A bit of a fixer-upper: Is it worth it fixing up an old car?

18 Aug 15

When it comes to buying a used car, there's an art to being thrifty. On the one hand, you want to get your money's worth, and economise where possible, but on the other hand, you don't want to be stuck with a lemon you just end up replacing in a matter of months. 

But then you find yourself trawling used car dealerships until a diamond in the rough presents itself with a price almost too good to ignore. You could just put down a little extra cash for a more reliable choice, but surely it would be far cheaper to find some run-down, unloved old car and renovate it to its former glory yourself, right? 

An investment in more ways than one

You're going to need invest a lot time, and have a lot of patience before your efforts begin to pay off with an older model car. You may also need a fair amount of cash to get the vehicle to an acceptable (and safe) state. 

"One quick way to come to a decision is with some simple math," advises Edmunds. "If the cost of repairs is greater than either the value of the vehicle or one year's worth of monthly payments, it's time for another vehicle."1

Remember, the price may be right for your budget right now, but if you can see cost of new parts and labour mounting up in the future, then maybe you should reconsider. 

Know what you're getting yourself into

Like any car, before you get your hands on an older vehicle, it pays to do your research. Not only in terms of shopping around until you find what you're looking for, but also in terms of the integrity of the car itself.

With a CarHistory report, you can dig up the dirt on a used car, from odometer wind backs to any past finance that may be owed on it.

You'll also be able to see its ANCAP rating, an important consideration as older models lack the cutting edge safety technology of today's cars, meaning that you may have to spend more money in order to get a car to comply with modern safety standards. 

In the end, buying an older car with the view to restore it is a battle between your head and your heart. Some cars can end up being more trouble than they're worth, but with others you may end up with a valuable asset you can be proud to have fixed up. 

1Edmunds, Should I Fix Up or Trade Up My Old Car? Accessed June 19, 2015.