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Buying an old diesel

So here is the deal. I am at an internship in Lansing, Michigan for the summer and I am looking to buy a car to drive back to Tucson at the end of the summer. my budget is 4k max for the car, so that limits me a lot. I have decided that getting a diesel engine would probably be in my best interest as i want something with good gas mileage (26mpg+) and a fair amount of room (full-sized sedan +). The only things I am finding in my price range are very old cars, like from the early 80’s to early 90s old. I hear a lot of bad things about cars from then from my parents, especially American cars which in an ideal world that is what I would buy (i like to buy American when it makes sense). Okay I’m rambling now so I will wrap this up. Am I shooting myself in the foot if I go for an old car like one from the 80s like my parents think or are they just slanted from bad personal experience.

Whatever you buy, set aside $1000 for repairs.

Sorry, your parents are right. An old cheap diesel is likely an Mercedes in very bad shape. You can get 26+ mpg from many cars on the freeway, I get 28 mpg with my '96 Lexus ES300. I bet you can find a mid size 4 cylinder, '96-'98, in decent shape for $3,500 or so. And it should do 28-30 mpg at reasonable freeway speeds.

You can find a Buick Regal from the early 2000s in your price range, and it will get 28 MPG on the highway.

Please dont put yourself through the old diesel ordeal,if you want an old reliable car with decent highway mileage get a Crown Vic ,Buick Roadmaster or Chevy Caprice ,an Olds 88 with the V-6 will get suprising highway mileage.I know some of these cars are getting hard to find now,but a little diligent searching should turn up something,the old big American cars are pretty reliable-Kevin

I agree with the crowd. An old diesel is not likely to work out well for you.

For your price range and desires, I would recommend a Buick LeSabre/Park Avenue. They can be had dirt cheap and about ten years old, seat six, huge trunk, high 20s/low 30s in the mpg department, surprisingly good performance/acceleration (try that with a diesel car from the '80s) and will comfortably gobble up miles of highway when you go back to AZ. If you want a big sedan that gets good gas mileage, the full size FWD Buicks are what you want. The Ford Crown Vic/Mercury Grand Marquis are also worth a look, but do not do as well on gas mileage as the Buicks.

Out of curiosity, why do you think getting a diesel engine is in your best interest?

Oh gee, forget the diesels from that era. You will be much better off with like a late 80’s or early 90’s GM with a 4 speed Auto and fuel injection, like a 3800 engine. You’ll get close to 30 MPG on the highway and fewer problems. I bought a diesel Olds brand spanking new and put close to 500K on it before I either had to shoot it or me. I can’t recall how many $500 injector pumps I put on it, and at least several head gasket jobs at over $1000 each, and two engine replacements at $2500 and $1200, and on and on and on. I wanted to get the $800 extra that I paid for the diesel out of it and ended up costing me many times that. About the best mileage I got was in the mid 20’s. In the end I got $200 for it with new tires, and the rest of it looking brand new.

Why does it matter if you buy american or not? The company made it’s money from the car long ago when it sold new.
That said, though, you’d be better off buying American since you’ll get a newer car for your money. A Crown Victoria will get about 25mpg on the highway

Diesels are great…for specific purposes and support. Otherwise, go with the crowd and get what typically is the best buy. Look for a compact 4 cylinder that was inexpensive new and cheap to run. I agree…budget for repairs unless you put low mileage on your cars.

Unlike Tucson, Lansing has rain, snow, ice and road salt. Finding something from that era with minimal corrosion is going to be your problem.If you really want to own an antique diesel wait until you get back home to buy one.

My 2000 Passat, 5-speed manual 1.8L turbo 4 (gas) always got 35+ on the highway, up to 40 at times. OK, grandma was driving, and maybe my car was a freak, but that’s the truth. It calls for 91 octane, but we always used 87 (middle grade). Incredible head and legroom, too (I’m 6’4"), not to mention its immense trunk. Sadly, we totaled it at 175,000 miles, 2 years ago. Check it out, if you can find one.

I agree with the others who say forget about the diesel–it will be much more of a headache. You will likely spend far more in repairs and frustration than you will ever save on fuel.

Any mid or full-sized american sedan that can be had cheaply and has been driven gently, but hopefully maintained well, will be perfect for your needs. I’d look for a car being sold by an elderly person, as it likely will have been taken care of and not beat on.

When you’re seeking a good used vehicle in the $4K range, you cannot be fussy about the “buy american” thing. Save that for when you’re in a position to buy a new or late model car.

When you need to look for is simpoly something that’s in good shape, inexpensive to own, And fits withim your budget.

“When you’re seeking a good used vehicle in the $4K range, you cannot be fussy about the “buy american” thing.”

Actually, small, unpopular Detroit 3 cars will be less expensive to purchase than more popular Asian cars. The car might not be fun to drive, but it can be a serviceable option. Early 2000s Taurus, Regal, Focus, Prizm, and Cavalier come to mind.

I’d definitely stay away from older diesels unless you know them inside out or have a mechanic that does.
Sure, they last a long time but they are not the easiest to maintain.

If somebody’s shopping for a good used car in the $4k range, I would advise them to throw the whole “buy Asian thing” out the window and start thinking about the domestic makes that never grace the cover of Consumer Reports. If you can do that, your odds of getting a nicer, newer, lower mileage, less problematic car will increase significantly. Too many people who have a 15 year old Camry with 200k miles on it that is rusting to pieces and never had a new timing belt think they have a pot of gold on their hands and often won’t budge on an asking price in that price range. For the same money, you could be looking at eight year old domestics with under 100k miles on them.