1993 Buick Quirk?

I’m considering buying a 1993 Buick that has 190,000 miles and seems to be well maintained and in good condition with air conditioning that works. The owner says it would be fine to take on long trips as long as I check it well before leaving, oil, etc. He says its only quirk is it will drive in either N or in D with a circle around it, and that he prefers to drive it in D with the circle around it. Could this indicate some sort of red flag problem? Do you think $1,250.00 is too much to pay for it? The one he is selling does have a cosmetic problem with dents in one spot, but they don’t bother me. Anything I should be on the lookout about? I forgot to ask him what type of Buick it is, although I did test drive it but forgot to look at the type. It’s about the same size as my Dodge 600 SE, a 1987, which died recently. It’s comfy and gets about 17/25 mpg.

The shifter needs to be re-alinged; I’ve had this happen after work was done on my car. A good shop may be able to do this for not too much money. But by all means it should be done.

Ask the owner for the maintenance records. “Seems” is not good enough . The transmission fluid and filter should have been changed 3 times by now. Does it shift OK when you take it for a test drive?

These were basically good cars (Buicks) and if you let a good mechanic check it out for $90 or so he would come up with anything serious. Things to look for are leaking intake manifold gaskets.

If the car checks out OK, but you have no maintenance records, you should:

  1. Change the engine coolant
  2. Change the transmission fluid and filter
  3. Change engine oil and filter.
  4. Change the air filter

Your mechanic will point out anything dangerous such as breaks, steering, etc.

The price is right only if the car has no obvious faults. The normal selling price for a car that age is $750 in good running condition and without dents. I’d offer $1000 max if it checks out OK. Any major repair like a transmission will cost $3000, so what you pay for the car is somewhat irrelevant if it does not check out .

“The shifter needs to be re-alinged”

That is probably the cause of the problem, but it is also possible that the transmission mounts are broken.
This car needs to be put up on a lift prior to purchase, for a very thorough inspection.

Thanks, Docnick, for all the good tips. It’s a Buick Cutlass Sierra. He just came back over to show me more things about it. He’d gotten a tiny ding in the windshield a while back and was worried that he had forgotten to show it to me. He showed me the chip repair warranty brochure. What would happen if I don’t do the shifter repair? The man said he wants to take it for inspection and make sure it passes before he sells it to me, so I will be reassured that it is fine. He thinks that would be a sign that it is in good repair. He wants to put on new front tires and paint the dings. He seems very eager to be helpful. He told me not to rely on my SO to fix things. He clearly doesn’t have the passion or desire. He said I can come to him, himself, because he knows his car and has babied it along, and he will help me. He has changed his own oil, once a year, and the second time a year he takes it to Walmart and has them do it, because he can’t reach the oil filter to change it himself, so he lets them do that. He showed me his engine oil, and it does look clean. I’ll bet I might be able to talk him into $1,000.00 for it if I can convince him the shifter needs to be repaired? He has Geico insurance on it, which I think is a good sign? It’s what I have and the insurance cost is about the same as on my old Dodge. He has the original manual and he stressed the importance of preventive care, not waiting for things to break.I asked him what all he had replaced and he said the CDI. I don’t know what that is, and he wasn’t quite sure how to translate it. He said on only cars it is like the distributor, or at least I think that’s what he said.

@Dodge600SEMourner…if the vehicle is a Cutlass Ciera then it’s an Oldsmobile. Still as reliable as a Buick in my book.

Oh, duh. I guess I am super stupid.

@Dodge600SEMourner are you in the position to buy a newer car with less than 100K

I am, yes, db4690, but the whole idea makes me quite nervous. Just because it is a newer car doesn’t mean it has been cared for properly or that it doesn’t have major problems. If I don’t know the seller personally, how can I trust him? What I’d like to do is buy a brand new car, but the depreciation the minute you drive it off the lot seems so silly and such a waste. And it could still be a lemon, but not likely, and you have so many fewer pitfalls and repair headaches, as I see it. Is it worth it? That’s what I can’t figure out. I have bought a new car in the past. It was just so nice and easy. But once again, you are expected to haggle down for a better price on a new car, and I just hate that whole process. Now, if I could go to a dealer and knew exactly what was the best price to haggle down to, to ensure not being cheated, that would be great. I could go in with a set figure in mind, knowing it was fair and correct, I would be prepared. Does anyone know of a site that lists fair prices for brand new cars, that gets past dealer mark-up, that a dealer would probably take, without a whole lot of stress and anxiety incurred in the haggling down process? Nothing I hate worse than dealing with new car salesmen.


There are several reasons to get a newer car

Less miles (hopefully)
More modern technology
More fuel efficient (this is a generalization)
More airbags
Traction control (if it’s very recent)

You don’t have to haggle. There are several companies that have agreements with dealers to sell cars at a set and fair price. It won’t be the absolute rock bottom price, but you won’t get ripped off, they won’t try to add on any junk, and best of all . . . no haggling!

I know several people that have taken this approach and couldn’t be happier.

Cool! What would you get in the way of a newer car? I am open to all suggestions. What do you think would be a very reasonable choice? I don’t care about cosmetics, just great gas mileage, good running, low maintenance, and safety would be a plus.


While I don’t have full access to all the Ford technical websites, I do believe the Ford Fusion might be a good all around car for you

Roomy enough (I’m not sure about the headroom, though)
pretty reliable, according to Consumer Reports
reasonable fuel economy (excellent for the hybrid)
not overpriced as a used car (I’m not sure about price for new)

Well, thank you sooo much for researching this for me, db470! I really appreciate it, as I get so overwhelmed by the idea of buying a car. I DO love Ford. I must tell you something cute. When my little nephew was only 2 years old, ‘Ford’ was the first word he read, off my dad’s truck’s steering wheel. He spelled it out aloud, so proudly for us “‘F-O-R-D,’ Ford!” :>) I think a Ford Fusion would be a very good match for me. We had Ford tractors on the farm. It would mean happy memories of my childhood. I didn’t know all of this about the Fusion. It DOES sound perfect! I am going to look for one now. What year would you recommend? Would an automatic one be okay? I don’t drive stick well.

I don’t think the shifter misalignment would be a show stopper. Should be easy to correct, or just live w/it. I think the current owner is being a little over-optimistic saying that 1993 Buick with 190K would be expected to be reliable on long trips. I guess technically he said it would be “fine” to take on a long trip. I think what he means is that it is fine for him if you choose to take the car on a long trip. After all he isn’t going along with you, right?

It’s not I think that there is a particular problem with this car you are considering to buy. If you have a question on the price, you can look it up in the Kelly Blue book, see what others have paid for it. It’s just that there are few 1993 cars with 190K on them that would be considered to be super-reliable for long trips. If only because all the rubber parts, the seals and hoses, are 20 years old and deteriorating.

But still it might well prove to be a good value at $1250. You need some objective data I think. Maybe visit your local public library and look up what older Buicks have done in the Consumer Reports used car reliability tests. How does it compare as a used car to Honda Civics and Toyota Corollas? If the Hondas and Toyotas are rated more reliable, how much more would you have to pay for a 1993 Toyota Corolla say? With that objective data in hand, you can decide what’s best for you.

I feel I gave pretty fair and honest advice to OP

I addressed all of his questions, advised him about converting to R-134a, explained why I believe a newer car would be the prudent choice versus another 20-year old vehicle, and even advised him which car he may want to take a closer look at (because he asked me to)

I was polite.
I didn’t bash any brand of vehicle.
I didn’t go off-topic

So either someone wants to stick with R-12

Or someone believes everyone should keep buying 20 year old vehicles

Or someone doesn’t like the Ford Fusion

It’s a free country. Disagree all you want. But it doesn’t seem to make sense in this situation.

Ever since I found out yesterday at the mechanic’s that the '93 needs a new rack and pinion and complete steering gear as well as intake manifold gasket and valve cover gasket, I’ve reconsidered the wisdom of an older car. I don’t think the owner was even aware of these problems. They sound pretty serious to me, although maybe they aren’t that big a deal? I don’t know how much more life such a car would realistically have? Does anyone know whether a car could last quite a while without these repairs? They are pretty expensive. I wish I could find a nice Ford Fusion. A friend told me about an auction I may check out.


If you’re going to an auction, make sure to take someone along who really knows their stuff

Experienced mechanic
Body shop guy
Someone who’s a veteran of auto auctions

Also bring along a code reader or scanner and hook up to cars (if allowed) to possibly spot any ominous fault codes

Great ideas! Thank you!