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Cheap oldish car I can work on myself

I’ve done a lot of work on cars of the mid seventies and older ( engine, trans , brakes suspension etc,) I have a couple cars of that era that are my daily drivers . What I need is a car or small truck that’s economical and will pull a very small trailer ( about 1000 lbs.). I need something that I can get parts and/or service for in areas such as West Texas. It would probably be up to 15 or so years old and cost around 3500 or less. I’m used to going slow because I usually drive an '81 240 mercedes diesel. I’d prefer rear wheel drive/ manual but that probably eliminates too many prospects.My basic question is , what relatively modern car or truck is best for someone with my extensive but somewhat out dated skills? I’ll keep driving cars I can work on near home but hesitate taking one on a trip to Colorado or Arizone through areas where they probably don’t see that many '77 mitsubishis or '73 bmws. Thanks for any suggestions.

A Crown Vic…Avoid the air-ride option…

There are many, many others…

How about a Jeep Cherokee from 1996 to 2001?
You can get a very nice example for $3000.
But, 20 mpg on the highway, or less.

Ford Ranger pickup, with a four banger, and manual transmission

Fifteen years old still puts you in the realm of OBDII, fuel injection, and so on. That can still be complicated; just not as complicated as a 2010 model.

The Crown Vic is a good car but seeing as how you’re looking to move stuff around even at slow speeds with a trailer then the Ford Ranger with the 4 banger might fit the bill and even allow your hauling to be done sans trailer.

Chevy S-10. Getting parts shouldn’t be a problem. They’re reasonably simple to work on.

I agree with Caddy. A retired cop car like a Crown Vic.

The Chevrolet and GMC pickups with throttle body injection are simpler to diagnose and repair than the models with electronic controlled carburetors. The Jeep Cherokees with the I-6 engine are capable of 20+ mpg and are very reliable but more difficult to diagnose. The truly simple vehicles are becoming antiques and finding parts and shops familiar with them is becoming very difficult. I sold my 1991 S-10 last year and I see that it is worth considerably more today because many people consider it more basic and reliable.

I’m Going To Ask You To Rethink Limiting Yourself To " relatively modern " Cars That You Can Work On With "extensive but somewhat out dated skills . . . "

I, Too Have " . . . done a lot of work on cars of the mid seventies and older ( engine, trans , brakes suspension etc,) ". However, I have older and newer cars now and still work on them as before, with whatever skills I can muster.

Here’s the thing. I find that in many ways, newer cars are as easy or easier to work on than older models, using mostly the same skill set. A $50 Actron diagnostic trouble code reader, access to the internet with its wealth of information covering what it is you’re trying to accomplish, makes this a reality.

Buy a car/truck that’s 96 or newer, of your liking. That should give you an OBD2 port on the vehicle for your inexpensive diagnostic tool. The car will help you diagnose many problems and the internet will help with even more.

It’s 2012, now. Save 50 bucks from the purchase budget for a modern tool and JUMP IN to the modern world. The water’s fine ! You’ll get up to speed rather quickly.


The beauty of a VIC, you seldom have to work on it…You just get in and drive it…They share most of the running gear with an F-150 truck…

A local cab company owner shares your high opinion of Crown Vics, Caddyman. But of course, he has become an expert on them and knows all the idiosyncrasies and all the short cuts for those cars. He says the engines easily run 300,000 miles but some transmissions don’t. None of my fleet customers ever owned one so my experience with them is hit and miss.

As a former owner, I agree. A Crown Vic, Mercury Grand Marquis, or Lincoln Town Car up through the late 90’s. Very reliable. Common geezer car, you can still get them with low miles. Rough and tough. Hiway gas mileage like 20.

Toyota Corolla manual transmission if you care about MPG coupled to simplicity. Make sure its fuel injected.

A 98 or 99 Accord with a four cylinder and a manual transmission is a solid, easy to work on, vehicle. It is durable, safe, and it is easy to get parts. They easily go 200,000 miles and, with good maintenance, easily hit 300,000 miles or more.

I’d choose something from the early 90’s, with fuel injection, but prior to the introduction OBDII. That will give you good reliability and still fairly easy for the do-it-yourselfer to diagnose and fix. Toyota fuel injection systems of that era are basically bullet-proof, so that’s one make I’d certainly take a look at. But Honda, Ford, Nissan, GM, etc all made good econobox cars back then too. Consumer Reports has a Used Car Guide that lists good bets fore various price ranges, reliability wise. When comparing one used car vs another, one thing I do it look at the Kelly Blue Book for the same year (even if the two cars I’m looking at arent the same year). If the two cars sold new for about the same price, but used one of them sells for considerably more than the other, I’d be inclined to buy the more expensive one, as the market is saying the other isn’t in demand is probably isn’t as reliable.

?? I would only get one WITH OBD-ll so that I could plug in a reader and easily diagnose many problems.