Grandma’s Car: The Best Kind of Used Car Available?

2004 Subaru Outback Limited Wagon

A friend wanted to show me her new car.

“It’s a 2004 Subaru Outback,” she said, “and guess how many miles it has on it?”

I looked at the car, which appeared to be in pretty nice shape. No visible dings or dents, clean paint, newer tires. I figured anything under 100,000 miles on the clock would be acceptable. I assumed, since she asked me about the mileage, it must be low. So I guessed low.

“Sixty thousand,” I said confidently.

She shook her head and smiled.

“Nope. Just under 10,000.”

I gasped.

“It was my grandma’s.”

And there, friends, is the barn find for the everyday person: Grandma’s car. Instead of being a perfectly restorable split-window Corvette, these modern everyday driving cars belonged to an elderly family member who owned them since new, had them serviced regularly by the dealer and drove them only to the nearest buffet or pharmacy.

Sure, they may smell like Oil of Olay face cream inside, but they are the Holy Grail of any used car search.

Sometimes, as in the case of my friend, the cars are given as gifts. Sometimes family members are given special deals. Usually, though, you’ll pay a pretty penny for such a low-mileage gem.

How can you find such a car, and how do you know it’s not too good to be true?

You might try starting with CarGurus used listings, but if you see something with exceptionally low miles, act fast! At the same time, though, keep an eye out for scams. If you don’t know the seller, look for signs of an odometer rollback or visible wear and tear that doesn’t coincide with low miles. Ask for service records and, of course, have the car checked out by a trusted mechanic.

That’s sound advice for any used car, but in the case of buying from family or being on the receiving end of a generous gift, count your blessings and take care of the car as well as the previous owner did.

In 2009, I bought a 2004 vehicle with only 24,000 miles on it. Have you ever done better?

-tgriffith

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Used Subaru Outback
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  1. Randy
    | #1

    Yeah, some years back I bought a Camaro Z28 that was a GM corporate owned car that has spent all of its days in a display at GM headquarters and then a decade or so in storage. It had 117 miles on it and was in showroom new condition. GM had sold a number of such cars (displays) at auction and I bought if from a rural dealer.

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