By on August 22, 2011

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?

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37 Comments on “Rent, Lease, Sell or Keep: 1996 Dodge Intrepid ES...”

  • avatar

    Sell, with every other option you’re going to have it come back to bite you.

    Rent – Steering, suspension, transmission that won’t take well to the “It’s not my car” attitude, and you’ll pour money into repairs. Overheat it one time and replace the head gaskets.

    Lease – You’ll wind up with an unhappy customer not too far down the road, it may be low mileage, but it’s still OLD, which means you’ll have some failures due to age, not just wear. After they have to have the steering joints replaced, timing belt tensioner replaced (might as well do the water pump while you’re there, it’s gonna go too), transmission replaced, sensors replaced, etc, they’ll want to give it back. Plus the overheating/head gasket thing. I worked in a shop where it seemed all the owners’ friends had these, and they were constantly recycling thru for repairs. Sticking a leasor with one of these won’t get you too many happy referrals.

    Keep – see above, except you’ll never give yourself a good referal again.

    So sell, let some crazed Chrysler apologista eat the inevitable failures this car is going to come up against soon.

    I actually like the cars, the styling isn’t bad, they’re reasonably comfortable to drive, and if I had $600 in this, I’d just drive it into the ground, since I could do a lot of the ticky tacky stuff myself, but it’d be crusher food as soon as a head gasket let go, or the transmission started the dreaded “it’s slipping a little when it shifts”.

    • 0 avatar

      I agree. This car should be sold for cash to someone in a far-off land. Don’t be like the last owner, who bought a battery, an alternator, and a compressor before giving up and taking a token trade allowance for the car. He probably got forty cents on the dollar for his last 3 months of expenditures, leaving nothing to show for whatever he paid for the car.

  • avatar

    I would go the Ebay way. You make a nice profit and it is simple and less problematic than renting or leasing.

  • avatar

    Aren’t used car prices high now? Seems like selling is the best, most profitable option.

  • avatar

    This a good looking car Steve, do you feel the odometer is legit? If it is I would drive it for a few months with a “For Sale” sign in the window emphasizing the mileage in big bold print. Parking it in strategic spots when shopping at Costco, Home Depot etc. If it doesn’t sell that way Ebay it. I wouldn’t rent or lease it.

    BTW, thanks alot for the tip, “” a few weeks back. I had the trans issues on a 2002 Century. I found a trans only about 25 miles away, supposedly has 42,000 miles on it and I bought it for $275. It’s in the shop right now being swapped out. Will only cost me about 1K total. I’m keeping my fingers crossed. Thanks again.

  • avatar

    Definitely Ebay it for the low mileage snapshot in time that it is. Unfortunately, it is about as collectable or useful as 15 year old tupperware can get. If it is the 2.7L, I will send you a good agnostic prayer. Good luck!

    • 0 avatar

      The 2.7 didn’t come along until the second generation in ’98 (and, a fastidious owner running synthetic would find it a reasonably reliable engine). As this has the dual exhaust tips, it’s the 3.5L V6 – the smaller, simpler 3.3 would probably be the more dependable option, but that 3.5 isn’t bad, and it’s a rather nice engine, especially for a $600 car.

  • avatar

    A brand new Kia Soul leases for $1,000 down and $65 a month for 36 months. Do people not get to take advantage of deals like Kia’s because they have bad credit, or do they have bad credit because they finance risky old cars? And what is Kia going to do with tens of thousands of three year old Souls that have only generated $3,340 in cash flow?

  • avatar

    Looks great for a 15-year-old car. For $400 you stole it, and then some.

  • avatar

    Hey Steve,
    Let me know if you wish to sell – I had a ’97 base model which I drove into the ground, best fitting car I ever owned (being a big guy). I know the about the problem areas, but with some TLC they can run a long time.

  • avatar

    Hey Steve… did that car have front end damage? The gaps between the hood and the headlights and the front bumper look really odd in pictures 2 & 3. It looks like a poorly done repair to me.

    That being said… sell immediately and collect your profits.

    • 0 avatar

      Remember this was the company that put the “K” in “Quality”…. fit and finish were not related and at least this one does not appear to have the clear coat entirely oxidized.

      I had a 96 with the intent of allowing my daughter to learn to drive in it. It was a great road car and she hated it….

      • 0 avatar

        My parents passed a 96 Concorde LXi on to my sister and myself. She hated it and I loved that car. I was kind of sad to see it go after our family had owned it from 2002-2007. We got it with only 34k on it, loaded, and sold it with over 140k. Part of me still misses that car, even though my 2005 Impala LS is probably much more reliable. But that 3.5 ran like a charm.

    • 0 avatar


      From the looks this car has hit a one of those parking spot curb stopper whatchamadoohickeys (technical term). The lower bumper valence is scratched. Hit one of those just right and the whole bumper cover can come off.

  • avatar

    Nice car. You answered your own question though.. Not an old car guy and like the safety/feel of the newer vehicles. You can’t lose if you sell, so sell it.. My 96 was bulletproof and sometimes wish I still had it. Sold it to a guy for 600 with 180k on the odo. This one is loaded too. (sorry, had to reminisce)

  • avatar
    NJ Pilot

    Sell. Quickly. I had a 1994 Eagle Vision TSI, and it was great – roomy, quit, powerful, unstoppable in the snow, etc, etc. It also consumed transmissions at a frightening clip – every 30 – 40k miles, if I recall correctly. My experience was, I believe, typical. 5 – 10 cents per mile in transmission reserves eats into the rental p&l pretty quickly. It does look great – none of the eroding paint on so many cars of that model and age.

  • avatar

    Sell it, but not because of concern for future repairs. Sell because it is in such good a condition and minimal miles. A fan of the model will pay you well beyond what you have invested. That future buyer will likely be well versed with the car, and will replace the rubber parts like hoses, belts, etc. That way there will be no catastrophic overheating so the head will be fine. They will address the weak points before they fail and when they are all said and done, they will have a reliable old car that will give them many years of minimal headaches. That is how old cars become reliable daily transport…I have done this for years. I’m willing to bet that the car got a new compressor and alternator when the old ones were fine. After the new owner is happy with it, maybe they will spring for a new passenger side airbag cover…these tended to warp early and badly.

  • avatar

    I’d sell – market is crazy and you got a screaming deal.

    Amazingly handsome car – the interior actually looks well laid out for its time, the steering wheel and instrument cluster has an almost “Honda Accord” look to it. Had no idea – they were at least visually darn nice cars “back in the day.”

  • avatar

    I’m Baaack!

    The Intrepid? We owned a 1996 3.5L model and initially loved it – incredibly comfortable with that power seat and quick on the trigger! We began to have an interesting issue after the fuel rails were replaced on a recall – sometimes the engine just didn’t want to start. Got rid of it after only 2.5 years and never looked back.

    My verdict? Sell it ASAP – I know you’re in the business to make money, but I’m afraid if you’ll lease or rent it, it will be a money pit for you!

  • avatar

    Steve, I really enjoy your articles on the used car market.

    I say finance to own.

    Steve if you are reading this, where can I learn more about the auto finance business, I have been intersted since I saw GM buy AmeriCredit and fold it in to Ally.

    [email protected]

  • avatar
    Steven Lang

    Start by reading a publication called Auto Remarketing.

    It’s a site that is peripheral to the auto finance world. Hope you enjoy it!

    • 0 avatar

      Thanks Steve

      I loved the line about Wall Street and a plain Jane job.

      It is funny, if you read the mini biographies of the Forbes 400 many of them made their first money in the used car business.

  • avatar

    My parents for a few years had a 1995 Chrysler Concorde that they bought gently used in 1995 and drove it on several trips, never had any mechanical issues that I was aware of. It may have had either the 3.3 or the 3.5, I forget now and I was never sure if it actually had the auto temp control (don’t think so now) and the only issues that I’m aware of was the driver’s door power window and the radio.

    By 1998, the power window would not always go back up once down and the radio, from day one was never good. Poor power amps meant it had to be turned up so much so to get any real volume that the amps would get noisy. Sounded fine otherwise though could’ve been MUCH better.

    After my Dad died in 1998, Mom sold it to a former professor of one of my sister’s and he still drives it to this day. She sold it because it was just a bit too big for her and drove a 1997 Honda Accord until 2005 when she bought an ’04 Dodge Stratus she drives now.

  • avatar

    It nickel and dime’d the last owner, flip it quick before it breaks again.

  • avatar

    Sell that baby. You got a great deal, and so will the next guy if he’s willing to maintain it. The 2.7 would be a dud, but it looks like you don’t have that.

    I’m a fan of the smooth late-90s Chrysler styling – the Intrepid, Voyager, Stratus, Neon, and even the Ram trucks had it. I was happy to have owned the 96 Grand Voyager, 98 Grand Caravan, and 95 Stratus, and can’t believe how many of these timeless designs are still on the road.

  • avatar

    This may come as a shock to the TTAC faithful. But I’m not really an ‘older car’ guy.

    Owning a 1st-gen Intrepid makes someone an “older car” guy now?

  • avatar

    Sell, sell, sell Steve – I bought one of these last night, 01 w/83k, for $500. There is profit to be had and I am always happy to take someone’s money.

  • avatar
    Alex the guy with the Accord Coupe

    Wow. I had a 1995 Concorde LXi that lost an argument with a deer at hwy speeds on Halloween, 2001; replaced that with an Eagle Vision TSi with a leaky custom ASC sunroof.

    I loved those cars.

  • avatar

    I would sell it. I owned a 95 Eagle Vision TSI evertyhing was fine except for the suspension. I could turn the wheel 180 degrees before it actually turned. I told my friends it had boat steering.

  • avatar

    As a current owner of a ’99 Concorde I say keep it! I too bought mine on the cheap. After owning it now for four years I can say it has been a great car that has needed minimal work. I did change the transmission solenoid pack out and have changed the fluid twice in 60k miles. New tensioner, timing belt and water pump with OEM parts and routine synthetic oil changes. It has the 3.2 engine that runs smoothly and averages 25mpg on mostly highway driving. You are correct on the interior! Comfortable leather seats and plenty of legroom.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar

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

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