Piston Slap: The Fallacy of the Low Mile Original (Part II)

Sajeev Mehta
by Sajeev Mehta
piston slap the fallacy of the low mile original part ii

Ankush writes:

Hi Sajeev,

I have been reading your reviews and advice columns for a while now. I came across one where you recommend buying a newer model car with higher mileage as opposed to an older with lesser miles. I frankly believe that this probably is quite specific to the cars under scrutiny. That said, I find myself in a similar dilemma and thought I’d be better off seeking expert advice than my own guess work.

I am certain I want a Ford Mustang. Always have. As you may know, the Mustangs had one body type uptil 2004 and then 2005 is when they launched the meaner looking new body. Described below are my options (mind you neither is ‘new’. It’s all just relative)

1) Ford Mustang GT – 2000 make

– 71K miles

– Single owner (family); driven by a ~45yr old lady

– V8 engine which obviously costs more

– Leather interiors

– Pretty awesome condition, at least to look at

2) Ford Mustang -2006 make

– 116K miles, claimed to be highway miles

-Single owner (some dude) but sold by a dealer

-V6 engine. I don’t mind fewer cylinders. If anything it will give me a tad bit more on the gas mileage scale

– Fabric interiors

– Some dings but not bad at all. I’d be happy to ride it.

-I prefer the color of this one marginally. Cherry vs. Silver for the 2000.

Obviously, the newer body type is a good thing but isn’t 116K way too many miles? Also, I think I can bring them both down to $1000 less than the KBB suggested price. Your thoughts?

One quick additional question- do I need to get a compression test on a used car or are visual tests by a qualified mechanic enough?

Sajeev answers:

The lure of owning a Mustang GT vs. the base model aside, this fits nicely in my “low mile original” fallacy argument. Depending on the service receipts for both. If you haven’t asked for both vehicle’s service history, stop whatever you are doing and DO IT. And if you can get an OASIS report from a local Ford dealer on the 2006 Mustang, make it happen.

Why? Because without knowing the details there’s a good chance the older Mustang GT’s brakes, tires and other wear items aren’t as fresh/reconditioned as the newer one. While I’m not a huge fan of that Mustang’s rock solid interior, limited visibility and generally XL-sized styling, but that SN-95 (1999+) comes from Ford’s even darker days of beancounting. And it shows. The V6 ‘stang is a better car overall, and odds are the wear items are better sorted too.

Is a 2006 model with 116k too many miles? Nope, it’s still a seven year old car. With basic maintenance done on a regular basis, this car will last for 100,000+ miles with minor repairs needed along the way. Again, service receipts!

And to your last point? A compression test isn’t necessary, unless you are super paranoid. If the oil and coolant look proper, you don’t see smoke from the tailpipes upon start up (when the motor is cold) and the power feels as good as every other V6 Mustang on the market, odds are the compression is fine. While buying a used car is always a risk, compression problems aren’t very likely in your case.

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  • Jimbob457 Jimbob457 on May 12, 2013

    There are two kinds of wear on any motor vehicle: friction (relates to mileage) and oxidation (relates to chronological age and affects mostly rubber and plastic). I recently scored (if I may use some drug argot) a '99 Mercury Grand Marquis with a genuine 23K miles. The previous owner had replaced all the obvious rubber parts - tires, hoses, belts, etc. Six months later I am still fussing with the few remaining oxidation problems on minor bits and pieces - bushings, seals, grommets, fluid lines, filters, etc. There are some obsolescence issues on a '99 Panther platform, so all else the same newer, is always better. I had to spend $200 on a new radio. I have tweaked the ride and handling some with after market parts, but it will never be as good as the Acura 3.2TL it replaces. Still it is a 300K mile car that is in almost new condition, cheap to fix and drives the Interstates like a living room couch. All this for less than $8,000.

  • Iantm Iantm on May 14, 2013

    Back in 2009, my wife had to have an Aquarius Blue New Beetle convertible. So, I took some time and found two good examples at the local dealer here in Pittsburgh. Both were bought at Auction from Florida (no rust), were in mint condition, but they had a fair number of differences. We had our pick of an 05 1.8t with 28k miles on it or an 06 2.5 with 53k miles on it. Both were automatic, VW Certified Pre Loved, etc. Drove both, liked both (the 2.5 felt better around town than the 1.8t oddly enough) - but we went with the 2.5 at the end of the day. Why? You may ask - the 2.5 was considered high mileage at the time, and as such - the dealer managed to come down $4k on the original asking price. I felt more comfortable with the 2.5, as it was a lease car that the previous lessee went over on mileage - full service history was provided - and the car ran like a top. Strangely (knocks on wood), that Beetle has been the most trouble free car we've ever owned. If buying something 3-5 years old, I'll take the extra miles, provided a good service history and get it for less as I know that the stuff that's likely to break already has and was handled by the previous owner/lessee.

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