• They may not have the best reputation but I have put 50k kilometers on my Nissan Pathfinder (wd21) in the last 3 years. I HAVE spend a lot of money on it but that was my choice, not because it was necessary. The only thing that I _needed_ to fix was the starter and a few inexpensive tidbits. Other than that we are talking about as reliable as a drop forged hammer. OBD1 and easy access to every nut and bolt!

  • Hey, who wrote this?

    Great, great, great.

    You certainly nailed me as your demographic. I could wax rhapsodic about this for hours (and have, to several unsuspecting friends over the years). Wonder why they never want to hang out anymore…

    -Stan (the *other* Stan…)

    • Stan,
      Sorry, I forgot to put an author note on this one, but it was ME! (Vince "not the other Vince").

      If you see "Posted by DailyTurismo" that means it was likely written by me unless otherwise specified.

      -Vince

  • Could not agree more!

    I have not purchased a truly "new" car in nearly 20 years. (Although, I did breakdown and bought a nearly new, 6-month-old S4 from a dealership some years back. Yes, it was a moment of weakness, but it was a 6 spd in Imola Yellow!) This has allowed me to drive all kinds of great cars that I probably wouldn't have been able to otherwise and save a lot of $$$. It also allows me to get less than practical cars, as exemplified by the BMW convertible E46 that I'm now driving as summer hits full stride.

    I even was able to impart this philosophy onto my wife who last year got a used BMW X3 that she LOVES (with a 6 spd manual, she's a keeper!), and basically saved something like $20k as compared to buying a new mini-SUV from Toyota, Honda, etc. In addition to the saved money, instead of being in one of those boring boxes, she's in a Bimmer!

    Ya, it helps if you like to get grease under your fingernails, which I do, but even if you don't, follow the above rules and you'll still save money AND drive much cooler cars.

    Rah DT!

    • CJ,
      Living the dream, it is like Tiny Houses but for cars! Except not actually tiny, more like tiny budget.
      -Vince

  • Simple rules for your maintenance: A) OBD 2 is better than Higher Tech OBDs; B) OBD 1 is better than OBD 2; C) Best of all is NO OBD—NO CPU, Electronic Sensors, Throttle Position Sensor, Bluetooth or Wireless Connectivity. Most Pro mechanics know–complicated electronics will make you go crazy before you get rich—true for the average guy too. Think "One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest". Ask any mid-80s or 90s Saab, Audi, VW, Cadillac etc. new car buyers.

    • Pro,
      Yup, the less complicated/regulated the better for sure. However…I really hate carburetors…just sayin…
      -Vince

  • I've got a fairly interesting MO when it comes to cars. I agree with your logic that buying used is the way to go, but I disagree with some of your logic. You can save a lot of money by doing your own work. For most repairs, shy of a brand new factory engine or transmission, labor is going to be the biggest charge on any repair bill. Don't know how to work on a car? Neither did I, till I had to. Now I'm comfortable changing transmissions and rebuilding engines. If a repair seems daunting, just remember, there's a mechanic somewhere who passed that job off to some inexperienced apprentice who has also never done it before.

    If you want to be as cheap as possible, what you do is buy a series of $300 beaters and chuck them whenever they needs more than $100 to fix. They will all be crap to drive, so a car enthusiast isn't going to want this. Works great for a co-worker of mine who does most of his shopping at thrift stores, though.

    Personally, I gravitate towards 80's BMWs. Parts availability is damn near as good as a current production car. Not every manufacturer is this way, but Mercedes and BMW will be happy to liberate money from your wallet in exchange for a new clutch fork or LSD clutches. You can get about any part for an old Ford, but be ready to go to a reproduction warehouse like Dearborn classics. Since the invention of the internet, damn near anything is available.

    Replace bushings and ball joints. Your suspension is held together with rubber parts, they wear out. A lot of the time people only replace them after they fail outright, and that sucks. Worn bushings can have an effect on a car that is frequently described as "it drives like shit". Count on replacing pretty much every suspension bushing in a car when you buy it, and then maybe again in 10 years. This alone makes a huge difference in the way it drives.

    Upgrade stuff. This is what can make your 20/30/40+ year old car real fun. Get Bilstein/Koni dampers and decent springs. Put a stainless exhaust on. Bigger/better brakes. These are all things that wear out and don't have to be replaced with stock units, make your cars better, make your car yours. As long as you don't ruin the character of the car, or get your upgrades from Autozone, it's almost impossible to make a car worse. I see it pretty frequently, though. Don't buy cheap coilovers or badly setup airbags, they ride like a drunk camel. Spend some coin for the good stuff. Never cheap out on tires, either. You can get a great deal on decent ones, Hankook makes some great rubber for not a ton of money, but I've never liked any tire from China.

    Accept that cars break down. I've been stranded in cars younger and older than I am, but I'll tell you that the old ones are easier to fix by the side of the road. Last year I broke down 150 miles from home in a 2007 BMW because one of the runflat (never trust runflats, get a spare, then ditch the runflats for real tires) tires blew out a sidewall on a pot hole. That was late on a Saturday night, no shops open for many miles on a Sunday. Similar thing happened 200 miles away in my '85 528e, but I managed to fix it in a parking lot and be on my way that same evening. All sorts of things break, but keep in mind it's a lot more convenient to replace a starter (depending on the car) than one of those fancy modern "Ignition switch modules" that runs over canbus and can't be touched without resetting the factory alarm 12 times.

    Money isn't really an object for me, since cars are my hobby, so I'm happy to spend what it takes to improve an old one. It goes a lot further when you turn your own wrenches, too. I've got a lot more thoughts, but I'm sure this is enough a novel in the comments already, so I'll shut up and go back to drinking.

    • Hunter,
      When I first read ""Ignition switch modules" that runs over canbus", I thought it said "that runs over cannabis"…which I assumed was some kind of Colorado dealer option. Stay away from both IMHO.

      And $300 is awesome if you've got the known-how and a keen eye for rust…but I wouldn't recommend that budget for a newbie to the cheap car life. $1k minimum in the LA area for something you'd want to drive…but that could be a regional thing.

      Great advice!
      Thanks,
      Vince

    • $300 cars work well in states where you can register a new car for cheap or transfer registration for a nominal fee. If you have to deal with smog or inspections (you don't in Ohio), it's probably not worth the incremental cost.

      Cannabis in a car is a recipe for trouble.

  • To me, it's all about cost per mile. Here's my advice:

    If someone actually has $25k-$30k cash to spend on a new car (meaning they're not going to finance it), they might be better off spending that on an older car that is already appreciating. With that money, you could buy things like the following:

    Older BMW M5
    Mercedes 500E or 2.3-16
    Porsche 944 (a very nice one!)
    Jeep TJ or LJ Rubicon
    GMC Typhoon

    These are countless other daily-driveable cars are in the budget, even setting aside money for repairs. Drive for a few years and you'll recoup much of that in appreciated value. It's not like you're going to get rich on these cars (you have to start in the the six figures for that), but you can at least reduce the overall cost of ownership to almost zero.

    Here's my exact situation:

    1986 Mercedes 190E 2.3-16
    Current value $14000-$17000???
    Price paid: $8000
    Total maint/repairs over 6 years (doing mostly my own labor): $4000
    Total insurance over 6 years: $2000
    Total fuel over 6 years, 20,000 miles: $3500 est

    Let's say I sold the car for $15k, that would give me a net cost of $.125 per mile. Hard to beat that, though I probably could have put on another 10k miles with negligible effect on value and repair costs.

    • Have MB 190E 2.3-16 appreciated that much in the past few years? Yowza!!

      I'd say that even without an appreciating car, you will still beat a new car 9 out of 10 times.
      -Vince

  • Even if you're not chasing a DT style car and/or you can afford a brand new whatever you want, I always opt for the lowest mileage 1-2 yr old CPO (Certified Pre-Owned) car I can find because, a) you buy at a wonderfully low depreciated price and b) the CPO's frequently have better warranties than when they were new and can save you an old Buick's worth of money on maintenance/repairs. Anytime I can take something into a DEALER and walk out paying $0.00 I'll do it. Otherwise, they will never see me in there. Those poor service writers and mechanics are under more pressure to perform than a…(its DT, I don't even have to come up with anything as everyone reading this has their favorite for that blank!)

  • I feel particularly strongly about your point #6. It's not just about your own personal understanding of the risks but also ensuring that your passengers know that there's a 99% chance that we'll get where we're going and a 76% chance we'll do it breakdown-free. Everyone on the same page? Ok good, hop in, shut the door (but not too hard so the window falls down), buckle up (except the left rear belt is under the seat again) and hold on (to the headliner).

  • Feedback invited:

    CrownVic Interceptor P71 ex-Police. Yard parts galore & cheap per RockAuto. Local heat may think your 'family' and ignore you. Kid-proof vinyl rear seat, std. I.E.-Sub $7k for a 60k 2010. Big forum-following. People bet on coming home alive working in these things too. N'est–ce pas? Even rock crawling at Moab:
    youtube.com/watch?v=vHvXi_HejnI

    • I've driven many miles in a friends ex-Police P71 and it has been a great car. Found for sale with black-and-white paint job still intact for around $1500 with 100k miles. A few cans of lacquer later it is all black and hauls all kinds of junk around town.

  • New, schmew…

    1999 Gen 3 4runner
    1979 Volvo 242gt
    1974 mgb gt
    1973 Volvo 1800es
    2000 Porsche 996

    And the German Camry I had to lease when I turned in a 991 targa 4s. I doubt I will ever buy new again.

  • I'm like John Melcon.
    I always need 2 family cars that just have to run, get good MPG, and are safe . When the kids were young , they needed the same.
    I always have 1 or 2 hobby cars, and usually for a long time, so they do appreciate. They are why I own my cars for free.
    These Hobby cars have been: old Volvos, Corvette, BMWs, Jaguar, and assorted German and Italian iron.
    My rule is $1k a year or $1k per 10k miles for the family cars. Buy the used just off lease with copo warranty or extra dealer coverage with certification and you can drive drive it to 80k plus miles with no Problems and sell it before it depreciates to the magic number of 4999.00…usually around 8k .
    These cars have been 3 under 30k miles Mazda 5s for the kids Which they are still driving since 2010 for 10,500 each. 2 Volvo wagons, 2 BMWs , 2 Lexus and a Mitsubishi .

  • I've lived your observations since my first car lo those many centuries ago. Well there was one exception. The significant other insisted on a new E36 318ic in 1995. 36 miles to the gallon, drop top and five speed. I cringe when I look at the window sheet even today. Worse, I traded a 1987 E30 IS in! I'm still kickin myself! And I'm still driving the E36 closing in on 300,000 miles. I figure I have to hit 350,000 to justify the inestimable stupidity of paying all that money for it in 1995!

  • Having enjoyed 'older ' cars for over 40 years I suggest including a 'brain over heart evaluation' category of the car's intended use/purpose be included. If the car's intended use is to deliver you on-time to sales calls or a pregnant wife to the delivery event, error on the side of more reliability.
    The other parameters often overlooked at the time of the emotional purchase is the failure to consider in your purchase decision reduced acceleration rates, increased braking distances, higher rpm & engine noise at cruising speeds, lack of AC, lack of decent rearview mirrors and visibility of lights (signals for day time and running lights + headlamps for night driving) Deficiencies in these area while surmountable and are fun to deal with are not on everyone's menu for entertainment. Prolonging the longevity of old cars bringing their sights, sounds & smell delivers great joy to the both driver and the observers – saving money is a bonus.

    • Thanks Zach, and Mrkwong has been around, but not the last few days, probably on vacation or is spending his time in the garage finally rebuilding his Getrag 280. He'll pop back up for air soon.

      -Vince

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