Best Value - Used, older economy car/truck

Discussion in 'Shop Talk' started by Janon, Aug 15, 2005.

  1. Janon

    Janon 993cc Geo Metro

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    All this talk of rising gas prices has got me thinking - I'll probably be purchasing a used, older model economy car/truck in the next 6 months or so. I already have a Ford F150 with a 300ci straight six, but its a pig on gas. My requirements would be:
    - cheap and readily available parts (or not so cheap but extremely durable)
    - 3 or 4 cylinders (the smaller the better)
    - the simpler the better, something fairly easy to work on
    - cheap to insure

    I was thinking maybe a Geo, an older VW diesel, an S10, etc. What I usually do when purchasing a vehicle is to narrow it down to a group of vehicles, then purchase whatever is available that represents the best value of that group - i.e. I'd purchase whatever was is in the best shape, well-cared for and reasonably priced vehicle from the group. Everything is a compromise.

    My question to you is : what is your opinion on which vehicles to consider based on your experience/knowledge?

    thanks,
     
  2. Ozarks_1

    Ozarks_1 Well-Known Member

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    VW - Of the three, your best bet would probably be the older VW diesel. If you should find yourself wanting to convert it to biodiesel some time in the future, then you've already got the basic vehicle to start with. They are relatively trouble-free.

    Geo - Not bad vehicles, but anything with computer sensors isn't exactly in the "simple", "easy to work on", or "cheap" category. (Some sensors can cost over $300.)

    S-10 - The older ones are decent, but you'll want to avoid the ones with automatic transmissions. (The 700R4 transmission isn't well-known for durability.)
     

  3. WisJim

    WisJim Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Toyota pickups with the 4 cylinder have good life and decent gas mileage, better than an S10 or Ranger. An older VW diesel car might be cheap to buy, but pumps, cylinder heads, etc., are costly. Geo Metros are small (big enough for transportation, though) and I know of a couple of people with over 200,000 miles on the little things. A VW rabbit diesel truck is okay, if you only need occassional truck usage.

    Jim
     
  4. 2story

    2story Well-Known Member

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    i have a 94 s-1o, my favorite thing about baby trucks is the gas mileage 25-28, 5 speed, i have a cover over the back to keep my tools dry and out of site, It has a full frame-unlike most, if not all, compacts, just my 2 cents
     
  5. HermitJohn

    HermitJohn Well-Known Member

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    One not paid too much attention to are cars with the Mazda B3 (1.3L) or B6(1.6L) engines (interchangable). These arent cheap to rebuild, but single cam versions fairly cheap from one of those places selling low mile used Japanese engines from Japan. FI single cam versions can be converted back to carb if wanted by bolting on appropriate manifolds, etc. Single cam models respond well gas mileage wise to use of an aftermarket non computerized Weber carb (properly sized and jetted) if you dont have to deal with emmissions inspections where you live. 1.3L used in Ford Festiva and Kia equivalent. 1.6L in Mazda 323 and Mercury Tracer and Mazda Protege. Dual overhead cam versions in Miata and other more modern Mazdas. With care, these engines last around 300k. Unfortunately people tend to abuse them in the low end cars and not get full life out of them. Poor economy to not take care of a good engine.

    Another underated vehicle is 90's era Ford Ranger with 2.3L. This was a durable vehicle/engine compared to their 80's counterpart. Parts are cheap and rebuild is fairly cheap also. I am keeping eye out for 4wd one, but they are rare with the 4cyl. They do tend to rust in rear fender wells. The four doesnt like to be lugged and in 2wd models should really have a lower first gear.

    Of course Toyota and Nissan pickups are always good bet. Manual tranny on Nissan not as strong as Toyota tranny, but will give good service if not abused. Used Nissans are far better bargain than Toyota and just as long lived and reliable.

    Chev S10 with 2.0 Cavalier engine will last fairly well but rare. The 2.2L is basically same engine with aluminum head though I like the older 2.0L better. The 2.5 "Tech4"/"Iron Duke" Pontiac engine is short stroke and not long lived, but it is cheap to rebuild and ok mileage I guess. Some had head cracking problems (thin castings). They should all be in scrap yard by now but avoid early S10 with Isuzu 1.9L engine. The 2.8 V6 is also one to probably avoid.

    Oh and oldie but goodie is Datsun B210 and 210 and F10 and first year of the 310. That A12, A13, and A15 were very tough little overhead valve engines that lasted forever. Got good fuel mileage also especially with aftermarket Weber. Unfortunately the bodies were junk and last made like 1981 so probably wont find a good one. The overhead cam engine that replaced it in the 310 in the 80's was crap in comparison.

    There was an economy car called Toyota Starlet in 80's. Good car but kinda rare and sure good examples of it are gone now.

    I also like old Volvos, and they had very rugged 4cyl engines, but unless you work on them yourself, when mechanic hears word "Volvo" he thinks stupid yuppie is going to make a boat payment or even house payment for him.
     
  6. cfabe

    cfabe Well-Known Member

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    If you want simple to work on, one of the compact trucks with a 4-cyl and manual transmission is about as simple as it gets. If you go back to the early 90s you can probably find one with nothing power assisted except brakes.

    I've heard that the VW diesels will run to eternity and back, but that other than the engines the cars are not all that great. Could be hard to find parts if they're not popular around you. In ohio I can find any part I need for an s-10 at any junkyard, but I don't think I've ever seen a volkswagen at the junkyard.

    I've not got much experience with the really small econocars, but I'd be concerned about getting smooshed in an accident.
     
  7. fordson major

    fordson major construction and Garden b Supporter

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    my choice would be the volks . friends mom had a diesel volks pick up but can ya say hens teeth? s10 4 banger in good shape ,no tire burner but reliable and good for hauling some feed .toyota and nissan are good but make sure you are near a nissan mechanic. do you qualify as a farm? few tricks you should know in ont.
     
  8. mightybooboo

    mightybooboo Well-Known Member

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    Thats a good point.I was rear ended in my old Mazda truck by a fairly late model Chevy.The car had its left front fender mashed so far back the door wouldnt open.It slightly dented my heavy steel bumper.

    Dont those old diesel VWs have a nasty habit of going thru head gaskets?

    BooBoo
     
  9. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

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    kates 93 festiva (mazda 1.3 engine) gets 45-49 mpg.
    my aspire (same engine, automatic trans) gets 35 with the AC running.

    you cant carry more than @ 500# of stuff... but they beat the new "econo cars" hands down.

    some parts are hard to find but not impossible. the engines are simple, the whole car is like working on a golf cart.
     
  10. Esteban29304

    Esteban29304 Well-Known Member

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    Some good choices above.I would also add a Subaru Justy to the list. Comes in 2 & 4wd. Get a stick , NO automatics.Mine gets over 40mpg all the time. Parts are a little hard to come by, but I haven't had any problems finding what I need by ordering.Also, there was a Honda Civic HE in the early 90's that got about 50mpg, but they are hard to find.
     
  11. Ross

    Ross Moderator Staff Member Supporter

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    Just about anything diesel if it'll get the job done. BTW I have two 700R4's one hooked to a 305 and one to a 4.6liter. We tow with them and don't have to do any unreasonable maitenance they work just fine. Next door neighbor runs three 700's and has the same results.
     
  12. foxtrapper

    foxtrapper Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Janon,
    without knowing the application of the vehicle one cannot inteligently comment on those you've mentioned, or suggest others. Would you elaborate a bit on what you want and need in this vehicle?
     
  13. Janon

    Janon 993cc Geo Metro

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    The vehicle would be used as a daily driver for at most two people. 95% of the time, I'm not hauling much of anything. I do like my F150, and it is a very reliable and cheap to insure vehicle, extremely handy when I need it, but its not a practical daily driver. Gas prices here in Ontario Canada are higher than in most parts of the U.S.

    My thinking is to get something which has a low "cost of ownership", and then borrow-rent-beg when I need a full size truck - that or keep my F150 and use an economy car/truck as a daily driver.

    cheers,
     
  14. WisJim

    WisJim Well-Known Member Supporter

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    Honda made the Civic VX in the early 1990s, epa rated at about 50mpg, but since it was a lighter car (due to lighter wheels etc.) than other Civics, it is popular with hot-rodders, so a stock one is hard to find. My son's VX can get almost 50mpg on the interstate keeping up with traffic, and almost 40mpg in town.

    Jim
     
  15. comfortablynumb

    comfortablynumb Well-Known Member

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    a mid 80s nisan sentra came in a diesel, hard hard hard to find, but it was rated to get 50 mpg. the gasolie sentra from the mid 80s got 38-44 ish+.
     
  16. Hip_Shot_Hanna

    Hip_Shot_Hanna Well-Known Member

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    I got 300,000 miles from a VW pick up with minimal cost in repairs , just change the Anitfreeze every 3 years and Dont use methanol based antifreeze it rots the head gasket (use genuine VW ),changed the timing belt every 50 000 miles,oil change and all filters(fuil/air) every 10 000 miles, never changed a pump or injector , it did use a pair of driveshafts and 1 clutch,. it regulary carried1/2 a ton and turned in 40 to the gallon, IF i could find another one I WOULD BUY IT .
     
  17. travis91

    travis91 Formerly 4animals.

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    a 2.3L v4 ford ranger might work