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A 2003 Honda Pilot w/125K miles for $6K OR a 2009 Kia Sportage w/69K miles for $9.2K

We’re looking into buying a new (used) car for less than $10K. I thought I’d ask the CarTalk experts to see whether they think it would actually make sense to buy a cheaper but older Honda 4x4 than a much newer Kia. The Honda Pilot has slightly more options but it has almost 60K more miles on it. It apparently required and received a new transmission around 100K miles, and has drive belt, battery and windshield replaced over time. Is Honda still a better purchase than the Kia at that price even though it’s 6 years older?
I kind of prefer to buy the Honda because that will allow me to still hold on to some cash for any type of repairs or emergencies… but I just don’t know if it’s a good idea to buy an 11 year old car. I checked KBB and both cars seem to be priced right for the specific options/specs… but I wanted to hear what experts thought. Thanks for taking the time to answer:)

6 of one, half dozen of the other. I have no direct experience w/either vehicle, but Hondas have a reputation of good reliability for years and year. Kias seem to have a reputation of good reliability, but not for years and years. Since there is a 6 year age difference, that is a wash. Since the Honda is less $$$, I’d lean towards it. But with a reservation. A Honda transmission shouldn’t need to be replaced at 100K. That it did need replacement that soon could mean either the vehicle was driven very aggressively, or the routine vehicle maintenance wasn’t done on Honda’s schedule. If you can eliminate this reservation as a cause of concern, then the Honda is probably the best choice simply b/c it is less expensive.

I usually agree with GeorgeSanJose, but I am going to disagree with him on one point, namely the transmission. Both the Honda Pilot and the Honda Odyssey of that era have a history of early transmission failures, along with weak motor mounts and weak transmission mounts. Some owners have reported two transmission overhauls on these vehicles by the time that they get to 100k-120k miles, so–unfortunately–I don’t see anything unusual about a trans overhaul in this vehicle’s history. Hopefully the new transmission was of an improved design…

All of my blather aside, I believe that basing the purchase of a used vehicle solely on brand & model is a very foolhardy proposition. Instead, the OP should be focusing on how these vehicles were maintained by their previous owner(s), as even the most theoretically reliable vehicle can turn into a repair nightmare for subsequent owners.

My personal policy is that I have to be able to examine hard copies of maintenance records at my leisure, so that I can compare them to the mfr’s maintenance schedule.
No maintenance records=no deal.
Lax maintenance=no deal.

But, even if the maintenance passes muster, the vehicle still needs to be inspected by my own mechanic in order to detect collision damage and incipient problems.
Anything less, and you are just asking for problems, IMHO.

If your budget is under $10,000 I would not buy anything with 4 wheel drive. Buy a Mazda 6 or simlar simple, reliable car. If you want lots of space, buy a minivan.


Don’t buy one of my cars

I do all my own work, so there are no repair order invoices

No work receipts here either. DIY’ers. But I do maintain a written log for each vehicle, what I repaired/replaced with time and date and mileage, and with all the parts purchase receipts taped onto the appropriate pages. Old parts are tossed into a big cardboard box. (This has saved the day in more than one instance.) Didn’t do all that w/intent to make it easier to sell the car, but to remind me what I did, what parts I purchased, and when. Not a great memory for that kind of stuff.

Neither. I’d find a newer Pilot for $10k.

I’m with @Docnick. I would not buy an Awd car for $10k. You sacrifice waaaay too much reliability in miles driven just to pay extra for the Awd system. And , they are much more expensive to repair. The only 4wd I would pay $10k for, would be a truck based part time system on a vehicle that had dedicated limited use. They are easier to service and they are more apparent when anything is wrong and much tougher if not abused.
If you like Hondas, get an Accord or a Civic and don’t drive where you need Awd. You can’t afford to own one.

The transmission is pretty much the only real weak spot about the Pilot, changing the transmission fluid more often and keep up on oil changes and the like would help. The Kia sportage had some problems when it was first released in the 90’s (the dealer i worked at was changing rear diffs under warranty on just about every one) but seems to have improved. It mostly depends on the exact vehicle and how well it’s been maintained. Having a little cash set aside for repairs would be a great step.