By on March 13, 2013

1991 GMC Jimmy SLE

The 1991 GMC Jimmy was a throwback to a better time. The design, originally introduced in the 1973 model year, was all truck and its square, upright design spoke volumes about American strength and power. Over the years, the design gradually evolved and towards the end of its product run even gained small touches of luxury. Don’t be misled by the soft velour seats and carpeted floors, though, under the skin the truck was still all business. It was a serious rig for serious men and it required a seriously big wallet to fill its seriously big fuel tank. I didn’t know it then, but I was in serious trouble the minute it hit the driveway.

The Jimmy, resplendent in its two-tone grey paint and rolling on raised white letter tires and aluminum rims that look suspiciously close to a set of Centerline Racing wheels, is the “car” I never should have bought. Despite the fact that I was making almost weekly trips to visit my girlfriend on the other side of the state, 5 hours and a high mountain pass away, it was more vehicle than I needed. Still, my off-road adventure in my tiny Geo Metro had left me aware of the perils involved in the trip, especially in mid winter, and earnestly believed that a four-wheel drive was necessary to ensure that my love life remained uninterrupted.

I had begun the process of replacing the Metro by looking at the big GMC’s little brother, the S-15 Jimmy and it’s Chevrolet sibling the S-10 Blazer. What I found was disheartening and I have since become convinced that these vehicles are the 90’s version on the 70’s Camaro, usually bought cheap by young people and thrashed from the minute they leave the lot. Every one of them I looked at was in poor condition, frequently dented by off-road adventures and usually with some crappy aftermarket radio shoehorned into a hole hacked into the dash. The bigger, K series trucks seemed to be in better condition and despite the fact they were bigger than I wanted, I soon found myself gravitating towards them. The more I looked, the more comfortable I became with their price and size and so, when I found a 1991 Jimmy in great condition I jumped at the chance to buy it.

I’m ashamed to say that P.T. Barnum was right, there is a sucker born every minute. That day, it was me. Thanks to a poorly negotiated deal, something I was about to repeat, I was seriously upside down in the Metro. Add to that payoff a generous mark-up on the Jimmy at a convenient “no haggle” price and you can imagine the total that was presented to me. Today, almost 20 years later, I would beat it out of the show room in a hurry, but back then I was so clueless that I sat there while the sales manager worked to get me into the right loan that would let me take the prize home. Unfortunately, they were successful and ,in the end, I ended up paying about $330 a month for 6 years on a 5 year old used truck with around 90K miles!

The truck itself was a beautiful machine. Papers I found in the glove box indicated that the truck was a top of the line machine that had actually been given away as the grand prize, along with a matching bass boat, at the Outdoorsman’s Expo in 1991 and it still looked the part. ‘91 was also the last year of the big, square style Jimmy and although it was old school on the outside, under the hood it featured the latest fuel injected 5.7 liter engine. Inside was nice, with comfortable buckets seats, a huge plastic console and all the available options.

Reverse angle of my Jimmy

It did great in the snow and I regularly used it to storm over the Snoqualmie pass and across Washington state. Equipped with a hitch and a transmission cooler, the truck was also a great towing rig and I used it that summer when I decided give up the long weekly commute and moved to Pullman. I really loved the truck, but gradually the high cost of fuel and the poor loan terms I had received, combined with a poor employment situation, began to take a toll.

By 1999 I was at a low point in my life. A whole series of poor decisions had finally joined together in a perfect storm and I was really behind the 8 ball. I had finished college but the better life I had thought would surely follow failed to materialize and I ended back with my mother in my childhood bedroom. I felt like a heel. To make matters worse, I still owed so much money on the truck that there was no way I could finance a more fuel efficient vehicle and, broke, I couldn’t even sell it at a loss. Finally, with a job in Japan on the horizon, my mom stepped up and paid the loan down enough for me to sell it.

The guy who bought it was as thrilled with his purchase as I had originally been and he gleefully took it off my hands. I wish I could say that I was as excited to be out from under the truck as he was to buy it, but the truth is I was emotionally drained by the whole experience. Unemployed and beat down by life, I met with a recruiter for an English school in Japan and, after taking another loan from my mother and headed for Japan where I willingly stepped into an obviously dead-end job and began to rebuild my life. To this day, I can’t think of the Jimmy without a flood of world-weary, unhappy emotions welling up. It’s too bad really, that truck was one for the ages.

So now, for our entertainment, let me ask you to reach into that darkest part of your soul and tell us – What is the vehicle you should never have purchased?

Thomas Kreutzer currently lives in Buffalo, New York with his wife and three children but has spent most of his adult life overseas. He has lived in Japan for 9 years, Jamaica for 2 and spent almost 5 years as a US Merchant Mariner serving primarily in the Pacific. A long time auto and motorcycle enthusiast he has pursued his hobbies whenever possible. He also enjoys writing and public speaking where, according to his wife, his favorite subject is himself.

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163 Comments on “The 1991 GMC Jimmy SLE – The Car I NEVER Should Have Bought...”


  • avatar
    PCP

    Husaberg FE650, no doubt. Paid about 5’000$ for it, cash. No way to tell the mileage on these bikes – but then, who’d care? Not me, obviously. Test drive was exhilarating, so little weight and enough power, felt like a rocket drive bicycle.

    The next day I couldn’t kick start it and had to bring it to a mechanic who took a few weeks and way too much money to make it work again. Sometimes I could kick start it within minutes, sometimes more like half an hour – mostly under the baking sun, of course. Any day after some costly stay at the mechanics it would be brilliant to drive, the next day it would be all fu**ed up again.

    Finally sold it for less than 1’000$. Every driven mile must have cost approx. 10$.

    I was lucky with every other bike or car I ever bought. But I truly came to believe that this bike hated me.

    • 0 avatar
      gsf12man

      I had Merkur XR4tis, Mustang SVOs, and Thunderbird Turbo Coupes on the brain in my somewhat younger days. Persuaded my wife that we needed a nice manual XR4Ti that we couldn’t really afford, and I’m sure we were taken to the cleaners by the dealer as well; I totaled it at 19,000 miles. Bought a new Escort GT on the rebound (mistake #2; I should have waited until the post-traumatic stress disorder from the accident subsided). Loved it (it was our second one). Saw a pristine, almost-new XR4Ti on another dealer’s lot and more wife-persuasion followed. I did drive that one for 71,000 miles but should never have bought another expensive car while just beginning to pay for a perfectly good Escort. The salesman scolded me—said “don’t do this again.” Car lust knew no bounds in a young man, at least if he was me. Too many cars, too many payments, too much interest in too short a time. I run ‘em longer, now. The XR4Ti was a nickel-and-dimer, too, and that amounted to a lot of nickels and dimes, but I didn’t really care too much about that, especially after the Rapido intercooler and suspension bits went on, and the Sierra Cosworth steering wheel . . .

  • avatar

    Having done the Yakima-Pullman run more times that I want to remember in a Honda CR-V there were those trips in ‘white out’ snow blizzards where I only wished I had your Jimmy. In another time in your life you may have enjoyed owning the brute.

    The vehicle I should never have purchased was a Daihatsu Charade, it is so embarrassing to say I actually owned one. Two weeks after buying it the air conditioner crapped out, within one year one of its three pots had gone.

    • 0 avatar

      I would have. Sometimes, because I wanted to get off of State Route 26 I would switch over to State Route 23 – which is another isolated stretch of road. I used to get four wheel drifts in the snow all the time, just point it where you wanted to go and mash the gas. A couiple of times in the spring there were places where water came up over the road (still water, not moving water) and I would just plow right in.

      I’m not one for off roading, but it was an awesome 4X4.

      • 0 avatar
        Piston Slap Yo Momma

        Effectively, you got the curiosity out of your system for what 4×4 ownership would be like. I’m sure most automotive fanatics daydream about an old FJ or Bronco as a daily driver but not that many take the leap. Had you not suffered through that phase you’d still be wondering what it’s all about.

        • 0 avatar

          Piston Slap – a 4X4 is not a ‘get it out of your system thing’ in eastern WA. Pullman is a small Univ. town in the middle of nowhere, with nowhere as its next door neighbor. If you do not want to be snowbound in the winter you better buy yourself that 4X4. Motels in nearby places like Colfax, Ellensburg and Walla Walla gouge stranded Pullman car owners big time during snow blizzards, the 4X4 saves you money just there.

  • avatar
    mikeg216

    So if my math is correct you got about a 19% 5 year loan and rolled in the negative equity?

  • avatar
    Junebug

    That’s easy, I had a lapse of good sense and decided to get a 2011 Taurus, 5 months later and after 2 visits to the dealer to fix a transmission that wouldn’t shift properly, I decided that this was NOT the car I would want to have after paying it off. It wasn’t awful, but, I started to dislike it a little more each day. It was the perfect car on paper, but not in real world practice. That’s the problem with the internet, you can get so much info and build a case for something then when you take that test drive, as long as it makes it back to the dealer, you’re all ready to buy it. I would have to say, that people should spend MORE time driving, even renting from Avis/Hertz/etc to see.

  • avatar
    mankyman

    Without a doubt, my 1988 Jetta GLI. It was sweet to look at with its Tornado red paint and its 16V DOHC engine was peppy, but I was a total dumbass to buy it. A 7 year old VW with 90K for $5,500? I could have used some mature advice there. I had sucker written over me all over in the dealer’s lot. In the 2 years I owned this vehicle, I had to have all 4 calipers replaced, the dash was plagued by electrical demons, the fancy recaro electrical seats fell apart due to inferior pot metal and all kinds of things went wrong that shouldn’t generally go wrong. Finally got rid of it for about $2K and learned my lesson.

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Hmm, I got a “great deal” on a 2000 Cougar that quickly nickel and nimed me into oblivion in very short order.

    There was the Prelude that blew a head hasket after 2 weeks of ownership and bent a rod.

    The Intrepid R/T that was financed but luckily was totaled out.

    The rest weren’t all that bad.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Lol Intrepid R/T. I’ve only seen one of those on the road, about a year ago.

    • 0 avatar
      sckid213

      I had a ’99 Cougar. Auto unfortunately. Which went out at 65k. ABS module went out, never fixed it – drove w/no ABS for 4 years. Flexplates on these were weak, the teeth would break causing the most EMBARRASSING “screeeech” on start-up in public places. Only $350 to replace — I almost felt bad for my mechanic for charging so little. Constant O2 sensor problems (the CEL was on for like 5 years), radio LED display would fade in and out.

      But…somehow I loved that little go-kart and kept it running for about 12 years. It handled better than almost any car I’ve ever driven, including numerous BMWs. No joke. And when it was new, it really turned heads. It was really “the shape of things to come.”

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        The radio and interior lights dimming was usually due to a poorly designed alternator sense circuit. They ran a separate circuit from the junction box to the alternator.

        There’s a TSB that instructs to cut the circuit off a few inches from the alternator connector, then loop it back onto the B+ terminal with an eyelet.

        Sounds easy, til you see where they put the alternator on the V6 cars. It wouldn’t even be all that bad if they didn’t put the bolts in from the driver side.

        I hate those cars.

  • avatar
    Larry P2

    2005 VW New Beetle bought from a little old lady who was now in an assisted living center, glove box full of obsessive dealer maintenance, less than 50,000 miles. Immaculate, inside and out. Within a few hundred miles the automatic started slipping. Estimated repair was more than purchase price. RAN and got rid of it that day, got trade in of purchase price on it, based on the advice of an Indie VW mechanic.

    1991 VW Jetta, 80,000 miles. A collection of major repairs loomed, notwithstanding its obsessive dealer on-schedule maintenance. Traded for a fifth wheel trailer.

    1970 VW Bus (x2) repeatedly replaced engines and all manner of other things. Should have learned my lesson with these. Didn’t.

    VW. Never again.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      Is this normal? When you’re on VW it is.

      • 0 avatar
        Kunundrum

        Odd, I have owned many VAG products (8 so far) and none gave me any major issues.

        although I had a Honda Civic that saw 4 different motors, 2 transmission, so many alternators I lost count, many axles… Though I did learn a lot about how to fix cars with this Civic.

        • 0 avatar
          tim850csi

          Yeah, i’ve owned a succession of VW’s. First was 02 Jetta, supposedly the worst car in the history of the world. My 70k VERY hard miles on that car and the only thing that ever went wrong was the notorious window track clip issue. My fault for not bringing it in for the fix before it broke.

          Currently have a 01 Passat (GLS V6) that has 125k on it, daily driver from Boston to Natick. Normal maintenance only. Things are starting to wear out. Shocks could use replacement but aside from that the thing runs perfectly. Last nights commute resulted in an average 27.2mpg door to door.

          Love that car.

          That being said I’m looking forward to ordering my ST this summer.

  • avatar
    troyohchatter

    Three way tie:

    -1970 Pontiac Bonneville 4dr sedan. The only mechanical part on the car that didn’t cost me a LOT of money to keep in service was the transmission. Handled like the Titanic, and had a 360HP/500ft/lb 455 that loved gasolne. It was fast for what it was, and I once hauled a moped in the truck with the lid closed. Huge, ugly, and costly

    -1989 S-10. Junk, pure and simple. The 2.8L V-6 didn’t have enough power to pull a tissue out of a box. Had such a high gear and lack of torque that in a hard rain you had to take it out of 5th gear and run in 4th.

    -1997 Ford Taurus. (THIS IS #1 I think) Had the most reliable car drivetrain Ford had at the time, the 3.0L Vulcan and the AX4N trans. Head gasket prior to 100K which took one of the converters out. Transmission started giving out as well, car required wholesale drivetrain work prior to 125K miles and since the car went to auction and only pulled $1400 in 2003, you can tell it’s lack of reliablilty as well as flooded used market proved the car to not be worth the metal it was made out of. Sad fact? the day it went to auction it looked showroom new. Sad.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Just checked, and the coupe version of that Bonneville is beautiful! Also – Ron Burgundy’s car!

    • 0 avatar
      Brunsworks

      troyohchatter, you just put my worst vehicle purchase into perspective. After 12 glorious years with a prosaic-but-reliable 1997 Nissan Sentra GXE came to an ignominious end in the side of a Nissan Pathfinder, I bought my sister-in-law’s 2003 Saturn Vue.

      I’ve been told that the Theta platform was quite well-built, reliable, and decent to drive. Apparently those assessments did not take into account my sister-in-law’s driving and maintenance habits.

      The engine had been rebuilt because she didn’t like changing the oil (typical paradox: she was quite good at changing it herself, so she didn’t want to take it to the dealer–but she tended strongly to procrastinate). Unfortunately, the rebuild caused the engine management computer to go nuts and fail to accept sensor data.

      Have you ever driven a car that accelerated at random? Spooky.

      So $2400 later, I had a new EMC and wiring harness.

      Now, here’s the part where your comment has helped me. The VUE blew a head gasket (right bank, if I recall), and so another $1200 later, I had a new pair of gaskets…but the mechanic warned me that both catalytic converters were in desperate need of replacement.

      Are the gaskets and catalytic converters always connected? Granted, I inherited a “War and Peace” of bad maintenance decisions, but now I start to wonder….

      And you’d think I’d have learned my lesson about judging maintenance quality. In days gone by I had a 1980 Volvo 240 DL that had looked great everywhere except in the motor, and a 1985 Toyota Corolla that turned out to have bad rings and seals throughout.

  • avatar
    -Nate

    I had a 1976 GMC 2500 long bed ~ you’re right these were the very last real trucks GM ever made , sadly the bodies were made of tin foil and rusted out easily , there’s still plenty of them left on the road but even here in So. Cal. , fining one with out tin worms , is near impossible .

    I had the base model , built for North American Van Lines , it had the 292 CID L6 and Muncie SM465 manual tranny with granny gear . a sturdy beast , the DPO used it to drive to his Ranch in Mexico loaded up with family and ” saved money ” (HAH !) by having the service works done South of The Border…

    I had to rebuild the entire dashboard and dual fuel tanks , electrical system , new clutch and on and on…

    Easy and cheap thanx to the many well optioned rigs in Pick-A-Part .

    My worst buy ? most anything as I tend to buy junkers and rebuild them , always a money losing proposition but then , unlike so many , I actually like whatever vehicle I’m driving .

    -Nate

  • avatar
    davefromcalgary

    2004 Mazda 6 GT Hatchback

    Beautiful fully loaded manual version, bought it two years old for 25000 while still two years away from my engineering degree. (this is the mistake, not the car.)

    Until, the car started burning through oil like a two stroke. Luckily my first real job boss paid me cash for it and forced a dealership to take it on a trade in for a new car for the company, but it was far too much car for a student, in terms of upfront and operating capital.

    Now I use the one payment plan.

  • avatar
    Crabspirits

    My wife’s 2004 WRX.
    Let me preface this by stating I have owned several Imprezas prior to 1999, and own a 69′ 360 sedan. Those cars were brilliant. I am an enthusiast. My wife is not, but she loved this car, which was frustrating.

    Since I do all the work on our cars, this one punished the hell out of me. Every single task was as difficult as possible. The first problem was a burned out fog light bulb. When I checked the owners manual on how to change it, it said “consult dealer”. It should have been a warning. The bulb change requires bumper removal or sacrificing the skin on your forearm. Oil changes require you to work blind around a plastic skid plate and you are burned repeatedly. Spark plugs were barely accessible. The trunk leaked, ruined anything left in the trunk, and made the whole car smell like mold. Could never find the source, even when sitting in the trunk while somebody watered the outside. There was also an idle control device that gunked up at 25k miles, and caused rough running and stalls. I bought her some summer wheels and tires, and all 4 tires promptly flat spotted for no good reason. Not exactly blaming the car for that, but it was weird, and made driving it a lot more unpleasant. The driving position sucked. I hated the B pillar and it killed my right leg. Then there’s the MPG’s on premium that are terrible for no good reason.

    But, by far, the worst thing about it was the turbo lag. The car was automatic, and due to the low revs from a standing start, it would take a good 300ft to come online. I mess with turbo cars a lot, and before this car, I thought “turbo lag” was something only wussy “normals” complained about. Being used to teh powah of my 100hp xB, I would almost get t-boned just about every time I was in the WRX.

    We ended up trading the 38k mile WRX in on a nice 2008 Taurus X Eddie Bauer with 150k miles, plus $6000. That deal sucked, and still stings, but I was “YES YES YES!” the whole time. The Ford dealer feigned no hope on them selling the Subaru, and I had to do some haggling to get that much value for it. They ended up selling the car to a new sucker the next day.

    The T-rex is a much better car in every respect BTW.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Serious question! Wasn’t the Taurus X pretty worn out by 150K miles? I imagine lots of squeaks and rattles/loose things.

      • 0 avatar
        Crabspirits

        Absolutely not.

        The only thing worn out was a patch on the driver’s floor mat. The P.O. was an older gentleman who drove back and forth from Chicago and Florida. The car looks and drives like it has 15k on it instead of 150k.

        The only thing that has gone out on it is the seat heater elements (common issue). I’m currently swapping them out for Dorman units.

        I also have the prior service records. A seal on the transfer case was replaced, and the radio. That’s it.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      “But, by far, the worst thing about it was the turbo lag. The car was automatic”

      I think I diagnosed the problem.

  • avatar
    Zackman

    The vehicle I never should have bought: A 1976 Chevy C-20 Custom DeLuxe ¾ ton pickup. $4,250.00. All of about $400 off MSRP. Sucker.

    Ordered from the factory: 292, stick w/granny gear, no radio, full instrumentation, heavy duty sway bar, step bumper, highway tires, fire-engine red w/white cab roof, no side rub strips, white bumper and wheels, dog dish caps.

    Six weeks to delivery – one of our neighbors worked at the Chevy truck plant in north St. Louis and kept me advised when it would come down the line.

    I took delivery the day after Thanksgiving, 1975. Nice truck. Truck??? I bought a virtual Sherman tank! A kid of 24, working my first real career job two years out of the air force, living at home.

    What a beast this thing was! Armstong (and legstrong) driving. Incredibly lousy gas mileage – 13.5 city or highway – didn’t matter.

    Short block had to be replaced 4 months later due to a rod or something deep within knocking and a top speed of 78 mph. Chevy fixed the engine and it ran much better, top speed in the 80s. Same mpgs, though.

    All kinds of squeaks that I was finally able to fix and in the process of searching for the source of the squeaking, found rust on the flooring under the mats, so I fixed that, too. It was fun driving around the neighborhood sitting on a milk crate with the entire interior removed – including as much of the dash as I could disassemble with a buddy riding along trying to isolate the odd noises!

    I had a person where I worked at the time who really liked the truck, as they had a small farm, so I sold it to them for $3,600 two years to the day after I bought it, day after Thanksgiving, 1977! I was a newlywed of 2½ months!

    The money? Paid off the loan, did some repairs on wifey’s 1970 Mustang convertible, bought a 1976 Gremlin, bought some stuff we needed and banked the rest.

    Turned out I didn’t do too bad after all!

    The 1976 Gremlin? Now THAT was a fun car for the next almost three years!

    • 0 avatar
      Yeah_right

      No way! My first car was a ’76 AMC Gremlin, sport package. Great car to learn in because you could practically stand in the engine compartment to work on the straight 6. Bad case of the tinworm killed it. When you could see the open road beneath your feet it made you wonder at what point the driver’s seat would fall through the floor.

  • avatar
    bumpy ii

    You bought the GMC in 1996,7? And couldn’t afford to keep it fed when gas was stupid cheap in 1998? Ouch.

    • 0 avatar

      Part of that was a function of how much driving I was doing. In a a normal week it took 2 full-ups. If I went across the state, it was my two regular fill-ups plus two more (one for each direction). I recall the average cost per fill-up was somewhere in the neighborhood of $40.00. Adds up quick.

      I loved that truck and still look at them on ebay once in a while. The ones I see today are almost always beat to hell or heavily modified. I would love to own this one again now that my situation is better, but life has taught me that, sadly, you can’t go back. This is the truck I never should have bought because of me, not because of the truck. That’s a part of the Truth About Cars’ experience too.

      • 0 avatar
        Zackman

        I have to fill up my Impala twice a week due to my stupid 100-mile-a-day commute. I feel your pain – now, more than ever!

        Like you, my truck experience wasn’t the fault of the truck – I think the engine problem was caused by me – it was MY fault. Being young, macho and stupid had something to do with it, too.

  • avatar
    28-Cars-Later

    Question, how much driving were you doing during the period that fuel efficiency became a concern? I recall an all time low of $0.70/gal gasoline in either spring 1998 or 1999, even at 8mpg this seems manageable. I could more or less fill the tank of my K-car on less than $10.

    Yup sure would be nice to have an fiscally effective Congress, President, and Fed cartel again.

    • 0 avatar

      Please see my response above. As I recall though, the gas prices in Washington state were north of $1.00 a gallon. It may have been as much a $1.35. In a place like Pullman thanks to a combination of high WA state gas taxes and the way the townies gouge the college students.

      • 0 avatar
        28-Cars-Later

        Sounds like they were gouging you guys alright. Its difficult for me to imagine living on my own in college as you did without much money. I suppose if it were 1997 again and I was on college wages it would be difficult for me to drive 100 or so miles one way on a regular basis, in a 72 Cadillac (my gashog of choice in this thought) even with cheap gas.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      I remember this. It was about the time when I bought my ’76 Charger and it was economically feasible as a daily driver at the time.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      I don’t remember it going below about $0.769 in the late 90s even in places with a low gas tax, like GA or SC. It was more like $0.90-1.00 a lot of other places.

      Of course, gas prices have very little correlation to the president or Congress. Even the Fed doesn’t have that much influence, certainly not as much as amateur op-eds seem to suggest. Global demand and the state of the economy have much more influence, as we saw in 2008.

    • 0 avatar
      mypoint02

      Ah yes… the days of $1.15 / gallon for premium. I remember it well.

  • avatar
    jeoff

    Back in the 80’s a buddy and I decided we could make a few bucks cleaning gutters, so we bought a rickety old ladder and a 73(?) AMC Matador wagon. Actually the Matador was more reliable than either of us –I do not like heights and my friend does not like to work. We did about three houses, and then the Matador spent the next 5 years in front of my friend’s house beofre his mom had it towed away.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    Around 2005, I bought a 1993 Ford Aerostar to use for a courier job. Only 59k on the clock and in good enough shape to justify its price on the local” buy here pay here”. One swipe of the Amex card, some signing and it was mine. Had a childhood friend whose Dad worked for Ford and I remember loving the “spaceship van” (and the Merkur Scorpio he had once). Vulcan V6 was strong enough for most purposes, everything worked. A new radio with Sirius satellite and I was ready to do the many miles of driving that awaited me.

    Did all the usual fluid changes when I buy a used car with spotty or no records, including the transmission. This may have been my downfall, I knew the A4LD was fairly troublesome, but I loved the Aerostar and hated any other vehicle that was in range of my meager budget.

    After about 4 months and 6000 miles of fairly hard use, I was heading toward the main office from home to drop off some paperwork. I came to a stop after going down a hill not more than a half mile from my house. I went to accelerate slightly and the engine just revved with no forward momentum. Check the shift lever. Get to the next stop sign and same thing, engine revved up but this time lurched forward. Limped to a local transmission shop and the diagnosis was rebuild.

    After that, I couldn’t completely trust it. I did use it more, then the head gasket blew. Had that fixed. Finally, the cruise control gave up, it needed front brakes again, the tranmission never shifted right and I was sick of dealing with it. We used it as a trade, with about 80k miles, toward our 06 Accord . Had I bought it and put normal miles on it, it might have lasted longer. I should have never bought it to begin with.

    A few years ago, when Carfax still did unlimited reports, I checked the VIN and it had been registered in Ohio. I imagine it’s still out there somewhere, rusting into pieces, but still being used daily, as is the case in Ohio.

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    1980 Mercedes 500SL (Gray Market). In the early 80s the US Dollar was quite strong vs. the Deutschmark. A number of businesses popped up that bought cars in Germany and brought them to the US and “converted” them to US EPA/DOT standards for resale. I’d always wanted a SL, and this one was far cheaper than the 380SLs sold by the local dealer. That was the beginning of a nightmare.

    Both rear axles had to be replaced. I had engine issues (head gaskets) and Mercedes wouldn’t sell parts for this car as it wasn’t sold in the US. This went on and on. I finally sold it at a great loss a year later.

    I’ve made so many stupid car purchases in my life. I now buy old US cars and keep them for a few years as self punishment

    • 0 avatar
      bumpy ii

      And for anyone who’s wondering, this saga is why the US import restrictions are so strict.

      • 0 avatar
        CJinSD

        Mercedes refused to service the grey market cars because US import restrictions were so strict even then and they wanted to protect their ability to charge about 30% more for US market cars than they were charging in Germany at the time. European market cars had no catalytic converters until the second half of the ’80s. They didn’t have the 5 mph bumpers, sealed beam headlights, or door beams(unless the manufacturers considered them a marketing tool) of US market cars. US and West German regulations were further apart then than they are now. Mercedes USA didn’t want to have to compete with the cheaper, lighter, faster cars sold by Mercedes D, and that’s why they didn’t support 1980 500SLs in the US.

  • avatar
    ant

    for me is was a 2004 acura tsx. The previous owner apparently beat the heck out of it, and modded the exhaust.

    It has 70k on it when I got it, and the clutch promptly burned out. $1800 for that.

    Then three years later right at 100k miles, the transmission blew up. Another used tranny (that had more miles on it than mine) cost over $3000.

    A wheel bearing, stereo circuit board, auto lock thingy, and new exhaust cat with sensors was almost another $3000.

    The air conditioning always made funny noises, and there were other odd noises coming from the engine bay after the different tranny, so I traded the thing in.

    Horrible car.

  • avatar
    schmitt trigger

    A 1985 Mitsubishi Montero.
    The thing had been repo’d. The “owner” had screwdriver-scratched some door panels, and removed the backseat, which the dealer told me would cost only about $50 in a wrecker yard. It ended costing about $350.

    Although the 5 year old vehicle only had about 40k miles, the tailpipe was black with soot which should have been a dead giveaway. But I wanted so badly a 4X4 to do some offroading that I ignored all the warning signs and purchased for $5500, luckily financing only $2500.

    The thing had the horrible, carbureted 4 cyl engine that other people have complained about. It was impossible to set up properly, and kept diluting the oil…the result? Two full engine rebuilds in 3 years.

    The fuel pump developed a leak, spraying fuel over the hot exhaust. Thank heavens the thing did not catch fire. There were also miriad electrical problems. One of the front brakes seized up while driving. Horrible fuel economy even by 1980 standards, with pitiful performance.
    Starter problems (fortunately it was a manual shift and could push-start it).

    The final straw came when I was offroading, and unknown to me, the front differential had leaked all its oil, and completely seized. Fortunately the thing had front-wheel locks, so I could unlock them and return with 2WD only (although on several ocassions we had to push the thing out of the mud).

    Rather than attempting yet another costly repair, I unloaded it for $1500.

    I ignore whether the owner badly care for the vehicle, or it was a sample of Mitsubishi’s legendary piss-poor quality. Probably both.

  • avatar
    Maintainer

    2000 Dakota R/T. It had a Vortech blower, MP headers and Magnaflow exhaust, Black with Chrome rims. There wasn’t anything wrong with the truck but the timing was awful. I bought it in Feb of 2006 and around June work started slowing down for me, the wife wasn’t making much where she was at and the savings account was getting thin.
    Long story short..
    Less than a year later the wife was gone, lost my job and the truck became a huge black stain on my credit that I’m still butthurt over.

    I don’t miss much from those days.

  • avatar
    pb35

    I am slightly embarrased to say mine was a 1986 IROC-Z. Cut me some slack, I grew up on Long Island. It was black and of course the price was too good to be true. Besides, I had $4500 cash burning a hole in my pocket. Though I thought I could spot bondo a mile away (esp on a black car!) I was blinded by the 165 HP 305 combined with a 5-speed. Once the luster wore off after about 2 weeks, I realized that the steering wheel was slightly bent. That prompted me to do an advanced bondo search and by then, it wasn’t hard to find. I figured out that it must have taken a hard hit to the front since the hood struts were shot and then the wiper motor died. Then some idiot tried to break into it and destroyed the drivers side door lock. I said I was from LI, remember?

    Luckily, IROCs were a popular commodity in my hometown and I was able to unload it within a year for $500 less than I paid for it. I then purchased a T-Bird with no grill, hubcaps or seatbelts for $500 as a stopgap measure before I eventually packed all of my belongings into a rented Buick Century and headed west to Detroit.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Detriot? Always a bold move.

      • 0 avatar
        pb35

        I followed my then girlfriend who was attending grad school at U-M. So, Ann Arbor and later the Detroit suburbs which are actually a pretty nice place to call home.

    • 0 avatar
      Detroit-Iron

      “Luckily, IROCs were a popular commodity in my hometown”

      What does IROC stand for?

      • 0 avatar

        International Race Of Champions.

      • 0 avatar
        racebeer

        International Race of Champions. Equally prepared cars driven on 4 different tracks by drivers from various motorsport series. The Camaro was used a couple of times, so Chevy decided to make it an “Option” package to market. Porsche was the original car, then the Camaros, then Firebirds. I think a couple of other makes were utilized as well.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          Between the Camaros and the Trans Ams were Dodge Daytonas and Avengers, which were interesting because Dodge didn’t have a presence in NASCAR at the time. IROC was an interesting reflection of US racing. In the early years, the Indy car drivers were quite successful. As NASCAR took over as the US racing series and became the place to go for drivers interested in competing at the highest level, NASCAR drivers also took over IROC. The last time anyone other than a NASCAR driver won the IROC title was 1988. The last IROC champion was Tony Stewart, which shows why it happened. He’d have loved to have been a giant of Indy lore, but Indy is too small for his talent now. Just like Jeff Gordon, he wound up with the best drivers from all the other disciplines.

      • 0 avatar
        pb35

        What does IROC stand for?

        I’m not touching that one! ;)

    • 0 avatar
      golden2husky

      ….. I grew up on Long Island….where, may I ask? Certainly not the North Shore, or anyplace north of 25A….

      • 0 avatar
        pb35

        North Shore? Hell no! I grew up near Ronkonkoma though my wife grew up north of 25. I got out of there when I was 26 and haven’t lived on LI for 20 years now. Me and my girl returned when she finished at Michigan and lived in Manhattan for 7 years however, fullfilling a lifelong dream to live in the city.

        We finally got out for good and now living the good life in Austin.

  • avatar
    JKC

    My worst car ever was a 2002 VW Passat GLX 4Motion wagon. I bought it used, and within a few months of purchase it needed new brakes. I wrote that off to normal wear-and-tear, but shortly after replacing that noticed the clear-coat peeling off the right front fender. (It looked fine when I bought it. Believe me, I checked.)

    It also regularly threw a CEL that my excellent independent mechanic could never chase down. The last straw was the self-destructing rear diff, easily replaced for a mere $5000. I voted no and traded it in shortly after.

    Like any VW, the Passat was a blast when it was running well. The car was quick, handled reasonably well, and after a late shift in January, the heated leather seats were nice. But the day-to-day maintenance costs were insane, and the repair costs absurd.

    • 0 avatar
      mankyman

      I have an ’04 GLX 4motion wagon. I am waiting anxiously for the next CEL to come on. (I cured the last one by replacing the engine temperature sensor.) The instrument panel has more warning lights than a refinery control board. What will it be next week? The ASR warning light? The ABS light? Some horrible crankcase ventilation system vaccum leak? Only the Shadow knows.

      The car requires a horrible amount of care. It burns oil at a rate I’ve never seen, but is apparently designed to do that. It uses special “german car” castrol motor oil at $8/quart. It can only digest 93 octance gas. The turn signal indicator switch is starting to go, causing the hazard relay to click randomly. A shot of contact cleaner hopefully cured that. The front of the car has been removed multiple times. There’s a constant wheezing by the glove box whenever the climate control is on. I’m waiting for a bunch of other exotic, expensive, hard to access components to go, like the ABS module and the TCM. It’s only a question of when, and whether I have the gumption to turn to the internet for fixes rather than get ass-raped by the dealership. I suppose one day I will have to remove the front of the car for yet another alternator/timing belt/water pump/etc replacement. Owning a VW is like a bad marriage in the 1950s.

      • 0 avatar
        Larry P2

        Both of the above writers should take some consolation that the interior of their Volkswagens are an amazingly beautiful piece of art. And the soft-touch switchgear in those things are mind blowing nice, virtually cuddling your fingers. Nobody else puts such nice, aeromatic leather in cars at that price point. And oh my goodness, the quality of the fitting of the interior parts!

        • 0 avatar
          JKC

          I’m not sure if you’re being sarcastic, Larry, but the interior of that Passat was really, really nice, and you are 100% spot on about the quality of the leather.

          If VW had put as much care into the quality of the oily and electrical bits, I’d still have that car now.

          • 0 avatar
            Larry P2

            Of course I was being sarcastic.

            On the other hand, the removal of the front end of VW’s is really no big deal, according to my VW Indie mechanic. In fact, he argues that it gives him a level of accessibility with both Audis and VW’s that make changing the timing belt and water pump much faster than many other front wheel drive cars.

            He bought all of the NOS window regulators from a Bankrupt VW dealer, and claims he can change out a regulator in under 12 minutes, start to finish.

        • 0 avatar

          I know sarcasm when I see it…

          All the soft touch plastics in my ill fated Golf melted and got sticky in the tropical sun. I was int he process of taking the interior apart and washing off all the sticky crap one piece at a time when the car gave its final “snap” and became forever dead to me.

          • 0 avatar
            JKC

            I dodged that bullet… mine spent most of its time garaged. The interior was the one part that actually held up.

        • 0 avatar
          mankyman

          True that about removing the front end of the VWs and Audis. People sell DVDs on how to do it. I’ve not yet pulled off the front end of the car, but I’m told with a little practice you can do it in a couple of hours.
          Still, doesn’t it seem somehow wrong to have to do that to replace a water pump or alternator? Doesn’t it seem wrong to locate an expensive, sensitive electronic component like a TCM on the floor? Isn’t there a school where they teach VW engineers how to design things properly?

          Nein mein Herr! There is only zee Volkswagen way.

          • 0 avatar
            Larry P2

            I am not known for defending VWs……that been having said, in actual time and effort expended, taking off the front end of a VW or an Audi is really not such a stretch when you compare getting at the timing belt, alternator and water pump on any number of other front wheel drive cars. There is even a plausible argument that it is a lot easier that most. This is not my issue with VWs……..

            Its the way that so many automobile journalists gush over their freaking interiors, and the sight and smell of those interiors is a virtual Potemkin village disguising the horrific mechanical and electrical issues. Those interiors have the tendency to delude the innocent into believing they are buying something that “seems” to be higher quality that a Japanese car when manifestly they are not. That’s the motivation behind my screeds against TTAC’s soft touch interior fetish.

      • 0 avatar
        Kunundrum

        I could not been bothered to do the Timing belt change myself on my B5 A4, bought the complete Kit from ECS, and dropped it off at an independent VAG Shop, 1 day and $350 in labor later it was done. about $700 all in and good for an other 100,000km.

      • 0 avatar
        NeinNeinNein

        Just learn to fix the niggling little things yourself. They’re not that difficult to diagnose and repair. Join an internet board and let the heads on there do the diagnosis for you. Its either that or drive a boring car. Always a choice.

  • avatar
    Lightspeed

    90 cressida bought 2-years ago. A time-capsule with 60K miles, showroom condition. Bought as a first car for my wife and a minor collectable for me. Paid $4000, and thenn $3000 for a blown head gasket repair. So, I’m buried in it, but it’s such a lovely car to drive and the wife still likes it over our Lexus for city driving.

  • avatar
    bachewy

    I have owned 5 GM vehicles and they were all cars I should not have bought. Each, upon reaching 100k miles, started breaking various parts from front to rear with and debating the decision between making new car payments or old car repair payments and greasy hands.

    ’69 Chevelle
    ’76 C-10
    ’77 Camaro
    ’00 Grand Prix
    ’07 Saturn Vue (owned by GM by then)

    Meanwhile, I have owned 5 Toyotas and all reached 200k miles with zero drama.

    • 0 avatar
      rnc

      Funny thing about the randomness of these things, brand new 2001 camry and the taste of that car will keep me away from the toyota dealer forever (luckily financed over 3 years, donated to brother as parts car for (x) amount of future maint./repairs), replaced by a 98′ JC, made it to around 216k before the engine gave, replaced by a 02′ Saturn L200 (maybe L100, not sure), with 40k miles for $2k, other than regular maint. not a single problem, am at 110k now. The toyota, speed sensor failed three times (sensation of car shifting from 5th to 2nd at 70-75mph is awesome, shortly after paid off, main drive bearing desentigrated, despite having the records of oil changes being done every 3k, dealership said it was my fault, you should have seen the engine, the valves had carbon caked on so hard you couldn’t get it off with a hammer and chisel (this is leaving out the small things like the interior/exterior bits and pieces falling apart like a 90′s Hyundai, and door handles aren’t supposed to snap off when lifted normally). Its randomness and luck I guess, but I’ll never own another toyota.

    • 0 avatar
      Mandalorian

      Sorry, but you just can’t put a bad spin on a ’69 Chevelle.

      • 0 avatar
        bachewy

        1st week I had it the driveshaft exploded, taking out the tranny, crankcase, starter and starter wiring up to the steering column.

        It went downhill from there.

        The end was two parts – the head gasket blew and I saw the flat cam (time for an engine rebuild, 396 big block oh the cost) and someone broke in and stole my expensive stereo.

        I let the car go after that.

        It was a gorgeous car but a complete money pit.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        I’m with you on the Chevelle

    • 0 avatar
      Brunsworks

      Do you mean that your particular Saturn VUE was owned by GM, as in under a lease, or something else? I only ask because Saturn was always a GM company.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    Another great read Thomas; sorry to hear that the Blazer didn’t work out. There are few things that leave a bad taste in your mouth the way getting screwed on a car deal does.

    I own a ’96 Bronco, it is the most capable off-road vehicle I have owned and is perfect for exploring the back roads, mountains, and ghost towns of the Southwest.

    The idea of Ford or Chevy producing a full size, short wheel base, 2 door SUV is almost impossible to fathom today so I don’t see myself getting rid of it any time soon.

    • 0 avatar
      86er

      “I own a ’96 Bronco, it is the most capable off-road vehicle I have owned and is perfect for exploring the back roads, mountains, and ghost towns of the Southwest.”

      That sounds like heaven.

      I couldn’t see you getting rid of the Bronco either; absolutely nothing else like it made anymore, and like Thomas’ Jimmy, simple and durable as a stone axe.

  • avatar

    Mine was a 1986 Pontiac 6000-STE. Bought it in 1999 for $3000 with 90,000 miles on the clock from one of dad’s friends. It was a single female owner since new, and was in decent cosmetic shape.

    3 days after I bought it, I was really putting it through the paces and managed to eat a rod bearing at the heady speed of about 60mph in 2nd at about 5 grand, the apparently very worn 2.8 V6 couldn’t pull 3rd above 55.

    rebuilt the motor, new crank and a new rod, and it became a pretty quick car, its top speed was no longer 65 but now a heady 125mph. New struts and air shocks, fixed the mush-box ride and an adjustment to the self leveling rear end solved the saggy butt syndrome. Never had an issue with the electronics in it, but the basic chassis had issues. Drove it two years, and by then it had 130,000 miles on it, and was in dire need of a front end, a new power steering rack, cradle bushings, and the 3 speed automatic was starting to let the 6,000 rpm redline slip to 6500-7,000 if you stomped on it in Drive. The engine never whimpered after I rebuilt it, even after being spun to well past redline more than once or twice, but you sure noticed the power fall off after 6200.

    Sold it for $750 to Carmax, in the spring of 02, after I bought my much loved ’95 Explorer from my brother-in-law. 11 years later, the Explorer is still chugging along, with 312,000 miles on it now.

    That STE was a fun car when it was working well, but being college student, it was a money pit of the highest order. More so than the 76 Chevelle it replaced.

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      (que Scruffy the Janitor voice) “Second”.

      My closest friend in high school was the son of the WORLD’S BIGGEST CHEAPSKATE. But cheap in ways that made zero sense. So, after the steady stream of junk Chevette’s and such, he purchased an ’85 or so STE. It had the suede seats and a nice stereo, and was the newest car they’d ever owned, so we were hopeful. On spring or fall nights, as the temperature would change, it would sit in the driveway with the power locks clicking on, off, on, off. Hilarious. It was eventually replaced with, I kid you not, an Eagle Premier. Like I said, illogical cheapness.

  • avatar
    racebeer

    This is an easy one …. my 1978 Afla Romeo Sprint Veloce. Since my preceding ride was a ’74 Fiat X1/9, that is saying a lot! Don’t get me wrong, just like Thomas I truly loved my purchase, but after about 6 months things started to degrade in a serious fashion. First was the mechanical fuel injection adapted from a diesel that our Italian friends used on their wonderful 2L hemi-4 in order to meet emissions regulations. With the various mechanical sensors used to keep it running properly, it unfortunately never did on a continuous basis. Living in Florida at the time, you wouldn’t think that the weather would affect the starting and running ability, but it did. No manner of dealer visits could resolve the hit or miss running of that engine. When it was right, it was wonderful. When it wasn’t (which was most of the time), it was a real PITA.

    The engine wasn’t the only problem – the rear hatch had a lousy gasket around the rear window so it constantly leaked into the window channel. After about a year of this, the bottom frame around the hatch window was rusted out. At least it was replaced under warranty, but a year later the same thing happened. This time it was out of my pocket, and with a cost of around $900 bucks to replace and repair, I was not especially happy.

    Of course, had that been all, I probably could have handled it. But numerous other problems kept cropping up. Things such as the rubber donuts in the 2-piece driveshaft (which turned at engine RPM since the trans was in the rear) constantly disintegrating, rear calipers that needed replacement twice in 3 years, A/C compressors that couldn’t handle 6000rpm on a regular basis, and a brake master cylinder that had to be totally replaced due to bad seals were making me think this purchase was a really bad deal.

    It was two successive incidents that finally led me to the decision to dump the money pit. First, at 42,000 miles I had to replace all the cylinder liners and pistons due to excessive wear. When you are getting about 220 miles/quart of oil, it’s time to rebuild. No explanation was given as to the cause of the excessive wear. The dealer had performed all maintenance at the scheduled intervals, so it wasn’t due to neglect. OK, so I spent about $2100 getting that fixed, so I hoped I was done with the big items. Well …… not yet. About 2000 miles later, the 2nd gear syncro decided to give up the ghost. I figured that shouldn’t be too bad, just drop the tranny out of the tail, tear the box apart, and replace the syncro ring. Well, this is Alfa, so don’t expect anything to be easy. When the gearbox was disassembled, they found that the syncro was fine. So then, what was the deal? It seems that Alfa used a harder material on the syncro rings than on the engaging gear teeth, so the complete 2nd gear cluster had to be replaced. That little excursion to the dealership cost me another $1200 out of my pocket.

    With 4 years of ownership, I had basically paid for this Alfa twice – original purchase price of right at $10k, and just about as much in maintenance and repair. After the gearbox fiasco, I dumped this vehicle on another unsuspecting Alfa lover, and never turned back. I do often wonder what ever happened to it. Maybe Murlee will run across it someday in a salvage yard, but with the rust issues it had, probably not…….

    • 0 avatar
      Larry P2

      I had an Alfa Romeo Duetto and became very good friends with an Italian car mechanic. Extremely good friends. In fact, I would hazard to guess that I was his all-time best friend, in that giving all my money away freely and frequently to him was virtually monthly. In fact, I single handedly probably cured him of any angst and worry about him meeting his monthly overhead. I was the only customer he needed, which was important, in that for some inexplicable reason, there were so few other Alfa enthusiasts in the area I lived in.

      Eventually, the extreme noticeable lack of other Alfa enthusiasts in my area started an uncomfortable thought process. “Why am I so obstinate in driving this Alfa,” I would muse. “And why are there so few other obstinate folks out there dead set on driving an Alfa, when they too could join the competition of who was the best friend of my Italian car mechanic?”

      One day it struck me, and as I recall, it was on the day I had to replace most of the fuel injection system for the third time and my best-friend-mechanic let me know that the suspension needed some minor tinkering. In Alfa vernacular “minor” means that it doesn’t exceed the original purchase price of the car. “Major” repairs sometimes exceeded the original purchase price of the car by a factor of 2 or 3-fold.

      On that day, I was cured of my lonesome ardor for Alfas.

      • 0 avatar
        racebeer

        Ditto…..I feel your pain

        I was really good friends with the mechanic at the dealership, and he really did try to help me most of the time. Relative to the stinking mechanical FI system, I got so mad one day I contemplated yanking it out by its roots and putting twin 40 DCOEs on it.

        I still see the ocassional GTV V6, and wonder “what if” …… then I quickly remember the expenses involved and say Hell No!!!!!

  • avatar
    tpepin

    1989 Nissan Sentra I purchased from a co-worker of my mom’s after graduating from college in 1996. That he promptly moved to Florida after selling me the car should have been my first clue that I had myself a crapcan.

    It only had 54K on the clock so I was quite surprised when it suddenly lost power on the highway, the power loss was quickly followed by a horribly loud sound of something behind the firewall tearing itself to pieces. I promptly pull over to the shoulder, get out to find a huge puddle of transmission fluid spreading beneath the car, looked under it and the case had cracked open….

    $900 later the transmission was fixed, next up tie rods all of them, then both front wheel bearings, then the rear bearings, then it developed a horrible shake when braking at highway speeds that turned out to be The Rack – As in Rack and Pinion…. Shop said it was going to be a $1200 job between parts and labor. I said no thanks and dumped it onto an unsuspecting engineering post-grad from Yale. Spent $3500 to purchase the car and over $2500 on repairs in less then a year. I owned that car for 10 months….

  • avatar
    krhodes1

    I have two cars I greatly regreted. First was an ’82 Volvo 245 Turbo back in about ’94. Complete and utter turd, the only Volvo I have had that was just an unmitigated disaster. Caught fire due to the faulty engine wiring harness on Rt128 in Boston, second biggest mistake of my life was not letting it burn to the ground.

    Next was my current Porsche 924S project. Which was not supposed to BE a project, and even had a reasonable pre-purchase inspection. But every time I go to fix one of the items that I knew was an issue when I bought the car, I find a couple more. And all those urban legends about Porsche parts prices? ALL TRUE 100%. It will be a good car when it is done, and it will be RIGHT, but it will have cost more than I can get out of it by far, and I don’t really have the time, so it is going to take a long time. Should have bought my Abarth when I bought it, and called it good, since I will be using the Abarth for what I bought the Porsche for!

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      That’s a shame about the 924S, I learned vicariously about a mid-80s 944 that Porsche is something you go into with your eyes open because you love it, and there are never any “deals”. Hopefully the Abarth will treat you well for as long as you have it.

      • 0 avatar
        krhodes1

        Well, I certainly went in with eyes wide open. The TIME issue is a bigger deal than the money. I don’t have very much anymore. I travel for a living, and business is VERY good, so I am just never home. At the rate I am going, I will not have the car done for this summer, and it was partially bought to be my autocross car, which means no weekend fun for Kevin. So I will finish it eventually, drive it for a while, then someone else is going to get one heck of a deal on a fully-fettled Porsche.

        I think like a lot of cars, every Porsche 924S/944 is a “$10,000″ car. You can pay $10K and get a really good one, or you can pay $3K and spend $7K to get to the same point. Call it the installment plan. I paid $5K for this one, and will have another $5K in it when it is done. I’ll end up selling it for $7K.

  • avatar
    Aaron Whiteman

    For me, it was a 2002 Suzuki Grand Vitara, purchased in November 2004. 51000 miles on the clock, but according to the salesman, mostly towed miles behind an RV.

    It was fine, except for the short wheelbase. Oh, and the terrible automatic transmission. Come to think of it, the V6 had a pretty rotten power band too. All of which conspired to send me spinning into a guardrail on Davis Way (Pullman Washington) the first Saturday after I bought it.

    I had justified the purchase to myself. “Well, the MG is a great car, but I need something that can haul my stuff AND a friend, not my stuff OR a friend. It doesn’t have to be good.”

    I never did adjust to the short wheelbase, peaky engine and hard-shifting automatic. It was especially “fun” going up hill in marginal conditions. Two years later, still upside down on the loan, I traded it for a Subaru Impreza with 26 miles on it. That one I don’t regret at all.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Sounds more like the problem was with you and that point in your life, as opposed to the truck.

    When my wife and I got our 2002 Dodge Grand Caravan we had the same problem. The van was perfect, loaded, nice looking, etc. But we both were young, and didn’t want to be seen in a minivan. She drove the kids around most of the time, but insisted on using her Celica, leaving me to commute in the van, which I hated for the mileage and, yes, I will admit it, I didn’t like being seen in a minivan either. Before the van, our “family” car was a Land Rover Discovery, and my wife missed the SUV image (yes, we are shallow like that, sorry). So after a year of van ownership we traded it for a new Explorer that she liked much better, at least for a while.

    Looking back, I should have just kept the Land Rover. Even with the maintenance it would have cost much less than the money I spent and lost on the van and the Explorer, and we both loved it.

    • 0 avatar

      I accept full responsibility. I was a dumbass. I might still be, too.

    • 0 avatar
      corntrollio

      “Looking back, I should have just kept the Land Rover. Even with the maintenance it would have cost much less than the money I spent and lost on the van and the Explorer, and we both loved it.”

      I’ve noticed this to be the case for a lot of people who report dumping vehicles on TTAC.

      It will often be: “I spent $3-5K doing X, Y, and Z, and then I didn’t trust the car any more and traded it in for…” Sure, there are a few modern vehicles where you can dump $3-5K into them over a year, and they will keep nickel and diming you, but those are the exceptions. The next buyer salutes you!

      In some cases, it sounds like people lost more money trading in the car for a crappy valuation than they did repairing it. In some cases, they were underwater, which compounded the problem.

      There are certain situations in life where you have to ignore your sunk costs and plan based on the future only, but that’s not always the case for cars.

      • 0 avatar
        mnm4ever

        The Disco was a lease, and really didn’t give me too much trouble, unlike most of the horror stories people tell. The buyout on the lease was like $16k, which I turned down, then they offered to reduce it to $12,500 if I would keep it. I should have ,but fear of all the terrible things that could happen to it out of warranty killed it for me. In the end a $12.5k Disco would have long been paid off.

        Yeah, it took me until I turned 40 to start really understanding the concept of planning for the future. :)

  • avatar
    mrcool1122

    I didn’t buy it myself, but I convinced my mother to buy a Jaguar S-Type new in 2003 for herself. It was unconventional and had a V8 and went fast. Except in snow, which, in Minnesota, was a Somewhat Frequent Factor. Before it hit 40,000 miles it had broken down three times on the freeway. The power steering pump died twice. It was foisted off, for zero dollars, on my mother’s brother, who ended up having to replace the entire engine out of warranty. Great looking, though!

  • avatar
    eggsalad

    Let’s add another GM saga to the list…

    In 2001, Pops was tired of his low miles, Florida special, triple white, Sedan deVille. He went to trade it in, and the dealer offered $2k. I looked it up online, and lowball retail was $3k. What a bargain!

    I offered Pops the same $2k the dealer did, hopped on a plane to Florida, and started driving it back to Michigan.

    The entire HVAC system crapped out somewhere south of Atlanta. Fortunately, that was a cheap and simple fix.

    But then summer came, and the thermostat crapped out. Because Cadillacs don’t have any use for temperature gauges, and I had no need for heat, I had no idea the car was running cold.

    The EFI computer knew, though, and kept throwing more and more fuel into the mixture. It ran so rich that it clogged up the catcon, leading to an eventual no-start, and a $500 bill from the shop that could diagnose and fix it with a new converter.

    Then the transmission started taking longer and longer to go into Drive every morning. I made a couple calls, and found out a new tranny was going to cost more than I had into the car.

    I threw it up on AutoTrader, at the same $2k I paid for it. Fortunately, some starry-eyed kid came along. I didn’t point out the issues, and he didn’t see them.

    In the big picture, I got lucky. I drove it for about a year, and it only cost me a plane ticket and the $500 repair. Still, it (re-) soured me on GM stuff, and I won’t ever touch another one.

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      “Fortunately, some starry-eyed kid came along. I didn’t point out the issues, and he didn’t see them.”

      That was sh*tty of you.

    • 0 avatar
      mypoint02

      If I see someone on TTAC bitching about a triple white Sedan deVille and the guy who screwed him on it, I’ll be sure to send him your way ;-)

    • 0 avatar
      Summicron

      “Fortunately, some starry-eyed kid came along. I didn’t point out the issues, and he didn’t see them.”

      Ever considered the priesthood?

      • 0 avatar
        troyohchatter

        Brings up an interesting moral discussion, doesn’t it? I have never saw fit to sell a car to a private buyer without disclosure of everything I know but I’ll trade in a POS in a cocaine minute. Our 2003 CR-V (didn’t make my worst car list but probably should have) had about $3000 worth of stuff going out when we traded it in on a 2012 Mazda5. I let the dealership drive it prior to arranging the trade and I figured if they couldn’t find the problems, so be it. So where is the moral line? Should I disclose to the dealership? Should I be willing to hose a fellow person looking for a reliable used ride?

        • 0 avatar
          Willyam

          Excellent question. Without fail, every Pontiac I have ever owned was almost criminally unreliable. Almost so much that they don’t qualify as cars. Take my 2008 G6 (I know, but it WAS gorgeous looking, as they finally ran out of money for cladding when they dropped the Grand Am name). The random dash warnings weren’t enough to clue me in to what was about to happen, nor was the fact that I had to take it back the next week to have the whistling door re-adjusted (on a 20k mile car? -WARNING-). Stranded, in my wife’s ex-husband’s driveway while picking up her kids. Humiliating. Open the hood, and the battery posts had onion-blossomed with corrosion. Probably a freaked-out alternator or who knows. Cut the cable ends, put in a new battery and terminals, and took it back to CarMax whence I had purchased said crap-mobile not 6 months prior. I definitely informed them of the quality issues. What they did with it is now on their Karma.

          • 0 avatar
            danio3834

            You traded in a car because of corroded battery posts? That’s a fairly common issue on vehicles with side post batteries that have the little rubber jackets on the terminals.

            Excessive corrosion can often be a leaking battery as well.

          • 0 avatar
            Willyam

            danio3834, I’d like to answer ‘no’, but the huge corroded flower petals said overcharging situation to me, on top of the fact that they admitted it had probably been hit when they fixed the door, the random dash lights, poor ingress/egress, etc., and I threw in the towel. Yes, the better part of valor would have been to hang in there, but past Pontiac experiences scared me off. This was the fourth one, so yeah, I’m a slow learner.

          • 0 avatar
            corntrollio

            I’m somewhat scratching my head on this one too. As much as it sucks to be stranded in your wife’s ex-husband’s driveway, it doesn’t seem like a reason to lose a ton of money trading in the car for this simple issue.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    First I want to thank the author of this article for braving a gloomier part of his life to bring us this interesting piece, the same goes for those who’ve responded.

    Second, I have regrets on almost every car that I’ve brought, the worst has to be a VW Type 3 fastback “project”, the car never ran properly, had a bit of rust, electrics never worked right, parts were expensive and hard to find, the VW community wasn’t all that supportive, the engine was impossible to reach around, and the thing even made me briefly into John Cleese, but at least I enjoyed beating that stupid bright blue VW into the ground.

    I sold it for a grand so not all was lost, at least now I won’t be wasting time with anymore air-cool’d VWs. Unless if you’re patching up a ’63 Samba VW Bus you can forget trying to get any help from the VW community, and the expensive parts were often poorly made Chinese knock-offs that would rarely fit.

    I want to add that I went to several VW forums for help with fixing that dumb type 3, no one was interested in offering much advice.

    • 0 avatar

      I want to thank everyone too. This has been a lot of fun – it seems like everyone has at least one regret. Thanks for sharing!

      • 0 avatar
        Ryoku75

        Indeed, from certain perspectives I wonder if buying a bad car can end up benefiting an owner compared to a good one under the right circumstances.

        If you buy a Peter Perfect Toyota Camry you’ll get to work and what not, but you’d never learn about maintenance nor the other aspects of car ownership, ditto for getting ripped-off on a deal.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          What if you never had to learn those things because you lucked into buying the best cars in the first place and had the sense to stay with what works? I know people who’ve been set back years financially by bad taste in cars.

          • 0 avatar
            Willyam

            One of my friends in H.S. had a father who was a dentist. Did well enough that he purchased his son a NEW 1987 Honda Accord, 4-cylinder three-door liftback in silver. Five-speed stick. Lovely little car. He drove it through college and beyond, without issue of any kind afaik. What did he constantly bitch about/lust after? The cars the rest of us drove: rusty Camaros, Firebirds, Mustangs, Cutlasses, etc. So, today, he’s an accountant. Not sure what that proves about our theory…

      • 0 avatar
        Brunsworks

        Indeed. Nonetheless, it’s really entertaining to know that even the Professional Car Guys have these horror stories, especially since you wrote it up so well, and since it was so specific to your life situation at the time.

    • 0 avatar
      -Nate

      I’m sad but not overly surprised to hear that ~ the same a-holes & trolls who were not helpful , killed off the air cooled VW’s in America .I miss my VW Shop and don’t have any regrets for the decades I spent driving , repairing , restoring and resurrecting dead ones for re sale , it was fun and taught me a lot as well as a decent living , the kiddies who screwed it all up began showing up in the 1980′s , in time I burned out ~ not from struggling with the crude Bosch D-Jetronic F.I. your Typ III was presumably fitted with , nor the fun of tuning up a greasy , fuel injected , air conditioned Beetle , not , it was those insufferable asshats that made me give up .
      BTW : when VW introduced the Typ III in 1961 , it was supposed to replace the Beetle in a few short years .

      I worked with a Factory trained Mercedes Mechanic for a couple years ~
      he drove a new Lexus and shook his head as he’d see me under the hood of my 370,000 mile Mercedes W-123 300CD Diesel Sports Coupe , he always said ” Germans cars , pieze of sheet ! (He was Persian) hood _ALVAYS_ open ! ” .

      Some like the constant tinkering , I did and do , I took the time to learn the ins and outs of the Typ III’s issues as well as the Auto Stick Beetle’s failures , both were always wonderful , robust and trouble free cars for me , I’m sorry I wasn’t still on the old Super Beetles ONLY ! forums as I used to help out the odd ball problems .

      This thread is TERRIFIC ! I’ve owned and/or worked on almost every vehicle mentioned 1980 and old .

      -Nate

  • avatar
    JLGOLDEN

    I foolishly traded-in my 2004 Grand Prix on a sparkling new 2006 Mercury Mariner Premier V6. The money was right. I worked for a Ford dealer, too. But I was also commuting 100 miles round-trip each day. The Mariner was a terrible highway commuter: it’s fuel tank capacity was small & it required too-frequent fillups, its structure transmitted too much road texture (noise, tingle) into the cabin, and it felt twitchy on the open road. Handling was mushy, the V6 engine note droned and buzzed. Though at first glance the Mercury was luxurious inside, it felt cheap and fragile after a few thousand miles behind the wheel.

  • avatar
    racer193

    I had a 91 blazer around the same time and loved it. It was comfortable and was a decent place to gobble highway km’s in. It had around 330k km on it when the engine started to use oil. It was replaced with a crate 350 and it served us well untill gas was just too much in the spring of 2000 be bought a civic and gave the blazer to the gf parents. the only other issue was the paint had disintegrated on the hood and roof due to GM’s clear coat issues from that era.

  • avatar
    david42

    Biggest regret: a used Audi A8. ’nuff said.

    Thomas, I hope you someday get back into a full-size Jimmy or Blazer. They’re as cool as a Wagoneer or Land Cruiser.

  • avatar
    readallover

    Anytime I had a bad day and was coming back from Snoqualmie Pass, Alpental or Pullman I was comforted by the thought I could stop at the XXX in Issaquah.

  • avatar
    DGA

    2001 VW GTI. Traded in a 2000 Nissan Frontier, extra cab, 4×4 in for it. Always wanted a new GTI. Even though I actually made money on the Nissan – as a trade in – after 50,000 miles on the GTI and replacing window regulators, ignition coils, random electrical bits I was exhausted and wanted out. That Frontier was a workhorse though and dead nuts reliable. I still remember driving out of the dealership in the GTI and seeing the Frontier for the last time. The sinking feeling in my stomach should have been an indicator.

  • avatar
    redmondjp

    1996 VW Passat TDI, used, via Ebay (it was local so I got to go test-drive it before bidding on it), with about 180K miles on it when I bought it in 2004.

    It’s still sitting in my driveway, waiting for me to fix a leaky injection pump (the ultra low-sulphur diesel did the seals in), as well as only God knows what other electrical items that will fail to properly work when I reconnect the battery. Every six months something would crap out, leaving it parked in the driveway waiting for me to get around to fixing it for another six months. Lather, rinse, repeat . . .

    My wife absolutely LOVES the car, but SHE doesn’t have to work on it either! Every time I suggest getting rid of it, she protests. Even though it hasn’t been running for going on five years now (kids happened, they are 5 and 3.75 now). We bought two Hondas and one Buick in the meantime . . .

  • avatar
    FJ60LandCruiser

    In LA (lower Alabama) eighties era Army surplus K-blazer diesels with garish red interiors could be had for less than a grand.

    Most were in acceptable shape, and if you bought two, you could probably cobble together one functional car that somewhat resembled your Jimmy.

    I spent most of my high school years driving one such example I sprayed rattle can black. Diesel was cheap and I averaged 22 mpg after I took it to a semi truck mechanic who gave the old Detroit Diesel an overhaul.

    The only problem was no AC.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    Leased a little 2WD pickup in high school because the monthly payment was super affordable even on a crappy high school job.

    Neurotically worried about excess mileage the last 6 months of the lease because I had bombed around the desert too often with it. Ended up paying for those miles at lease end and realizing that the low monthly payment hides the true high cost of leasing a vehicle.

    Truck was great, though.

  • avatar
    PlookStick

    Fresh out of college in December 2003, I made my biggest mistake with a brand new 2004 Ford Explorer 4×4. This was the one I never should have bought for two reasons: first because it wasn’t that great of a brand new vehicle to start with, but second (and most importantly) because it ended a streak of paid-off cars which had given me good service, and because it was this transaction that started me on the cycle of having a monthly auto payment.

    The first reason this was my biggest mistake was the Explorer itself; it was my first ever brand-new vehicle and I had illusions that it was superior to anything I’d ever had before, and that it would be better than anything I could buy used. At that time the Explorer redesign from 2002 was still fresh, and the prior 2 generations of Explorers (1990-1994 and 1995-2001) had a reputation for being very long lasting, if somewhat tippy when equipped with low-PSI Firestone tires.

    The Explorer failed to meet my (perhaps unfair) expectations in every way. It had numerous reliability issues in three years and 50k miles including trouble with the “sealed for life” transmission, door lock actuator failures, premature brake wear, loud rear differential noises, suspension squeaks due to repetitive bushing failures, battery trouble, selling dealer filled engine with 6 quarts of oil instead of 5… Anyway, it is now common knowledge that this generation of Explorer was neither as reliable or as durable as previous models. Faced with diagnosing and repairing yet another electrical issue, I traded it in on my second (and only other) new car, a 2007 Honda Accord LX 5-speed.

    Which leads to the the second reason why the Explorer (Exploder) was my worst purchase; my prior vehicles (1991 Mazda 626, 1998 Jeep Cherokee 4×4, 1990 Honda Accord EX, 1998 Mazda 626 ES V6 manual) had all been purchased outright and each driven for years with less major troubles and most importantly, no monthly payments. Ten years later I am only a few months away from being payment free again. I hope to keep my current 2009 F150 XLT SuperCrew (purchased used from original owner and so far trouble-free after over a year of ownership) for a long time, and finally break the cycle of payments which was started with the Explorer.

    The new plan is to go back to buying good used vehicles outright and not having a monthly payment!

  • avatar
    djoelt1

    I never should have bought a 1995 BMW M3 Lightweight. Purchased in 2001, I probably hit the sweet spot in terms of pricing. I was driving a 1987 528e and was doing lots of track time. I had pretty much maxed out that car and was stuck in slower driving groups. I was ready to handle something with a bigger performance envelope.

    As any track rat knows there are always changes to be made to improve the car. But I think it is sacrilege to change that car in an irreversible way. I should have bought a regular M3.

    I could have shared my VW story as the worst car purchase except it wasn’t. It was a 2003 Passat GLS wagon with the 1.8 and automatic. I knew VW’s reputation going in. In 60,000 miles as our family car for three kids, it served us well. The surprise third child’s car seat fit in the back easily with the other two – how many wagons with 40 cubic feet of luggage space, capable of 30+ MPG, could make that work? Our only problems were a radiator that failed at 85K, a sticky thermostat, and user inflicted damage due to clumsiness on the part of the 5 or 6 other drivers of the car. Purchased for $14,000 with 30k miles, and sold last year for $5800, it wasn’t so bad. But I still wave people away from VW.

  • avatar
    Yeah_right

    Alas. It’s just about every car I’ve owned. My desire to drive something unique has consistently gotten me in trouble:
    * 76 AMC Gremlin
    * 80 Dodge (Mitsu) Challenger
    * 78 Ford Ranger 2wd
    * Geo Tracker
    * Saab 9000 Turbo, with it’s “Frequent Turbo Fail” feature
    * 3 Chrysler minivans (even when I was trying to behave)
    * Chevy Venture minivan, because the Chryslers sucked so bad
    * ’68 Chevy Vette Stingray, bought at the very top of the classic car market before prices collapsed

    I have a sturdy FJ Cruiser that is a blast to drive. It’s still a unique car. Fortunately, cars are so much better these days that even a low volume one is going to get a couple hundred thousand miles.

  • avatar
    moitz

    My lovely 2009 Honda Accord EX V6, purchased while working 60 hour weeks, in the last three weeks of my senior year of college, after test driving it and one other Accord. It’s way too large for living in Chicago, the gas mileage is atrocious given the way I drive, and the interior is buzzy, plastic, and crap. I should have stuck with another plan and gotten a 2012 Focus with a manual transmission, then promptly ruined the clutch teaching the fiance how to drive manual.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    My worst buy was a 1986 Toyota that i purchased from a good buddy of mine. He had bought the car new and it only had 65,000 miles on it. I figured it would be a good car for my son-in-law. Everyone says a Toyota’s run forever. Of course i forgot about another buddies Toyota Cressida that he could never put enough oil into to use the car for work. Well this Camry POS drove my son-in-law crazy. 75,000 miles and everything went wrong. Finally caught fire and went to the junk yard. No one in my family would buy a Toyota new or used to this day.

  • avatar
    ajla

    This weekend I bought a $1300 Allante.

    I’m sure it will end well.

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      A $1300 Northstar Allante? If so, I wish you the best of luck, you’ll need it.

      • 0 avatar
        ajla

        It’s a 4.5L.

        • 0 avatar
          CJinSD

          Did they make a 4.9 liter Allante? I once bought another Pininfarina-bodied convertible for $560. Mine was a Fiat. It failed dramatically and was sold for $200 as a parts car after I’d spent maybe another $150 on it. I never registered or insured it, but I drove it quite a bit. Other than the couple hundred miles I put on it driving home from buying it, I mostly used it in my neighborhood and off road, so I don’t feel that guilty about never insuring it. Besides, it was the ’80s. Had I hit someone, I would have paid for the actual damage that I did and that would have been the end of it. Anyway, it probably depreciated about 20 cents a mile in my hands. I had so much fun every time I took it out that it was still probably one of the great automotive bargains of my life. The Allante may not have racing cams that give it a power band that ends at 9,500 rpm, but it is still a car that originally sold in the ultra-luxury market. Heck, it was better traveled than most Cadillac buyers by the time it was sold. Provided you keep your costs low and get a spring’s worth of cruising out of it, I see little down side.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      I’m green with jealousy, sort of… also love the enthusiasm.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    I bought a 2012 Focus last year, and my back could not adapt to the seats. Also, the trans shudder made for bucky ride. Traded in on a hail damaged ’12 Civic HF, 2 months later, with a $4k discount. Seats are better, but realized it was me not the car seats. So, to the chiropractor.

    Pain makes people do foolish things…Shoulda waited for a used Focus Titanium with power leater seats.

    NOTE: Rent a car for a weekend before buying.

    • 0 avatar
      CJinSD

      Would the Focus Titanium have had a stick shift?

    • 0 avatar
      30-mile fetch

      “Rent a car for a weekend before buying”

      That’s good advice. I don’t know how many people actually pay attention to things like seat comfort and driver ergonomics on routine test drives with the salesman lobbing worthless small talk at you from the rear seat.

      • 0 avatar
        luvmyv8

        Years ago I was looking for a car and decided upon a V8 Mustang (’05+)

        I went to a Ford dealership in San Diego to test drive a new one. I remember walking up to the new Mustangs and of course a salesman approached me. I tell him specifically that I was looking for a V8 Mustang. He starts by offering me a used ’03 V6 5-speed stripper…. OK this isn’t going well…… I let him know that I wanted a new one and of course a V8, not a V6. I let him know that I want to test drive one….. well dumbass goes and gets me- wait for it- a V6! It was clear to me at this point that A: he isn’t listening to a damn word I’m saying and B: he probably thinks I’m some punk kid with bad credit (nope sorry!)and no I didn’t cop an attitude. I go along with the test drive while he goes on about how powerful the car is (it sure wasn’t with the V6) but the main thing that got my attention and why I’m thankful I did the test drive was how awful the ‘base’ model seats were, my back was literally crying uncle after 10 minutes and I have no prior history of back problems. He lost a sale needless to say, but if I wasn’t so dead set on a Mustang, he could have ruined the car for me as earlier in the day I drove a V8 Charger and I did like it, but I wanted to drive a V8 Mustang before I made my decision. Eventually I did drive a V8 Mustang with the ‘GT Deluxe’ seats that were just about perfect. Supportive and extremely comfortable.

  • avatar
    JREwing

    After college, I found myself with a fair amount of credit card debt, a Chevy Corsica barely holding together after 180,000 hard miles and a desk job paying barely enough to pretend I had it made. Plus, my folks were kind enough to take me back in. Downside: I had to commute 60 miles a day to work.

    So when the Corsica ate its distributor-less ignition, and the local dealer wanted $500 for the privilege of replacing it, I had enough. I had money rolling in. Time for another set of wheels.

    My parents told me I needed a reliable, NEW car, a car with a WARRANTY so I wouldn’t be screwed with repairs. I was initially hesitant about this idea, but they simply wouldn’t shut up about it. And let’s face it – that sounded pretty sweet.

    So, I found myself the nicest set of new wheels around for $320 a month – a 5-door Focus ZX5 in liquid grey. It was smooth, it was peppy, and even my lead feet got 30mpg out of it.

    The warranty lasted ONE year. Why? I was already at 30,000 miles. 20,000 of it was just commuting to work. Plus there was this trip to Maine that put 3,000 on it. Plus trips to Michigan’s UP and to Detroit.

    It pretty much continued like that for 7 more years.

    At 202,000 miles, the clutch bearing went out. My job went belly up in the recession, and I had just put a new set of tires on it. I proposed to my (also unemployed) long-distance girlfriend, took the $500 the recycler offered, and ran with her to Wisconsin.

    Did the Focus serve me poorly? No, it didn’t. But I effectively paid $8000 extra for one year of warranty coverage. That $8000 would’ve paid off my remaining debt and left me with some financial security. And, perhaps, it wouldn’t have taken me 5 more years to move out.

    My next two cars: A ’06 Cobalt w/ 25,000 miles bought in September 2000 (now my wife’s ride), and a cherry ’05 Ford Five Hundred with 99,000 miles, bought in October. Together, they cost me $3500 less than the Focus. I’ll be done with car payments on the Cobalt next year, and the Five Hundred in two years.

    It’s a good thing. My commute’s now 90 miles a day. Got to fix that…

  • avatar
    nrd515

    My ’77 Power Wagon. My only real dog of a vehicle. On the positive side, my ’82 K Blazer was the most trouble free vehicle I have owned. All that it had to have done in the 4+ years I had it was a headlight and a battery, that’s it. My ’88 S10 Blazer was almost as good. A couple of issues fixed under warranty early on, and 5 years of nothing more than a headlight, a battery, and two tail lights. It soldiered on until 2011, owned by a friend who taught 2 of his kids to drive in it. Finally, it leaked so much water around the rusted windshield and cowl it had to go. It had the original engine, untouched, one trans rebuild, and almost 500,000 miles.

  • avatar
    bill mcgee

    I didn’t buy the damned thing , I inherited it when my 90 year old uncle died but I wish I’d run away from it . A 1985 Buick Park Avenue , 5 years old with only 25 k miles . Beautiful , perfect leather interior , always garaged , thoughtfully designed . Yet the car sucked . It was prone to a pitiless amount of constant electrical failures of various electrical gadgets , causing the alternator and battery to fail countless times . The automatic climate control was problematic , twice it stayed on , until it killed the battery , without the engine on . Then the compressor went out .Eventually the many electrical problems were traced to a bad ground on the power trunk closer. Also the steering rack failed , also the catalytic converter , and the power windows went out several times , once on Christmas day – all in a period of 50k miles . Often wondered if the uncle’s ghost was haunting it . On the plus side , never had any problems with the engine/ transmission, but a car so horrible that I was spending more than a normal car payment on it every month .

  • avatar
    FuzzyPlushroom

    My ’94 850 wagon – the throttle stuck, a front brake caliper seized (and then the system proved completely unwilling to bleed), and I discovered that the bit of froth on the dipstick wasn’t just the usual clogged PCV ducting, but evidence of a shot glass worth of coolant in the oil.

    The biggest problem, though, was one I would have seen if I hadn’t bought the car in the dark, in Maine, in January – one entire wheelarch wasn’t just scaly, but was in fact made of rust and well-disguised Bondo. Whoops.

    I traded it to a guy, disclosing all of its faults save for the mixed fluids (figuring he’d either check the dipstick or he wouldn’t, and he didn’t)… got a ’93 244 with a handful of more minor faults in return. He was starry-eyed over my wagon, so hey.

    Ahh, but karma. The clutch went out on my new 244 the following day, and the shop I brought it to took their sweet time. On the drive home from the shop, the alternator shit the bed. (I brought it somewhere else for that, since I didn’t have time to do it myself and my tools had been stolen out of the trunk while the car was stranded by the roadside with a disintegrated clutch disk.) Since then, it’s developed a maddening fuel leak and the rear bumper’s fallen off… but I still got the better end of the deal.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Damn. I have a recently acquired ’93 244 myself, aside from stranding me in the middle of an intersection during a turn, in front of my building on its maiden voyage (I felt like Captain Smith), its been very capable (my Volvo guy had to put new rubber fuel hoses in the tank or something to that effect).

    • 0 avatar
      tpepin

      I sold my ’89 245 with a bad head gasket, I added stop leak to the coolant so it wasn’t overheating.

      Guy who bought it from me looked at it for over an hour, drove it, sniffed it, listened to it, felt it up, checked all the fluids then paid my asking price without a second thought. It had over 400,000 miles on it too… I didn’t suffer any instant karma as my next car was fairly trouble free but I got mine in the end….

      I’m now stuck driving a Nissan cube.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      On the bright side you can patch up a 240 easier than an 850, I have a 244 myself thats need a few things fixed but it was a low mileage find for a grand.

      Save for needing a new water pump most of its problems were typical 240 issues, but the way I see it all cars are going to need work, may as well work on something that ya like.

  • avatar
    andyinatl

    How about the other side – car that you should’ve kept but got rid of nonetheless?

    I had a 2003 VW Golf that was purchased brand new and was our family vehicle. The car was trouble free through 43K miles, and was base 2.slow model with sunroof. However, the day the 2006 VW Passat came on market (August 16, 2005), i foolishly drove to VW dealership and traded it in. This has set off a number of transactions where for one reason or another i’d buy a car, keep it a year or even few months, then sell it and buy another one. Not to mention that 06 Passat had some suspension issues from the get go (nothing like going to Vancouver for long weekend stay at nice hotel, and hearing horrible clunking while valet drives the car away. Clunking was developed on the way to Canada, but it was Saturday afternoon and no open dealers anywhere around that area), payment that was not comfortable for our young family at the time, and the fact that we were soon going to move across the country with no job prospect in sight…

    It all worked out in the end, but i always look back and think how much money i would’ve saved if i just stuck with that Golf. Not to mention all the memories with that car..

    • 0 avatar
      Willyam

      Good idea. All young men who wander car lots learn from me!

      I purchased a 2001 Civic LX auto, let my wife at the time pick the color. It was wonderful. Efficient, fun, and probably would have been reliable for years. Queue a baby; wife took a commute and wanted day-care close to her work, which meant wife and baby on the highway. Traded the Civic (one year old, puchased new) on a 2000 Windstar for safety. Stop laughing, my intentions were good…

      Became a transmission-eating-money-sucking-gas-hogging-image-killing-noisy-nightmare we named “Barney” as it was slightly purple in the sun, and definitely porky. Had to keep this affront to manhood for six long years to get my money’s worth out of it.

  • avatar

    The car I should never have bought was not a bad car in and of itself. It was bad due to a bad moment in my life, and like you Thomas, a culmination of bad decisions that put me on the road we are now on.

    A black Sandero, 2010, with less than 25k km. Bought from a co-worker, to substitute the Fiat Palio 2 door as the baby was coming. Bigger than the Palio, 4 doors, all the ammenities. Drove well. Got it. 6 or 8 months later, sold it for a rather heavy loss owing to the necessity for cash. If you read the Ka story you know more or less the situation.

    Will for ever be burned in my memory though. As mentioned above, it was a sort of turning point for things to improve. Also, it was the car I took my wife to the hospital in and brought our baby home. Wow, how the colrs were so bright, the air so sweet that day. One of the happiest days in my life.

  • avatar
    panzerfaust

    1975 Fiat 128 Coupe. Best worst car I’ve ever owned. A blast when to drive when it ran, and virtually everything that could go wrong did, starting with most of the components makred “Magnetti Marelli.” It had unbelievable body rot, the suspension failed once on the interstate, brakes siezed up and it jumped timing on the belt and bent some valves on the wonderful little 1300cc engine. I finally sold it to a guy who’d been stationed in Italy and had a 128 there and loved it. My buddy and I put duct tape over all the holes that were rotted through the body work and then painted the duct tape with paint the same color as the car. He complimented us on the excellent ‘fiberglass’ patches and drove away after paying more than the car was worth.

  • avatar
    jcp12385

    I actually have some admiration for these trucks. I’m normally not much of a truck guy, but I did have a 1992 BRonco Eddie Bauer. I appreciate the truck focus of them, not these watered-down biggies today. There’s really not a good, true off-roader left. To talk about ride comfort would imply that there was some ride comfort. Other than that though, it was a tough, all-business truck with some of the nicest seats I have ever sat in. Plenty of room for…whatever.

  • avatar
    hawox

    the Lancia Thema 8.32 wins hands down!
    to be correct my dad bought it, i write about that because i feel responsible since my father saw the car in question on one of my newspapers.
    in thoose days he was looking for a saloon, instead of buying a bmw 3 series or a E190 one night he came home out of the blue with the 8.32 lancia. i was happy my dad had bought what was called the “thema ferrari”. but i remember the allarming sound of the words “it was a bargain”! when new the 8.32 was a powerful car but soon alot of other compact turbos and powerfull sedans were lounched at a much lower price. so my father was able to buy a very well maintained 4-5 y/o thema “ferrari” for something like a 5th of the price.
    the car was simply a piece of crap: the 3 litre engine only had 200bhp like the much cheaper 2.0 turbo, the weight of the engine also made it unbalanced so in the corners it was a boat, the chassis also wasn’t stiff enough so you could feel it bending. the whole car was badly enginered and badly buildt, full of electronic stuff that never worked (suspensions, spoilers, seats) and used more gas than a ship. the only good thing was the looking of the leather interiors. can’t remember how much we spendt to repair that thing and to feed the engine but i remember that one day we couldn’t catch up a citroen XM on the hyghway.
    luckly being the beast quite rare (not a surprise) a guy did a good offer and my dad sold it. i imagine the scene similar to “catch the money and run”!


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