Rent, Lease, Sell or Keep: 1996 Dodge Intrepid ES

Steven Lang
by Steven Lang

The 1st generation LH sedans. Dodge Intrepid. Chrysler Concorde. Eagle Vision. These three beautiful masterpieces took Chrysler from an amortizing also-ran to a technological front-runner.

They offered everything back in the day. An optional 214 Horsepower engine that used the twice as expensive Acura Legend’s engine as a benchmark. Cab forward styling that transformed Chrysler’s bread and butter cars from staid three-box K car creations to coveted sleek machines. Oh and the features? Unbeatable for the time. Traction control. Leather seats that were angus thick. Infinity sound systems. They were hard to beat… and yet so easily beaten.

Rent: I bought this silver Intrepid ES for crusher weight value at the nearby Carmax auction. $400. They said it didn’t run and couldn’t verify the 28,156 original miles showing on the odometer. But they also had 140+ vehicles to wholesale that week. So I decided to do the homework for them.

Who would put a new battery in a car with a bad engine? No one I would know. The transmission fluid? Looked about a year old with no burnt smell. A new compressor and alternator. It’s amazing what you can figure out just by opening the hood of a car. The leather interior was also free of any rips and tears. It was dirty. But not wore. I had it towed to my shop and…

Lease: It fired right up. Quiet. Amazingly quiet for the age. I gave it a quick drive and everything shifted fine. Ordered a new driver’s side mirror and turn signal lens on Ebay. Replaced the transmission fluid and filter just to be safe. By the time everything was said and done I had only $600 in the thing.

So here is the hard part. If you rent it, the one reality of old FWD Chrysler’s is that they have constant steering and suspension related issues. Yes they can be solved if you throw enough money at them. But renters tend to be an abusive sort and I would rather not throw an ultra-low mileage car for their perusal.

But I can lease. $500 down and $50 a week for 24 months would be typical for a low mileage vehicle like this that is loaded up. You could opt to make it a 3 year deal. But that really depends on whether you want to constantly recycle and retail these cars again and again. I prefer to give enough light at the end of the tunnel so that the debtor has enough at stake to eventually become an owner.

For older cars a 1 to 2 year finance deal is far more reachable than the 3 to 6 year deals that are common for late model cars. Besides I hate debt. It wasn’t until late 2008 that I started doing this and as a remarketing rep, I spent years inspecting and appraising 10,000+ repossessed vehicles at auctions throughout the country. It pays far better in the long run for me to get folks to become owners. Happy owners bring referrals and if those folks are worth it, you build a better mousetrap than what Wall Stret or a plain jane job could ever offer you.

Sell: This car is Ebay fodder. Low mileage cars always sell well on Ebay regardless of whether they are Honda Accords or Suzuki X-90’s. The online avenue won’t garner me as much money. But I do stand to make over $2500 in a quick clip and there’s always other opportunities down the road.

Then again, Ebay is also a pain. You have flaky buyers. Questions from people who are really trying to ‘angle’ you. Some people will take over a month to complete a simple transaction and try to re-negotiate even when they saw you in person and gave you your word. I have 100% positive Ebay feedback for over 9 years by being ‘more than fair’. But that doesn’t mean the selling process is always a smooth one.

Keep: This may come as a shock to the TTAC faithful. But I’m not really an ‘older car’ guy. I like the safety and performance of late model vehicles. What was in a Mercedes S-Class 10 years ago can now be found in a Focus or Camry. That’s a lot of progress in technology, amterials, and design. Although I do find the styling of cars like the Intrepid to be a world nicer than today’s overwrought creations. Unfortunately the bad designs and ideas can get in the mix as well.

A car like the Intrepid was cutting edge for it’s time. But back then the most cutting edge technologies most cars offered were ABS, CD players, traction control and primitive airbag systems. It’s enough for most A to B situations. But truth to be told I love the stronger and lighter steels of today’s cars. Not to mention the copious use of aluminum and advanced safety systems. Yep, I’m a Dad with two kids. So the Intrepid won’t be in my garage.

Besides there’s too much profit to be made. So. Should I rent it through the years? Finance it to someone who can enjoy a long-term keeper? Sell it on Ebay to an enthusiast? Or get off my late model fetish and keep an increasingly rare breed. What says you?

Steven Lang
Steven Lang

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  • Chambawamba Chambawamba on Sep 03, 2011

    Steve, Do you still have the Intrepid?? I've had 2 of them, Char gold, leather int, moon roof, spoiler, infinity sound, alloy wheels and have been looking for this criteria since. Even though these cars do have their quirks, your the first one i've seen yet to have one that meets all this criteria except for a spoiler. If you have it I would be a very happy camper if you'd entertain the Idea of me obtaining it from you. I've been searching high and low and would be greatly appreciative.. Thank you. R.P.

  • Chambawamba Chambawamba on Sep 12, 2011

    How do I get in touch with you Steve??? Do you still have the intrepid?

  • Stephen My "mid-level" limited edition Tonino Lambo Ferraccio Junior watch has performed flawlessly with attractive understated style for nearly 20 years. Their cars are not so much to my taste-- my Acura NSX is just fine. Not sure why you have such condescension towards these excellent timepieces. They are attractive without unnecessary flamboyance, keep perfect time and are extremely reliable. They are also very reasonably priced.
  • Dana You don’t need park, you set auto hold (button on the console). Every BMW answers to ‘Hey, BMW’, but you can set your own personal wake word in iDrive. It takes less than 5 minutes to figure that that out, btw. The audio stays on which is handy for Teams meetings. Once your phone is out of range, the audio is stopped on the car. You can always press down on the audio volume wheel which will mute it, if it bothers you. I found all the controls very intuitive.
  • ToolGuy Not sure if I've ever said this, or if you were listening:• Learn to drive, people.Also, learn which vehicles to take home with you and which ones to walk away from. You are an adult now, think for yourself. (Those ads are lying to you. Your friendly neighborhood automotive dealer, also lying to you. Politicians? Lying to you. Oh yeah, learn how to vote lol.)Addendum for the weak-minded who think I am advocating some 'driver training' program: Learning is not something you do in school once for all time. Learning how to drive is not something that someone does for you. It is a continuous process driven by YOU. Learn how to learn how to drive, and learn to drive. Keep on learning how to drive. (You -- over there -- especially you, you kind of suck at driving. LOL.)Example: Do you know where your tires are? When you are 4 hours into a 6 hour interstate journey and change lanes, do you run over the raised center line retroreflective bumpers, or do you steer between them?
  • Mike Bradley Advertising, movies and TV, manufacturing, and car culture have all made speeding and crashing the ultimate tests of manhood. Throw in the political craziness and you've got a perfect soup of destruction and costs.
  • Lou_BC Jay Leno had said that EV's would be good since they could allow the continued existence of ICE cars for enthusiasts. That sentiment makes sense. Many buyers see vehicles as a necessary appliance.