Not really looking for advice here, just would like others’ views:
We currently own a 2005 Mercury Mariner (3.0L V-6), of which my wife is the primary driver. This vehicle is nearing the 140K-mile mark, and when we bought it new my plan was to keep it for 10 years and then upgrade to a new car. The Mariner was a special-ordered, top-of-the-line model with every option box checked (except back-up sensors, much to my later regret. . .), and has been the most reliable vehicle we’ve ever owned. We both retired about the time we bought it, and it has been garage-kept, hand-washed, and appropriately maintained (by me) since day one; it still truly looks nearly new, in and out - no smoking, pets, or small children ever. We live in a southern state, so it’s never seen salted roads, and since we live in a rural area, it always gets fully warmed up when it’s driven - no short trips, and not much stop-and-go driving.
It was involved in one collision, a side-impact by an inattentive teenage driver, that required replacement of the passenger-side front door and lower part of the door frame. The work was done beautifully - no structural damage was done, and the paint match was perfect. I also backed into a tree at one point, requiring the replacement of the rear bumper cover, but again no serious damage.
It developed a slight oil leak about 50K miles ago that has been traced to the lower “girdle” of the engine block. This is a common place for an oil leak on these Duratec engines, and will require engine removal and disassembly to repair it. This might be a minor annoyance for most, but it bugs the heck out of me since I’m the one who changes the oil, etc., plus, the drip lands directly on the exhaust header, which of course results in a very nasty stench. I have never had to add oil between changes. This is the only known “problem” with the car at this time. (Zero squeaks or rattles either.)
I sent an oil sample to Blackstone labs at about 100K, and the result was very positive - no abnormalities detected. (I’ve used Motorcraft 5w-20 & Motorcraft filters since day one.) Transmission fluid has been changed twice, most recently at 90K, using Amsoil synthetic.
Historically, the transmission has been the weak point of the Escape/Mariner series of this era, but so far I have not noticed any particular odd behavior, although it does seem to have an occasional hard downshift - maybe that’s not surprising given the mileage.
While I have respect for the durability of this little SUV, I have never liked either the looks nor the driving characteristics of it. Like pretty much all small SUV’s it has a rough ride and transmits lots of road noise to the interior. My wife just wants to get from point A to point B in a car that doesn’t look old and ratty - beyond that she’s not very fussy. If we do buy a new vehicle, she would like something very similar to this, so it will also have a poor ride and will be relatively noisy (we have test driven '15 and '16 Foresters, Rav4’s, CRV’s, etc., and confirmed). I’m happy using my F-150 for my errands, and we usually rent a car when we take long road trips, so my satisfaction with driving it is not a major consideration.
Pulling the engine to reseal it would cost at least $1500. Since the trans has to come with it, it seems to me that it would be prudent to rebuild the transmission concurrently, given the history mentioned above. As well, we’d want to reseal the upper and lower intake manifolds, and possibly replace the injectors and COP modules, plus a few other wear bits here and there. All told, I’d anticipate a $6000 repair bill, hopefully a little less. New tires are also on the near horizon, another $600-$700 cost.
While $6K sounds like a lot to spend on a car that’s currently worth $5K on a good day (probably less given the collision history and oil leak), this should insure another 7-8 years of life, as I believe the engine will be good for 250K miles without a rebuild.
Obviously, these repairs are not “necessary”, but I have to take into account my own satisfaction with things working properly and not having to worry about whether the car will make it home every time it leaves the driveway.
What strikes me as a real gamble is putting that money into it does not translate to added value in the event of another collision. Stuff happens.
What does buying a new vehicle gain me? The latest in safety features, primarily. The Mariner/Escape, in 2005, was “not recommended” by Consumer Reports due to their ease of overturning during emergency maneuvers or side impact. Although the options I ordered included extra side and curtain air bags, it is still not nearly as safe as what’s available today: vehicle stability control, collision warnings, etc. How do you put a price on that added potential for saving life and limb??
Some will argue that buying a new car is wasteful, environmentally. I do sympathize with that, but also realize that newer cars put less crap into the air than 11-year-old cars, and use less fuel as well. Further, someone who really needs a low-cost, reliable vehicle would be grateful to find this Mariner.
Lastly, spending $30 - 32K on a new set of wheels would not put us in a financial bind, but one can ALWAYS find a use for the money saved!
I would appreciate your views!