the 25. Drivers in Miami, the city that favors the newest used cars, chose Chevy most often, as did Dallas and New Orleans, which ranked third and fourth respectively. Houston, which ranked second, and San Francisco at No. 8 choose Toyota. For the rest, five favored Nissan, three favored Honda and one favored Ford.
Does it pay to buy older used cars?
- Getting an older used car means you avoid overpaying for an asset (the car) that will simply depreciate in value over time. A new car can lose a substantial share of its value in the first few years of ownership alone.
- The savings you get on the sales price of an older used car could outweigh the repair costs for it depending on the vehicle.
- Buying used comes with its disadvantages. For starters, repair costs could be higher with a used vehicle as the car wears down and the warranty runs out.
- Your common “bumper-to-bumper” warranty coverage only lasts three years from the day the car was first purchased, depending on the brand.
Tips on purchasing a used car
Shop around to compare prices. Once you know your budget and decided on whether to buy a new or used car, check out online sites like Carfax.com, AutoTrader and Edmunds. They let you sort through inventory by price, age, mileage, location and more.
Sites like Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace don’t have as many search filter options but feature mostly private sellers. The pro of buying from a private seller is that the price is lower than those at dealerships. The con is that private sellers don’t have to meet standard state laws that businesses do regarding inspections, disclosures and the warranty of merchantability.
Don’t buy a car without test-driving it. Whether you go to a dealership or find one from a private seller, test-drive the car and listen to see if the brakes are good, the lights work — the whole shebang.
Request to take it to an independent mechanic. By having an independent mechanic take a look at it, you’ll know if the transmission will drop out of the vehicle in 50 miles or not. The mechanic can give you an unbiased report on whether the vehicle is in good shape.
Check the maintenance log if it’s available. You want a car that’s been maintained well. High mileage on a vehicle is not always a death toll for your wallet in repair costs, if the car has been serviced regularly. Low mileage is not always what it’s cracked up to be. Lack of use can cause rubber and plastic parts, like valve covers, to crack and break, so check the timing between maintenance, not just the miles. Often the Carfax report will have the vehicle service record, but you can also ask for a copy from a dealership.
Ask the dealer for a copy of the Carfax report, which is considered the top standard in vehicle history reporting, and check for any vehicle recalls with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration by entering the VIN. If the dealer isn’t willing to provide a Carfax report, that’s a red flag; you might want to look elsewhere. If you’re buying from a private seller, you can purchase a Carfax report yourself for $39.99.
For more information, you can see this article on how to buy a used car in 10 simple steps.
How to finance a used car
Never just accept what a dealer tells you is a good financing deal. Know the type of rate you can get before you kick some tires and take a test-drive.
Check out if your bank or credit union offers used auto loans. If you’re already a member and in good standing with them, you could qualify for a rate discount on the loan with them.
You can shop around online for an auto loan before you know the exact car you want. This way you’ll get an idea of what’s available to you. Some banks offer pre-approval programs. If you already know the exact car you want, that’s even better. You can go into the dealership knowing you have a financing offer ready, and you can ask the dealership to try and beat the offer.
Vehicle makes were counted and vehicle age was averaged across metropolitan statistical areas (“MSAs”) from the model years reported on query forms submitted by LendingTree customers seeking loans for used vehicle purchases. The data set was limited to queries submitted in 2017 for cars and light trucks with model years less than 2017. The analysis was limited to the 50 largest MSAs by population.