Cars with great cold a/c for under $5000


#1

Any good recommedations on an automatic transmisison used car under $5000 that has ice cold a/c, is fuel efficient and has good low end acceleration (quick off the line) for in town driving. I live in the desert, so cold a/c is essential. I know R12 doesn’t exist anymore, but are there any particular R134 cars with good pep/ fuel economy and cold ac to recommend or avoid? I’ve had great luck with late 80’s GM cars with the 3800V6 but they are getting harder to find as time goes by and aren’t that fuel efficient.


#2

Older Prism 5 sp, esp. 2002 model which I had, Quick and 38 mpg…low interior volume does more for AC than anything, and make sure the car is WHITE/silver, second best aid to AC.


#3

stay away from VW products, their ACs have always been marginal.

why do you want “quick off the line”? you will never get fuel economy that way.


#4

A 2002 or earlier GM cars with the 3.8L engine. I have a 1998 Buick Regal LS and the AC is as good as new. You might find a 2002 Regal LS for under $5000. and certainly an older one. The large Pontic’s, Buick’s and Oldsmobile’s used this engine as well.


#5

Honda Accords (at least up through the '02 model year) also have marginal A/C.


#6

R-12 is not a problem, I own two cars with R-12 systems and it is widely available.

In that price range, condition is more important than make/model. Buy something in good condition that has been well maintained.


#7

R-12 is AVAILABLE, but it’s darned expensive and only supposed to be sold to licensed A/C techs. MANY MANY R-12 cars have been converted to use R-134A. It’s usually cheaper to convert than to evacuate and completely recharge an R-12 system with R-12, at least if you do it yourself. I have heard of shops charging up to $700, but thst’s highway robbery.

Most cars built before 1994, when R-12 was being phased out, will be under $5000. If that’s what you want, there should be some in Sunday’s paper.


#8

Last time I bought R-12 it was only about $60/pound retail, so enough to recharge my system was about $150. You can decide if that’s too expensive. R-12 is routinely available on e-bay, etc. for a lot less. In theory, you need a license to buy it, the license costs about $20 and can be obtained by anyone by taking an “open book” one-line test. I tried converting on of my cars to R-134a, I was not happy with the results so I converted back to R-12. Personally, I would look for a car with an unmolested R-12 system in working order.


#9

While it isn’t terribly fuel efficient, a Crown Vic or Grand Marquis have great A/C. Also, you might consider a Chevy Impala with the 3.8L you like so much. You can get a decent used one of any of these for around your price range.


#10

I’m not as impressed with Ford AC systems compared to GM. I had 2 Ford products in the last 20 years and both needed AC service. I had 4 GM products and none needed AC service.


#11

I vote for anything made by Toyota. The AC on their cars is reliable and will freeze you in any weather. The Prism mentioned above is same as Toyota.


#12

Not necessarily. My brother had a lot of problems with the A/C on his Camry (circa '99) once it was about 5 years old. No mechanic was ever able to keep the refrigerant from leaking out over the course of a season.

Despite repeated tests, nobody was ever able to find the source of the leak, and after a while, he just gave up on having it recharged. By comparison, my '97 Outback has never had the refrigerant recharged and it still cools as well as the day that it came out of the dealership.

There are few absolutes in life, and the reliability of A/C systems is but one example. With A/C, as with virtually every other component on a used car, it is not possible to know the history of that car in terms of every detail, and so, with a used car, all bets are off in terms of really knowing with certainty how well the A/C will function and how well it will retain a charge of refrigerant.

Whoever bought my brother’s Camry from the dealer’s used car lot probably thought that it had decent A/C for the bulk of the first summer, and then when the refrigerant was gone by the time that the next summer rolled around, they were probably cursing.

However, all of that being said, I do believe that GM’s A/C tends to be better than other makes of cars, so starting with one of their cars may give one a somewhat better chance in the murky world of used cars.


#13

My experience with AC repairs in cars is that it depends on the shop. I have found a shop near me that gets any AC work I might need. The reason is I’ve never had to go back a second time on any repair they have made. I can’t say that for several otherwise competent mechanics. Places I use for regular oil changes, or even engine work, but they never seemed to be able to fix an AC that stayed fixed, even one place that specialized in AC.

I don’t know why. In principal AC work is not that hard or different, but a lot of shops just don’t seem to be able to get it right.