Sweet Spot for Used Cars


Old 01-08-08, 02:17 PM
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Sweet Spot for Used Cars

I posted a question here last week about R134 vs R12 air conditioning systems in buying a used car and I appreciate all the responses. I'd like to get some opinions on what the sweet spot is as far ask age/miles is concerned for used cars. I'm looking for a reliable used automatic transmission second car with low operating costs and cold/ac (since I'm in Phoenix) for under $5000. I'm wondering what you think of these scenarios as far as best bang for the buck? Which one would you choose and why?

1) 1987 Pontiac 6000 STE 2.8 liter V6 113,000 miles, elderly father's car, good shape, power steering fluid leaks from seal, ABS warning light on. $500. or basically any 20+ yr old car over 100k miles that runs but might need some work for under $1000.

2) 1990 Buick LeSabre 60,000 miles, 3.8 liter V6 one senior owner, all maintenance records, garaged, mint condition. $2500.

3) 2000 Toyota Corolla 107,000 miles, well maintained, my daily driver, good condition. above average shape. $5000

4) 2004 small Japanese or American sedan with 80-90k highway miles driven by someone who has a long freeway commute to work. well maintained. $5000.

Let's assume all the cars have cold a/c.

Are you better off getting an 8 year old car with medium miles, a 4 yr old car with high highway miles, an 18 yr old grandma car that was driven by an 85 yr old snowbird, or taking a chance on a sub $1000 car like the Pontiac?

Is age more important than miles or is neither important and it solely depends on the make/model car? I have a neighbor who bought a 1993 Toyota Camry with 180,000 miles that was maintained every 3,000 miles by the book at the dealership it's entire life and has a stack of service records over 1" thick, but he didn't care. He basically said it's a Camry, was overzealously maintained, I don't care about the miles.

So I'm curious to hear your opinion. Thanks.
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Old 01-09-08, 11:31 AM
Beachboy's Avatar
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Northeast Kansas
Posts: 735
My first choice would be a newer car with high highway miles. I'm one of those long distance commuters (800 miles/week), and I routinely put 250,000 on my cars with no problems other than routine maintenance. (And NO, these are NOT Hondas or Toyotas)

Second choice would be 8 year old car with medium miles, like the Buick you mentioned. Buick's are usually owned by older folks who drive them gently, don't have kids to mess up the interiors, and have the money to keep them properly serviced.

Third choice would be the "granny mobile". Just because it has low miles don't mean its in good shape. They could drive like my 85 year old mother -- no more than a half mile at a time, and never over 25 MPH. That's extremely hard on engines to never be warmed up or taken on the highway.

My last choice would be the sub-$1,000 type car, unless you knew the history, had other means to get to work if it broke, and didn't plan on cross-country vacations with it. I have a friend that buys only Toyotas or Honda with OVER 100,000 miles on them, and has good luck, but his 3 teenagers usually total their cars out before too many more miles can rack up.
Old 01-09-08, 02:04 PM
the_tow_guy's Avatar
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Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: SW Fla USA
Posts: 11,566
Concur with most of BB's points.

My first choice would be the '00 Corolla, but business wise I'm thinking an early 90's Sable or Taurus with a 3.8L would be best (best for my TOWING business).
Old 01-09-08, 02:57 PM
Join Date: Nov 2001
Location: North Texas
Posts: 2,345
My 2 cents

I would get the high mileage import rather then any low mileage domestic. The corolla would win and then the 2004 sedan if it is a toyota or Honda.
The Buick and pontiac would be last on my list.
High mileage newer cars have less wear and tear on parts like brakes trannies etc. Interstate driving is much better on a car then city driving.
Old 01-10-08, 09:39 PM
Join Date: Jan 2008
Posts: 2
Definitely for the the 90 lesabre , Those are awesome cars and i'm work at a gm dealer .Ive had and sold lots of them (olds 88, bonnevilles, ) same 3800 code c engine . BULLET PROOF. Fuel and brake lines get rusty on em up here in canada , Oil spray
it and you should be fine .

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