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2003 Taurus vs. 1998 Corolla?

I drive a 1998 Toyota Corolla with about 119,000 miles on it. It’s been reliable for me, though it has its quirks. I now have the opportunity to get a 2003 Ford Taurus for $1000. It has a little more size and comfort, but also has over 113,000 miles. I’ve done some research and got a trade-in appraisal for the Corolla at CarMax ($1500), but the decision is turning out to be really tough. The CarMax salesman thought I should keep the Corolla because he doesn’t like the Taurus once it gets over 100K. I’m a little biased against the early century domestic cars because I had a 2003 Buick Century that was an absolute money-pit.

What do you think? Anyone have experience with the 2003 Taurus over 100K?

Here are the pros & cons of each car as I see them:

Corolla Pros

  • Very reliable engine, good gas mileage
  • Will run forever
  • Zippy and compact
    Corolla Cons
  • Cosmetic flaws (plastic parts are breaking, rust spots, etc.)
  • Some warning lights on dash won’t go away (CarMax didn’t like that, especially the airbag light)

Taurus Pros

  • Bigger and comfortable, safety features
  • 5 years newer than the Corolla
  • Great price for an '03 car
    Taurus Cons
  • Over 100K, history of frequent visits to the shop
  • Gas mileage isn’t great
  • Also has cosmetic flaws

You have to fix the lights on the Corolla dash, including the airbag light. That is proper maintenance. No car is going to last long without it.

Now as far as the decision, I am just going to tell you that Buicks have a much better track record for reliability compared to Tauri’. So you make the call.

Unless the car is a gift, I would not buy it from my father in law. When money changes hands, expectations arise. If it needs a transmission, you have saved nothing. You never know even if the car has a great reputation. I would keep your car and decline the offer. You need no explanation. It’s family. No car sales.

BTW, those rust “spots” will be holes in short order and the Corolla will shortly be worth nothing other than what it’s worth to you as transportation as long as it passes inspection if that’s required in your state. Once a Corolla starts to rust at this age, it’s all down hill quickly. The motor may run forever, the body won’t. You will be in need of a new car regardless of the good mechanics, but not this Taurus, not at this time IMO.

Thanks for the input. Seems like the score is 2 points for keeping the Corolla (with repairs) and 0 points for the Taurus.

I’d keep the Corolla. Better MPG and more reliable. Save money to fix this Corolla or upgrade to a slightly newer Corolla.

A 2003 Taurus, properly maintained, will be a very reliable vehicle.

I had a 1997, which is mechanically near identical. I sold it last year to a coworker and it’s still running strong.

By comparison, our extended family had 2 1998 Corollas. Both had been relegated to the scrapyard for numerous mechanical and electrical problems BEFORE I sold that Taurus.

Are the rust spots on the Corolla just topical, or are they from the inside of the body panel?. I would get rid of the Corolla if the rust is not only on the outside. What cosmetic problems are there with the Taurus? MSN Autos says that there are occasional problems with the MAF, fuel pump, oil pan gasket, ball joints, and flex fuel sensor module. Those are fairly inexpensive repairs, and I wouldn’t hold it against the car too much. Much more important, is whether the car was well maintained. If not, pass on it. The 1998 Corolla has occasional problems with the charcoal cannister/evaporative solenoid system, the side aribag system, and the DRL module.

Interesting… the dark horse (or bull) Taurus gets a few late votes. The Corolla rust spots are not on/from the inside. There are only 2 spots, about the size of a quarter, and they are on the hood where the paint was chipped by a rock on the highway. I feel fortunate the rust hasn’t been worse on this car because it spent some hard salty winters in Grand Rapids, MI. That it hasn’t gotten a bad case of the rust (Corolla Cancer) is surprising.

Jstanders, your list for the Taurus repairs is pretty accurate. Fuel pump was earlier this year. Just took the Taurus in for a nail in the tire, and they said it needs the ball joints done now. $565. The biggest cosmetic issue is that the driver mirror was torn off in an ill-advised drive-thru ATM incident (not me…). It’s glued on with some lumpy Gorilla Glue.

$565 is outrageous for Taurus balljoints… That should be a $350 repair, tops, especially since MI isn’t a high cost area for mechanics.

Personally, though I like the Taurus (and miss mine - the Camry I’m driving now handles poorly compared to the Taurus, which wasn’t exactly stellar for handling, and I found the Taurus more comfortable)… I believe you’re likely better off keeping the beast you know and driving it as long as possible. If I didn’t believe that, I would have sold off our Camry awhile ago. :slight_smile:

Here is what I feel is a related story. I had a balking starting leaf blower which after two shoulder operations, did nothing but produce more pain then it’s worth. A friend whom I value, ask how much I wanted for it. I told him, “for you, it’s free”. There is no way I’m going to invest anymore time and money then it’s worth to make it run right, and no way I want him to feel I profited in any way if he has the same experience. Keep the Corolla unless the Taurus is an outright gift, even if your’s is less a car.