By on January 30, 2014

Ford_vs._Chevy_cover

There are some things that I am too damn old and open-minded to understand.

Like hating a car brand. Especially in those common cases where folks haven’t been exposed to any level of vehicle derived hardships.

Toyotas are boring. BMW’s are Yuppie-mobiles. Mercedes-Benzes are for snobs. On an on, through the lexicon of cliche and generalizations comes the silliest of stereotypes. As much as I hate to see it, hear it, and read it, I’m resigned to the fact that there is always going to be some version of this nuttiness in our world.

But what if there was an easier means to defeat it? In fact, as many of you know, there already is. A force of human good that can outdo any scam artist or snake oil salesman.

The enthusiast forum.

Every time I buy a vehicle that I haven’t bought before at the auctions, I try to find out if there is an online enthusiast group that specializes in that particular model.

Some of the sites have surprised the heck out of me for their model based loyalty and goodwill.  Chevettes, Tauruses, Fieros, Old Supras. As for ye olde Volvos and Benzes, there seem to be at least six or so sites that have offered their good word to thousands of devout followers. Even if I have little love for the car, there are hundreds of enthusiasts out there that can make me fall in love with the literary works that come from owning one.

One of the reasons why I love visiting these enthusiast forums is that the main contributors are almost always genuinely interesting people. From concrete layers who are into eastern philosophies, to tried and true professional race car drivers with New Jerseyite vocabularies. There always seems to be a beautiful egalitarian streak of wanting to help other fellow car owners regardless of who they are, what they believe, and even how they behave.

In a business bent on the glorification and financing of everyday transportation, I find that desire to extend the ownership period, and keep people debt free, truly valuable. It functions as a vital counterweight to our society’s commercialized push towards all things new.

Enthusiast forums also contain a unique balance between the driving enthusiast and the car keeping frugalist. The active members of the community want fun, high quality and reasonable costs. More importantly, nearly all these sites espouse a hardcore philosophy that every vehicle should have the opportunity to be used to the fullest of it’s capabilities. Even the lousy lower end versions with trashy engines and interiors that make you feel like you’re stuck in some remote corner of a Tupperware party. That jalopy of a car may indeed drink, smoke and hang out with the bad boys. It may even be worth more dead than alive. But it still has a fighting chance for rehabilitation when it finds the right crowd of auto enthusiasts.

Within all these enthusiast forums though comes a unique problem.

Access to the information. Referencing these places, easily so that consumers can easily jump from reading about the car from an old review, which is where most car searches begin for the non-enthusiast, to truly knowing about that car in one fell swoop. There are thousands of enthusiast sites and yet, it’s hard for them to get the word out about specific issues and recommendations that can better help the mainstream used car buyer before he makes a fatal mistake.

Many of us have the common sense needed to do a thorough due diligence of the car we plan on buying and keeping because, we love cars. But for those who don’t love cars, it’s an inconvenience. Information begats more information and sadly enough, a lot of these used car buyers will be overexposed to the sausage makers of our business who have absolutely no handle on the long-term issues of these vehicles, and no incentive to report them. In fact, a lot of the reviews out there are just rehashed versions of new car reviews that were only written to move the metal.

So I’m debating about whether to expand the long-term reliability study so that it can incorporate links that will allow used car buyers to go directly from the objective data, to the subjective opinions and insights of long time owners and enthusiasts.

Two articles I have recently written at Yahoo!, here and here, have received a lot of emails from used car shoppers who are happy with the data, but want more help with their search. It’s one thing to say that a car is generally reliable, or unreliable, and quite another to show a car’s specific weaknesses so that small problems don’t become terminal in the long run.

The good news is that we should have enough information to break all this out by a model year and even a powertrain basis in the near future. A long lasting Beetle with a TDI engine and a 5-speed should be treated differently than a Beetle with a defect prone automatic transmission and a 1.8 Liter. So in time, as the number of data samples crosses the half-million to million mark, that specific data will be broken out as well.

In a perfect world, I would like to display specific threads at the enthusiast forums that will provide the personal experiences behind these distinctions.  Partially to support the findings as they evolve, and more importantly, to offer an easy way to introduce casual car owners to the value of certain well-run enthusiast forums.

Is it a good idea? Are there certain enthusiast forums that should be the holy books of knowledge for specific models? Any that should be avoided at all costs?

Feel free to mention them below. Oh, and this information in the long-term reliability study will be provided for free, forever. I am not going to pretend that this study will have all the answers or all the resources that can be harnessed on a wholesale level of this business. In fact, I plan on highlighting a lot of the limitations later this week at TTAC so that somebody, somewhere, may have the opportunity to make it better.

No system or study is perfect, which is one of the reasons why I asked for volunteers early on. We, even those who are experts, do not have all the answers. However there should always be free and public resources within the greater community that serve the common good, and this may serve as another good opportunity to pay it forward.

So as this study expands and more refined, I’m going to ask for help from those who have a genuine interest in building this. Statisticians, car nuts, concrete layers, all are welcome. With enough help from the enthusiast community, I think we can fill in the gap between those first owners that are featured by Consumer Reports, who typically keep a car for only about six years, and those later owners who will experience their own unique issues and levels of reliability as the vehicles age. Who knows? Maybe the study may save your progeny from an under-engineered CVT or an electric car that mysteriously loses it’s juice at the 100k mark.

All the best! And thanks for all you do. Feel free to leave your enthusiast forum recommendations below along with your thoughts and ideas.

 

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51 Comments on “Hammer Time: Opposites Detract...”


  • avatar

    I typically keep a car right up till the extended warranty ends. I’ve relied on 300cforums and jeepsrt forums to aid me when I had questions that go well beyond the basics.

    Answers which could void warranties.

    I’m glad that reliability surveys such as True Delta show breakdowns of problems. It doesn’t make sense for a vehicle to be considered unreliable because the infotainment is difficult to use.

    • 0 avatar
      jpolicke

      I went for Chrysler’s bumper-to-bumper lifetime coverage, so I’ll be keeping the Challenger until I’m thoroughly sick and tired of it. If the repair is worth more than $100 then my tools stay in the box.

    • 0 avatar
      twotone

      Steve:

      Interesting article and trade-in quality web site.

      I have a couple of questions on the data source. Your web site says: “This page is contains data and analysis based on trade-in vehicles from across the country, in an attempt to provide objective, quantifiable, information about the used car market. ”

      What does that actually mean? Did the vehicles have identified problem issues at the time of trade-in or at any point during their life? How were the problems identified — inspection, carfax history, etc?

      If the statistics are only for traded vehicles would they be more prone to problems? People keep reliable cars, and trade in unreliable ones? The sample set is not “random” but a subset of the entire population.

      Thanks!

      • 0 avatar
        Steven Lang

        Good questions. My computer decided to commit a random version of hari-kari. So instead of re-typing the essay answer from before, I’m going to post a synopsis that I put on Facebook about a week ago.

        If you have any other questions, feel free to respond and I’ll do what I can to answer them.

        ….

        To determine the overall reliability of a specific model, this study focuses on two basic questions.

        1) At what mileage and age point does a consumer become so unsatisfied with their vehicle, that they are willing to trade it in for a wholesale price?

        We consider this behavioral question to be crucial to this study, because it measures customer dis-satisfaction in a completely objective way.

        The second question is a bit more challenging and requires a different methodology than what has typically been assessed in past reliability studies in the auto industry.

        2) What is the mechanical condition of the vehicle at the time of trade-in?

        That’s why this entire study is based on the feedback from industry professionals who regularly inspect and appraise trade-ins.

        We want to keep the standards as uniform and objective as possible for all automakers and brands. This is also why we’re aligning this study with independent regional dealer networks that either don’t own new car franchises, or have them represent less than 5% of their total sales.

        One thing we are trying to do that is different from other studies in this field is to remove owner bias. Owners can sometimes have a tendency to think that a vehicle may be in perfect mechanical condition. When in fact the transmission may be shifting improperly, the engine needs to be serviced (or replaced), or that surface rust they think they see is actually structural rust.

        Most consumers have difficulty making these determinations, which is why we are exclusively using trained professional inspectors at the dealerships to make these assessments.

        There are also two important biases that we have eliminated, or at least minimized for the general public.

        No owner bias: All of the trade ins are inspected by a professional independent appraiser. Not the owners. These appraisers are all given the same training regimen and take classes every three to six months to keep abreast of the skills needed to make an objective assessment of the vehicle’s overall condition.

        No brand bias: Most other studies have an inherent bias either with their audience, or the data.

        The independent regional dealer networks offering this data have given no formal endorsement of any vehicle to their customer base. So there is no inherent pro-Toyota or other pro-manufacturer or brand bias in this study.

        They also have no predominant new car franchises in their portfolio. This is critically important, because a Chevy dealer will always end up with a disproportionate number of Chevys that are traded-in. Toyota dealers get more Toyotas and so-forth. This lack of brand bias allows for a far broader range of vehicles to be independently assessed.

        Currently we have compiled 300,000 unique data samples spread over approximately 2000 year make and model combinations. This data also spans the continental United States from New Englad to California and the Pacific Northwest.

        We have compiled enough data to offer model specific recommendations and in certain cases with more popular vehicles, year specific data that highlights specific mechanic issues.

        However, we are not at the point where we can offer specific recommendations for all models, all years, and all engine/transmission powertrain combinations. 300,000 unique data samples is a lot. But it’s not enough for all vehicles sold over the past 20 years. In fact, we’re now under the impression that Consumer Reports will still offer the best data for late model vehicles, while our quality data will have data skewed towards older vehicles (approximately 7 years and older).

        I believe we will have the means to attain nearly a million unique sample points within the next two years, and make this information as robust as possible. However. even at that point, Consumer Reports will likely remain the best source for data related to CPO vehicles. I don’t see our information competing with them so much as complementing and extending the data samples towards a further time period.

        To us, that extension is important. The average vehicle is now nearly eleven and a half years old. As a consequence of this longer life, a lot of the defects fall through the radar in current reliability studies. For example, once CR has a first owner sell their vehicle they are no longer able to monitor it. Current quality studies from other firms have a similar problem, and this study is taking the next step in helping resolve it.

        The average new car owner keeps their vehicle for approximately six years, and it’s our intent to capture the condition and quality of these vehicles as they get older and go through successive owners. Will we get them all? Of course not! But 300,000+ vehicles in the course of a year is a lot and in the long-term we will be able to offer a unique mosaic that will be valuable to the general public.

        I believe that by offering this data free, forever, and by combining it with the information provided through enthusiast forums, we will be able to provide consumers with a better road map for what is ahead should they decide to purchase an older vehicle. If all this information can help folks become better shoppers, and keepers, of their next vehicle, then I will have made some type of positive tangible difference in this world.

        And at least for me, at this unique point in my life, that’s all that really matters. I have lived this business for 15 years and if I can take these stones of data and build them into a cathedral of knowledge, that will be one hell of an achievement.

        But for now I need more carvers, and more stones… so we’ll see what happens between now and the next two years.

  • avatar
    Elena

    I received a lot of help from FordTrucks and Explorer forum. No mayor issues in over 225K miles but a huge help when you’re modifying a vehicle’s wiring, suspension… Always found at least one helpful post no matter what I wanted to know.

    • 0 avatar
      teasers

      The explorer forums convinced my sister it was a good idea to buy a 2003 mountaineer. She now drives exclusively hondas, and has never forgiven the explorer forums, ford, or even the internet for that experience.

      • 0 avatar
        Elena

        Guess your sister and me are quite different. My Explorer today happily clocked 226K miles. Same engine, transmission, water and fuel pumps… I replaced factory radiator for three rows all aluminum, stereo (to add navigation), installed two audio amplifiers and better speakers/subwoofer, air bag suspension, coil over shocks, on-board air system, air horn, all dash lights are now LED. I had to fix temp/compass, found keyless entry code stamped on anti-theft device… If you can’t fix your truck with all the info posted there (pictures and step by step guides not unusual) guess, at the very least, trucks are not for you. I never drove a Honda, won’t dis her wheels, but I drove a 59 Ford until 1994 (sold, still going strong) and now 2001 Ford Explorer Sport. Forums made everything a lot easier.

  • avatar
    Mr Imperial

    I’ve had very positive experience with the enthusiast websites. Wife drives a 2003 Camry XLE, and I’ve been able to troubleshoot several issues with the car on my own, avoiding $$$ labor costs by the dealership. Definately recommend the toyotanation.com website if you own/drive a Toyota.

    Examples:
    -Steering wheel column made a squeaking noise every time wheel turns. The fix-lubricate rubber boot at the base of the steering wheel column.
    -A/C went out. The fix-remove & replace a $14 relay for the A/C compressor clutch. Relay was bought from AutoZone for $14, whereas the dealership charges $80.
    -Autel AL519 code scanner tells me P0420. It’s an issue (TSB written by Toyota, found on Toyota Nation) fixed by a revised cat coverter and ECU reflash. Also found to not try a fix by a youtube “mechanic” of running laquer thinner to “clean” the catalytic converter.
    -2003 Camrys with four cylinder engine have a rattling sound made in the plastic intake manifold. A baffle comes loose with time, and at certain engine RPM, causes it to vibrate. Issue is only an aural annoyance, does not affect engine function.
    -Engine starting to consume more and more 5w30. The fix-(so far)-Mobil One Full Synthetic High Mileage 5w30. Consumption has drastically decreased. (Yes, it’s only going to work for so long, but far easier than a ring job on the pistons).

  • avatar
    calgarytek

    Various Honda/Acura forums, esp. for the Civic.
    But, I hardly need to go there as my ‘crapmaster DX’ hasn’t had, you know, ‘issues’…

    EricTheCarGuy forums/youtube seems to be a phenomenal place to learn the ropes of car maintenance/repair.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    A knowledgeable enthusiast forum makes all the difference. While there is an MK1 MPV forum, my brother and I ended up learning a lot of tricks ourselves, after much time and aggravation tinkering with our ’89 and ’98 MPVs. With my 4runner, there is a nicely written DIY for literally any and every job imaginable. It’s confidence inspiring when you know that there is this huge community ready to help new owners get their vehicles sorted. This past weekend when my friend and I replaced the CV axles in his 92 Accord, a quick glance at Honda-tech yielded a step by step picture tutorial. Same goes for old/new motorcycles. Learned an awesome time saving trick for swapping out shims in my Suzuki GS1000′s valve train using zip ties to hold open valves.

  • avatar
    John

    As an automotive hobbyist, apparent preservationist, and someone who loves getting his hands dirty, I cannot stress how vital enthusiasts forums have been to me. Not only as a source of finding DIY guides/trying to save a few bucks in repairs, but as an educational resource that has allowed me, and I’m sure thousands of others, to explore a passion that might otherwise have been suppressed.

    Take for example the average 20-something college graduate. Went to school, picked their most suited major, molded into a working professional. Even if this individual found the time to explore their automotive interest and the realm of auto-mechanics – even with a basic background – how would it be possible for him (her?) to even somewhat understand the complexity of today’s vehicles if not for the plethora of information and experience available on these enthusiast’s forums….It probably wouldn’t be.

    My leaning, tinkering, and more often than not – bloody fingers – are all a direct result of my research and reliance on these forums. Not to mention being able to keep an early MK4 Jetta on the road with over 140,000. Having said that:

    vwvortex.com – great for VW/Audi, literally keeps my DD going.

    LS1tech.com – learnt all the fun stuff possible with the weekend warrior. Best resource I’ve found for F-body’s.

  • avatar
    John

    As an automotive hobbyist, apparent preservationist, and someone who loves getting his hands dirty, I cannot stress how vital enthusiasts forums have been to me. Not only as a source of finding DIY guides/trying to save a few bucks in repairs, but as an educational resource that has allowed me, and I’m sure thousands of others, to explore a passion that might otherwise have been suppressed.

    Take for example the average 20-something college graduate. Went to school, picked their most suited major, molded into a working professional. Even if this individual found the time to explore their automotive interest and the realm of auto-mechanics – even with a basic background – how would it be possible for him (her?) to even somewhat understand the complexity of today’s vehicles if not for the plethora of information and experience available on these enthusiast’s forums….It probably wouldn’t be.

    My leaning, tinkering, and more often than not – bloody fingers – are all a direct result of my research and reliance on these forums. Not to mention being able to keep an early MK4 Jetta on the road with over 140,000. Having said that:

    vwvortex.com – great for VW/Audi, literally keeps my DD going.

    LS1tech.com – learnt all the fun stuff possible with the weekend warrior. Best resource I’ve found for F-body’s.

  • avatar
    John

    As an automotive hobbyist, apparent preservationist, and someone who loves getting his hands dirty, I cannot stress how vital enthusiasts forums have been to me. Not only as a source of finding DIY guides/trying to save a few bucks in repairs, but as an educational resource that has allowed me, and I’m sure thousands of others, to explore a passion that might otherwise have been suppressed.

    Take for example the average 20-something college graduate. Went to school, picked their most suited major, molded into a working professional. Even if this individual found the time to explore their automotive interest and the realm of auto-mechanics – even with a basic background – how would it be possible for him (her?) to even somewhat understand the complexity of today’s vehicles if not for the plethora of information and experience available on these enthusiast’s forums….It probably wouldn’t be.

    My leaning, tinkering, and more often than not – bloody fingers – are all a direct result of my research and reliance on these forums. Not to mention being able to keep an early MK4 Jetta on the road with over 140,000. Having said that:

    vwvortex – great for VW/Audi, literally keeps my DD going.

    LS1tech – learnt all the fun stuff possible with the weekend warrior. Best resource I’ve found for F-body’s.

    • 0 avatar
      Elena

      Imagine 40 y/o who just came from Cuba. Familiar with cars (how they were back in the 50s or Russian technology). Someone generously donated a Nissan Maxima 93. A tow truck dropped it and there I go, confidently pop the hood open… After searching for a carburetor for like an hour, being puzzled by a reservoir with remains of a bright red sticky fluid (turned out to be power steering) signed up at Maxima.org
      In a month I registered the vehicle and took a 400 mile trip to buy a generator after a hurricane hit. Without their info I would have never suspected fuel injection was used in gas engines, cars would not start if parking position was not sending a signal to starter inhibitor… It was my first automatic transmission too.

  • avatar
    kuponoodles

    RAV4 World : passenger mirror step by step replacement. any idiot light reset procedure, cuz the manual is wrong. (TPMS too freakin sensitive on this CUV.)

    Bimmerfest.com and bimmerforum.com : I still dream of getting a 535xi wagon as my DD/family hauler but when the owners openly admit, that though its a great fun car but a walletecomy, it makes me feel better about my crappy RAV4. And really? the sunroof drain hose can get blocked and fry the ECU in the trunk?

    Maxima.org and Nicoclub.com : Wheel hub- bearing replacement, fuel filter that’s behind the rear seats, rewire an 02′s fog lights can be switched on without the head lights being on.
    http://www.courtesyparts.com/ not a forum but good prices on nissan/datsun/infiniti OEM parts…if you HAVE to go OEM.

    carseatblog.com : not a typical car guy site… but if you’re a first time dad like me, and have no freaking clue what carseat goes with what car and WTF is a LATCH and why the tethers look more like S&M equipment… these guys do a pretty good job testing and reviewing cars and their family worthiness.

    Steve, as for assistance. I have some basic SQL skillz. if you need aggregate counts grouped by car type and tranmissions and model year.. I should be able to do that for ya…..Making it pretty on a website… is another matter. Let us know how we can help.

  • avatar
    mhickman73

    http://www.saabnet.com

    The helpful people here have aided me in numerous situations with 4 different models. Fantastic site!

    • 0 avatar
      PartsUnknown

      I’ll second this. Throughout my ownership of 6 different SAABs, the folks at saabnet have saved me probably thousands of dollars and hours of aggravation. I learned so much from the various contributors that I ended up doing most repair/service work myself.

  • avatar
    teasers

    I buy nothing but vehicles with 125-190k so I know forums can be great. I learned to fix, mod, and maintian my 1987 bronco in some of the most creative fun ways for pennies on the dollar thanks to fullsizebronco.com. Those guys are smart as a whip, and except for a few specialty items, most of the stuff I used came out of the local pull a part because they figured out what would transfer.

    On the other side, for someone who doesn’t know about a car, they can be disastrous. My sister, based of the advice of the Explorer forums bought a 2003 mercury mountaineer. In six months, she had the transmission rebuilt, and I spent almost every other weekend over there fixing stuff like wheel bearings and window issues before the timing chain gave out and she found out how much the fix is.

  • avatar
    Banger

    http://www.rangerpowersports.com/forum

    http://www.nissancubelife.com

    ^Forums for both of the vehicles I own at present. Both have been valuable resources of information.

    RPS isn’t as well-known as Ranger Forums, but the people are a lot nicer, in my experience. Unfortunately, some of us RPS long-timers have not been posting as much lately. For me, it’s because I don’t daily drive my Ranger as often now that I test cars and write about them on the side — that evil press car gravy train means the Ranger stays parked a lot nowadays. I haven’t driven it a full 3,000 miles in the past year.

    I haven’t visited NCL in a long time, but I researched the cube there a lot before we bought, and immediately after we bought, our cube. Learned a lot about the early cubes’ CVT issues in America and knew about the 100,000-mile CVT warranty on the 2010 models designed to assuage buyers’ concerns. Felt like I went into the buying process a much more informed, wiser buyer because of that forum. If I ever inherit the cube from my wife, which tentatively is the plan for sometime in the next couple of years, I’m sure I’ll be a regular there again.

  • avatar
    Joshua Johnson

    As the owner of a mid-2000′s S-Type R, I find the information on JaguarForums dot com and JaguarForum dot co.uk to be the best for the brand in terms of highlighting major issues and, most importantly, how to either fix or avoid said problems.

  • avatar
    I've got a Jaaaaag

    The Jaguar forums have helped me keep my X-Type on the road for 235,000 miles. Plenty of helpful advice.

    http://www.jaguarforums.com/forum/x-type-14/

  • avatar
    Land Ark

    One thing I have found is that over time, some forums that were once useful sort of dissolve and disappear.
    For example, I owned a 1st generation Scion tC and the go-to forum when I had it was ScionLife. Whenever I revisit it now, it is virtually a ghost town. Folks have moved on to other sites. That means that there is a wealth of knowledge archived there that if you weren’t already aware of you’d completely miss. Someone who was searching for relevant forums in a search engine would come across it and think it was useless.
    I think this would be a great opportunity to archive those sorts of places. And if this is truly successful, it may encourage forums to better organize their How-To sections and perspective buyer areas.

  • avatar
    bball40dtw

    VWVortex is an excellent site for anyone who needs a VW support group. They will know your pain, and also how to do the DSG 40K mile service.

  • avatar
    Ryoku75

    Wait, you write for Yahoo?! No wonder why their automotive articles are getting better, and actually researched.

    Forums are a mixed bag for me, one will have genius’s that’ll offer good advice, and another will have only greed and smug zealous enthusiasts.

    Its true that theres typically several for every car though, I recall a Tercel forum, and even one or two forums dedicated to S12 Silvias!

    Also, if you want some grammar to poke fun at, hit pretty much any Honda board. You want teggy fo looks, or yu get Civ fo space, yo dig? Yu can swap a DC5 unit in there too dog, you gon git joosed!

  • avatar
    old fart

    I’ve used “Ford Truck Enthusiasts Forums” for truck and and also the engine forum for my car, Even when I Google an issue a lot of times I end up there.

  • avatar
    Morgan

    http://WWW.ClubLexus.com/forums – they’ve been quite helpful with information on my 200,000 mile LS400, and it looks like they’re good with other models, too.

  • avatar
    brettc

    These are the ones I know of for modern (water cooled) Volkswagens:

    tdiclub.com – Great resource for all things TDI related. Try not to read the “best oil” threads unless you’re looking for a time killer

    myturbodiesel.com – Great resource with a lot of how-tos, TDI buying info, etc.

    vwvortex.com – Mostly for gas VWs. Hard to read some of the threads due to poor grammar/spelling. But there are some good how-tos.

    passatworld.com – Good resource for Passat infomation

    bobistheoilguy.com – Not VW specific. Good resource for figuring out which oil to use. It’s like a tdiclub best oil thread x1000.

  • avatar
    qest

    It makes a lot more sense than being against any sports team that isn’t locally affiliated.

    I don’t like GM cars. I’ve sat in tens of them and have always been shocked at the lack of apparent quality.

    That doesn’t mean I’ll never own one. Thanks to their shocking depreciation, it’s entirely possible that I could find myself in a 1-2 year old Cadillac for 1/3 the price of a new one.

  • avatar
    Cabriolet

    Great article. Every car does not come off the line perfect. At one time or another something goes wrong. Most of the forums can be a good place to get information and step by step instructions to make a repair. I use both Miata.net & VW Vortex which have a huge following. Everything from changing a tail light bulb to installing larger engines.

    • 0 avatar
      Mullholland

      Agree with your rating on the article. Always solid writing, research and knowledge from Mr. Lang. As I’m always on the lookout for used car values, I find that the first step to putting any model on my radar is the depth and quality of the enthusiasts forums.
      I’d also give a +1 to Miata.net. Recently purchased a ’95 Infiniti G20 for my son and have found G20.net another great resource. Plus A-body.net for my orphaned 1993 Cutlass Ciera Sedan.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    You basically can’t own a used BMW without finding a good forum.

    If I’m interested in a used car, I google up “XYZ 3.2 problems” and sure enough the thread pops up.

  • avatar
    rdchappell

    As for reliability data, the more granular, the better. I think one of the least useful comments on the internet is of the “soandso brand is so unreliable, my blahblahblah’s roommate had one in 1985 and it was the worst piece of shit.” Broad generalizations don’t help anyone. I get to hear all of the time from the internet about how the 2001 Jetta in my driveway is a rolling piece of shit, only… it’s not, based on my tolerance levels. Did I have to change ignition coils and MAF sensor? Yep. But those are cheap fixes. I also changed the AT fluid (referencing the Beetle in your article) because VW (and a few other manufacturers) around that time decided to tell customers that the fluid was lifetime. I would hope that anyone who knows anything about cars would see that for the bullshit that it was. The key is to be informed and aware of what you’re getting into.

  • avatar
    scrappy17

    www dot lexls.com helped keep my first gen LS400 on the road for quite a while. Fantastic tutorials on all the weak points of the car.

  • avatar
    dude500

    Forum support can vary greatly between different makes, even different models and years.

    Go to an E90 BMW forum and ask how to change the battery. Most of the answers are “If you can afford a $50k machine you can afford a $500 battery at the dealer! BMW machines are so sophisticated, it’s not worth messing up the electronics.”

    However at Audi forums, they’ll give you step-by-step directions with pictures on how to change all the top-end gaskets, including remembering to change the little half-moon gasket on the cam tensioner “since you’re there already”.

    Go to the 300C forums and it’s mostly about rims and bodywork and “I know this guy who does awesome supercharger installs”.

    Unfortunately, I haven’t had any luck with (non-Corvette, non-truck) Chevy forums. E.g. there isn’t much at all on Impala DIYs – I even find more info on Chrysler minivan forums!

    Forum support is actually a very important component of my vehicle purchases, as I like to do most of my own work.

  • avatar
    Shipwright

    For general Mustang information I go to the mustang source.com, for specific information on my GT500 Team Shelby.com, for information on my wifes ’73 Mustang 7173mustang.com, for local functions, vendors, camaraderie mustangcanada.com.

  • avatar
    trackratmk1

    Would love to see that study continue indefinitely. New car reviews can hardly determine whether or not a car will be a “good” car, in terms of reliability and built quality. This study provides useful data at the model specific level to evaluate a car over its entire lifecycle… infinitely more useful than referencing a new car review for a used car purchase.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    What is the world coming to? The most honorable man I’ve read in a month is a used car dealer. Thanks again Steve, you’re doing good work.

  • avatar
    05lgt

    LegacyGT.com has remarkable depth for such a small volume car. Then again, it’s not very useful if you don’t have one.

  • avatar
    phargophil

    If you intend to become model specific, I’ve found challengertalk.com to be quite active and informative when I need to learn something about my Challenger.

  • avatar
    ptschett

    The lead image gives me memories of fordvschevy.com. Though a ghost town now, it was a fun place for both sides when I was on there in the late 90′s and early ’00′s.

    As a longtime MN12 Thunderbird owner I have to give http://www.tccoa.com a shoutout. Though I’m hardly on there anymore, it always has been a good resource for me.

    Then I started buying Mopars, where it’s hard to beat allpar.com for general Chrysler info. It helps that there are a number of commenters there who are current or former Chrysler employees or dealer personnel.

  • avatar
    PrincipalDan

    impalaforum is good for IMPALA information. 1950s, 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, W-bodys, new Super stretched epsilon, it doesn’t matter. All things IMPALA, I like it and i don’t even own one. I’ve also found a few Buick and Cadillac forums where GM customer service reps post trying to help people find solutions.

  • avatar
    sco

    For Peugeots (yes i know this is a limited audience but Steve asked!) , aussiefrogs cannot be beat. Several very knowledgable people have never failed to solve every problem I’ve ever had and they do appreciate that throwing money at the problem is rarely the answer.

  • avatar
    thanh_n

    S2000 enthusiast forum: http://www.s2ki.com/s2000/forum/22-s2000-under-the-hood/

  • avatar
    sgeffe

    Temple Of VTEC (vtec.net), and driveaccord.net for Accord-specific stuff.

  • avatar
    AllThumbs

    First of all, what a lovely article. I really appreciate how you captured the enthusiast website experience. I’m relatively new to them myself, and agree completely with your characterization of the community. I try to explain that to friends and family and they, of course, don’t get it, because they haven’t had the need to get advice about a venerable ride like I do.

    I currently drive and maintain/fix six cars, the newest of which is a 1999 model, so I spend a lot of time on enthusiast websites. I also frequent the Sienna forum for issues involving the one car (my wife’s) I do almost none of the work on.

    Of the fora I use, Allpar.com is the best– but then I’ve had far more work to do on my two old Mopar products than on anything else. I have always felt welcomed and appreciated– and never patronized– by the real Mopar experts there. FordRangerForum is also good, as is Siennachat.com I’ve had decent luck with others (benzworld and bimmerforums), too.

    In any case,I can comment more specifically as needed on my interaction with any of them on whatever subject you’re researching.


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