For a used car, how old is too old? Here's the ideal age, according to auto experts

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Scotty Reiss, founder of A Girls Guide to Cars, is in the market for a used car. “I need to buy something for my daughter, who is sophomore in college,” she says. “She is living off campus and she needs a car.”

There are lots to choose from, she says, but her budget is not going as far as she thought it would. “We’re looking for something under $20,000,” she says. “What we want to get for our budget is probably putting us back a model year older than we’d like.”

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The average price of a used car has skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic, according to data from automotive resource site Edmunds. In May 2020, the average price consumers paid for a used car was $20,923. A year later, it was $25,091 — a roughly 20% jump. “‘High’ isn’t the right word to describe the month-to-month change we’re seeing,” says Ivan Drury, senior manager of insights at Edmunds. “Maybe ‘unheard of.'”

Production disruptions due to the pandemic have led to a car shortage. That has consumers who were shopping for a new car now looking to get the next-best thing, he says, and the demand is driving up prices: “Unfortunately, everyone is looking for used vehicles because there is no replacement for new cars other than used cars.”

If, like Reiss, you’ve been having trouble finding the vehicle you want for the budget you have, you might be considering going with a used car that’s a few years older. Here’s how old you should go, according to car experts.

Unfortunately, everyone is looking for used vehicles because there is no replacement for new cars other than used cars.

Ivan Drury

senior manager of insights at Edmunds

Buy a used car in the ‘sweet spot’

Older cars can be good buys, too

3 tips to avoid ‘surprises’ when buying a used car



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