For many cars, there’s a sweet spot that occurs after a brand-new car depreciates in value and before major service expenses are likely. During this period—between roughly two and five years of age—cars don’t depreciate all that much. The result is that, with good timing, you can buy a car, drive it for a few years, and then sell it for not all that much less than what you paid, without ever dealing with costly maintenance issues.
The theory—a pretty compelling one, actually—is presented in Edmunds’ “Drive a (Nearly) New Car for (Almost) Free!” Editor Philip Reed writes:
If you buy a car that is one or two years old, and drive it for three years, you can sell it for close to what you bought it for. In other words, you can let someone else get hit by the depreciation at the beginning and the end of this car-buying cycle.