By on March 4, 2013
I am in need of some car advice.

I’m working with about $2000 or so and I’ve found some cars in my area that I’m interested in.

They are a 1993 Eagle Talon with 86k miles for $1800, 1996 Ford Thunderbird LX V8 with 130k miles for $1400, loaded 1999 Taurus SE with 133k miles for $2100 and lastly, a loaded  2002 Ford Taurus SES with 115k miles for $2200.

Now I’m currently a college student and I’ll be graduating this December. I don’t have a lot of money to work with and I’m looking for what, I feel, is the best overall deal, not only in purchase price but the upkeep as well.

This car has to be able to take me back to school for my last semester starting in August (I’m about 4 hours from my home), fit my college stuff in back (we usually rent a van) and last me for a while until I can make money and hopefully get something nicer.

My logical mind is telling me to rule off the Talon and Thunderbird purely on age, but the owners say they’ve been maintained regularly and the Thunderbird is also a spare car its owners want to get rid of quickly. That could mean more room to talk numbers. Plus, I’ve always loved that body Thunderbird.

Both Taurus’ have sunroof and spoiler and are pretty nice overall. But, for some reason, I’m just not feeling them as much as the Talon and Thunderbird. What would you do? When I go home for Spring Break in a couple of weeks, I plan on looking at the cars if they’re not sold and hopefully make a move and take it back down to school with me if all goes as planned.

I feel the Talon with 86k miles could, potentially, still have a lot of life left in it. On the opposite end, I feel the 2002 Taurus would be the best move overall. I’m just not sure. Help!

Thanks!
 
P.S.: I’ve already looked up the fuel economy estimates, gotten insurance quotes, safety equipment and researched the reliability/problems for each of the cars. I’m a car fanatic. This probably wouldn’t be as hard if I didn’t like so many types of cars. I can honestly see any of them in my driveway and would have no problems with owning any of them.

Steve Says:

A normally aspirated Talon can be a fun vehicle to drive. I bought a black one for only $500 about 7 years ago that had similar mileage. Sold it for $1800 about a week later and thought that all was well with the world.

Well, a few days later, I get one of the creepiest calls of my life. The same guy who I sold the car to starts cussin’ and threatening me for selling him a lemon. We’re talking about, “You’re lucky I’m a Christian, because five years ago I would have beaten the ever lovin @^%#%!!! out of you, and oh by the way, #%$##!!!!!” type of call.”

I texted him back, “Tell me EXACTLY what’s wrong with the vehicle, and don’t ever threaten me again.”

He tells me of a ticking noise that sounds real loud. Almost like a knock. Apparently the Talons of this generation have lifter noise issues. I help him find the information online and he apologizes. All is again well with the world. With the exception of my nerves which are pretty much shot.

Why am I telling you this? Because I am willing to bet dollars to donuts that the Talon will have a huge nuisance factor. 20 year old cars with sporting pretensions are not usually low cost propositions and Mitsubishi powertrains weren’t exactly a gold standard for quality even back then.

I would consider the T-Bird and either of the Tauruses so long as there is a Vulcan V6 in their engine bay. Get them independently inspected and take the best one of the pick. Oh, and make sure you take a long drive before making that decision.

Sajeev says:

For someone in your situation, ownership of a Diamond Star product might as well be the best reason for you to buy a bus pass.  Because that’s what you’ll be using more than your car keys.  Even if it’s a clean, not thrashed, non-turbo FWD model…I wouldn’t trust it to ever be reliable.  Or not leak all over your driveway.

Tbirds are great, as this Lincoln Mark VIII owner will attest.  But, depending on your state/county, insurance can be expensive because it could be considered a performance car just like a Mustang.  And if it’s a 3.8L V6 with a neglected cooling system, expect headgasket problems.

So, odds are one of those Bulls is your best bet.  Buy the Taurus with the best service records, best tires, cleanest interior, etc. Done.

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52 Comments on “New or Used? : Freddy Krueger And The Talon Edition...”


  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    I 100% agree with Sajeev and Steve about the buying the Taurus with the “Vulcan” engine over the others. Parts for the bull are everywhere and cheap. Spend a little time at the Taurus Car Club of America forums to see what you’re looking for.

    http://www.taurusclub.com/forum/82-maintenance-repair/

    The T-bird could be nice, too, but if its a V8, the 1996 engines had a crap-tastic plastic water crossover that failed regularly and is an expensive PITA to fix. Also rear suspension and drivetrain parts could be hard to find.

    Just be sure to get it inspected.

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    STAY AWAY FROM THE TALON

    Unless you need a good excuse to learn how to work on your own vehicles, as you won’t be able to justify the repair bills vs. car value.

    With that being said, damn used cars have gotten expensive.

  • avatar
    Robstar

    Just reading this, I’m thinking “how could he possibly buy anything except the Taurus…?”

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Yes, as stated already, stay away from the DSM. they can be fun cars, for people who like wrenching. A lot.

    The V8 T-bird would by MY choice because the 4.6L 2V won’t give you much trouble as long as it has an intake manifold with the aluminum coolant crossover. If that’s been done, the car is fairly interesting, nice to drive and a bit unique.

    Second choice would be the ’02 Taurus, with the vulcan if you’re looking for pure, oil leak free reliability.

  • avatar
    mx6er2587

    God I wouldn’t make any of those choices. The tauri are at a mileage that would have me worried about failing automatic transmissions or blown head gaskets. The talon is guaranteed to nickle and dime you.

    For that kind of cash I think my go to choice would be a nissan sentra/200sx. fairly reliable with great fuel economy, but the road less taken so prices stay lower then the civic/corolla.

    I’d also have my eye out for the aforementioned honda/toyotas. And add the protege, focus, and perhaps even the neon to my search.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      This, the Tauri are going to nickel and dime you as well, unless they’ve had joint and suspension work recently. More than likely, you’re going to get interior components from that (beigetastic) era failing too.

      Check a Sentra, Check a Civic. Later 1st gen Focus would be okay, Protege is likely to be rusty.

      Hell, check out a late 90s Continental. Might also look for an older I30 or G20, as they are less thought about than their Nissan counterparts, and are nicer anyway.

      • 0 avatar
        StaysCrunchy

        I’d respectfully disagree with you on your assessment of the Taurus, the 2002 especially.

        The interiors on the 2000/ Taurus’ are fairly well screwed together actually. The upholstery is durable, you never really see cracked dashboards or A/C vents falling out, and the electricals are solid. You’re not going to get an instrument cluster or HVAC controls that randomly self-destruct like you would on a same vintage Audi or Mercedes either.

        As far as the powertrain, the OHV 3.0 engine is quite reliable, and Ford had the transmission issues sorted (for the most part) on the Taurus by 1995. Compare a 2002 Taurus with pretty much any other 10+ year old car from any manufacturer that’s been maintained similarly over the years, and I think you’ll find similar or even lower rates of failure from the Taurus.

        That generation Taurus is a pretty solid car overall, and personally that would be my choice for the fella in the e-mail.

        • 0 avatar
          CoreyDL

          My opinions are from experience with 3 copies of 04/05 Tauri, which I assumed were supposed to be “better” because they were newer.

          • 0 avatar
            StaysCrunchy

            My wife had a 2001 when I met her, and I later had a 2005. My sister currently also has a (different) 2005 and none of us has had problem-one with any of them. All three started life as rental cars too. That said, everyone’s experiences with things are different of course, so I’m certainly not discounting your bad experiences with yours.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            Oh let me clarify they were NOT mine. Friends! I’ve never owned a Ford product.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      The problem with this idea is that at $2k, the Sentra/Civic/Protege/etc are going to be complete garbage. The best value for cheap used cars is older American cars, preferably ones that were elderly owned. A good Japanese used car will be $3500+. Even a good Focus or Neon will be over $3k. If he skips these cars, then I would keep my eye out for an early 90s GM car that was owned by grandma. In gold if possible, as literally no one wants those and they will be the cheapest.

      • 0 avatar
        CoreyDL

        I’d agree with a 3800 recommendation, as long as it’s not one of the Ninety-Eights with complex electrics.

        Perhaps a gold 94 Regal. Or a Grand Marquis.

        • 0 avatar
          28-Cars-Later

          Which years of Ninety Eight had electrical problems, its the first I heard? My mechanic’s late father drove an 89 Ninety Eight/170kish till the day he died last year, I never saw an electrical issue with it.

          • 0 avatar
            CoreyDL

            The 91-96 version, with the complicated electronic everything dashboard. It had loads of buttons, and I hear failures are common.

      • 0 avatar
        mx6er2587

        I agree the civic/corolla at 2k is going to be garbage 90% of the time. The sentra’s and proteges however are often overlooked and can slip by in that price range.

        A focus can be had in that price range.

        http://pittsburgh.craigslist.org/cto/3643965943.html

        brand new inspection/emssions stickers on it. Little higher mileage but I trust that manual tranny way more then the automatic in that Taurus.

        Neon’s can also be found fairly easily as well.

        A well maintained cheap 3800 is not a bad option either. Its just not the choice I would make

    • 0 avatar
      kuman

      i second the honda / toyotas / sentras avoid the mazda as after 5 years their suspensions generally needs reworking.

      in 2002 one of my friend bought a dogde shadow, for less than 1000 CAD$ then drive it around for around 4 years with proper maintenance which is cheap. In the end of his school years, he sold that car for 1000 CAD$. He then bought a 1993 Accord.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    I had a Plymouth Laser than ran and drove for 150,000 miles with absolutely no mechanical issues whatsoever. I sense another TTAC Urban Legend……

    • 0 avatar

      Nothing wrong with DSMs. The problem lies in the people who’ve bought them and then fail to do any real maintenance or repairs. Just as it is with any used vehicle.

      If the DSM is heavily modified; unnecessary built engine, big cams, injectors, turbo, etc., etc., I’d be hesitant. 20 years ago, guys were making 400bhp and pulling 10 second ETs on stock bottom ends with a couple grand in shade tree DIY. Today, it seems like every high school kid needs a built engine, ag-diesel turbo, and standalone EMS to do that. It’s lame.

      Have a good face-to-face with the seller. Ask for specifics about the maintenance. What, exactly, was purchased, from where and why? If he can’t answer confidently, walk. He’s blowing smoke. You should also ask what forums he recommends for technical advice. Then get his screen name and do a little Googling. Good way to find the history of the car.

      Good luck.

      The truly smart move, by the way, is to buy the $1500 Volvo and put $500 in maintenance into it. ;)

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I had a 95 Cougar XR7 V8 which I enjoyed. But that was in 1999 and I wouldn’t want one back now. Well, not as a daily driver anyway. Kind of fun with the V8, great on the highway as far as comfort and about 22 mpg highway and only about 16 city, which was OK back then. But as far as roomy, no. Trunk not bad, but not enough to not rent a van.

    The 2002 would be the best choice.It’s the boring option, but I’d go for that. The Talon would be fine for a project, but not a daily driver,especially if it’s anything turbo and AWD.

    I bought a 93 Aerostar with Vulcan power for business about 4 years ago with only 60k on the clock. Good buy, but I drove it a lot. The A4LD autobox, not a bright spot in those vans, was not happy with that and gave up at 70k, which was only 6 months later. Had transmission rebuilt, then the head gasket went. Then the cruise control stopped. Transmission was never 100% after that rebuild, so after a year, with 80k miles on the clock, we used it to trade on our 06 Accord.

    If I had only driven it lightly, it might have lasted much longer. Just my two cents, that a low mileage old car may start to disintegrate with more use. One of those live and lean things, I’d never buy a 15+ year old car as a DD.

  • avatar

    Among the choices presented I’d take one of the Tauri. They don’t look like much but the ones I have driven have been pretty impressive. You could learn to love one pretty easily.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    Why is Sajeev speculating on the possibility the T-Bird is a V6? The guy clearly says it’s a V8.

    For the Taurii, I don’t see any point in making sure it has a Vulcan…there’s nothing wrong with the Duratec V6, and equipped with that, the car can actually get out of its own way.

  • avatar
    DIYer

    I’d go with the 2002 Taurus, least miles and least age. I do all the maintenance and some of the repairs on my mom’s 2002 Sable with 82K, and these vehicles are not without flaws. Both rear coil springs broke, and I replaced them with Monroe Quick Struts. The left front wheel bearing was grinding, and I put in a Timken Bearing and replaced the lower ball joint with a Moog Problem Solver. There was also a plugged heater bypass, a bad fuel pump,leaking steel cooling lines, and a broken torque converter pump shaft that were repaired at a garage. All said, these are OK vehicles but be prepared to have some repair work.

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    The Taurii may be at the mileage that things go wrong, but at least the prices seem to be appropriate, perhaps leaving money in the budget for a significant repair. If he’s driving on the highway back & forth to college a few times, it doesn’t seem the old bull will be working too hard. If it doesn’t need an immediate major repair there’s a decent chance Freddy will be able to get another 5k miles without a major expense. IF so, it could be the perfect car for college, one you can let sit outside without worrying about it.

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    The better of the Taurii is the way to go, but for God’s sake, BE GENTLE WITH IT! As a young car guy you’ll be tempted to push it for excitement. Resist this temptation. Baby this car to avoid stepping over the edge of wear and you should be able to keep it running with minimal repairs until you can get the car you really want.

  • avatar
    Mandalorian

    If you are going to get something that old consider a Panther, Caprice, or full size SUV or Pickup. The mechanicals are much simpler.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    I cannot see the value in either Taurus. They are both older with high mileage and basically he would be blowing his wad on either of them. Lets face it, $2k is a lousy budget for a used car, and he will definitely need to spend money on repairs. Of course the Talon is out, that is clearly not the one to pick, don’t be fooled by the low mileage, if this is your only car you need one that doesn’t need a lot of tinkering.

    Now the Tbird is cheap and dead solid reliable, and has the most potential as a car worth keeping and putting money into as you begin your career. And you like it. It is not really a desirable car these days, so I bet the owners will be willing to let it go cheap. I would bring them $1000 cash, with an extra $200 in your pocket just in case it is REALLY nice. I bet you end up with a cool Tbird and a grand or so left over in your pocket to cover the upkeep.

    • 0 avatar
      StaysCrunchy

      You discount the Taurus’ based on age and miles, yet the T-bird is older than both and has the same miles as one and more than the other. I agree that overall the T-birds are fairly dependable cars, but if it still has the original plastic intake manifold and/or it hasn’t eaten the RH head gasket yet, he needs to set some money aside for the inevitability of both of those repairs. Plus he mentioned the need to fit enough stuff that normally requires renting a van to fit it all, and the T-bird harkens back to a time where automotive designers made it their life’s goal to maximize exterior dimensions while minimizing the interior.

      Your (and possibly his) heart says T-bird, but practicality says Taurus.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Yes, the Tbird is older with the same mileage, but it is also much cheaper, and I am willing to bet can be had for even less, because no one else wants an impractical V8 Tbird, yet many people want a practical Taurus. If the car has made it 140k miles, there is a very good chance it already had the fixes applied too, which is why we follow Steve’s rule that you are not buying a car, you are buying a previous owner’s maintenance. Yes, he mentioned the need to fit his stuff in it, but that is for his last trip home from college ever… should be buy a car based on that need?? Heck, what could you possibly be bringing home that is worth it in the first place? Some clothes, a laptop? Junk or sell anything else that doesn’t fit or can cheaply be replaced.

        Plus, I am a firm believer in always buying with your heart. He doesn’t want a Taurus he wants a Tbird. He has his whole life to be practical, he should enjoy his first car purchase.

        • 0 avatar
          StaysCrunchy

          Well to be fair, he did specifically mention the need to fit all his stuff – one time trip or not – as a requirement.

          With his limited budget, I think he should buy with his head this one time, not his heart. I doubt he’s gonna grow old and die with whatever vehicle he chooses at this point, so the Taurus makes the most sense. Better fuel economy, more practical, and not to be overlooked is that it’ll be easier to resell when the time comes. If he’s able to pick up the ‘Bird cheap now because nobody else wants it, what about that is gonna change when it comes time for him to unload it?

          • 0 avatar
            mnm4ever

            Resell? A $1400 (or $1000 or $1200) car doesn’t get resold. He will drive it until it dies. Basically, I am saying buy the cheapest car that runs well and don’t spend all your budget on the initial purchase. The Tbird is simply much cheaper than the Taurus. He could just as well find an older Taurus for $1200 and buy it instead.

          • 0 avatar
            StaysCrunchy

            Well, in my world every car I own gets resold eventually. I have bought cars as cheap as $500 in the past and I have never failed to sell any of them when I was done. I’ve even made money on a few.

            If something catastrophic happens to it mechanically, or if he’s involved in a wreck, then yeah I suppose he doesn’t have to worry about resale. But to automatically assume that a person is going to be the final owner of a vehicle just because he bought it for $1400 doesn’t jibe with how I operate.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        And personally I dont think he should buy anything, $2k isn’t enough to bother. Save the money and use it as a down payment when he lands his first post-grad job. But what the heck, no one listens to that kind of advice anyways so he should get what he really wants.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Avoid the Talon, that would have made a great $2500 car ten years ago. I’m in the snow belt so practically I’d opt for the Tauri, and if you are too get the Taurus with the cleanest transmission fluid. If you are not (or looking for a car to “go ahead and make your day”), 4.6 mod is a solid engine choice, and by I believe 95 the AOD-E transmission of joy of was replaced… just check for that plastic intake manifold and ensure its been upgraded, or negotiate a price reduction if it was not.

    I’m also going to throw grandpa’s Buick 3800 out there as the college student car of choice, not shilling for the General but it is something like the sixth best engine of the 20th century.

    Also start looking for 5 speeds with your $2000 budget, I wouldn’t shy away from a 200K truck like Ranger with a 5-speed. Many a gentleman has the college car story about theirs being held together by duct tape and bubble gum.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    Buying the Talon would be like getting a rescue dog and depending on it to get you from point A to point B reliably

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    I think that regardless of your choice, I think the key will be to pick a car that has had consistent preventative maintenance performed (if thats’ even possible to find in this price bracket), and to set aside about $1000 for repairs, on top of the actual purchase price of the car. That may sound like a lot right now, but as soon as you need a set of tires, there goes $500-600, set of rotors and pads with someone else doing the labor, there goes another $250 or so, etc.

    From second hand knowledge, those tauruses really do tend to nickel and dime people to death, even at lower mileage. I was in a taurus cab in Indy not too long ago, and the transmission had a nasty shudder in it with only about 80k miles on the clock. I’d honestly take an older Panther over a taurus.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    “Lets face it, $2k is a lousy budget for a used car,”

    This day and age, $2k is a beater, not a ‘good 5 year old used car’ like in 1983. Cars go for scrap at $500.

    Maybe better off gettng a 24 month loan on a good used car, and build credit rating?

    But, get the 2002 Taurus, of the choices.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      I was looking on Craigslist last night as this article was haunting me, and found two or three really nice early 90s Cadillacs with the 4.9, 100-120K miles for around 2200-2500. Those might be a good choice. They don’t seem to rust either, even here in salty Ohio. You could find a DeVille or a DeVille Coupe, or a Sixty Special.

  • avatar
    mypoint02

    I’d go for one of the bulls as well, especially if it has a vulcan. Not glamorous transportation, but it should be reliable enough to get you through college and cheap to fix should something go wrong.

  • avatar
    theonewhogotaway

    I am biased. I bought a 2003 Taurus SE (with 60K miles last summer and for much more than $2K) for my day to day and the familymobile saying goodbye to my 1996 Cherokee.

    The OP’s requirement to haul all that stuff for college will probably only happen in a Taurus from the aforementioned. And the 2002 will probably do it better than the 1999 (since it is bigger.) I got the Vulcan engine (and I like it), but I am willing to bet that the 2003 SES has the Duratec (about as many SESs having the Vulcan as Sable LSs ;) ) And that is not a big deal in my book.

    The Taurus drives fine (esp the one of this millennium). Will take you up hills, will haul your stuff. I would not touch anything from the 80s that is not German-made and that has not seen road salt.

  • avatar
    golden2husky

    Buy the bull. I have a 21 year old Sable and it is still reliable and solid for the most part. Cheap to fix, cheap to insure, room for your stuff. Mad Vulcan Powah FTW. And if you like to drive, Gen 1 swaybars and assorted SHO parts bolt right in…I did just that!

  • avatar
    Pikes

    I would think either of the Tauri would be good choices, though as gtemnykh pointed out – budget for some repairs. Assuming these haven’t been replaced already, the suspension bits probably don’t owe you too much at that mileage, and if either car is sporting “Mad Vulcan Powah”, the cam synchro seems to start to fail at this distance as well.

    Just on looks, I’d take the ’02 over the ’99.

  • avatar
    2012JKU

    Out of that list I would go with the T-Bird. Nobody wants a V8 coupe anymore. Amazing how 2 door cars have disappeared from the landscape. I had a 1996 Accord coupe new and as common as the Accord was I would see 10 4 doors for every coupe on the road.

    • 0 avatar
      Mandalorian

      The reason is that one pays the same amount of money but gets less utility. With a 4door one can put people or things on the back seat, not so much in a coupe. Also its not like the trunk is any bigger.

      People have caught on to this in recent years, which is why one rarely sees any 2 door cars (not truck/suvs) that aren’t meant for performance.

      • 0 avatar
        Dan

        The good thing about coupes is that giving up one door makes the remaining one larger.

        Four doors sized for 5’9 people that put the B-pillar right against the driver’s head with the seat back aren’t positive utility to me.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        Only it is not the same amount of money. Maybe on new cars, but not on old used cars, and not in the OP’s situation. Assuming both cars condition is equal, between a $2100 Taurus that will eventually need work and a $1200 Tbird that will eventually need work, he is better off with the Tbird and the extra $900 in his pocket.

        When you have a severely limited budget you get a better deal choosing the less popular cars.

  • avatar
    RatherhaveaBuick

    T-Bird.

  • avatar
    corntrollio

    The Taurus is nice and big for carrying stuff. If you don’t have furniture to move (with a van), it’ll hold your whole room, even if you’re a packrat. However, it does sound like you want one of the sportier ones.

    People always mention the transmission issues on older Tauruses than you’re looking at, but my 1st gen ran to 180K on the first one.

  • avatar
    MRF 95 T-Bird

    The T-Bird is a good value. For the priced of a used Hyundai you get Mustang GT performance in a somewhat more practical personal luxury cruiser with decent handling from the IRS shared with the Cobra and a larger trunk. Insurance is less expensive as well.

    The 4.6L 2V is reliable and there are a bevy of performance parts available. It won’t give you much trouble as long as the original plastic intake manifold was replaced with the aluminum coolant crossover.


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