I’ve been a reader of yours for years and greatly enjoy your style. (Woot! —SM)
My question is about my ’97 Mazda 626, with a hair over 215,000 miles on it, that’s been in my family for its entire life. It’s reliable, economical, and generally in good condition.
However, I am up for a registration renewal in October, and I need to complete an emissions test. I figured that it would be a good idea to check up on the codes behind the check engine light. The codes came up as an evaporative system and catalytic converter errors, which are both emissions fails.
Or not… (photo courtesy: http://www.rigsofrods.com/)
I thoroughly enjoy your column – keep up the good work! You’ve also answered several questions I’ve sent over the years, so thanks for that.
Your latest article on rear quarter panel rust on Hondas got me thinking. I have an attached 2 car garage and 3 cars. You can see the dilemma. Two cars are DDs and one is a recently purchased pleasure vehicle/ toy – in a used 2007 Saab 9-3.
One dollar of depreciation in four years.
Fifty-five miles per gallon.
Forty-eight thousand miles.
I may have very well owned the cheapest car in America a few years ago. Back in 2009, I bought a 2001 Honda Insight with 145,000 miles for all of $4001 at an auction. After four years and with 193,000 miles, I sold it last year for exactly $4000.
That’s all well and good, but let’s face it folks. I’m in the car business. Plus, a first generation Honda Insight is pretty much a cheat when it comes to cheap cars. It was designed with stingy bastards like me in mind who use the edge of the technological envelope instead of individual ingenuity and improvisation.
That Insight was a cheap car… but definitely not a beater. Why? Too much money and too few stories about personal travels and other unique mayhem. To me, a beater is a concept that has far more to do with the owners than the actual car.
I’m a working musician from NYC. I have a conundrum.
Since 1998 I’ve owned a 1989 BMW E30 ‘vert, which has served me well as a touring artist — it just hit 160k, most of those miles mine. However, all those miles have come at a price, between 40k timing belt changes and other occasional maintenance items, I wind up putting roughly $1500 into it every two to four years.
But I’ve always loved it, and it never let me down, until recently.
By the time you read this, I will have bought the last $100 car sold at a public auction… that actually runs!
This 1994 Ford Explorer XL has just under 94,000 miles and has been sitting at a local water department for a couple of years now. The exterior is nothing special, but the interior is surprisingly intact and well kept.
Which begs the question, what the hell should I do with this thing?
TTAC Commentator 28-Cars-Later writes:
I’ve got a small conundrum for Piston Slap. Winter is fast approaching and for those of us in the mid-Atlantic states this is a serious affair. My winter beater has been my trusty (but not rusty) ’98 Saturn SL/auto/164K, which in the spring started showing its age and developed transmission issues after seven years (and roughly 80K) of ownership. I’ve let her sit most of the summer save starting her up and driving her around the parking lot every 7-12 days but I’ve been trying to put off the inevitable investment of Bennie bucks. This evening I was offered an ’00 Subaru Outback/auto/186K to replace it for $2500 inc four new cheap tires and inspection.
This essay on Delicious Tacos, about the life and death of an $800 Mercedes-Benz diesel sedan, drove home one of the unfortunate realities of living in a snowy climate: it’s nearly impossible to find anything for $800 that hasn’t been completely consumed by oxidization.
Take a look at this piece of…
272,522 miles. No fooling. This 1996 Volkswagen Passat 5-speed sedan has traveled a distance nearly equal to 11 times the circumference of planet Earth.
It also visited the dealership well over 50 times during that time period as well. Which is just barely good enough for…
I haven’t recommended a new Lincoln in well over 20 years now.
With rare exception, the brand never lives up to the hype of whatever a Lincoln was supposed to represent at various times in recent history. The ultimate luxury coupe that was the Mark VIII. The import fighting LS. The Lexus/Mercedes wanna-be that was the Lincoln Zephyr. All of them were flops in the new car marketplace for a long list of good reasons.
Even the Lincoln SUV’s, then and now, seem to be little more than overpriced Fords with razor thin chrome accents. While the current alphabet soup of names makes it nearly impossible to recommend any new Lincoln without delving into a smartphone for confirmation that the MK-whatever is indeed an MK-whatever.
There is only one Lincoln truly worth it. The Town Car. An old one. A well used one. But maybe not as used as this one.
I’ve enjoyed for a couple of years now the articles you’ve written for TTAC and the insight you give on used cars and the business you work in. Since you do provide your contact information, I thought I’d write to ask a question relevant to my used-car-shopping situation.
The bidding kept going down and down at the inop auction. A sale where all cars are usually either dead or dying.
“$200! would-a-give-me $200! $100! $100! How about-a-hundred!”
Pretty soon the bidding went all the way down to $50. For a whole car! No takers. No sale. Until…
Congratulations!!! And my condolences.
You have just bought yourself a vehicle that may be worth more dead than alive.
Did you follow my car buying advice? Of course not! You wanted cheap to the extreme and now you got it. Bald tires. Doors that may be lovably ‘scrunched’ just a little bit thanks to those pesky inanimate objects. But hey, at least the ashtray still works.
Now you just have to figure out what to do with it?
I picked up a Forester for a song and a dance ($500) this past summer, and did brakes and an oxygen sensor. We have less than $750, total, into it. It presently has 256K miles (another reason I don’t really want to use it as a daily driver!)
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