Rent, Lease, Sell or Keep: 1999 Mercury Mountaineer

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang

What is luxury?

Back in 1999, that was an easy question to answer in the U S of A. Three Letters: S U V . When I first started in the auction business these mastodons absolutely dominated the marketplace. You could go to the nearest Ford factory auction and quite literally pick out your colors, trim, and options. Want running boards, all wheel drive and a trip computer? Sure. Want it in Black with the all too common grey interior? Absolutely! Want to get it all in a model exactly like the Ford Explorer but call it something different for the hell of it? Well, why not!

The 1999 Mercury Mountaineer rang up at $30k loaded when new. 12 years, $4 gas, and 180k miles later, I bought it at a public sale for $1200. Should I…

Rent: SUV’s tend not to move these days. Everyone who rents a vehicle circa 2011 wants something with 4-cylinders and all the creature comforts. I could offer it for $140 a week and with a sunroof along with leather, it would get a few eyeballs. But it wouldn’t be a top pick and seeing that I now have a fleet of ‘Grands’ at this point (Marquis, Caravan, Voyager), I’m not sure if I should offer yet another sub-20 mpg vehicle.

Lease: Anything with a good leather interior and a sunroof should get at least $700 down. Finance the rest at $60 a week and 24 months, and you have an easy formula for a high return.

Every Explorer and Mountaineer I have ever financed has always ‘made the note’. A good prior history of maintenance always helps. But the 4.0L V6 and 5.0L V8 are pretty much bulletproof and parts at junkyards for the rest of the vehicles are as common as kuzu in the South.

Along with this is the advantage of working with older customers. A lot of older folks in my neck of the woods have shorter commutes and prefer comfort over fuel economy. Some are retired. Many work light retail jobs. But they strongly prefer to have luxury and don’t care too much about gas since their overall mileage is minimal. SUV’s and full-sized RWD cars are absolutely ideal for this market and I cater to this market quite heavily.

Sell: An older loaded up SUV with leather that’s been well kept should get around $2995. The miles on this one do hurt it a bit. But given the lack of good used cars out there it shouldn’t be much of the problem. By the time I recondition it I may have between $1500 and $1700 in it so overall it would be a decent profit if it got sold quick.

Keep: If the Mountaineer had some moderate cosmetic issues I would be tempted. Purchase a trailer with brakes for about $1500 and I can easily haul a vehicle to the lot after every auction. With all the vehicles I get at different sales, this could easily save me about $100 a week in transport costs.

For the general public who have light hauling needs these vehicles can be absolutely perfect. The V8 versions with all-wheel-drive can tow well over 5000 pounds and have plenty of luxury for the rest of the time. Throw in a few small changes to make towing safer (towing mirrors, trailer with brakes, a weight appropriate hitch) and you can move an awful lot of toys without venturing into pickup territory.

This is not an easy decision. What says you?

Steven Lang
Steven Lang

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  • GiddyHitch GiddyHitch on Jul 07, 2011

    Leasing it seems to be where the smart money is. I remember driving one of these things when I was a carless college student just starting an internship with Ford. I had lusted after one of these midsize SUVs throughout the 90s and loved the Mountainteer that we had in the car pool. One of the engineers hinted that Ford had understated the specs on the SOHC 4.0L V6 so as not to encroach on the V8. As much as I loved the Mounty (which was probably equal parts new car euphoria and SUV lust), I ended up picking the Nissan Pathfinder over a Ford Explorer when my parents decided to give me an early and unexpected graduation present at the end of the summer. Even with an employee discount (plan x?), I couldn't get over the fact that Ford let employees smoke on one of the assembly lines that I regularly visited - one woman was literally ashing all over the guts of an F250 rear diff as she was assembling it. You would never see that in Japan and who knows what other unseen horrors lurked beneath the sheetmetal. 12 years and 138k miles later, the Pathy has been bulletproof and feels tighter than a lot of new cars. A similar vintage Explorer - not so much.

  • Whoknew? Whoknew? on Jul 28, 2011

    Poor SL, People always seem to forget that you obviously provide a set of wheels for those whoe would have no other avenue except to save for it. I love the comparison to a new Camry lease lol. We have a portfolio of 250 cars on the road in our BHPH program, sure it cost the customer money but 90% of them are more than happy and 50% repeat in the same program.

  • Lou_BC Question of the day: Anyone actually care to own an old TVR?
  • Bd2 First, this was totally predictable. 2nd, Genesis already does have hybrids in the form of a 48V mild hybrid, but more performance oriented (supercharged and turbocharged), so not really helping with regard to fuel consumption. 3rd, Hyundai's hybrid systems don't really help as there currently isn't one that would be suitable power-wise and the upcoming 2.5T hybrid system would have to be heavily reworked to accommodate a RWD/longitudinal layout. 4th, it seems that Genesis is opting to go the EREV route with the GV70 the first get the new powertrain.
  • Bd2 Jaguar's problem was chasing the Germans into the mid size and then entry-level/compact segments for volume, and cheapening their interiors while at it.
  • 3-On-The-Tree Aja8888 I expected that issue with my F150 starting at 52,000mi. luckily I had an extended warranty and it saved me almost $8,000. No more Fords for me, only Toyota.
  • Lou_BC I saw a news article on this got a different read on it. Ford wants to increase production of HD trucks AND develop hybrid and EV variants of the SuperDuty. They aren't scaling back EV production. Just building more HD's and EV variants of HD's .