OT Buying Good Used Car

In my plan to get out of consumer debt, I was hoping to drive my car another 3 years and 60K miles with little trouble.
A deer damaged the body and although the car runs and drives fine, it has been declared a total loss. According to Insurance, Illinois law (I hate Illinois with a passion) requires my car to go through the salvage process. So my choice is to hand over the car or drop the claim.
The insurance is giving me 3500 - $200 deductable + Tax, Title, License for the car.
My search has came up with Zero 2001 Chevy Prizms/ Toyora Corollas (I had a Prizm) in my area for $3500. I found a 2000 Prizm for $3595 but its body was in worse shape than my cars before the deer.
So, if possible, I need to find a car for $3500 more or less that will be reliable for 60K miles. Some I'm looking at include a 96 Honda Civic LX 4Dr with 98K miles for $3995 cash with Carfax records, has always been a privately owned car and no descrepancy in milage. So far in my search I've come up with Honda and Toyota being very reliable, Honda is supposed to be a little more reliable but if I understand correctly, Toyota is generaly less expensive to repair.
Any others in the running? I've found a 99 Ford Escort with 109K miles for $3k, they are supposed to be reliable but I don't know how many miles they should last.
Bottom line is I need a work car (or Mini Truck) that will be dependable for 3 years/ 60K miles for the minimum amount of money per mile. Any recommendations?
Thanks
RogerN
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Too bad about the laws/rules, not surprising though. We're fortunate to have those with much more wisdom looking out for all of us.
Wanna bet some crooks have discovered a work-around?
Finding a reliable used car:
1. get real lucky
That's all ya gotta do, so you see, it's not complicated.
--
WB
.........
metalworking projects
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RogerN wrote:

I'm on my second Escort. First one had developed too many problems, and when it wouldn't pass smog, I had to get rid of it. Bought a '94 wagon. It's no Honda or Toyota in terms of quality, fit and finish, but is a right decent car. I'm getting better than 32mpg in town, and that's in the Sierra foothills. However, I do drive with economy in mind. Haven't had enough of a freeway drive to know what it gets there. Best combined mileage thus far was 36.4 and that's from a 14 year old car! (5spd btw, automatics return several mpg less)
Now, Escorts are prone to dropping valve seats, and the current one did. Made a lot of weird noises that would change. Sometimes run fine, sometimes run like crap. While a mechanic friend was looking it over, he though he heard a hint of rod knock, but that got forgotten as he diagnosed the dropped seat. I got a rebuilt head (Alabama Cylinder Heads is by far the cheapest place I've found, nice folks to deal with!) and did the work myself. Car ran better than ever, but a month later, it coughed a rod bearing, so my mechanic was right about that one.
I am loathe to go into debt further to buy another car right now. I have a rat Toyota truck for backup, so am getting ready to pull the engine, recondition the crank and rods and re-ring it. Lot of effort for an older econo car, but it drives nice, gets great mileage. It has new struts all around, new brakes, tires, radiator, and heater core. Doing the lower end should keep it going another 5-6 years easy, and my total cost of ownership outside of gas, oil, and tires, will still come out to less than $50/month.
But to the question of buying an Escort, be wary. A dropped valve seat, if it doesn't take out a piston, is going to cost you $500 if you do the work yourself. Many I see for sale have head gasket issues or have just had a head replaced. However, my mechanic recommended the Escort as a reasonable car for me in my situation. Overall they really are decent cars for the money, they just have a few more issues than others. A '99 for $3k sounds pretty good and the miles are not excessive. If you are serious about it, make sure it's had the timing belt replaced. Talk to a local automotive machine shop and ask if the '99 engines are prone to dropped valve seats, maybe that issue got fixed by then.
My next car is likely going to be a 4-door Civic however. I've owned a Honda before, my ex has a CRV that has been flawless, and my folks have owned Hondas for over 20 years. There is a reason they hold their value.
Hope this helps some....
Jon
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Another way out of this is to look for a low-mileage motor out of a wreck. If you're going to pull the motor anyway, you're doing the same amount of lifting, without having to do the motor work. I have a 96 Ranger 2.3 that started throwing emissions codes (misfires) that even the dealer couldn't isolate at about 120k, but otherwise ran perfectly. Due to my state emissions rules, this didn't matter, didn't pass. I found an engine one year newer with only 30k on it at a local junkyard with all the sensors etc. (only the belt drive accessories from the old motor needed to be reused) and it was only $200--cheaper than the diagnostics at the dealer. I dropped that much again for a clutch kit and slave cylinder while I had everything apart, and the truck is now over 200k.
Around here, car-part.com has worked fairly well for finding stuff, but sometimes local yards will have stuff on hand that don't make it on the website, so it's worth calling too... --Glenn Lyford
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On Mon, 01 Dec 2008 07:21:44 -0800, Jon Anderson

Why not buy a 1994 or later Ford Ranger with the 3.0 in it and less than 150k on the odo.
It will go at least another 150k with minimal problems if you change the oil and antifreeze on a regular basis.
Get the extended cab and put a shell on it.
About 19-21 mpg, street or hiway
Gunner, with one in the drive way with 440,000 miles on it. It now needs an engine. Still runs, but sounds like shit.
"They couldn't hit an elephant at this dist..." Maj. Gen. John Sedgewick, killed by a sniper in 1864 at the battle of Spotsylvania
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Gunner Asch wrote:

Wouldn't mind having one to replace the Toyota. But I like the Escort and I really like the mileage. Gas is going to go up again. And when my fiance gets through immigration, I'll need to be able to carry 4.
Jon
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On Mon, 01 Dec 2008 14:54:40 -0800, Jon Anderson

Then pick up a used Volvo.
Escorts are , quite frankly..pieces of shit. Not as bad as the Focus..but nearly so. An escort with 4 people in it......
And gas is not going to go up again for a fair amount of time, in fact, its still on its way down. I figure it will stabilize at about $1.50ish
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Gunner wrote:

I hope so ! I got a job offer today , but it's a 40 mile one way drive . Two ways I could do that , carpool or ride one of the bikes . The Kawasaki supposedly gets 70 mpg , I know fershure the Harley gets 42-48 . The one with the fairing and lowers wins ... 'sides , it's got tunes !
--
Snag
he called me ...
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I had bad experience with one of the earlier Escort wagons. It was a good car for a few years then one problem after another. If I understand correctly, the later Escorts were mostly Mazda. My wife used to have an old Mazda 323 that we picked up for $500. Got 3 or so years of mostly local miles on it, it was reliable for most of that time. I read reviews of people being happy with the Escorts but don't know if that is early life or later life.
I would love to have a 4X4 mini truck, a Ranger with some kind of extended cab would be great. The down side is that the 4wd would be handy a few days a year but the better gas mileage of a car would benefit year around. Still, if I end up stuck in the snow in a car the 30mpg won't mean much at that moment!
RogerN
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wrote:

For a few weeks at most. OPEC is scaling back production as we speak.
The Left tree huggers in congress and now the White House are not going to do anything to increase domestic production of energy.
We are not looking at good times ahead folks.
Mark
----== Posted via Pronews.Com - Unlimited-Unrestricted-Secure Usenet News==---- http://www.pronews.com The #1 Newsgroup Service in the World! >100,000 Newsgroups ---= - Total Privacy via Encryption =---
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Gunner, I saw an ad for a 1992 Ranger for $1250, are the pre 94 models good? If I could save that much money I could afford to put some $$$ into the mechanicals if needed.
RogerN
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1994 was the year Ford and Mazda went into partnership making the Ranger series. Prior to that..they were the Courier (spit) and I think another model. Mazda plants turn out the Rangers here in the US. New Jersey IRRC
The Mazda trucks are identical to the Rangers, the only thing different is the emblem on the front grill and the owners manual in the glove box.
The Mazda trucks are the B2300 (2.3 liter engine), B3000 (3.0) and the B4000 (4.0 liter)
The 3.0 engine is a V6 (as is the 4.0), and has gone into many Ford and Mazda vehicles besides trucks. The Ford Taurus had a sidways mounted 3.0. The only difference was the water pump housing and the intake manifold.
That 3.0 in a Ranger/Mazda, is well known for going 300,000 miles with few problems and the trucks themselves are extremely well made and rugged. Ive no experience with the 4x4s. Several friends have the 4.0 engines in their 4x4s and have said they like them.
The key is post 1994.
Gunner

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Thanks Gunner, that's what I was wanting to know.
RogerN
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I saw an ad for a 4 cyl Ranger with 179K miles on it. Are you aware of how long the 4 cylinder engines typically last? It's a 1997 and they are asking $2995 for it. Looks pretty good if it has much life left in it.
RogerN
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The courier to ranger change was in '84, I think. My first ranger was an '85, with a 2.8. Great little truck, good on gas and peppy*, great for city traffic since it looked like heck and no-one would mess with it. Very rugged. One potential problem with these was cracking at the top of the a-pillars, can be easily confused with a windshield leak. * Last year with the carb, which tended to ice up, so I bolted the air cleaner bypass to permanently draw from the heat riser, seemed to fix it...then it was peppy. One advantage to the older generation is that there are ton of aftermarket body parts for them, since they are cheap and common they get used as a platform for further modification...
94 was the start of the more rounded body (wife had a Mazda). '96 was the start of the OBDII and had an interior redesign (my current truck). Heater cores are easier to replace on 94, just remove a panel, dash has to get pulled on a 96. The OBDII is easier to diagnose, and means I don't have to put the truck on a treadmill to pass emissions...

Well, there is one other difference: Ford used galvanized rear quarter panels, Mazda didn't. If you're anywhere near the Rust Belt, this can make a big difference. It's one of the reasons why the wife's Mazda got taken off the road...a friend said you could see this difference between the older rangers and Mazdas even in Texas, which most don't think of as Rust Belt. I don't know if this holds true for the newer ones or not.

The 4.0 in the wife's truck was a fuel hog, and knocked on anything less than Hitest. I understand that this motor can carbon up, which can cause this, and that there is a way to clean it out with a dealer water injection kit, but never tried it. Great motor for towing, though.

23 here with a 2.3 manual regular cab and cap. 25 if I go easy on the go pedal or put an extra 5psi in the tires. If you have to haul a lot of stuff, a trailer will get you better mileage than a roof rack.
Another thing to check if you're in the rust belt: the brackets and shackles for the rear springs. Every one of these trucks I've owned has had to have at least one replaced. Not too bad a repair if you have access to a minigrinder and an air hammer. Details on request.
--Glenn Lyford
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Trucks that go to the beach - we have a LOT of beach - and don't get washed off afterwards collect rust easily.
Those in North Texas get subjected to road "salt" in the Winter, too.

A simple, DIY, carbon removal process that you may wish to try: run it in Second for a couple of days. The high RPMs will "burn out" the Carbon from the cylinders, valves & pistons. [I'd once had the proverbial 10- year-old "owned by a little old lady that only drove it to church and the grocery store and never went over 30 MPH" cars. (That thing was so heavily carboned up that the engine would nearly shake out of the engine compartment at 45 MPH when I got it.) I used this approach and it worked very well. <grin>]

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Growing up, we inherited a '72 Valiant from someone who lived about 5 miles from work and never let it warm up. My brother decided to do a rebuild on it--when he pulled the head the valves looked like Tootsie Roll Pops. Once the new chrome rings finally seated, it turned into a very nice car... --Glenn Lyford
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The "Slant Six" was one of the two best engines that Chrysler ever built.
FWIW, the local PD used Valiants with "Slant Sixes" because of their accelleration.
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wrote:

206 HP to the rear wheels on a '63 170 incher - with automatic tranny. That baby could really scamper after it hit 30. 60 in low, 90 in second and over the top of the speedo in third (6000 RPM plus) And no, it wasn't stock - and no, there were no expensive bolt-ons.
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wrote:

Simply take a spray bottle, plant mister, the usual, and as you gently rev the engine...spray tap water down the carby. Pretty good stream of it. Ive used a coffee can with a 1/4" hose to simply run water down the carby. Run water until engine starts to sputter, stop water for a bit until engine revs come back, wait a bit, run water again.
Do this OUTSIDE!
The water turns to steam, softening and then blasting the carbon out of the engine. Makes a hell of a cloud of carbon belching out of the exhaust pipe. It also removes the carbon from the exhaust system..so it can get really messy.
I dont have a clue as to what it does to the cat converter. Most of the engines Ive done this to didnt have one.
YMMV!
Gunner
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