1987 Suburban

We currently have a 1991 Chrysler Town & Country - we need to replace this vehicle in the next few months. A friend has a 1987 Suburban for sale cheap. One owner, an elderly couple who took great care of the car. It has 160,000 miles on it.

Our space needs include: ability to transport 3 or four kids and two large dogs around town. As well as occasional beach trips (with 2 kids and two large dogs and cargo). AND - trip with two or three adults and a drum kit as well as an upright bass.

It seems that the new cars that would fit our transport needs are out of range price-wise. The Suburban we could write a check for and in all honesty is great looking!

Is there something we should be looking for as far as red flags on this vehicle?

Suburbans are pretty tough, and mechanically basic trucks. Just about any mechanic can work on it. It still is best to have you local “trusted” mechanic give the vehicle a good pre-purchase check over. Then you can get some idea about what it might need at the moment.

You’ll need to put some of the money aside in a repairs budget. The truck is over 22 years old. I’d start by replacing all the fluids (trans, differential, oil, coolant, brake, and power steering). New fluids can keep stuff from breaking and no telling when some of these were changed last. Some people think great care is a wash and oil change and little else.

In particular have the brake lines checked and if in even the smallest doubt replace the rubber sections of the brake lines. New fan belts and/or serpentine belts is a good idea too. Finally replace the radiator and heater hoses unless you can see they are fairly recently replacements. New fluids, belts, and hoses should greatly reduce your chances of a breakdown on the side of the highway.

Suburbans that my bro. in law used surveying held up really well mechanically. But the service was meticulous.

At this age, if you use it much you will be putting money into it regularly. Have you checked the frame and suspension components ? Having a knowledgeable “body” person crawl underneath could be a deal stopper regardless of what the sheet metal looks like . Unless it was garaged and kept out of harsh conditions, it may be at the end of it’s useful life body wise. Location means a lot… If the under body/frame checks out, only then might it be worth the mechanical effort.

It’ll get about 12 mpg city, 15 mpg highway, if that’s ok with you. Just make sure it has a complete repair record.

If you buy a Suburban this old, make sure you also have a AAA membership (or one if its competitors) and money saved for repairs and fuel.

Personally, I think you are asking for trouble whenever you trade a car for an older car. You are supposed to trade up, not down.

I would look for a 1998-2002 minivan with a luggage rack on top. If necessary, you could have a trailer hitch installed and rent a U-Haul trailer when you need more space for luggage.

See if you can find a “general” opinion on ALL vehicles from the time period you speak, not too many are going into museums or being held up as “fine examples of automotive technology”. It is best to let them go to the scraper.