I’m casually shopping around for a first generation Honda Odyssey, and have recently found a 96 with just under 100K miles on it. The story I have from the current owner is that it belonged to a family friend who passed away. The original owner’s husband stored it unused in a garage for “years” until he himself passed away. The current owner bought it from the estate 2 years ago and replaced the timing belt, serpentine belt, water pump, alternator, oil, and fluids. Also new summer and winter tires, both sets on their own rims. The car was regularly maintained (presumably not while stored) and the current owner has service records.

I haven’t seen the car in person yet, but from the photos it looks to be in great condition, not just for a 96.

From the little bit of digging I’ve done, there are other things to be worried about that I won’t be able to check. Things like engine seals, corrosion inside the engine, etc.. Is there anything I can do to at least have a guess at these?

I currently have a 97 Odyssey with more than double the miles which I have converted into a weekend adventure mobile. I love this thing, but it was pretty beat up when I got it and it now has a minor head gasket leak, so its adventures are sadly numbered.

Do you guys think that at $2250 the 96 is a good deal, or too high of a risk?

Edit: Would issues arising from a long period of storage be likely to surface within the first few months of use? If the car has been used for 2 years since being put back into service is it fair to assume that there are no major issues caused by the storage?

  • The environment where the car sat is probably more important than how many years it sat for. A barn in the snow vs a carport at the beach, for example.
    – barbecue
    Nov 8 '17 at 22:06
  • 1
    EEK! Carport at the beach! Salt air, everything rusty and corroded. I'll take the barn, thanks. Nov 9 '17 at 6:41
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    I didn't know that head gasket leaks came in minor varieties @bernk.
    – GdD
    Nov 9 '17 at 9:52
  • Sorry, this is requesting price/shopping advice which is off-topic on this site.
    – CharlieRB
    Nov 9 '17 at 12:52

It's really impossible to answer whether it's worth the risk or not, as that depends on you and how comfortable you are with making repairs yourself or paying for them to be done. All cars need maintenance and repairs. Any used car is always a risk - what happens if the engine throws a rod two days after you buy it? How much are you willing to spend on repairs? How reliable is that specific model considered to be? If it's known for being trouble free, it's probably a better bet than a model known for having problems.

Seals deteriorating are definitely one thing to be concerned about with a car that sits for a long time. Other possibilities include deposits in the fuel system from fuel evaporating over time, moisture in brake fluid, deterioration of brake seals, electrical system corrosion, oxidation of metal pars, and of course, critters.

If the car sat for a long time, but then was put back into service and driven frequently for a couple of years, I'd say most problems directly related to sitting would probably have manifested by now. Whether the seller actually informs you of those issues is another matter, though. A rear main seal with a slow leak could go unnoticed for a long time.

Your best bet is to do the same thing I'd recommend to anyone considering a used car. Take it to a mechanic you trust and ask them to evaluate it for you. You'll pay for this of course, but it can give you some peace of mind if you're on the fence about the decision.

You mentioned that the seller has service records. I'd take a look at them, or show them to your mechanic, and look specifically for indications that leaks have been repaired or seals replaced.

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