By on August 15, 2012

Sometimes there is no point in buying new.

Case in point? Well consider the folks who are the anti-enthusiasts. The ones who look at cars as rolling spreadsheets where the owner simply needs to divine the biggest bang for the buck.

These days I’m getting a lot of action with the blandific cars of not too long ago. Luminas, Regals, Centurys, Tauruses… and pretty much anything that is at least 10 years old and at one time used by the automakers as a rental car special.

Today I sold this creature. A 2001 Buick Century with 93k miles. 3.1 Liter V6. Pretty based as a whole. But at least it seats six, was garage kept, and comes with an advanced set of cupholders.

I bought it for $2000 and sold it for $3000 to a nice old lady who is looking at parking her equally milquetoast 1996 Buick LeSabre with a corroded vinyl top.

In turn, I had this vehicle come in.

A 2001 Ford Taurus in ubiquitous silver that almost always comes with the hammer/sickle Vulcan V6 and the haltingly durable AX4N transmission. I have $985 in it, 95,000 miles, and a pristine leather interior to boot. By the way, the picture above is pretty much an exact match for the one that’s on the transporter at the moment.

Did I mention that used cars get cheaper from August through early November? No tax holidays. No major spending seasons here in the South. Everyone’s on vacation, and the end of year bonus is several months away. These days most folks get little more than a turkey anyhow.

The one lick on it right now is that it won’t start. That’s not uncommon at some of the dealer auctions that attract older metal. On the positive side, the compression is good, the leather is free of rips, and most of my older customers like having that extra touch of luxury for their humdrum commutes.

Judging by the history, it looks like another one of those cars that ends up sitting for a couple of years because it failed emissions and the driver already bought something else. In otherwords the ‘extra car’ that nobody wants and nobody cares about.

Except my customers…

I’m gonna spend $50 to have it towed to my mechanic. If he fails to figure it out, I’m going to bite the bullet and send it to the Ford dealer down the road. It’s a gamble. But in this business, everything you invest in is little more than a crap shoot of prior knowledge and future probability.

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30 Comments on “Hammer Time: Feeling Blandy...”


  • avatar
    philadlj

    A can opener opens cans. A dishwasher washes dishes. An (anti-enthusiast) car gets you across distances you can’t or won’t walk and back again, without breaking. In other words, these are appliances. This is America: we need appliances, but not all of us LOVE them.

    On a side note, I’d love a VV for that Lumina!

  • avatar
    espressoBMW

    I just bought an appliance: 2002 GMC Sierra Denali. Picked it up from the dealer and drove it 1200 miles home. Got home yesterday. It was supposed to be delivered but the guy gave me that portion back. I’m satisfied!

  • avatar
    chas404

    $1000 profit on a $2000 investment (realizing you have other operational expenses) is indeed impressive! Good luck.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker

    Steve,
    I bought a very used 2000 Taurus for my college kids to share. The first two are out of college and have their own cars so I saved it for the last one who is now a Sophmore. It has the 3L Vulcan engine and 4 speed Auto tranny. While the tranny has been flawless, I have had a constant battle keeping the CEL off. After a few false starts, the problem seems to be solved. First, the differential pressure flow sensor on the EGR circuit fialed, and the replacement did not work. I ended up taking one off a junked Taurus of the same year. It is still fine over a year later.
    The bigger problem was the code for a misfire in cylinder 1. The problem was there was no misfire. The engine ran very smoothly. It turned out to be caused by a small coolant lead into cylinder 1. A mechanic diagnosed the cause as a leaky head gasket, but it turned out to be a leaking cylinder head. My son did some internet searching and found that porosity in the head castings was an issue in the early 2000 3L Vulcan engines. The glycol in the coolant tricks the OBDII system into thinging that there is excess oxygen coming out of the exhaust from that cylinder. Hence the misfire code.
    My soon and I dedicated a Saturday afternoon installing a $180 rebuilt cylnder head from Advance Auto (got to love those on line discounts) along with a $20 head gasket.
    Problem solved. The CEL light has not come on in five months now where before this fix, I could only manage a few days before it came on after resetting it.

    • 0 avatar

      Mother of god, installing a cylinder head with your son? This is awesome.

    • 0 avatar
      Exfordtech

      The OBD2 system can’t tell which cylinder is producing excessive oxygen in the exhaust stream, it can only determine if a bank of cylinders is causing this. An excessive amount of oxygen in the exhaust would trigger a lean code for a particular bank (P0171 if memory serves correctly). The threshold for setting a misfire code (P0301) in your case is likely at a low enough point that that it is triggered below the level at which you feel it.

  • avatar
    threeer

    When I met my wife she was driving a maroon variant of that same style of Lumina. I must have loved her, as I let her drive my ’93 325is around while I was saddled with the Lumina. Ugh. Yeah, it got me to work and back…but that’s about it.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    When I bought my 2011 Outback (July 2011) the lease returns and late model used Outbacks were MORE expensive than the new ones. Even the older ones from 2000-2008 were proportionally more expensive than a new 2011.

    I disagree with a lot of the members here in the regard that, I don’t buy used cars. I don’t want to get someone else’s problem.

  • avatar
    dolorean

    These make perfect winter cars for those above the 40th parallel. Front wheel drive, bullet proof auto trans, comfy mouse fur seats, power windows and locks, nothing exciting but not costing you much either. Perfect American iron.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    For those of us living in the rust belt, these are perfect for daily/winter use (well maybe not the garbage that is the 3.1L found in the buick, but that’s a whole ‘nother can of worms), I could never buy a nice enthusiast car and subject it to the destruction of the roads and metal melting calcium chloride.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      What’s so bad about the 3.1? I maintain my MIL’s 2003 Century with one, and it will click over 200K miles this year on the original engine and trans, and possibly the original intake manifold gaskets as well. Still has Dexcool in it too.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        “What’s so bad about the 3.1?”

        It isn’t a 3300.

      • 0 avatar
        dundurrbay

        Whats so bad about the 3100SFI engine? haha. Better question is, what ISN’T bad about it. Horrible piston slap, head gaskets blowing, intake manifolds and gaskets that grenade easily, etc etc. It’s only redeeming quality IMO was the highway mileage. You clearly got lucky with your 3100.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        Other than Dex Death related issues I don’t see anything wrong with 3.1 engines. I now of several that have 150K plus on them. New intake gaskets due to the dex, and a bit of cold start tap tap, but still solid

  • avatar
    Zackman

    I suppose I bought an “appliance” in our 2012 Impala. But, I had it pinstriped and added Impala emblems to the doors, just about 2″ under the side rub strip. it’s quite attractive and the only one in Cincinnati like it (so far).

    At least now it’s MY appliance, and I’m enthusiastic about that!

    Hey! It’s got a Cadillac engine, so that’s at least SOMETHING…

  • avatar
    Sinistermisterman

    2010 Cobalt. About as appliancy as you can get. It starts, stops, drives, takes me to work and back, takes me to the shops and back and takes me on the occasional road trip. Do I feel any affection for it at all? No. I keep it clean and serviced, but it leaves me cold.

  • avatar
    joborras

    I would be a real player on a Days of Thunder era Lumina coupe. Just sayin’.

    • 0 avatar
      CobraJet

      I had a 94 Lumina Z34 coupe. It was my daughter’s college car, then I drove it 2 more years. The 3.4 OHC V6 always needed something. Far from a trouble-free car and didn’t have much power either. Good looking though, in black.

  • avatar
    big al

    Whatever happened to “run what ya brung”?…..Have you guys forgotten that just because it doesn’t have Honda Civic tags on it doesn’t mean you can”t go through and check out after market and manufacterers hi performance catalogues……Most of the cars I’ve had were bought used and because I needed them right away,not actually because they were what I really wanted.But most of them I managed to personalize to a certain extent and achieve a level of handling and performance that was pretty acceptable…….Remember most cars are fairly middle of the road models(the Companies bread and butter ,so to speak) with the hi performance and special editions being the bling.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    The folks had a 90 Lumina “Euro” coupe like that in the same Torch Red. Why they got it, with my brother,sister and I ages 8-12, I don’t know. I thought it was pretty cool at the time and enjoyed the tinny blat of the 3.1 V6. A miserable 135hp at the time, the 3 spd auto car was only 120?

    My 10 Altima is a leased appliance, even in appliance white! It does what I need it to and is covered by a warranty. The payment is low, it was no money down and I won’t be sorry to see it go at the end. Not a bad car, but with the 2.5/CVT and base suspension/tires, it’s not much fun. I will miss the keyless ignition though, I’ve gotten real used to that.

    I keep it clean and do the maintenance so that someone else can get a clean, well-kept, nearly new car.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    “the leather is free of rips, and most of my older customers like having that extra touch of luxury for their humdrum commutes”

    When having small kids, leather is FTW. My little one can jump inside everywhere and it just takes a swipe with a wet rag to clean it. Not so with cloth.

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    My 2012 Jetta TDI feels like an appliance. This is not a complaint! Despite being loaded with the Premium Nav package and accessories, it looks simple, while overall utility is impressive for a sedan. It feels sturdy, steers great, and gives me a smile when I throw it into corners. The net result: I like it but can’t LOVE it. It’s an appliance in my eyes.

  • avatar
    200k-min

    I thought the people that looked at cars as “rolling spreadsheets” were more keen to buy 10+ year old Toyotas & Hondas with close to 200,000 miles on them. I’d rather keep my ’99 Accord with 190,000 miles vs. having an ’01 Buick with half the miles. Turn of the century really wasn’t a good time for the domestics.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Before I had appliances I had murderous old rusty VWs, I think I’ll take the appliances thank you very much!

    Actually, I’m curious to know why plain 90′s sedans are a bit popular, they aren’t all that terrific. I’ve driven one of those Tauruses before and found it to be cramped.


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