By on November 11, 2012

 

Saturn? Civic? Neon? A diesel owned by this long-time TTAC commeter?

For the longest time I’ve been trying to figure out what penny pinching prodigy earns the most keep. I’ve spent years pondering this question.

Well, more like a few dull moments at the auctions.

I finally figured out the answer this evening. The cheapest car to own  is the one you like so much… that you’re willing to buy another one just like it so that you can keep yours on the road for years to  come. I’ll give you a recent example of two ‘cheap’ cars with two very divergent destinies.

A family bought two vehicles from me recently. In turn, they traded two cars in for $500 altogether. One  was a 1996 Taurus Wagon. The other was a 1992 Volvo 240. Both of them  had ‘issues’. The Taurus had a weak tranny and looked like.. a Taurus.  The Volvo had been in a fender bender where it looked like it got into a fight, and lost. Both of them were worth more dead than alive. Perhaps…

The Taurus and Volvo were put on Craigslist  for $700 apiece. The Taurus had at least two dozen contemporaries over the prior seven days that had also been listed for $1000 or less.  If variety was the spice of life, the dozens of Tauruses on Craigslist  seemingly offered more spice-filled suggestions than an old Simon &  Garfunkel tune. Mine thankfully was a more luxurious version of Ford’s attempt to wreak utter havoc on the Camcords of that era.

A 200 HP Duratec engine in this one equaled  the output of the late Toyota Celica All-Trac. A well adorned cloth  interior with foldaway cupholders and storage bins made it family friendly. The ‘Mach’ premium sound systems made the ancient Volvo seem tinpot  cheap. Let’s see what else. Did I mention the engine already? Anyhow the 1996 – 1999 Taurae represented a billion plus dollar project for Ford at a time when the Taurus was fighting it out for the ‘best selling  car’ award in North America. Surely people even today must want to  snatch these things up?

Nope. Nothing moved. Not a one. Not even my ‘gem’ with only 115k.

Most already had blown trannies that were underengineered just like all the prior ones. But there was an even bigger problem.

Working on the dang thing. Compared to a Camry, Accord, or even a Lumina of the same vintage, the Taurus is an absolute pain to diagnose, repair and maintain. We’re not talking about Nightmare on Elm Street or 30 year old Fiat levels. Just enough fragile electric doo-dads, strangely configured parts, and cheap stuff to make the whole upkeep process a trying one.

Plus there’s nothing special or unique about the Taurus. No character. No longevity. No strengths within it’s design  or presence to make a keeper want to keep fixing it.

I wholesaled it for $550.

Now the Volvo 240 was a complete paradigm shift. Volvo had built these cars to last decades with proper maintenance and everything about this vehicle was ‘authentic’. No marketing cabal in their right mind would ever design something like a Volvo 240. It’s as utterly square in it’s appearance as Lawrence Welk with a bubble machine and a baton. But thankfully the parts within the 240 also make it as soulful as Coltrane on a light blues riff.

The red brick engine under the hood has become to the classic Volvo enthusiasts, what the V-twin engine has become to Harley enthusiasts. A symbol of the vehicle’s strength and  character. On the road the Volvo 240 has a sound and feel unlike anything else on the road.

It’s not fast at all in stock form. Even compacts from the same era offered far more power.

It’s not the smoothest. The cheaper Camrys and Accords of that time were far more refined and quiet.  So were Maximas, Intrepids, and almost any other pricey competitor of the early 1990’s. The interior? Even calling it luxurious in the early 1980’s would have been a stretch. By 1992 the only thing saving it from an early grave were the glacier like changes in American luxury cars, and that the Lexus ES300 was not yet a known commodity.

But the sound and feel of a Volvo 240  in motion has made thousands of folks around the world smile and enjoy their ride. It’s genuine and earnest in all it does… which you either love it or hate it.

This one was merely one of nine available from the past six weeks at the thousand dollar or less ‘TLC’ level.  At that range of time and prices, the Tauruses on Craigslist were as  common as herpes at an Elliot Spitzer fundraiser.

I got calls, calls, and more calls. They ranged from a fellow who had an almost Rain Man like knowledge of these vehicles, to a parent who couldn’t understand how a radio could be  removed out of any car. My first question to everyone was,

“Do you know how to work on cars?” If they didn’t get the hint or read over my listing, I explained layer upon layer of cosmetic issue until I finally received the polite response, “I’ll keep on looking.”

A missing interior door panel. No radio. A bad A/C compressor. A couple of broken door handles. A passenger side  hit with just enough force to make the front passenger door nearly impossible to open. Oh, and no antenna! Eventually I was able to ferret out the cheap and inexperienced and find the hobbyist who would put the Volvo 240 to good use.

The fellow who bought the 240 was already driving another 240. His had a bad wiring harness. A frequent issue with pre-1988 Volvos. It would be far easier for him to part out his current ride in favor of this commuter. Door handles and panel? Check. Radio  and A/C? Check. Engine and transmission? Two of each in great shape. Before my ‘Raging Bull’ Volvo received it’s battle scars from the teenage son, it had been expertly serviced by a Volvo specialist with OEM parts for nearly 15 years.

Like all true beaters the gold mine of value for this Volvo 240 was all beneath the surface. The sum of all it’s parts will definitely be enough to keep the owner on the road for at least another five years. At which time the old engine and or transmission from the donor car can be put into a classic that is already old enough to drive itself.

The tightwad’s car… is always the car worth keeping.

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89 Comments on “Hammer Time Remix: The Ultimate Tightwad Car...”


  • avatar
    -Nate

    As an ex Volvo owner I await the cheers & jeers this thread will generate .

    I wasn’t impressed by the Taurus when it was new and remain underwhelmed .

    -Nate

  • avatar

    Indeed. I passed along the above-mentioned TDI to my eldest son, who learned to drive in it. He flew off to a winter job and left the car for me to care for – and I plan on driving it until the spring thaw.

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    In a dead heat of a race, the two Very Best Cars Of All Time are…

    Mercedes-Benz W123-chassis Diesels

    and

    Volvo 240 gas-powered models

    Either of these cars, treated with a modicum of decency and respect, will last you the rest of your natural lifetime. If you do your own work, neither is particularly expensive to repair or maintain.

    Neither is fancy or particularly interesting to drive, but if you are the sort of person who is okay with that, you can drive either one of these darn near forever.

    • 0 avatar
      iNeon

      I’ve owned your forever cars.

      The W123 Mercedes 240D was nice– if you like replacing expensive parts on a very regimented schedule and being outrun by school busses. The Volvo 245 4-speed was fine as well– if the horn honking when you turn left doesn’t bother you, and you don’t mind being outrun by a school bus.

      When the Mercedes sheared-off it’s A/C compressor bolts at 155k, it went byebye. When the Volvo’s overdrive puked it’s guts into a drainpan around 225k, it went byebye.

      Why? Because I didn’t have time to search for parts. Because neighbors don’t appreciate yards littered with 30-year old cars. Because time has moved on.

      I fail to see how it is different when a disposable car is thrown away at 150-200k whenever the ‘forever’ cars require major work at these very same intervals. Every car will last as long– it will have cracks in it’s dash, just like the W123s do, it will have loose switches, inoperative gauges and wonky door handles like the 245s. These cars aren’t any different than the FWD throw-a-way cars we’re all buying today.

      Please stop pretending they are. Please.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        All cars will have faults, and all things will need replacing at some point. What makes “forver cars” different is the frequency f replacement, ease of replacment, and costs.

        Look at Cuba, they’ve managed to keep old American cars on the road thanks to a bit of know how and neccisity, you could keep a modern car going and certainly with less parts breaking. But when they do break, good luck replacing them.

        I don’t know why you’re bringing up modern FWDs, no one here has critcised them as far as I can tell.

        For the record, when people call Volvo 240s “forever cars” that usually only applied for the later models, early models were a bit buggy but still decent if the owner was tolerant enough to fix them.

        It really comes down to enjoying a car or not that depends on it being a “forever car”.

      • 0 avatar
        chicagoland

        Most of those old Cuban 1950’s rides have engine swaps from Russian Ladas.

      • 0 avatar
        rmwill

        Wow. Honesty from someone besides me who has been tempted and let down by these “legendary” rides. +1

      • 0 avatar
        Don Mynack

        There are a lot of cars that can be “driven forever” if one is willing to maintain it, do a major overhaul every once in a while, etc.

        The question is “Is this car worth the hassle”? Sometimes it is, sometimes it ain’t. To each his own.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    Let me add to the 240 or the W123 is the BMW 528e . Just keep the timing belt fresh and it will love you longtime.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    My father had a Taurus wagon just like that one, killed the transmission going over a curb. My mothers Sable version went to 150k before the transmission went.

    For Volvo 240s they are good tightwad cars, the one that I grabbed is the only beater that hasn’t required all that much work. I wanted it for luxury but found out that it can be fun to drive, and its 2.3 has a distinct noise to it that I enjoy listening too. Very fine cars they are.

    Its also in better nic than most Japanese cars of the 90’s. The 240 is a dated and old fashioned design but its a good one as well.

    I would suggest a Volvo 940 for a tightwad though, even if they’ve lost a bit of character from their American-ization.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    The old adage “they dont make em like this anymore” never seemed more appropriate

    As with pretty much every trend in the automotive world, Germans spearheaded the “wait a minute why design forever cars for 3-5 year consumers” trend, a scant 15-20 yrs after establishing the “hey you know cars can actually last more than a year” trend the domestics feasted on

    I would even be a little hasty to buy a 10 yr old Volvo today. The game has CHANGED.

    If there were a way to reinforce a car’s chassis without an intrusive/ricey roll cage, I would love to pick up something like an old B13 Sentra and just drive it into the ground

  • avatar
    NormSV650

    My 2000 Saab 9-5 purchased for less than $2,000 only needed power steering pump($69 used), a new starter($110), and rebuilt the turbo for $29.00 the last 12 months of ownership(133K miles. I added lower springs/shocks, performance exhaust, ecu stage lll and it sees 40+ mpgs. It runs with 330i’s and much faster than anything else that sees 40 mpg with handling on top of that.

    A turbo 4-cylinder is hard to beat having the heart of an engine of twice the displacement and the fuel efficiency that all 4-bangers enjoy.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I don’t consider later Saabs to be ery good tightwad cars, too many complex things to break.

    • 0 avatar
      NormSV650

      Most consumable parts have half a dozen vendors for the 9-5, nicely priced.

      http://www.rockauto.com/catalog/x,carcode,1423101

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      Yeah right, Norm. Did you tell them about the main oil seals that fail at about 80K? Or did the previous owner of your car already take care of that?

      I assume you have the manual tranny, because the autobox shows signs of serious sickness at about 70k.

      Then there’s the alternator that will fail around 70K.

      And then there’s the plastic baffles in the fuel tank that come loose around 70K, interfering with the function of the fuel gauge.

      And, somewhere in there: motor mounts.

      As for your “40mpg” claim, double “yeah, right.” Even a Ford Focus with a smaller displacement, less powerful, direct injected engine pushing a lighter car with less frontal area and probably better streamlining doesn’t do that well.

      Try 31 mpg.

      And yes, I’ve owned my Saab since new (2002), have driven it sanely, have maintained it and have not added a “stage III ECU” whatever the hell that is for this car.

      Even if Saab were still in business, this is not a “drive it forever” machine. The body, the paint and the interior are high quality and durable . . . but the mechanicals are another story.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        At DC: A Stage 3 ECU lets you tune the cars torquepower mapping I’d assume, but that would increase power more so than economy.

        I’m not much of a tuner myself, I just know that those cars tend to be driven hard and end up having serious issues.

        A stiffened suspension will cause the cars alignment to go out sooner, a custom exhaust could cause some engine issues (let alone ruin the drivers ears), and a “stage 3 ECU” could gain the car a few more hp while sacrificing longterm durability.

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    Volvo 7/940s are FAR better than the 240. Basically the same indestructible mechanicals. They don’t have the cult following, so they cost 1/2 as much or less. They had all the “stupid” evolved out of them that the 240s had in spades. They were designed from the get-go to be less maintenance intensive, and they have FAR FAR FAR better rust protection, and the 940s mostly have the magic locking differential that makes them great in the snow. I’ve owned a bunch of them, my roommate still has a ’94 945 with a quarter-million on it that rarely needs anything at all done to it. And since it is roughly as complicated as an anvil, when it does need attention you can fix it with a hammer and a screwdriver.

    Unpretentious practical motoring at its finest.

    I do agree with the poster who mentioned the BMW 528e – they are just as good, but need a little more upkeep. And no station wagon. My Mom had one to almost 300K miles, tinworm killed it eventually.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      According to races with 24 hours of Lemons, the 240 is the toughest Volvo that they’ve seen raced, more so than the 7-900 series.

      That dosen’t make the 240 better though, the 940 is pretty much the ultamite Volvo for the average joe, while the 200 is more for an enthusiast or someone who wants to make a good buck.

      But, let me ask you this krhodes, what do you think of the Volvo 850 series? They’re fairly popular and can be had as a wagon.

      Steve, I appreciate you sending that 240 off to a fan, that way it’ll go to a decent home.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        The only reason I can imagine that one would prefer a 240 for LeMons racing is that 740s with manual transmissions are very rare, and there is no such thing as a 940 with a manual transmission in the US. And haven’t most of the LeMons 240s had V8s stuffed in them anyway?

        As to 850s and the other early FWD Volvos, IMHO if you are going to put up with the complexity of a modern FWD car, Saab did it FAR better. The 9-5 is a much nicer car than the 850, particularly in Aero or V6 trim, and seem to hold up better. And with Saabs demise, you can get a much newer and nicer 9-5 for P2 Volvo money.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Friend runs a Volvo indy, never saw a 740 manual but I believe I have seen 940s in manual, albeit it sparingly.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Volvo never offered a manual in the 940 in the US – if you saw one It was either gray market or someone did the swap themselves. I have seen at least one of each. Manual was available in N/A 8V and Turbo 740s through 1991, discontinued in ’92. Early cars had the 4spd+electric overdrive, later cars a regular 5spd, same as in 240s. They got rarer as time went on. But a ’92 745 is a 940 with the old style seats anyway, I’ve owned two of them. Also no manual in the 740 16V in the states. I have seen one 945GLE 16V 5spd in the US, but it was a diplomatic import that never got exported.

        My lifetime Volvo count is 1 242, 1 245T, 1 245, 2 744GLE, 1 744GLE16V, 1 744T, 3 745T, 3 945, 1 965. I like these cars a lot.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        I may have been mistaken on the 940 5spd, maybe it was a Saab which occasionally turn up there.

        965? Was this a 960 wagon?

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      From what I know theres only one 240 with a V8, the others are stock.

      I agree about the Saab 9-2 though, Volvo could never get FWD down that well.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      I do agree on the 940 being a better buy, but I’m curious to know what they fixed between the 7 and 200 series aside from better rust proofing.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        The biggest thing is the electrical system. The problem with the 240 is that it debuted in 1975 (and is an evolution of the 140 from the ’60s), and was never intended to have all the modern conveniences that it eventually acquired. So the electrical system “evolved” over time. Relays scattered all over the place, the wiring is like a birds nest, they use the old style corrosion and poor tension prone ceramic fuses, etc. The 740 has a modern fuse/relay panel that was intended from the get-go to support A/C, power everything and such. Second is the HVAC system. Again, an add-on with the 240 that was certainly never intended for R134 and was pretty marginal at best. With a heater fan Volvo suspended in the air and built the rest of the car around. The 740 has a modern HVAC system, the last of them even had the R134-ready components. 940s past the first year had R134 from the factory. All of them work pretty well on it, and the heater fan is a much cheaper unit that you can change in 10 minutes. The rear suspension is a simpler, better design that doesn’t trash hard to replace bushings every 100K miles. The whole car is like this – other than the basic mechanical layout it is simply a 20+ year newer design. The 740 and especially 940 are also MUCH safer cars, especially in side impact protection. And the late cars have airbags and seatbelt tensioners. Plus ABS brakes starting in the later 740s.

        The 240 has some advantages – they drive with a little more feel since they have a lot less rubber in the front suspension. They tend to be a bit less rattly because the interior is held together with screws instead of cheap plastic clips. They have a suspended headliner that won’t fall on your head. They ARE charming in a vintage sort of way. But overall, the 740 is just a much better car. And then the 940 got a little better than that.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Thank you for answering my question, I think its that “vintage” thing that makes the 240 so popular.

      Before I got a 240 I was hunting for a 940, but where I live its hard to find any decent low mileage Volvo for under $2000. I had to grab a 240 that I found for just a grand in good shape, it had been converted to R-134 too!

      I still advise others to buy the 940 though, the 240 is a decent car for people who like to wrench, while the 940 is the better daily driver. Both are fine cars though.

      I don’t regret buying my 240 over an old Panther, thats for sure.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        I agree completely – I REALLY like 240s, but at this point I would only have a 240 as a toy. A 940 is a perfectly fine daily driver, in fact I bought a $1000 945 last year for the six months between when I sold my Saab and took re-delivery of my BMW. Cheap motoring, nice enough to not be embarrassing. Sold it on to a friend of mine.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      940s are good, but where I live $1000 cars always have serious issues or neglect, seems that Volvos are the most tolerant of abuse while Panthers often have the lowest mileage.

      As far as Japanese stuff goes I was considering one, got a Tercel but it ended up having serious surface rust, plus it was just a solid but crummy car really. Why can’t the Japanese get rust proof down?

      Shoot, even the Marquis that I was looking at had a bit of rust under it, but driving it, oh boy, driving it was relaxing until I had to corner, it was impossible to tell what the front wheels were doing.

  • avatar
    Athos Nobile

    It has to be an Aussie engineered car. Commodore from VN to VS, dirt cheap and unbreakable powertrain, VT-VX nicer shape, same powertrain.

    My oil changes are only AU$25.

    EL/AU/BA Falcon, if taxi drivers can coax 700K+ kms out of them, so can you.

    Add LPG to the mix (for dirt cheap fueling), some basic maintenance and they will run (literally) forever.

  • avatar
    geo

    I found a 2000 Taurus SE wagon on Kijiji yesterday with 20,000 kilometers. They were asking 5 thousand.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    Toyota Corollas are to me ‘ultimate tightwad’ car. People who refuse to open a hood love them, and drive them 200K +.

    Toyota dealers however, call the average Corolla buyers ‘Grinders’, who will haggle down to the lowest penny. Per posts on Edmunds forums of ‘dealer stories’.

    • 0 avatar
      Dingleberrypiez

      Completely agree. Particularly the stripper models with manual everything. Although in the context of this article, you could argue that Corollas are too boring to keep on the road once their beyond their prime (even if that doesn’t happen for 300k miles). Might I add pre 2005 toyota pickups? Any 4 cylinder model manual transmission model will last forever, will be exceptionally economical to own, and will always always always have a buyer ready the minute your ready to sell. My 1997 2wd regular cab 5sp tacoma was the cheapest vehicle to own and operate by orders of magnitude.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      Here in rust and safety inspection country, the Japanese don’t get a look in. I see 15-20+ year old Volvos (especially), Saabs, and BMWs in multiples every day. I don’t see ANY 20 yo Japanese cars, and not that many 10-15yo ones. They fail inspection with a list of needs that cost what they are worth, and off to the crusher they go. American cars get junked for mechanical problems at about the same age, it would seem.

      In the South, sure.

      • 0 avatar
        NormSV650

        The Japanese cars don’t last in rust belt northern half of Ohio either. I see a few Camrys form the 1990’s but they bleed red from under the windows and other weld seems.

      • 0 avatar
        George B

        krhodes1, what is inexpensive to own depends on what sold in large enough volumes when new, how the previous owners treated the car, and whether there are readily available aftermarket parts. There are enthusiasts who keep older European cars alive in North Texas, but they’re definitely not tightwads considering what they spend on parts.

        A good tightwad car around here would be used grandparent edition Buick with a 3800 V6. Low insurance rates, little chance of abuse by the prior owner, rugged powertrain, and low parts cost. Find an elderly owner with OCD about maintenance who kept their uncool car in the garage and you hit the tightwad car jackpot.

      • 0 avatar
        Grumpy

        +1 on the Corolla.

        There was a press reported story a few years ago of a woman in Edmonton (which is so cold that salt won’t work much… they use sand instead), who was a social worker required to drive children around the city to various meetings etc. Her car was a stripper older Corolla..manual trans with crank windows etc. When she got to a million Km, the local dealer who had been servicing the car and in conjunction with Toyota, offered her a free new Corolla in trade for hers. She accepted and the old stripper was washed and plunked down in the dealer’s showroom. They listed all the parts that had been replaced..heater and cooling rads, some front suspension bits and not much else. (lots of brakes and tires of course) Amazingly this thing still had the original engine, transmission and even clutch. The body had never been touched and had very little rust. Even the interior was still very nice. Apparently the lady was happy and the dealer was ecstatic as Corolla sales soared.

        As cool as this is, I doubt it’s possible now–the safety nannies and their sensors and more complicated electronics, would I suspect, conspire to drive you nuts long before a million Km. Still I think even a new Corolla would be a damn good bet to last longer and be much cheaper to drive than virtually anything else on the road.

      • 0 avatar
        Moparman426W

        Norm, I can relate. I live in the Akron-Canton area, what japanese vehicles you do see from the 90’s are in such bad shape that they need to be taken off the road.

      • 0 avatar
        dvdlgh

        Here in Wisconsin salt in winter is as common as gravy in Georgia. I see many 92 and up Camrys with rust free bodies.

  • avatar
    Zarba

    Tightwad cars? Camry, Corolla, Accord, Civic.

    NTTARWT

    • 0 avatar
      jimmyy

      I agree. These are the ultimate tightwad cars. You can purchase a brand new stripped model for well under invoice, if you shop around. ( like 2%ish + any rebates ). Then, drive then four about 2 years. Just make sure not to damage them in any way, then sell them for less than a $2,000 loss.

      A while back, I did the Taurus thing. I had 3 of them. They were also good, but only if purchased used. Before Cash 4 Clunkers, you could get a low mileage Taurus for under 5,000, then drive the hell out of the, and throw them away. But, I never had one last past 115K. The repairs ran out of control. But, still a bargain.

      In my opinion, the Corolla, Civic, Accord, Camry thing is just a little more expensive per mile than the Taurus strategy, but it is so much nicer driving a new car.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    Back in 92 I rented a Volvo 240 from Hertz for a 5 hr road trip to Orlando, it was the first time I had ever driven a European car in my life, except for an old Beetle, I was astonished as to how solid this car felt compared to every other single new American car I had driven thus far and that included at one time or another, Eldorado, Caprice Ford LTD sedan and wagon, Bonneville, Charger, Impala and Fury, immediately I realized why people sought out these cars.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      BOF buffs will go on an on about having a car built like a truck is superior to uni-bodies, after driving several bofs myself I don’t know what they’re on about. They feel like sheds with a roulette wheel mounted on them.

  • avatar
    punkybrewstershubby aka Troy D.

    I take offense to being called the owner of a tightwad car!

    My wifey and I cart the kids around in our ’04 Taurus SEL wagon that we enjoy so much I spent three hours detailing it this beautiful sunny Veterans Day. At 126K miles on the ticker, except for “futile” attempts to save the leather from melted crayons and the hatch from golden retriever fur and claw, it has been unflappable as a family ride. And it doesnt handle like a minivan.

    The Duratec is much more impressive than you’d think only 200hp would be as well. For an almost 9 y/o wagon, it is still serving us well.

    Did I mention it doesnt handle like a minivan. Oh yes, and it seats 7 with the rumble seat out back…

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Probably a reason why Ford killed it, didn’t Freestar come out around that time? If I was Ford I wouldn’t want to keep selling a lower margin but comparatively better automobile alongside my crappy minivan.

      • 0 avatar
        punkybrewstershubby aka Troy D.

        Yes. They replaced the Windstar with the Freestar and killed the Taurus wagon and put the 500-based Freestyle in its place. Ours was one of the last to roll of the line. It had a sticker of almost $29000, if memory serves…

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Sticker of 29K in 2004 no less? I retract the low margin comment, on paper it seems like it had quite a high markup.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      TTAC is a site where Panther and Fox body love floweth like milk and honey; but the Taurus is without honor.

      Yea, the transmissions in the 85-94 Taurus sent many to an early grave. But, is well with the soul of a 1995 onward; be of good cheer, maintain them well, and they will live like any other FWD car.

      Taurus owners do not need a parts car to lay down in green pastures by the still waters; for the junkyards overfloweth with parts cars. Rust to rust went most of the Gen1s; seek, and yea shall find yet a Gen2; but the Gen3s like this wagon and the Gen4s are numbered like the stars in the sky.

      Are yea not a Ford or general mechanic? Are yea not a member of the TCCA forum? For if thou wast, Taurus electricals are well known; for you have seen many of them, and help is easy to find. Be of good cheer, and fear them not; for they were not made by Lucas, Prince of Darkness.

      Had yea the patience and the right buyer, yea could have prospered selling your Taurus wagon. Yea, if it had a Vulcan, and you lived in my village; I would have been sorely tempted to buy it from you; even though I already own one.

      “It really comes down to enjoying a car or not that depends on it being a “forever car”.”

      @Royku95; thou hast spoken well. Steve, repent of your Taurus hatred; for thou has featured them four times now in recent postings; including a high milage one. Go forth, and hate on the Taurus no more; for thou will most likely be seeing and selling them for an eternity. Go forth in peace, and prosper selling them.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        So say we all.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        @jhefner:

        I’ve been called many things but never Royku95. I never did care for the Taurus to be honest, the early models were okay but the anti-Camry models were too narrow in the back and far, far too delicate.

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        I’m sorry, Ryoku75; was so focused on my prose so late at night I messed up your moniker instead.

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        No worries, I’m just puzzled as to why you’re defending the Taurus.

        I’m not saying they’re bad, I actually sort of like the first generation, but I never considered them really good in any way, just average in most and weak in transmission longevity.

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        Others have mentioned why already; like the Accord and Camry:

        * They are cheap used
        * Parts are plentiful
        * Any mechanic worthy of the name can fix one. Do it yourselfers have the TCCA forum to go to
        * The Vulcan in particular is not hard to work on. I also agree there is nothing difficult about the electricals; have diagnosed and replaced the brake switch on my own; along with the airbag control module and several fuses and lights

        Yes, the early Taurus often died from transmission failures; but if properely maintained; from 1995 onward, they held their own. I did not do anything to mine at all till I had the fluid and filter changed @140K. Getting the old dirt out caused it to leak badly, but adding a quart of Penzoil high mileage transmission treatment fixed that; and onward we go.

        Yes, it may not like jumping curves like a Panther; but you yourself put it well; a Taurus like any car can be a lifetime car so long as you are willing to keep up with it. Due to the cheap and plentiful parts supply and lots of folks who can fix it; it would be easier keeping a Taurus going than some other cars.

  • avatar
    fiasco

    A sticker of 29k with 8k cash on the hood is probably more like it… :)

    Oh, and even though the steering is Buick-like, my Sienna handles way better than any minivan has business doing…and the Odyssey is even better.

    With the prospect of private school for my two kids, I’m going to be coaxing every last mile I can out of my 03 Legacy wagon…

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      No kids but I was educated by private school through the 12th grade and will be doing the same if I am ever put in a similar position. Suppose it will be beat Panthers and 3800 GMs for a long time then.

  • avatar
    Wheeljack

    The old squarebody Jeep Cherokees are pretty robust. Sure they get lousy fuel mileage, but parts are plentiful in junkyards, and there are lots of people who get over 250,000 miles of service out of them.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    What makes the Taurus such a good tightwad car is that they are super plentiful, really cheap, and the parts are really cheap. The insurance is cheap, too. Are they better cars than the 240? No, but that does not make a difference. From 100K to 200K the Volvo is likely to cost much more to keep fully operational than the Taurus, even it the bull needs more actual repairs, and that is certainly not a guarantee. Cheap and desirable are not the same thing.

  • avatar

    I own both a 240 and a 940. Both are made from Everlastium. The best part about them is that total strangers feel the need to talk to me about them, asking about what year they are and how many miles they have, or reminiscing about how they or their girlfriend owned one, and that they miss it.
    Anyone know where I can get replacement seat foam for a 240?

    • 0 avatar
      windsormarxist

      IPD volvo parts in Portland sell them mail order. You could also just get a lightly used passenger seat foam from a scrapyard, use contact adhesive to glue up any cracks, and then (as long as the plastic ‘spider’ hasn’t broken, glue a piece of thick cloth to the bottom to protect from the springs. Voila- another 200K of comfort.

  • avatar
    glwillia

    I’ve had both W123 diesels and Volvo 240s. The W123s are good if you don’t live anywhere near snow, because those things can and will rust out quickly and you’ll soon see the road surface under the car from the driver’s seat. As for Volvo 240s, they got me through grad school and were good, competent, cheap and safe cars. For either of these though, the secret is to be able and willing to wrench on it yourself, spend time on forums, and hit up junkyards on the weekends to look for spare parts.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      You nailed it ! .

      I love having my tools in my hands and I need constant Physical Therapy and enjoy being outdoors so I walk the local Self Service Junkyards , looking for that next thing I need .

      I now have three Mercedes W-123’s , all are Diesels , all are daily drivers and Rally Cars , all are incredibly cheap to maintain , safe and reliable .

      Of course , I now live in Sunny So. Cal. , land of the rust free cheap car .

      I hated SWMBO’s 1997 Toyletta Corolla , it handled terribly (unsafely IMO) even though it was 10,000 miles and never needed anything but batteries and tires , I couldn’t wait to give it away to our grandaughter a her College car ~ I hope to never see it again .

      -Nate

  • avatar
    LeeK

    The tightwad who lives down the street from me drives a mid 80s Ford Tempo, which fits his rant-prone personality quite well, I think.

    PS, Steve. It’s = contraction of it is. Its = possessive form of it.

  • avatar
    nrd515

    Around here, the ultimate tightwad cars are the Taurus and Sables. They actually fit into two categories, cars for kids without money and want/need a cheap car that is disposable, and cheapskates who keep a car “to the end”, usually old men who could afford something much better, but keep the old Taurus until they die or can’t drive anymore, then it gets passed to a grandkid. My next door neighbors had a green metallic Taurus that was the wife’s mother’s car and they having 7 kids, kept it until it was beyond pitiful and finally junked it with 300K miles on it. They got another free car soon after, a 2008 Chrysler 300C with 12K on it, in almost new condition. It soon became the wife’s car, moving her Equinox to the “kid pool” where it was soon wrecked.

    I worked with a guy who had THREE Tempos, he loved them. One got wrecked by his wife, and he was very upset. He looked and looked for a replacement, and couldn’t find one, but one of his kids was out West and found one in Phoenix. He drove it to Toledo, bought a junker with a good interior and did an interior transplant. Dad blubbered when they gave it to him for his birthday. I would have been pissed to have to drive one, but he loved it. He was also restoring an old Chevy LUV pickup, so I kind of doubt his sanity.

    • 0 avatar
      jhefner

      I so resemble your remarks; though it is the son-in-law who is restoring a Chevy LUV; and not me personally. My example does give “survivor car” a whole new meaning:

      http://www.survivingworldsteam.org/TAURUS/

      I find your story about the son restoring a replacment Tempo for his father to be a touching one. Good for him.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        I liked your Blue Goose story. I still have my late mother’s 92 Sable. No major mechanical parts have been repaired but being in semi salt country, the engine subframe rusted and was replaced. It, too helped out in a storm. After Sandy took out our power for days on end, I was running out of fuel for the generator. I had filled the 18 gallon tank in the Sable but simply could not siphon out the gas. So I jacked up the car, removed the fuel line off of the filter, removed the rear seat to expose the fuel pump power line and wired the fuel pump to the battery and pumped out the tank. I know my mom would be happy to see her old ride help out…

      • 0 avatar
        jhefner

        @golden2husky: thanks, and sorry to hear you were impacted by Sandy. Hope things are returning to normal.

        When they do return to normal, do be sure and fill the Sable’s tank again. I left the Blue Goose sitting up for four years with an empty tank; when they fixed the motor and still could not start it; they dropped the tank to find it a solid mass of rust on the inside; they had to replace the tank, float, and fuel pump.

  • avatar
    slance66

    Never owned one, but wonder whether the older 4 Cyl Tacoma pickup should be in this category. Things seem to be damned near indestructible. Parts should be readily available.

  • avatar
    Andy D

    A stripper Ranger pick up. Anything with an exact model parts car behind the shop.

    • 0 avatar
      Marko

      Yes, the Ranger is arguably even better as a “tightwad” car than a Volvo 240 if you don’t need the passenger room since the parts are ridiculously cheap and more or less grow on trees. Every backcountry mechanic is familiar with the Ranger.

  • avatar
    icemilkcoffee

    The Volvo givse the impression of solidity- but it still requires a lot of fixing to keep it going.

    The ultimate tightwad car would be something like a Toyota pickup truck with an 22RE engine.

    Actually the aircooled VW bugs are also tightwad cars. They require a fair amount of maintenance, but there is no disputing the fact that they are solidly built and everything is easily repaired and parts costs are dirt cheap.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    Any pickup truck. Usually bought and maintained by those who tend to be thrifty. Depreciation matters little to them; someone is always willing to buy a 15-20 YO beater truck.

    • 0 avatar
      krhodes1

      The trouble is, that only works where you have no salt and/or no safety inspection. ALL of the trucks, US or Japanese have historically had lousy rust protection. And it is not even necessarily the bodies – my best friend has an ’05 F250 that the DISPSTICK TUBE has rusted in half on. Seriously! he went to check the oil and found it flapping in the breeze from the upper bracket. The underside of that truck looks like it has been on the bottom of the ocean. The bolts are lumps of rust, it failed inspection for rusty brake and fuel lines, and in general is costing him a small fortune to fix at barely 8 years old.

      American and Japanese cars are the same here. Even if the body doesn’t rust through, the brake and fuel lines do, or the bolts get so rusty it makes it horrible to work on them. In contrast, the Europeans use copper-nickel for the fuel and brake lines, so they are not an issue, and massively better grade fasteners. So even a 20yo Volvo that has been in the salt its whole life can still be worked on fairly easily.

      So ultimately, what is the best long-term cheap car is very regional. Where there is no rust, a Corolla or old pickup for sure. Up here not so much.

      Similarly, the “buy a cheap beater” doesn’t really work here, because it costs too much to buy a car that will pass inspection, or to get a really cheap car through inspection. So you have too much in it to just throw it away, unless you really do only need something for a few months.

  • avatar
    ajla

    I’m suprised that you people that live in states where road salt turns many of your cars into rusted scrap heaps in 11 years haven’t petioned your government to use alternative deicers.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      Such as?

      Locally, we used to use sand. But that clogged up the storm drain system and “was bad for the salmon”. Plus, the public works employees really, really didn’t like cleaning all of the residual sand up afterwards.

      So we switched to (I kid you not) a grape-juice-based deicer. That did nothing but give the salmon a sugar high and made people’s feet sticky.

      Now I think we’re back to sand plus salt.

      Any of the other chlorides besides sodium (calcium, potassium, etc) are equally if not more corrosive. There is no free lunch.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        “Plus, the public works employees really, really didn’t like cleaning all of the residual sand up afterwards.”

        I’m sure they were upset, it probably interrupted nap-time every day to have to go and do their jobs.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    I would say the Chevy Cavalier. They are the cockroach of the road but…

    They are efficient, being designed without safety gadgets in mind. They are relatively reliable and the power trains aren’t too shabby.

    But most of all, they are ubiquitous. Parts are dirt cheap, repairs are cheap and every back-country service station mechanic knows how to fix one like the back of his hand.

  • avatar
    Hoser

    “Working on the dang thing. Compared to a Camry, Accord, or even a Lumina of the same vintage, the Taurus is an absolute pain to diagnose, repair and maintain. We’re not talking about Nightmare on Elm Street or 30 year old Fiat levels. Just enough fragile electric doo-dads, strangely configured parts, and cheap stuff to make the whole upkeep process a trying one.”

    Wut? What’s all that difficult on the Taurus? The DPFE on my 96 Duratec was in a not easy-to-get-to spot but other than that, I’ve seen nothing more complex than anything else you listed.

    All I had to do to change plugs was remove the little cowl by the windshield wipers. With the Lumina you’ll be removing engine mounts and rolling the whole engine forward.

  • avatar
    Petrol Blue

    I agree completely with the mentions of the W123. Now is the time to add the W124 to the list. It was designed with the same durability as its predecessors. To this add greatly improved rustproofing and SRS. My brother’s 300E has needed very little up to 260K, when we did the head gasket. It wasn’t too bad of a job, and the engine runs like a top now.

    Many of these cars are being junked out now, so used parts remain plentiful. Good quality imported parts are available from aftermarket resellers, and even M-B parts are reasonable if you order online. They’re cheap to acquire too; solid examples sell for less than $5000.

  • avatar
    JJHUNSECKER

    I had a 91 240 sedan, bought it after a drunk hit me in 99, thinking it would be both safe and cheap to own. Boy was I wrong. I bought it for $7500. Over the next four years it cost me $7500 to keep it running. CONSTANT problems, small things, big things. You’d think after so many years of making the same damn car that could iron out the problems. Worst car I’ve ever owned. I had 12 cars, including an Alfa, and this was by far the worst.

    What a piece of shit.

  • avatar
    phxmotor

    Its goota be the post 86 Volvo 240s and 740’s. As an Arizona then California kid I knew nothing of rust… nothing. when my wife and I moved to the “rust belt” between Ann Arbor and Toledo a couple years ago…ho boy!..did we learn about the idiot rust issue!
    An old lady rancher from Toomstonet took her 31 Model A and literally painted it (with a brush) every year since 1955 when she bought it…rust free… and with careful driving and replacing whatever it needed is still driving the dang thing!… but back to logical forevers… the 240-740 probably is the best… the early 240’s with CI were OK, but bad mpg and hard to diagnose vacuum issues that rendered the CI system inoperable, make the post 86 240s and 740s by far the best choice. Its just a darned shame that even the 240-740’s are becomming less and less available thru wrecking yards… just like the original VW bug. wow! its hard to believe the VW bug is literally a thing of the past except as a novelty car.
    I’ve always believed…and tried to pass down to my kids… that its best to own cars that are between 8 and 20 years old. Maybe 25 in certain cases. It just isnt worth it to have to special order parts. When cars drift out of the real wrecking yards… and then drift out of the U-pull-its… then its time to let go already.
    Best car as a forever nowdays? Obviously a “non-bling” LS400… and then Subaru Legacy-Outback-Impreza-Forester… as long as it doesnt have the stupid DOHC 2.5 that is… and so what if it needs a trans? Who cares? Its cheap enough to find used and easy enough to replace… and the dang things really are as good as a Jeep… and the jokers who insist they are not “real off roaders”… are just ignorant. I live in the real snow… over 500 inches a year…and all I drive is Subarus and V8 explorers. And I never buy eother with less than 100k. Why? I never get stranded… I always have warning if something needs to be replaced… and they are dirt cheap. 8-20 years old… proven reliability…and throw nostalgia to the wind.
    In the next few decades we will be reminising about the now unknown Chinese makes that we don’t even know about yet. The tough ones will win our hearts… and we will have a whole new generation of “car stories” to tell.
    But if Ford keeps making I-4s with valve seats that fall out, it wont be Fords that we will be reminising about. Heck they even retired the funky 5.0 pushrod… Too reliable? Too problem free?
    I get sick when the thought of a Volvo 240-740 is a memory from the distant past… but I guess all things have their time.
    When I begin to think sad thoughts, I just remember the Toomstone Model A and laugh about the 1/3rd of an inch of exterior house paint that is on it, and try to keep in mind that no matter what… if you really like a car… you will find a way to keep it on the road.

  • avatar
    phydo773

    I recently bought a ’93 240 wagon in better than good cosmetic condition, especially inside (rust on the tailgate of course) and the engine/tranny seem pretty solid so far. What I’ve already replaced: engine/transmission mounts and driveshaft (knew about that when I bought it for $1000 in October.) Still need a new exhaust, not sure how extensive it is beyond whole tailpipe and muffler, and struts/shocks and possibly some other front end stuff but I don’t think so. There are a few quirks, notably the reverse lights only flicker on when you first put it into reverse, right side of defrost seems to be clogged, heat is so-so, rear window washer doesn’t work and the damned SRS light on the dash is annoyingly large and bright, plus a couple other minor things, but hey, it’s a 20 year old car, right? I’ve always been attracted to the old bricks (especially the wagons) though never owned one, but I could be falling in love with this one. I’d appreciate any advice, tips etc. One last thought–should I try to sell it and find a 740 or 940 before I get too invested?


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