The Little-Old-Lady Car: Is It Really the Deal of a Lifetime?


An amazing vehicle tucked away and forgotten in a retiree's garage is a dream of many used-car buyers. The idea of something purchased new, rarely driven and then stored for a decade or two may seem like an ideal find, but there are some very good reasons this type of car may not be as great a deal as it seems. Here are some points to consider before making a purchase.

Know the Reason

It is important to know why the vehicle was kept in storage. There are some very valid reasons.

  • It was a keepsake kept in memory of a deceased loved one.
  • The owner was unable to drive due to health concerns.

Both of these examples are reasonable answers, but another common reason is cause for alarm. Some vehicles may have repeatedly experienced mechanical issues, and the owner no longer wanted to pay for its repairs and maintenance. Parking it may have been the only solution they had at the time because it was not fit to sell or drive.

Check the Location

Vehicles are not always safe just because they are kept in a garage. Water damage from floods, burst pipes or a leaky roof could have made the vehicle unusable. Rodent infestation is another concern. Not only is there the mess of clearing out their nests but also the very real concern of the damage rodents cause when they chew on wiring.

Inspect the Condition

Sitting in one spot without any use can cause a great deal of damage to any vehicle. The tires could have flat spots and dry rot. Any rubber on a vehicle is at risk of drying out and cracking over time. The list includes door and window seals, hoses and belts and even the rubber bushings on the suspension system that may all need to be replaced.

Consider the Climate

Cars and trucks exposed to constantly changing temperature extremes and high humidity levels without regular cleaning and maintenance could develop mold and mildew issues. Deep cleaning the carpeting and upholstery may not be enough to prevent the problem from reoccurring. If not removed, it could be a potential health risk to anyone riding in the vehicle.

Review the Maintenance

It is unusual for a stored vehicle to receive any maintenance. The engine oil, brake fluid and other fluids will usually need to be replaced and the systems flushed before the vehicle is driven. Regular lubrication and the replacement of parts as they begin to corrode may have been neglected. Once the vehicle is in use, these parts could start to break or cause problems.

Understand Storage Concerns

Even if the vehicle has only been stored for a year or less, there are still some issues to remember. The gasoline could have separated or caused corrosion in the tank or fuel lines. The battery will usually have lost its charge and could be heavily corroded too. If the vehicle was not clean and dry at the time it was stored away, there could be damage to the paint.

Choose Other Options

Finding an old vehicle with low mileage or inheriting one may seem like a dream come true, but it is not uncommon for these cars and trucks to become endless repair projects. Choosing to donate the vehicle is a better option than leaving it stored away to continue rusting. There are charities that accept vehicle donations, and the donor benefits through a tax deduction.

Newgate School is a non-profit that goes even further than most charitable organizations by using the donated vehicles to train disadvantaged young adults seeking careers in the automobile service trades. Call us for more information.