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Car damaged by garage fire

We’ve been looking for a used car that’s very inexpensive (in the $3000 range) because we just had to buy a new car last year and now need two vehicles. We’ve found a 2001 Cadillac Seville with around 75,000 miles for about $3500. The reason it’s so inexpensive is that it was in a garage that caught fire, though the car itself did not actually catch fire, and we’ve been assured by the seller (who is trusted by our trustworthy mechanics) that the damage is only cosmetic. We don’t much care what the car looks like; our priorities generally run much more towards reliability and low gas mileage. Is this car something we should consider, or should we wait until something else comes along? Opinions (and reasoning)? I have no idea what fire damage does to a car, so I wanted to get more opinions.

I’d move on. Fire or not, if you want good gas mileage and reliability, a 10 year old Caddy is not the way to go. Get a non-luxury car, because there’s less stuff on them that will break, in that price range.

As for the fire, the trouble isn’t so much the fire (assuming it didn’t melt parts of the car that you don’t want melted) as the water the fire department put on it. Often times they mix a fire suppressant foam into the water, and that stuff is caustic. It might have damaged the paint (I know you don’t care about looks, but the paint is the car’s rustproofing, so if you eat through it, you get rust). Of less concern, unless a window was cracked or the sunroof was open, the foam will also eat through fabrics - I learned this the hard way at a fire scene where I got doused in the stuff. Had to throw my whole outfit away.

I’d be inspecting it very closely to be sure there isn’t smoke/fire/acid damage.

One of your priorities is “low gas mileage?” That’s unusual. Most people want high gas mileage.

If you want low gas mileage, a 2001 Seville is the way to go. I would expect city mileage in the teens, and highway mileage only slightly better. You’re not going to get 30 mpg in a Seville.

Reliability? Good luck. A friend of mine has had several Cadillacs of this vintage. They were all unreliable and costly to own.

Then there’s the “fire damage” issue. Are you crazy, or just desperate? Why would you even consider a car that has been in a fire? Please explain, because I just don’t get it.

You can’t buy a status symbol for $3,500. You can, however, buy a decent used car for that price. It will not have a Cadillac crest on its grille.

Walk away from this fire car. You don’t want to own it.

I meant high gas mileage (typo). And really, we don’t want a status symbol - we didn’t really want a Cadillac at all. I’d much rather have something simpler, but when you have a low price limit, it can be very limiting. We’ve been looking at Hondas, Toyotas and Nissans, but lots of other people also want the same car makes. We’ve not found much that’s nearly as new with anything like as low mileage as this car has. Most cars we’ve found are at best late 1990s, and usually around 150,000, as opposed to 2001 with 75,000. Also,the fact that the seller was recommended to us highly by our very trusted mechanics was a big recommendation.

Thanks so much, shadowfax, for the excellent information about the foam. That’s definitely something to ask about.

If it was something you REALLY wanted, talk to the previous owner and ask where they had the work done on the car; assuming they filed insurance claims for it to be fixed. If they went to a body shop, get the address and head on down and ask what all they done to the car to fix it up, get pictures if they have any and just ask them anything you can think of about it before you buy.

No way would I give that much for a 10 year old Seville, much less for one that’s been exposed to heat. Keep in mind that heat damaged metal is also much more prone to rust and while I’m by no means a Cadillac expert, I think the engines in these cars may be prone to a few problems involving oil leaks which are obscenely expensive to repair.

If you’re looking for something in that style of car anyway why not consider a Crown Vic or Mercury Grand Marquis?
They’re roomy, good on gas, reliable, and plentiful. Finding a decent one should not be a problem at all.

Yeah, I agree. Even if the fire didn’t impact wires, electronics, paint, etc., a 10 year old Caddy will cost you $500-800 every time you take it in. Depending on the engine and condition of the trans, just price some of the popular parts like EGR valves etc.

Instead of looking for makes like Toyota and Honda which rightly or wrongly have the public thinking they are reliable and priced accordingly, for $3500 look at Chev, Ford, Buick, etc. and you will find something far more acceptable.

$3000 does not go far in purchasing a used car these days. In an 11 year old car, I think that the history of the particular car is more important than the reputation of the car. My brother has a 1994 Cadillac Seville and a 2003 Cadillac Seville. The 1994 has close to 200,000 miles and the 2003 has well over 100,000 miles. He has not had any expensive problems. His wife makes an 80 mile round trip in the 2003 5 days a week with no problems.

While the Cadillac may use more fuel, if you know the history of the car, it might be a reasonable purchase. Yes, a Toyota Corolla of the same vintage would be great, but the price a used Corolla commands might purchase quite a bit of gasoline for the Cadillac.

When my mother went back to work in 1954, my parents needed to by a second car. The conventional wisdom was to buy a Chevrolet or Ford. Well, the used Chevrolets and Fords that were in reasonable condition were beyond my parents’ means. The used Chevrolets and Fords that they could manage financially were junk. My dad wound up buying a 1947 DeSoto club coupe for $325. The car ran well and the interior was in good condition. However, the maroon paint was bady faded. My dad didn’t care, but I did. After I made some snotty remark about the car I was put to work with rubbing compound, polishing compound and wax. The old DeSoto even looked good after 2 days of labor. The DeSoto turned out to be a wonderful car. It had no major repairs in the time my parents owned the car and the next owner drove it five more years. Yes, it took more gas than a Ford or Chevrolet, but for our family’s purpose, it was a good purchase.

Dag–Those late '40s Chrysler products were incredibly sturdy cars!

The old joke in my neck of the woods was that Chrysler was so used to making army tanks during the war that they forgot to make the succeeding cars less tank-like in their durability.

They may not have been fast, and they certainly weren’t economical, but the Chrysler products of the late '40s were some of the most durable cars ever made. And, if they were well kept-up, they could actually look quite impressive.

When I was growing up in the late '50s, our next-door neighbors had two cars.
One–the everyday car–was a '54 Dodge–a decent, if unimpressive-looking car.
The other–their “special” car for going to church and other occasions–was a gleaming black '47 Chrysler New Yorker.

When Mr. Weeks would pull that old Chrysler out of the garage, it was quite a sight to see. You could see the pride that they took when they rode in that magnificent, quiet-running machine. When it was idling, you couldn’t hear the New Yorker’s engine, even when standing right next to the car!