The Truth About Cars » 000 miles The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. Fri, 18 Jul 2014 12:00:37 +0000 en-US hourly 1 The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars no The Truth About Cars (The Truth About Cars) 2006-2009 The Truth About Cars The Truth About Cars is dedicated to providing candid, unbiased automobile reviews and the latest in auto industry news. The Truth About Cars » 000 miles Monday Mileage Champion: Same As It Ever Was… And Will Be… Mon, 18 Mar 2013 19:59:35 +0000 Click here to view the embedded video.

Forbes recently published an article titled “Cars That Can Last 250,000 Miles (Or More).”

Unfortunately for the author and Forbes, measuring long-term quality of any new or late model is nearly impossible.

Most defects and cost cutting compromises don’t become glaringly obvious until well after the vehicle becomes a common site at the wholesale auto auctions I frequent. That dependable car of yesterday can easily become a rolling pit of the modern day regardless of what seemed to be the reality. 

So, I won’t pretend to know the crystal ball of reliability when it comes to any new car. However older used cars are a panacea of good data from actual owners, and to me that’s the only yardstick that truly matters. 

Every week another 6,000 to 7,000 vehicles get added to our Trade In Quality Index. This week 22 out of the top 25 vehicles in overall mileage fell into one of four categories.

  • Chevy/Ford Truck Or SUV
  • Ford Panther Platform
  • Honda Car
  • Toyota Everything

The other three vehicles that made the Top 25 this week were two Nissan Maximas and 1 Sentra. I do sometimes see a small blip of high mileage Jeep Cherokees and Jeep Grand Cherokees, Ford Tauruses with the Vulcan V6, not to mention a long line of GM vehicles that came with the 3.8 Liter V6 engine. 

Everything else pretty much either makes a brief appearance or two in the list (VW TDI’s, 10+ year old Volvos that have working odometers, pre-1996 Benzes), or is simply never in the running (Jaguar, Land Rover, Audi, SAAB).

What makes a given vehicle last far longer than the norm? Or get curbed at the earliest opportunity? For most of us it comes down to three factors.

1) Ease of repair

2) Overall durability of parts

3) Brand perception

Now normally I would offer everyone here a full drill down of each one and how, let’s say, a 1994 Toyota Camry is infinitely simpler to maintain than a 1994 Mercedes S-Class. Or why a rear-wheel drive Volvo wagon is often seen as worthy of long-term investment, while an older Mitsubishi Galant is often curbed at a far earlier point in time.

But I have the flu. So please, feel free to either support or debunk those three factors. Your Uncle Floyd may have owned a full sized Dodge Van back in the day with a quintillion miles on it. That’s fair. However you may have a different conclusion as to why one model is truly better than another.

Do these three factors reflect why a given vehicle is kept over another? Or am I missing something else in the mix? As Linda Richman would say when she feels a bit tired and vehklempt, “Discuss!”


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Monday Mileage Champion: Saturnalia Mon, 18 Feb 2013 14:00:43 +0000

I told you that I would report back to the TTAC faithful when something new came up.

Well, for quite a few weeks there has been the usual distribution of dominance when it comes to high mileage cars that are curbed by their owners. 70% to 80% of the vehicles in the Top 25 of trade-ins mileage wise (out of 6000+ a week) were either Ford and Chevy trucks, Honda cars, or Toyota anything.

This week the streak is broken. Thanks to two Saturns which managed to cross the 400k mark.

Both of them are second generation SL models which carried the one car torch for Saturn throughout the 1990′s.

Imagine one cheap car having to hold up an entire mainstream car line and an extensive dealer network. What thought process on the 14th floor justified these types of hare brained decisions is beyond me. But thankfully these Saturns are the perfect beater bait for those folks who are willing to get religion off an asset that has cheap written all over it.

The androgynous rear end of this 2000 Saturn managed to occupy the road side scenery of North Carolina for 432,984 miles. It had zero announcements on the block. That’s the good news.

The bad news is that these cars are historically rather strong on the rattles and vibrations. Not to mention a plasticized interior that helped give rise to the $9995 Saturn deals of which, this Saturn likely qualified for back in the day. Although I would never argue with a new car purchase that yielded just over two cents a mile, it’s hard to understand why GM would let the powertrains on these models amortize for 13 model years.

The R&D rotting of Saturn was a shame because the non-rusting polymer panels on these models coupled with the MC Hammer era engines yielded a low ownership cost equation that was highly competitive for the time. If you looked at a car as a refrigerator like appliance and lived in the rust belt, these models were worthy of consideration. Speaking of which, this 1997 SL2 model from Illinois has managed to rack up 405,766 miles.

It does have a transmission needs service announcement and the gaps in a few places are nearly fist deep. Yep, the panels were resistant to rust. But give them a nice side kick or a 10 mph bump and you could be sure to have the polymer shatter design remain with the car until the very moment it became crusher fodder.

Trying to find an intact replacement fender at a pull-a-part on these vehicles is quite a task. It once took me four months to find one for a 96′ model coupe that I called the Purple People Eater. There is also more than a fair share of powertrain weirdness. The trannies on these models shift hard when they’re older. So hard in fact that any Saturn that isn’t a manual will almost always automatically get the ‘transmission needs service’ or ‘as/is’ announcement.

Such negativity has helped me get a few stellar deals over the years. There was a Saturn sedan, automatic, with only 37k that I managed to buy for only $1500 a few years back. It was only about 10 years old. Then there was another automatic model with 69k that went for only $1800. Both of them had transmission announcements and turned out to be perfectly fine. For a long time you could buy a decade old Saturn with less than 100k miles for only around $2000 wholesale.

When gas shot up over $3.00 a gallon for the first time these vehicles enjoyed a brief resurgence in popularity. Then the sub-prime mortgage crisis made these cheap cars even more coveted. Now that gas is closing in at $4.00, and it’s only February, I can no longer buy them on the cheap. Yesterday’s $2000 wholesale car is now a $3500 plus auction fee purchase that may not even be worth a flip.

These Saturns were never that bad. Nowadays though they’re not really that good for the price at the auctions. Yesterday’s $3000 retail car has become today’s $5500 piece of finance fodder. So if you want boring transportation and find one for a song, do it. Otherwise, if you do very little driving, buy a V8 domestic instead. Those cars are damn cheap these days at the auctions and jaw dropping affordable at the retail lots.





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Piston Slap: 100,000 Mile Tune Ups, Dex-Cool, Grandma’s S.L.A.B. Mon, 11 Feb 2013 12:52:26 +0000 Justin writes:


I have a 2001 Buick Regal LS. I bought it in 2007 with 14,000 miles on (yes, from a grandmother). It has 72,000 miles on it as of this morning. It’s not a great car and has required plenty of maintenance (for example, I’ve had to replace the brakes completely 3 times already). However, I have a few questions about long term items:

1. Spark plugs. Should I change them? The owner’s manual specifies 100,000 miles; does time play a factor in that at all? I’ve read that sometimes the back 3 never get changed anyway (apparently it’s a PITA).

2. Coolant. I had it changed once in 2008 (it’s Dexcool) because I had been reading the horror stories. How often should I be changing this?

I’m unsure how long this car is going to last, but I’ll keep limping it along until the cost gets too high. So cost is a factor here too.


Sajeev answers:

As you learned, buying a low mile original car isn’t necessarily a great idea. Unless you buy it for an occasional, collector type of vehicle. (*cough* H-town swanga *cough*) Though a 6-year-old car with low miles doesn’t exactly fit this definition: you replaced the brakes three times in the past 58,000 miles?  Whaaaa?


Either you got screwed by a mechanic or you are a seriously aggressive driver that needs elbows and vogues to slow yourself down.  Perhaps you should take a page from the Houston playbook, and keep that GM sedan Slow Loud And Bangin’.  But I digress…

  • Spark plugs: the 100,000 mile tune-up interval has been proven valid for every car I’ve seen, mostly because platinum plugs are that great. There’s a chance that age hasn’t been kind to the ceramic part of the plugs, but if the car idles smooth when cold, gets good mileage, decent power, no check engine light, etc…don’t worry about it.
  • Previously discussed here, here and here, Dex-Cool is a bizarre case where you can either flush it out (entirely, no margin for error) and switch to another type of coolant, or continue topping off with a Dex-cool compatible coolant, or you can continue to use Dex-Cool and service it as per the owner’s manual.  If you choose the latter, I’d service a little more regularly than suggested…out of fear of the Dex-Cool devil that comes from neglect.

Send your queries to Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry.



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Monday Mileage Champion: 2000 Ford Explorer Mon, 08 Oct 2012 13:00:12 +0000

Every classic Mercedes enthusiast and their antique mother will brag about the longevity of their ride. Then you have the Camrys. The Accords. The Volvo 240/740/940 triplets. Silverados. F-150s. Crown Vics. Town Cars. And of course the VW TDI models.

They all will endure along with Cavalier cockroaches and the ever ready Rangers. But there is only one true ‘Exploder’ in the car business.

This Ford Explorer represents the absolute best of Fords work in the 1990′s. Tough, strong, durable, simple, comfortable. Even luxurious if you went for an Eddie Bauer or a maxed out XLT package.

I love these SUV’s. Every one I finance can endure the worst of owners if need be. I try to avoid that. But I’ve probably gone through over a dozen Explorers and Mountaineers over the last few years and every one of them has been tougher than a brick shithouse.

This one is as well. 321,534 miles of American quality will be going through the block sometime this week. There will be no announcements of transmission, engine, or any other mechanical issue when it is given the thirty seconds of attention at the auction.


Will it sell for $300 $500? $1000? Maybe even $1500? I have no idea. But feel free to guess. It has a cloth interior, alloy wheels, step rails and an engine somewhere between 3.0 Liters and 5.0 Liters. Guess which one, and while you’re at it, feel free to lament the loss of 91,000 Explorers during the Cash for Clunkers debacle.

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