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I need to park my car for about 5 years. I have a 2006 Civic with 244k miles.. I'm going to cover it and start it every 2 weeks.. someone told me that after that many years it's going to fall apart and is better to just sell it, not really sure what to do at this point.

  • plus, assuming you own the parking spot, you might be able to rent it out. even at $10 a week that's $2600. – testthisout Dec 9 '19 at 10:11
  • Even a single dollar a month will be about what the car is worth today ;-). – Peter - Reinstate Monica Dec 9 '19 at 10:46
  • @Peter-ReinstateMonica Not true - a quick check at Kelly Bluebook shows a Honda Civic from around that time can go anywhere from $4000 to $6000. kbb.com/cars-for-sale/cars/used-cars/honda/civic/… – Zibbobz Dec 9 '19 at 17:57
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    @Zibbobz - Two things: 1) KBB over prices vehicles. 2) It may say it's worth that, but if you ever tried to sell a used Civic with 244k miles on it, you'll discover you wouldn't get anywhere close to the numbers you're quoting. Not trying to discourage the OP, just being realistic here. – Pᴀᴜʟsᴛᴇʀ2 Dec 9 '19 at 18:23
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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Nick C Dec 10 '19 at 19:55

10 Answers 10

91

Can you? Yes. Should you? Not in my opinion. 2006 Civics with 244k miles are a dime a dozen. Sell it and put the money in something like a savings or 5 year CD, then instead of losing money you will earn money. Cars sitting that long take a lot of care to prep properly and even then a lot of things that are usually lubed or turned tend to dry out and will need to be replaced.

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78

I've done it. I don't recommend it, unless the car has exceptional sentimental value or is especially equipped for an unusual job.

Sell it on Craigslist or better method, and then, buy another one in 5 years. You can buy the exact same year make model and color if you really want to, but I rather doubt you will.

OK, so the logic is, "but wait. This car is a known quantity. I know what's been fixed recently, I know how the engine performs, etc. If I buy another car, shrug, who knows what kind of problems I'll inherit?" This argument ignores the fact that your car is going to deteriorate where it sits. Age can be just as hard on a car as miles. I have had a car's 2-year-old brake job freeze solid after sitting for 6 months. (Granted, it was a nasty winter). If you're in territory where cars rust, parking it off-street does not stop the rust. So the fact is, this car won't be a known quantity. You may end up having to put a lot of work into it to unwind 5 years of decay.

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35

Having stored many cars - both successfully and unsuccessfully - I can pass on the following advice, should you try to do this:

  • Pick the location carefully. All "outside" locations are not equivalent. You want a solid, dry, non-living substrate to park over. Parking on grass is about the worst. A paved driveway is the best. The earth is a wet planet, the ground breathes and exchanges moisture with the atmosphere. Parking over grass, dirt, or gravel will mean that your vehicle is exposed to that moisture. Parking over a hard substrate significantly reduces that moisture exposure. A vehicle parked on grass may have corrosion problems after just a month or two, while a vehicle parked in the middle of a large paved parking area may be okay for years.
  • Pick the cover carefully. You don't want a cover that can move against the vehicle at all - a loose cover will chafe and quickly wear through the paint after being blown around in the wind for a few years. Tight fitting but poor quality covers can trap moisture against the vehicle and/or encourage mold, moss, and other biologicals. If you don't want to spend on a high quality cover, it may be better to leave it uncovered.
  • Prepare the vehicle. Make sure all fluids are fresh and topped off. You don't want to leave old contaminated oil, coolant, brake fluid, etc. in the vehicle. Change them all now and consider the fluids you put in as sacrificial - in 5 years, you'll need to change them all again before putting the vehicle in service. Store it with the gas tank full of fresh non-ethanol gas with stabilizer added. You don't want an empty gas tank, as the airspace will contain moisture which will attack the gasoline and the fuel system. Changing fluids also gives you the chance to make sure all the drain plugs, nipples, caps, and other fittings related to fluids are in good shape. It's really frustrating to store a vehicle, only to set out to replace the brake fluid before putting it back in service and discovering that the nipples for bleeding the calipers are all totally frozen with corrosion. So, as you change fluids now, consider putting anti-seize or oil on the various threads and fittings as you go.
  • Protect the vehicle from uninvited guests. Mice love to make nests in air filters, blower motors, seat cushions, and exhausts. Plug any openings with rags wrapped up with mothballs. Important: make a list of where you put these plugs so you can remove them later.
  • Wash the car and clean the inside. Go through every cupholder, storage bin, door pocket, and so on. You want to make sure you're not leaving anything important inside the vehicle, or anything that may invite pests (so - obviously, you don't want to leave food or food residue in the vehicle. But you also don't want to leave paper, clothing, or anything else that a rodent could rip up and use for bedding).
  • Protect bare metal surfaces as much as possible. Many parts can just be wiped with a rag with some oil on it or given a shot of penetrating oil. Things like brake disks need to be treated with a purpose-designed rust preventative coating (do some googling, you can find products in liquid or aerosol that are designed for this). If you skip this step, you can pretty much bet on needing a brake job at least, and potentially other costly work, as bare parts will corrode if not in regular use.
  • Disconnect the battery. Remove it and store it elsewhere if possible. There's no reason to leave the vehicle energized while in storage. Keeping the battery in a climate controlled environment may preserve it well enough to still be useful after 5 years, but you should probably just plan on buying a new one then.
  • Check your tire pressures. Plan on replacing the tires if you're unable to drive the vehicle at all during storage - they'll get permanent flat spots after sitting this long. UV will slowly break down the rubber anyways, so they're almost certainly a write-off.

Once stored, you should not start the vehicle every two weeks. Damage to engines comes from the few fractions of a second after startup, before oil pressure has stabilized. Two weeks is a pretty short interval, you'll be hitting the engine with wear every time you start it and not really gaining any advantage - plus, if you've prepared the vehicle correctly, starting it every two weeks will be a pretty big chore. However, leaving the vehicle totally cold for the entire 5 years is also probably not a good idea. A good compromise is to start the vehicle once a quarter - and once it is started, let it run long enough to get to operating temperature (at least 15 minutes). This will help burn off any moisture that has collected inside the engine. Once a quarter is a good interval to give the vehicle a once-over and check for any issues, so you can remedy them before they get worse. It'll also give you a good margin for error for detecting deterioration in the gasoline. You will likely find that you need to drain and refill the gas tank about once a year.

This list will probably sound like a lot of effort. That's because it is a lot of effort to store a car successfully. And even after the best preparation, you can still bet on having some unexpected deterioration that needs to be addressed before the vehicle can be placed in service. The last vehicle I stored for multiple years needed about $1200 in work (that was parts, I did my own labor) before it could be driven.

If anything, letting this all sink in for a few minutes should help deliver the message that is expressed in many of the other answers - it's probably not worth storing an older, common, easily replaceable vehicle.

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  • I appreciate the detailed explanations you have provided from your own experience. Though I am still curious, for how long that car ($1.2k repair) was stored and what parts did you need to replace? – CPHPython Dec 10 '19 at 11:21
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    @CPHPython That car had been stored for 2 years. There was corrosion damage to some suspension components and the lines to the oil cooler had corroded and started leaking. Plus it needed new rotors and pads all around. I also replaced the fuel injectors although afterwards it hadn't been clear if they were really at fault or not. It was a 10 year old Saab 9-3 with about 120,000 miles on it at the time. – dwizum Dec 10 '19 at 13:45
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    Incredible answer. Taught me a lot. – displayName Dec 10 '19 at 18:18
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Apart from the value loss (if it even has any value today), you are taking a couple of risks. Assuming you're not moving it just starting it every other week these are some of the risks I see:

  • Vandalism (I have seen this many many times, cars just standing, gets it's screens smashed, or some idiot trying to steel a screwdriver left on the back floor or something other stupid)
  • Tires might deflate, and get flat spots
  • Rust, depends on where you park it and how you cover it. Do not park in grass, and make sure it's as dry as possible. I'm not sure covering is a super idea, if it gets damp inside the cover and never dries, that's no good. On the other hand, no cover will mean very dirty, stuff might start growing on it (this will probably increase risk of vandalism)
  • You shouldn't really just start the car once every second week, preferably you should run it so the oil get's up to working temp, to burn any water (condense) out if the engine
  • Stuff just degrading, like rubber parts doesn't react to good on just sitting still, it gets hard and seals might start leaking (eg. A/C), hoses might get perished (coolant etc), bushes might get harder, timing belt will age just as much (if not more) as when running
  • Mice, rats etc might start nesting
  • Mold
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    Tires getting dry rot is more of a consideration over 5 years rather than just flat spots. I let a car sit for 3 years outside, and the tires were shot, not that they were great before it sat. – computercarguy Dec 9 '19 at 23:50
  • +1; esp, not to run it just briefly. – George Dec 10 '19 at 0:32
  • + car left for a while on public road attracts attention from the police and/or local authorities. Depending on where you live, it may get towed for whatever reason (road cleaning/repair) and quickly accumulate unpleasant bills. 5 years from now, the road status may change (parking may get forbidden). – fraxinus Dec 10 '19 at 14:19
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    Tyres are dead after 5 years not moving. Brakes will be dead, including likely calipers especially on civics. Oil needs to be changed. Fuel tank could get problems with water/rust. Battery will be dead. + all that you said. Repairs are more expensive then throw away now and buy a good one then ... – Daniel Dec 10 '19 at 16:54
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At best, starting it every two weeks will benefit the engine and anything the engine oil touches. Keep in mind that you should change your oil every X number of miles OR yearly; whichever comes first.

Tell me, do you plan to:

  • Clean the car interior so that mold does not grow
  • Turn on the wipers to make sure they haven't seized
  • Use some washer fluid to make sure your pump hasn't seized
  • Run the A/C to lubricate those components
  • Run the fuel tank empty at least yearly or drain+refill so that your gas doesn't go bad
  • Let the alternator charge the battery enough so that your car can actually start up next time
  • Check the battery health occasionally or remove it and put it on a charger/tender in between start ups
  • Move the car a bit so that it doesn't develop a noticeable flat spot on the tires
  • Check the tire pressure regularly so that you don't end up with a complete flat
  • Check the tires for tire rot
  • Run the car long enough so that the radiator kicks on and circulates the fluid
  • Test your brakes to make sure the piston hasn't seized
  • And a host of other things which are just average maintenance procedures which you should still do but receive no immediate benefits because the car is not in use

If you plan to drive it 50 miles every 2 weeks then you're going to maintain car insurance and an inspection?

At the end of the day just be honest with yourself. Do you really plan to dedicate enough time to the tasks mentioned above every two weeks? Within no time at all you'll barely turn your head in the car's direction every 6 months.

You should check out questions such as:


I'm not suggesting that you sell this vehicle but putting it into dis-use for such an extended period is certainly a bad idea.

5 years is a very long time and I am 95% certain that you would end up thinking to yourself "Dang, I should have sold it or let someone use it for the past 5 years. To get this thing running it's gonna cost me more than the car is worth."

Do you have a family member that you trust who would benefit from using the vehicle?

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10

This doesn't make any economic sense. If you include the cost of your time, looking after the car properly for 5 years will probably cost more than it is worth. And at the end of the layup you are going to discover what unexpected problems need fixing when you start using it again.

Also people's life situations change over 5 years, so there is no guarantee it will still be the car that you actually want or need at the end of it.

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5

The answer depends a lot on where you are, because of the climate. In Seattle I would do it only if you have a customer for a ton of iron oxide in 2024.

In El Paso you don't even need to cover the car (actually, a cover may increase or prolong condensation after a cold night) unless you want to keep the varnish's shine during the sand storms — but that seems unlikely if you live there in the first place.

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4

5 years outside? if you were talking about a storage facility then possibly especially if it was a rare car...

But you should consider selling it then getting another in 5 years time.

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Of course you can! It may need insurance and tax if it's left on a public highway, and without insurance, you may come back to no car, a vandalised car, and no recompense.

That's before the depreciation of the car itself, as already mentioned. Then there's the tyres - left in the sun will mean some are scrap, and will have flat spots. The brakes may well seize, and the clutch could do the same. If it's petrol, that will be no use after a year, so will have to be kept topped up if you waste time running the car every couple of weeks.

Were it a classic car or collectors item, you wouldn't be leaving it outside for that time. Even in a garage, it's a bad idea. On grass, even worse. In public gaze - someone's going to target it in the five years.

In five years time, you will come back to a car that's worth little, to huge amounts of work (and/or bills) and maybe things will have changed for you and you don't even like it. Better to sell on, give away, lend it to a family member, and start again later.

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2

Let's take a look at how cars depreciate in value.

I bought a car 3 years ago. It has fallen in value over 30%. So, 10% per year is a reasonable depreciation for a car.

Stocks, on the other hand, appreciate 8% per year, or 47% per 5 years (taking into account interest accruing even more interest). Of course investing to stocks has risks but putting your money to a car has even higher risks!

So, I would generally recommend you to put the money to stock market where it appreciates 47% in 5 years instead of depreciating about 50% in 5 years.

Now, your car is an old car with many miles on the clock. If you don't know of any particular large problem in the car, and it's a car you can trust, I can see why you want to keep the car instead of selling it, investing to stocks and buying another car later.

In general, the transaction costs of buying/selling a car are about 3000 USD. If you do all yourself, then you could reduce the transaction costs, but only if your time has no value.

I would assume your car is worth perhaps 4000 USD. If half of the transaction costs are paid by the buyer and half by the seller, you can expect to get 2500 USD, which grows to 3670 USD in the stock market, and then after 1500 USD other half of the transaction costs, you can get a car worth 2170 USD. (And I didn't take into account capital gains taxes; at the tax rate where I live, it woud be only 1820 USD).

By keeping the car, its value drops to perhaps half of its current value, or to 2000 USD. So, there's not much gain in buying/investing/selling; you are almost as well off by keeping the car. Especially, if you know the full history of the car (example: you have owned it since it was new), the only way to get a replacement car with full known history may be buying a new car, which costs a lot.

someone told me that after that many years its going to fall apart and is better to just sell it, not really sure what to do at this point

In your particular situation (old car with lot of miles on the clock), I would decide in the following way:

  • Known history and no major problems: keep it
  • Unknown history or major problems: sell it, invest the money to stock market, buy a replacement car later when you need it
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    I'm glad I don't live in the US - $3k to buy a car? I'd be annoyed if the transaction costs buying a car of that age came to more than £50 (most of which would be the insurance company's admin fees, and the fact that our system means that you usually lose a month's vehicle tax each time). Selling cost is zero here... – Nick C Dec 9 '19 at 9:32
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    This $3k includes the value of your time, including the time spent for searching for a good deal... – juhist Dec 9 '19 at 10:01
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    "In general, the transaction costs of buying/selling a car are about 3000 USD." - You really ought to clarify what you mean here or how you got that number. I bought a car in the US at a price of $1,500; the transaction costs were $90. – Tanner Swett Dec 9 '19 at 13:20
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    @narkeleptk Sure you can. List it for $4,000 and have the person haggle you down to $3,000. There's only one "right" buyer, the one willing to pay the price; ignore all wrong buyers. – MonkeyZeus Dec 9 '19 at 14:15
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    @narkeleptk It took me a whole 2 minutes to find carfax.com/vehicle/19XFA16529E048541 so pick your favorite car shopping site and I'm sure you will find the same thing. – MonkeyZeus Dec 9 '19 at 14:17

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