How old is an old car?

After seeing numerous threads about old cars and how lots of people seem to think out of warranty is old thought I’d try a bit of a survey. Also got me thinking when I was working on my ute this afternoon and a guy walking by commented about keeping the ‘old girl’ running. It’s a 2007 with 170k on it. Plenty of life left in my eyes. Will probably do me until an electric alternative is cheap enough to replace it.

Probably showing my age, but I reckon old is 90s or earlier. Something from when efi and airbags were new. Corresponds with what was ‘new’ when I was buying my first car. Was surprised to see one of those laser based ford Capri convertibles with historic plates on it today.

If you consider a car is old, how old is it?

Poll Options

  • 7
    Old unless it’s in warranty
  • 14
  • 241
  • 439
  • 12
    Older than I am
  • 10
    Anything with steel bumpers.
  • 13


  • But depends on the kms

    • True. Kms wear it out, neglect ages it etc.

      • I think this discussion misses some crucial information. For the last 10 years, the average vehicle fleet age remains at 10 years old.

        ABS - 2018
        Average age of all vehicles registered in Australia was 10.1 years, unchanged since 2015.
        Tasmanian vehicles reported the oldest average age at 12.8 years, whilst the Northern Territory and Australian Capital Territory had the youngest fleet with an average age of 9.4 years.[email protected]/Lookup/9309.0main+f....

        ABS - 2010
        At 31 March 2010, the average age of all vehicles registered in Australia was 10.0 years. This is older than the 9.9 years recorded in the 2009 MVC[email protected]/ProductsbyReleaseDa....

        • Keep in mind that the age of the Australian car fleet is higher than other developed nations.

          • @soaringphoenix: You can't really compare Australia with most developed nations (particularly with European). We don't have any snow here, so there isn't any salt on our road. Because of that, rust is much less of an issue here than it is in European countries and chunks of the USA.

        • good stats

        • So 10 years is the average… I wonder what the standard deviation is… I would say 1.5sd would be old… 2sd would be very old.

        • Yep, average age of Oz cars has been pretty steady at about 10 years since 1996. If you dig into the ABS 9309.0 archives, though (eg$File/93090_31%20mar%202001.pdf ) you'll find that it rose steadily in the 25 years before that from about 7 years, reflecting the unreliability and proneness to rust of cars of old cars then.

  • To me an old car is one you sit in and immediately recognise that its missing something - ie. safety features, dated technology, fuel economy, etc. Something like that which dates the car with outdated technology is to me an “old car”.

    • So does your car have adaptive cruise, blind spot monitors etc? Just interested if you think your own car is old.

      • +12 votes

        If you've never had those features, you can't notice them missing ;)

        I've driven 2018-19 model cars that don't have those features BTW.

        • But those features are also getting close to decade old technology on some cars. Probably even older for luxury Euro vehicles.

          So, perhaps "an old car is one you sit in and immediately recognise that its missing something" isn't the best way to gauge whether the car is old.

      • Almost bought a car with blind spot monitoring recently. Salesman said everyone ends up turning it off because it gets really annoying.

        As long as I can still use my neck I'm happy to do without it.

        • How can it be annoying when it only activates when you are indicating to turn into a lane that already has a car there and warns you. Otherwise it's mostly not active. I wouldn't turn it off

    • My first car was a 1960 FB Holden, which had a manual choke, vacuum wipers, "three-on-the-tree" gearstick, and a front bench seat. Is that technology dated enough to make it "old"?

      • +25 votes

        No crank handle though, it's not old

        • My dad owned an Austin A55 which had a crank handle that got him out of trouble heaps of times. I can think of plenty of reasons why manual cars today don’t have crank handles, and every one of them is ridiculous.

          • @Ozpit: It's gotten him out of trouble because the car wa unreliable. Cars are far more reliable now. And the likes of roadside assist and friends and family, easy communication, it would be silly to implement something like that.

            • @smpantsonfire: Wait for an hour for a jump start or hop out and crank it over? Most cars you can’t even clutch start now being auto.

              But yes, cars are a lot more reliable now.

              • @Euphemistic: Li-on battery bank fulfills that job now.

              • @Euphemistic: my first car was light enough, manual, and had roof racks. I push started it a few times solo.

                I also had my brother fit a kill switch to it as a security measure. One night shortly after, I knocked off work late and car wouldn't start. I pushed it around the pub car park for about half an hour without success until I remembered the kill switch.

          • @Ozpit: And my dad had a 1949 Austin A40 with the starter motor permanently dead - I crank started it many times (remember to keep your thumb away from the handle!). He "upgraded" it to an FJ when I was a teenager, but really that was no better.

            The truth is that cars before about the 1990s were high maintenance, unreliable, deadly, inconvenient and uncomfortable. Since the 1990s cars have further improved in all those respects, but only a little.

            • @derrida derider: The 80’s Hilux, Cruiser and Patrol that I drove were all low maintenance, reliable, convenient and comfortable, and I’m still here so deadly seems like hyperbole.
              The cruiser ended up as a friends paddock car and was recently sold with almost 500K on it. If it wasn’t for the rust from 30 years of animal crap I would have bought it back.

      • I had a HZ kingswood with a manual choke and a tree gearstick. Amazing that 20 years earlier they were still using the same tech.

    • Sometime just that "smell" will do it.

    • So my 2017 car is old because it does not have automatic braking or lane departure technology?

      • If that is the criteria , my 2015 car is nearer than your 2017 car… Physics pffff. Overrated

    • I sat in my car once and realised a side mirror was missing but that was because someone smashed it with a baseball bat.

  • Either till the warranty (around 3 years) is up or im bored with it

  • If it’s not old enough for historic plates it’s not old. Doesn’t mean it’s not a pile of junk though.

    • Interestingly, I’ve seen a couple of cars with historic plates that made me look twice because I didn’t think they’d be old enough. The 90s Capri for one.

      • In Vic it’s 25 years.
        I’m old enough that when I hear of an early 2000’s vehicle it takes me a second to realise it’s close to 20 years old.

        • Yep. It’s just a shock to the system when you see and someone else has labelled it as old but you aren’t ready for it to be old yet.

          • @Euphemistic: I agree so hard. I daily drive a car from 99 (Honda CRV) at almost 300,000kms and it drives just like it did 6 years ago when I got it. Hard to think its approaching "vintage" levels. I'm planning on running it into the ground so I'll be interested in seeing at what point it's no longer economical to repair it if something major breaks.

        • Does my head in when a car like a JZA80 supra is eligible for historic plates. Old man coming through!

      • Makes sense for the 90s Capri, probably the last one left, need to keep it around to learn from our mistakes.

    • Doesn’t mean it’s not a pile of junk though.

      A very important point there.

      There's a fine line between vintage/classic/collectible/desirable/rare and just a plain-old hunk of sh*t that hasn't been looked after and isn't worth anything unless you restored it back to factory original condition at a cost of tens of thousands of dollars.

      Case in point: a friend of mine buys old VL Commodores, restores them and sells them for a profit as a side job and while his collection of VLs looks absolutely immaculate even to a non-Holden fan, every other VL I've ever seen in my life outside of a VL owners meet-up looked like an appalling pile of sh*t (whether it's being driven, being used as a getaway car or it's just a burn-out shell rusting to pieces somewhere).

  • 2005 and older

  • Depends how you're looking at "old". Obviously this depends on maintenance, servicing, general care, etc., but here's about what I'd reckon for your "typical/daily drive" vehicle that's maybe running the typical 15,000km a year.

    Old as in "not new"? Three to five years.

    Old as in high risk of serious things going wrong with it? Around ten years.

    Old as in "that's getting on"? Fifteen to twenty years.

    Old as in "gee, I remember when they first came out"? Twenty to thirty years.

    And then you start to get into the "classic/historic" class.

  • +12 votes

    If you fill it straight from the pump (without adding anything) it's not old.

  • I can relate. I'm used to driving old cars as in, 20 - 25 years old. Not classics, just cheap 4 cylinder run around city cars.
    I'm not a car person so driving something modern or fast just wouldn't bring me much joy. Though I did recently upgrade to a 2005 Subaru Outback and it feels very modern to me.

    I jumped in a friends recent model Subaru Impreza and asked her how she liked it…she replied "I love it, but it's getting old. It's almost five years old so things will probably start going wrong with it soon".

    I was blown away.

    • My mum has a 2013 Holden Cruise and things have started going wrong with it, so 5 years isn't too pessimistic. Although I have more faith in Subarus than Holdens.

      • Yeah, but Cruze.

      • The Cruze was a re-badged car made in Korea at an old Daewoo plant, many of these re-badged "Holden" cars, bar the Isuzu models, belong on the scrap pile after about 50,000km from new. Holden did put their name to it but I wouldn't consider it a real Holden.

  • An old car is something a hardworking teen saves up for.

  • Old daily - 5 years.

    Old weekender - 10 years.

    Old fourby - 15 years.

    Old vintage - 50 years.

  • The definition of 'old car' not only means a lot of different things to a lot of different people, but it's changed dramatically over the past 40 years.

    Ask someone who finances new cars every 3-5 years, and anything that's older than 5 years old is an old car..

    Ask someone who buys used cars on the regular, they'll probably tell you anything older than 10 years old is an old car.

    Ask someone who has never spent more than $4000 on a car (that's me!), they'll probably tell you anything older than 20 years old is an old car. And even with that in mind, there's flexibility.

    My dad told me that his brand new cars in the 60s and 70s literally rusted away within 10 years of ownership. Hence anything older than 5 years was long in the tooth, and anything older than 10 years would have been seen as a literal shit heap that no one would touch (this is with regular use, mind you - not 'barn finds' or grandpa's church vehicle).

    An old bloke who I know came to Australia in the late 1960s and his first car here was a 1932 Essex. He bought it as a VINTAGE car. I own a 1991 car which is definitely not a vintage car.

    The longevity of modern cars is why it's never been a better time for anyone to buy in the used car market.

    • Agree that everyone thinks differently which is why I thought a poll would give an idea.

      I think you’ll find your 1991 car is technically a vintage car! Over 25yrs is vintage AFAIK.

      • I'd call it 'classic', but certainly NOT vintage…I'd say anything over 40 years old is vintage.

        • In Victoria anything over 25 years can be registered very cheaply as a historic car. So you sometimes see early 90s cars in poor condition and of dubious roadworthiness on the road with historic number plates; people using them as cheap commutermobiles.

          • @derrida derider: There are restrictions for this type of registration, known as a Club Permit. You need to be a paid up member of a car club and you can only drive it on 45 or 90 days in a year (depending on the permit). You need to keep a record of when you drive it in a log book.

    • Sometime in the 1980s they started spraying all new cars with rust proofing, and cars just stopped getting rusty. I’d be interested in hearing from the car guys why this change seemed to happen all at once across every manufacturer.
      Anything earlier rusts away fast.

      • Sometime in the 1980s they started spraying all new cars with rust proofing, and cars just stopped getting rusty.

        I beg to differ - I've seen a few 1990s vehicles that had rust spots. Explain.

        • I had a Patrol and a Cruiser that would also beg to differ.

        • If m also repairing my ‘old’ ute because Nissan decided not to paint under the seam sealer on the roof. Sealer shrank, rust formed under. Leave it much longer and I’d have holes in the roof.

          • @Euphemistic: Sounds similar to what happened to my patrol. The roof rusted from the inside out, you couldn’t tell there was a problem until the paint started bubbling by which time it was too late.

        • Big difference between rust spots and rust bucket.

        • Not rustproofing - better steels and MUCH better ducos. And as a secondary thing, less sulphuric acid in city air.

          Sure, rust still happens (especially if you like to drive your 4WD on beaches) but nowhere near as often. It used to be what sent the great bulk of old cars to the wreckers, but these days it is wear and tear on the drive train and trim that tends to end a car's economic life; a life that is longer than it once was.

        • One outing on the beach for a 4WD will cause it to rust in the seams, where the water can get in. Joint sealers fail and crack as time goes by, which allows water ingress. Elsewhere, exposed fasteners, joints between components, and metal surfaces corrode. It's basically an ongoing acid attack once it gets in somewhere. Brakes, exhaust joints, bearings, suspension parts, the entire driveline… the list goes on.

          Any vehicle left at the beach with offshore winds can get 'doused' with sea spray and end up dying prematurely. It runs down the drainage channels and pools at the bottom of panels, before draining and drying. The Muppets in charge even put salt on the roads in our Alpine areas too IIRC. But far less often than other countries as we don't have so much ice/snow to deal with. This is the fastest killer.

          The reality is that a lot of cars are rushed down production lines and leave the factory with exposed edges and joints. Even the robots can run short on paint, sealer or spray badly for a while until someone does something about it. And a lot of them are just not well enough protected when production is setup. The first models particularly, esp. if the company is cutting corners rushing to production, and/or focusing too much on savings.

          They dip the bodies on later cars, and some even galvanise/plate the entire body during assembly. This is the safest way to deal with corrosion. Few markets outside the EU will pay for it though, so not common in commodity Asian and US cars. One step further is to construct with aluminium and/or carbon fibre. Brands line Tesla, Porsche, Jaguar, Audi, BMW are onto this in a big way.

      • You're right. There was definitely a change.

        I had a 1983 vehicle that by about 1995 had rust holes in it.

        Later on I had a 2005 vehicle that basically got abused for 10 years and only got surface rust on the odd spots where the paint had been dinged.

      • Most manufacturers started galvanising frames and body panels in the 90's, as well as installing stainless steel exhausts:

        Rust spots still formed in cars that lacked appropriate water drainage and designs that held water in between panels and sills. Very few modern cars have that problem now.

    • That's interesting - my 1949 Riley hasn't rusted away. UK made though, so that might explain the difference.

      • How many resprays has it had? I bet you don't know how much rust had to be cut away each time. And have you run a magnet over it? If not you don't know how much filler there is.

        • Ordinarily, I'd completely agree with your thinking - but it's been in my family since the 1960's, and the original owner was the Dad of one of my Dad's mates, so I know it's entire history. I think my Dad put paint over it once in the 1980s. It's just a freak of nature really. I should say it has some surface rust; I'm not suggesting it's pristine - it's due a full ground up restoration actually - but for it's age, it's really in amazing condition.

          My old FJ45 landcruiser, on the other hand … rusted out so badly that I gave up on it. It's amazing what can grow under paint!

  • I have driven an 'old' car all my life, getting into new cars with spancy features really doesn't impress me much.

    the car im driving i use a key to unlock

    • many of those "spancy" features are around safety. I prefer new or relatively new not to be impressed but because I value the safety of my family and myself. My new car doesn't look any better or perform better, but it has blind spot monitoring and alerting, lane assist, reversing cameras and all around sensors and a raft of other minor safety features that my old car didn't have.

  • Most of the grads in my company have new 20-30k cars. They snuffed their noses at my “old car”, Japanese brand from early 2000s.

    I follow Dave Ramsey/Chris Hogan. So I’m happy that I’m not struggling with car and hecs debt, who cares if its old.

    • If you're buying a new car, it makes sense to buy a new $20-30k cars.

      It will have the latest safety features and will most likely be reliable for 10 years, so you don't have to budget large repair bills.

      • Newer cars definitely have better safety features no doubt, why buy brand new, buy a 2 year old car and let someone take the depreciation hit.

        My point was if you’re a new graduate with a $50k-$60k starting salary, buying a brand new car from the dealership, on top of $30k hecs debt, is not a wise choice.

        • +1 vote

          I mostly agree with buying 2yo cars. That's usually what I do (but more expensive cars).

          However, I wouldn't buy a 2yo car that was $20-$30k new, i.e. Corolla, Mazda 3 etc because they hold their value well and therefore it's worth paying a little bit more and getting it brand new.

          On a $50k or $60k new car, you'll typically save ~$20k buying used at 2yo.

          On a $20-30k car, you may only $5-8k so there is less savings to be had.

          It's horses for courses, but unless they are spending $40-50k or more on a car then I doubt it's going to affect them financially long term to spend $10k more to buy new, especially as their income will rise.

          Plus some people are not mechanically minded and don't know how to check if an used car has been mistreated.

  • 10 years. A lot of people on certain incomes all drive cars older than 10 years, because that's just what you do. So it's relative to your income and the kind of car buying habits you have been exposed to during your life so far.

  • Depends on whether it's a Toyota or not.

    • Toyotas aren't what they used to be as accountants run the business now. Hyundai and Kia are the new Toyota

  • once it loses that new car smell!

  • It's an old car once a feral has opened their car door into the side of yours or rammed their trolley into the side of it at a supermarket.

  • It would also depend on the actual car as well. A 15 year old 4 cylinder hatch back that was 15k when new is different to a 15 year old 4x4 that was 50k-60k when new.

    • +6 votes

      because the hatchback has probably seen more dirt?

      • The closest a stupidly large number of 4wd owners get to "offroad" is when they park on the grass to wash it :/