My daughter is looking to purchase her first car, and is looking at 16-18 year-old vehicles costing $2k - $3k. This does not surprise me; she's always been fiscally responsible and cautious with her money, trying to budget shop where possible. However, it does present a problem in that I find myself inexperienced in this area and unable to guide her.
I had worked from my early teens, and my first car was a 5 year old Z28 with 30k miles. Most of my life I've aimed to purchase 3 year old vehicles to avoid the initial depreciation while still getting the advantage of high reliability and new technology. The oldest car I ever owned was an 8 year old Grand Prix GTP with 80k miles, which did face increased maintenance costs. My experience with cars is that they just plain work almost all the time, with maybe 1 trip a year to the mechanic for a minor annoyance (plus regular maintenance for oil, brakes, tires, etc, of course).
My concerns are that while $2k for a car is financially attractive, it brings with it an incredible amount of increased maintenance. In addition to the financial hit from missing work, educational hit from missing school, and comfort hit from taking it in for repairs, I would like to be able to quantify the maintenance costs for comparison to a newer car. If a $2k car requires $2500 annual maintenance, then after 5 years of ownership it hasn't saved much over a $12k 5-year-old car. If it did, I'm not sure why the owner would be selling it for just $2k. This is information we'll need to help her make a decision, and just as importantly to budget for the coming years.
So what additional maintenance items are required, and additional costs incurred, on a 17 year old car vs a newish (3-5 year old car)? For the purposes of this question, assume none of us have enough skill or experience to attempt auto maintenance ourselves and must pay a mechanic or body shop.