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What's harder on a car, age or mileage

rea98drea98d Member Posts: 982
edited March 2014 in Ford
I have two cars, and one of them has to go for financial reasons. I'd like to keep the one that will be the most dependable.
The problem is the first one, a '95 T-Bird with a 4.6L motor, while it runs good, has nearly 216,000 miles on it. I'm not 100% faithful in a car that's been driven that far.

So, I bought an '82 Mercury Grand Marquis last summer with a 5.0, and only (at the time) 41,000 miles. Since then, I've had to replace front brake calipers (one froze up), front brake line (one ruptured) the muffles, the dsitributor cap, rotor, plugs and wires (all looked vintage 1982), the A/C doesn't work, the heater core went out, and she leaks power steering fluid (Sometimes barely a drip, sometime a hemmorage). I figured with a low mileage car, I could buy it cheap, and put a lot of miles on it. However, if she's gonna be nickle-and-diming me to death for the next 100,000 miles, I don't want to keep her.
On the other hand, if the 216,000 mile T-Bird is a time bomb waiting to go off at that mileage, I don't want to keep her. So, generally speaking, what would require less maintainence, a newer, higher mileage car, or an older, lower mileage car?


  • armtdmarmtdm Member Posts: 2,057
    I don't like either one. The 82 just doesn't have the safety features, not built well and part availabiltiy will be an issue etc. DOn't like the high mileage on the 95 either. My choice, go with the 95, more modern. better able to get parts, safer and obviously highway miles too boot.
  • kinleykinley Member Posts: 854
    A lady in our office wore very fine clothes, but was always ill with a cold or similar ailment. One day my father asked her, "Mrs. Cohen why don't you spend less on clothes and more on better nutrition and vitamins?" She replied,"People can see what's on my back, but not what's in my stomach." She would keep the T Bird.
  • nippononlynippononly Member Posts: 12,555
    old cars with no miles that have just been sitting around for 97% of their life are a bad bet - there is always rotten everything to be replaced before they are up to the job of daily driving.

    The '95 has been well exercised, and if you have not let lots of maintenance and repair issues go unaddressed, that is definitely the one to keep.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • rea98drea98d Member Posts: 982
    "The '95 has been well exercised, and if you have not let lots of maintenance and repair issues go unaddressed, that is definitely the one to keep."

    You don't get cars to 216,000 miles when you let lots of maintenance issues go unaddressed.

    As far as toughness goes, I think it would be a toss-up. Remember, this is a full-size '82 Mercury we're talking about, not an '82 Honda CVCC or something. Full frame, heavy chrome bumpers, the works. I beleive airbags are the only safety feature the T-Bird has the Mercury doesn't. I've thought about parts, and while its true its easier to find parts for new cars, the old Mercury has a 5.0 engine and an AOD transmision, so, if nothing else, gearheads with Mustangs will keep parts available for a long, long time. In fact, I have a hard time imagining parts not being available for a 5.0. You can find parts for a Ford flathead!

    Anyway, I'm thinking the consensus is to go with the high mileage Thunderchicken. I suppose the hail damage and dent on the LF bumper and fender on the T-Bird, as well as the mileage, would kill any resale value on that car anyway.
  • nippononlynippononly Member Posts: 12,555
    I have seen plenty of 200K+ daily drivers for sale: the ad says "driven daily, good condition", and when you get there you find out that is really the way the owner feels, it is not just hype.

    Then you start to look. First, that power steering high pressure hose has been leaking for 4.5 years - owner says "no problem, I just put in a fresh pint of ATF each week". You look underneath and see the CV boots with jagged holes in them, owner says "yeah, the tire place told me about it, but they said it wouldn't cause a breakdown right away, so I left it for now"...which causes him/her to remember "oh yeah, and they said the alignment was off and the suspension was kind of shot too, but it seems to drive fine, so I just left it".

    You go back under the hood briefly, and the rust in the coolant has turned everything brown when you open the cap. And, of course, every gasket that can leak oil is leaking it - the valve cover(s), the oil pan, the crankshaft seals. You point it out as the last straw, owner says "yeah, I have to put in some oil every 1000 miles or so, but the point is I kept all the maintenance up - look, fresh spark plugs!"

    And a car like this can very easily be a daily driver, even at 200K+. I can't tell you how many I have seen. Of course, its prospects for the future are dim: it needs well over $1000 just in delayed maintenance items, and that does not even address the repair issues that can be expected to crop up on a car with these miles.

    2014 Mini Cooper (stick shift of course), 2016 Camry hybrid, 2009 Outback Sport 5-spd (keeping the stick alive)

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright Member Posts: 64,481
    I agree with armtdm...I'd bail out of both cars. Any car with 200K+ miles is theoretically well past its service life...borrowed time, catastrophe at any moment.

    The older car with 41K could indeed continue to nickel and dime you to death, as there are perhaps 15,000 parts in the car, and we have no idea of what has deteriorated.

    If I HAD to choose between your two, I'd take the '82, but very reluctantly.

    Basically, I see you putting money into two vehicles with no substantial value and not a prayer of appreciation in value no matter how many repairs you make to them or how much you fix them up.

    Given that they are depreciating assets with no rosy future in store, I'd cash them both in for something you can work with and rely on.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    is there a solid reason you can't trade both in on a program car with some warranty left and the ability to finance the carmaker's extended warranty into the package, or is this a matter of for right now, I need to dump one to make minor repairs on the other with the proceeds, and you're eating the newspaper coupons, not using them for savings on fun foods you don't need.

    if I were in the latter state, I would keep the 41K car, but only if was > NOT < a maintenance hog. in either case, I would get a mason jar or mug, and every time I bought $10 of gas, I would put $10 in the jug for a small parts fund. take that jug to a bank that is NOT your normal one after a couple weeks, a month, whatever, and start a savings account. every week or two, dump the mug into that savings account. you want an out of your habits bank because you want to make it hard to get that cash until you REALLY need to fix something or lose your job because you can't get to it.

    unless you get into dire straights, I would keep that savings account for parts. running parts, not wheel covers, trim replacements, or washer fluid purchases. not emergency party money. parts. it won't replace a failed transmission, but it will cover most if not all the nickel and dime stuff that has to be fixed for the car to run and be legal.

    and again, as I seem to remember the 41K car was a sure boat payment every month for your mechanic, if possible I would trade 'em both in.
  • andre1969andre1969 Member Posts: 25,676
    ...and go with the Marquis. If you're going through a rough patch financially, maybe just put off the a/c repair (hey, at least the rear windows in that Marquis go *most* of the way down!). As for the heater core, just loop the hose back to the engine and bypass it until you can afford to get it fixed, or try tackling it yourself.

    I don't know how hard a heater core would be to get to on a Panther-bodied car. I know the smaller Fox-based cars were some of the most labor-intensive in the industry for the time (something like 7+ hours), but the bigger cars are probably better in that regard.

    One word of warning though...Ford's early attempts at a 4-speed overdrive automatic weren't too good. The earlier units were prone to early failure, as it took 'em a few years to get the bugs worked out. That's not a Ford-only problem though...also took GM a few years to work 'em out of their overdrive tranny. And Chrysler? Well here it is over a decade later and it seems the bugs have yet to completely bail!

    As for trading, I doubt you'd get jack for either one. Probably better to just try selling them outright, if you decide to get rid of them.

    That Merc will probably keep nickel-and-diming you, as all old cars do, but it should most likely still be easier and cheaper to fix than the Bird when things do break. Just don't let the fluids get too low, and if anything starts leaking profusely, try to get it fixed ASAP. Once those fluids get out, they can wreak havoc on other things they get into. For example, an oil leak can kill your engine mounts, suspension bushings, and anything else rubber it gets onto. I'm sure power steering fluid and tranny fluid can do nasty things too, and brake fluid is highly corrosive.
  • rea98drea98d Member Posts: 982
    Well, as far as finances go, I'm currently unemployed at the moment, so if I sold both cars, I'd have to hope I would have to take whatever I could get from them and pay cash for my next ride. However, I really need to sell one at the moment to tide me over til I find gainful employment, so I'd have that money spent before I went car shopping. Ideally, I'd win the Lottery, and have then ship me a British Racing Green Jag XKR from Dallas, but here in the real world, I gotta make one of these two last a little while longer. I've already got the heater hoses looped around on the Mercury, and I'm driving it that way, and whichever one I decide to sell, if I can't sell it locally, I'm gonna list it on E-Bay, or something like that.

    As far as fluid leaks go, I have an interesting one on the '82. It intermittantly hemmorages power steering fluid. It'll go weeks without leaking a drop, and then I'll come out, and there will be a big puddle of it under the car, and I'll have to top up the resevoir. Dangdest thing I ever saw. Like I said, the car seems to like to nickle-and-dime me. Neither car has had such a catastrophic failure they left me stranded when I needed to go somewhere (not counting the time I ran out of gas on the way to work!), but I've had to fix a bunch of little stuff on the Merc, and the T-Bird's extremly high mileage has me concerned that she's living on borrowed time, despite the fact that she's been super-reliable up until now. Anyway, I wasn't planning on keeping either of them forever. Just something until I can get my finances turned around, and get something decent.
  • isellhondasisellhondas Member Posts: 20,342
    And I do hope your situation turns around.

    If you sold both cars, you wouldn't have much cash in hand to upgrade.

    The T-Bird has already gone much farther than most. With those miles, it's on borrowed time.

    The Merc is *probably* the car to keep until you get back on your feet. Respect it's age and be gentle with it. Keep a close eye on the fluid levels and otherwise put as little money into it as possible.

    Good luck.
  • tomtomtomtomtomtom Member Posts: 491
    I have a '88 T-Bird Sports Coupe around 80K miles but don't think it is the actual since I have changed to a 17" rim for a few years. Bought it new 15 years ago and the transmission finally gave up recently. $1600 later the guy told me it should last another 15 years!
  • vidtechvidtech Member Posts: 212
    well atleast the transmission may go another fifteen years i don't know about the rest of it.
  • oldharryoldharry Member Posts: 413
    What about gas milage? How much do you have to drive looking for work? If one uses a LOT less gas, that should be a factor to consider.

  • tomtomtomtomtomtom Member Posts: 491
    If the rest of the car lasts another 10 years, I would be very happy. Actually, the only thing I am worry about is the fiberglass body kit I have on the car. It has started to crack.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    provided you can get to both sides and can keep lunch down and sanity intact when you realize that you will have to use something like 32 grit on the sanding wheel to get cut down far enough to overlay new fiberglas cloth and body filler to rebuild over the cracked area for a couple inches either direction... eventually on both sides if you really don't want any more trouble.

    if you really have to go for "right now" and not right on the fixes, glass and build out on the backside, and once that's solid, dig out the crack a little on the front and run some filler into there with a plastic applicator. it'll keep the fender on if you're not in 40 below territory.
  • otoluvaotoluva Member Posts: 196
    I just picked up this gorgeous 4.6l that's in super condition with 108k, a couple of minor things I like to get done on it, one side of the taillights is dimmer and the stock stereo plain sucks. Anyway, I like to ask those of you fimiliar with the birds about what I should expect as far as potential problems and maintenance issues ( willing to perform preventive maintenance, the car is well worth it) someone told me the rotors on these cars warp easily but this is not a big issue, any input/coments will be appreciated.

    Paid $ 2400
  • vidtechvidtech Member Posts: 212
    you got a great deal.saw the same car with same miles at a dealer for twice that money.i have been looking for one of these my self.the front suspension is prone to problems (springs,strut bearings and ball joints).i have seen postings that the tranny is prone to shutter and the composite intake manifold on the 4.6 is prone to cracking.on the early 90's birds(which is basically unchanged)the u joints were a pain to replace,the gas tank had to be lowered to get access to the back of the drive shaft.i believe by seeing so many of these on the market with high miles tells you that the bird is a pretty durable ride.
  • kinleykinley Member Posts: 854
    How many years and miles will the original last from the factory? I'm looking at 67,000 and there are little cracks between the grooves. Our other 4.6 engine has 106,000 and not one crack.

    Are these belts not what they're cracked up to be?
  • vidtechvidtech Member Posts: 212
    it depends where you drive.if you live in vegas for example you will be replacing rubber parts every year or two.its time to replace yours and i'll bet those other 4.6's had their belts replaced already.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    cracks in the base of the belt are more significant. if they're between the ribs, change the belt, it could break. chunks of ribs missing, especially in adjacent ribs, are also telling you that you better wear your walking shoes every time you drive... but little cracks across the ribs aren't anything until you chunk sections of ribs out.
  • kinleykinley Member Posts: 854
This discussion has been closed.