Ask Bark: A Craigslist Escort (Replacement)?

ask bark a craigslist escort replacement

Jon writes:

Hello Bark,

It will soon be time to replace my wife’s car: a ’94 Ford Escort wagon. We’re considering spending somewhere between $4,000 and $10,000 on its replacement. We have no kids and, thanks to a little snip-snip, we will continue to have no kids.

Fuel economy isn’t a big issue as we both work from home. However, we live in rural Iowa, so grocery runs are a 40 mile round trip and I have a nearly 100 mile trip when I need to go into the office. I’m sure we’ll miss the consistent 36 mpg combined the Escort has returned over its four years of service.

Even without the need to transport offspring, she loves the wagon and it will continue to be a requirement. Maybe — maybe — I could talk her into a hatchback, but she enjoys being able to haul a lot around. Wagon or hatch, manual is preferred. Models available in weird colors welcome (the Escort is a bright jade green). My wife simply wants something with fewer miles.

We also have a ’96 Ford Super Duty and I have a Sportster.



Great news, Jon! As you can see in the above photo, I’ve already found your replacement: a 1997 Mercury Tracer wagon, available at the low, low price of $5,300. Shortest Ask Bark ever!

Just kidding.

There are a couple of phrases that make me extremely nervous when recommending a car to somebody:

  1. I think I could talk her into (insert suggestion here).
  2. I’m considering a Volkswagen.

Talking your wife into a car she doesn’t want probably means an incredibly miserable life for you over the next few years. Be prepared to have an argument that starts something like, “Well, if we’d only gotten a wagon — you know, like I wanted to do in the first place … “ every single time she wants to haul something that won’t fit in the hatchback you talked her into buying. Let’s give the lady what she wants.

I don’t know exactly how much mileage is on your Escort, but I’m guessing at least 200,000 miles since it’s wearing 22 years’ worth of patina. So, let’s look at what might be available in rural Iowa (by the way, I’ve spent quite a bit of time in lovely Decorah, Iowa) that’s a little shorter-in-the-tooth.

There’s this green Taurus X (I don’t care if Ford called it a Crossover — it’s a wagon) just over the border in Minnesota. It’s the Limited trim level, so it’s going to have many more creature comforts than what she’s used to. The 3.5-liter Duratec is relatively bulletproof, and the D3 platform is well loved by many of the Best & Brightest. I daily drive the Taurus X/Freestyle’s successor, the Ford Flex, and I’ve put over 80,000 miles on it without a hiccup.

Say, that makes me wonder … could you find a Flex for less than $10,000? In the words of the Supreme Leader, yes, you can! This Jack Baruth-special-edition Flex in Cinnamon meets every requirement you have, except for being a manual. Again, it’s the pimped-out Limited trim, so goodies galore are inside.

From the way-out-in-left-field category, we have this Mini Cooper Clubman S, just reduced to (barely) under $10K — and it’s a manual! And it’s a bright color! And it’s a Mini, so you know it will be relia— … HAHA JUST KIDDING. But, it’s still a very cool, very different option. There aren’t many Minis rolling around Iowa.

Here’s a nice, low mileage example of a Subaru Legacy Wagon. Subie fanatics will tell you that Subaru fixed the whole head gasket thing in ’05 with the 2.5-liter engine, soooo … you can roll your dice and take your chances. It’s not quite as pimped out as the Clubman or the Taurus X, but it will probably hold its value pretty well over the next few years. It sounds like you guys like to hold onto cars for a long time, so that might not be a concern. Plus, Subarus don’t typically come in awesome colors, and this refrigerator white is no exception. Instead, you could get this GT model in blue — and it’s a manual, too.

Lastly, if you’d rather stay closer to the $4,000 end of your budget, why not this Focus Wagon? It has super-low miles for a 10-year-old car, and maybe the most detailed CarFax I’ve ever seen in my entire life. This car was obviously well loved, and it probably has at least another 10 years of life to go.

There’s no shortage of second-generation xBs and HHRs up there, too, but I don’t think either of you would enjoy driving those very much.

The good news is that you have tons of great options in your price range and, depending on your tolerance for working on cars, any of them would be an interesting choice.

So, what’s my recommendation? Man, this is a tough one. My head says to go with the Flex, since I’ve personally owned one for three years and have loved every minute of it — plus, I’d jealous that you’d have a Limited while I’d only have an SE. It’s a good color combination, too, and would look great on the road. Your wife seems quirky and fun, so I think she’d dig its looks.

However, I think, if I were you, I’d have to go take a look at that Mini, too. It’s a bright, fun color. It has a manual transmission. And it would be a very unique choice up in Corn Country. I know they’re not the most reliable of vehicles, but I bet your wife would love driving it, and happy wife = happy life.

And now, we turn it over to the B&B, who will alternately agree with me and call me a Ford shill. Ready, Set … GO!

Not sure what car to buy, what wine pairing is best, or which old school hip-hop song will best set the mood for your Valentine’s Day dinner? (The answer is L.L. Cool J’s “ I Need Love“) Send your questions to or hit Bark up on Twitter at @barkm302.

Join the conversation
2 of 151 comments
  • Suspekt Suspekt on Feb 12, 2016

    The answer is: Gen 2 Toyota Matrix / Pontiac Vibe...... 2.4 Camry engine model is a torquey fun little thing.... got my mother in law into a 2009 Vibe with the 2.4 and 5 spd auto. - tons of storage room - ingress and egress very comfortable - fun to drive with great mid range grunt - good looking car with the 17 inch alloys - Toyota quality Miles: 35,000 Price: $7,500 cdn Perfect car for many people in terms of price, reliability, and utility.

  • Ericb91 Ericb91 on Feb 12, 2016

    AutoTrader Put in your ZIP Search Ford Escape and Mazda Tribute with manual transmission Done. Almost all of them that I found are under $10,000.

  • TheEndlessEnigma More Ferrari "quality".
  • EBFlex This is not news. People don’t want autonomous vehicles just like they don’t want EVs. Both are unnecessary and dangerous.
  • Redapple2 I hope i fit in the new version.Wanted one since 1990
  • Redapple2 BeautySoulClass/eleganceRarityExpense.Very interesting series
  • Snickel Fritz I just bought a '97 JX 4WD 4AT, and though it's not quite roadworthy yet I am already in awe of it's simplicity and apparent ruggedness. What I am equally in awe of, is the scarcity of not only parts but correct information regarding anything on this platform. I'm going to do my best to get this little donkey back on it's feet, but I wouldn't suggest this as a project vehicle for anyone who doesn't already have several... and a big impressive shop with a full suite of fabrication/machining/welding equipment, and friends with complimentary skillsets, and extra money, and... you get the idea. If you don't, I urge you to read up on the options for replacing anything on these rigs. I didn't read enough before buying, and I have zero of the above suggested prerequisites... so I'm an idiot, don't listen to me. Go buy all of 'em!