Buying a used car is always something of a gamble. After all, so much of its story is opaque; even if you’re lucky enough to have maintenance records or a complete CarFax, every vehicle undergoes its own trials and tribulations throughout its life — many of which won’t be on a report. Sites like Bring a Trailer take a good deal of the stress off by specializing in the sorts of vehicles that have been well cared-for and providing a knowledge base of smart, interested people to poke questions at. But say you’ve learned all you need to know and winnowed it down to a specific make and model. Another dilemma arises: are you better off spending more now on a car with fewer miles, or spending less for a high-mileage ride that might need more repairs sooner?
We ask, because such a dilemma has presented itself to us on Bring a Trailer right now. The online auto auction house is currently offering two different-but-very-similar B6-generation Audi S4s — one with a lot of miles on the clock, and another with almost none.
First, let’s get what they have in common. Both S6s here come packing a 4.2-liter V8 making 340 horsepower, connected to all four wheels (of course) via a Torsen differential and a six-speed manual gearbox. Both wear elegant Bauhaus-inspired styling reminiscent of the Audi A6 that debuted in 1997, and both come with clean titles, service records and CarFax reports.
Now, for the match-up itself. In the Nogaro Blue trunks, we have a 2005 Audi S4 Avant — reportedly, one of just six in this color combo with a stick ever sold in the U.S.
The odometer shows 159,000 miles, but not all of that has been done by this engine; the 4.2-liter V8 was swapped out by a dealership 11 years ago when the car was at 41,500 miles. A 2014 incident (not, mind you, an accident) resulted in damage to the front, rear, roof and passenger side of this Audi, but it’s since been repaired.
In the other corner, in the Brilliant Black trunks, sits this impeccable example of a 2004 Audi S4 sedan with just 9,000 miles on the odometer.
No accidents or damage have blistered its fair skin or chassis in its 16-plus years of life — a testament, perhaps, to its quiet life as much as its original owner’s careful nature. (It still wears tires made in 2004.)
So which would you choose? The well-driven, oft-repaired Avant, or the cream-puff sedan that’s seen an average of 562 miles of driving for each year of its life?
The auctions for both cars wrap up on April 30th, so they’re poised to race down to the wire. As of this writing, the sedan has a commanding lead, with the current bid of $10,000 standing far above the wagon’s $2,500. We’re sure the low-mileage car will sell for more in the end. Question is, does that make it a better buy?
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