How to evaluate old cars?

I wonder how one finds out about the reliability of cars older than those covered by Consumer Reports. There used to be some website that I knew about, but they dropped the useful information. Anyone know of a source?
He’s taken by the bling of Chevy and Cadillac, but everything I know about them screams no.
(Unless you go pre-1970, which has its own problems!)

For what purpose? Historical curiosity? Or practical necessity?

For historical purposes, websites consume money to exist. Keeping old Consumer Reports or other data on long scrapped cars doesn’t have a lot of appeal to the advertisers needed to support the website.

If you are tying to determine if that 1989 Toyota Celica will be a reliable and practical go-to-work-car, the data wouldn’t be useful years 25 after the environment, shadetree mechanics and tin worms had their way with it.

So what is your goal here? Just curious.

For older cars reliability = maintenance + driving environment, mostly, + car make/model related factors. Both maintenance + driving environment vary widely from car to car.

Melott, you may be referring to the website that used to have Identifix reliability data on older cars but stopped showing Identifix data last fall.

Practical necessity, with some pandering to youngster love of bling.
I was referring to Edmunds. And of course I am interested in the make/model factors, what
else? And for older cars, so JDP is not worth much.
Current example: 1997 Cadillac Deville. Some evidence of excess engine problems, runs on premium.

I’d go to the library and look up the newest CR car review issue that had that car in it, would be about 2003 or so, see what pops up.

You could go to a library and examine back issues of Consumer Reports. However, I am not sure it will be very useful information. For cars older than those on the list of the latest CR, the condition of the car has more to do with its reliability. For example, some older Honda Odyssey minivans had transmission trouble. CR noted the problem when it was new enough to be listed. You may find an older Odyssey and a back issue notes in its chart that the transmission is a weakness. However, the Odyssey you are examining had a new transmission 10,000 miles back. I once bought a 1955 Pontiac that was,7 years,old–one year beyond what was listed by CR back then. I looked in a back issue and the,1955 Pontiac had a good record for reliability. The one I bought has just had the engine overhauled by the dealer. I checked the car from bumper to bumper and found no evidence that the car had been wrecked. Yet, it was the,worst lemon I ever owned.
Had I been wiser back then, I would have examined a 1959 Studebaker Lark that was available at about the same price. CR didn’t give it a high rating for reliability, but it was probably a better car than the Pontiac I bought.

what does “love of bling” have to do with older cars?

Again, for what do you want these older cars? Daily use? sitting in a garage and being admired? restoration and resale? something else?

As I said, practical necessity. That means daily use. By my son.

The problem I see is that these older cars are not going to be practical for daily use. They are good for labor of love & TLC.

Avoid anything complicated in an old car; parts will be very hard to get as well.

But a basic rear drive Chevy with only automatic can be driven a long time reliably and repairs will be not a great problem.

The Cadillac you mention is one of your worst choices.

Older pickup trucks are still running here after 25 years on the road.

One retiree here, a veteran, has a 1976 Chevy 2 door with just the basics. He proudly drives this behemoth to the mall regularly. Keep in mind that driveability and fuel economy were awful before 1976, the year catalytic converters came in in a big way!

I have reliability stats going back to the 70s and will get you a rating for whatever car you want.

@Docnick wow, thanks for the offer. Why don’t you open a search here. It would be a great service for the community.
Why is that Caddy a worst choice?
How about similar vintage Park Avenues?
I have been urging him to get a Crown Vic/Grand Marquis/Town Car-- but
he doesn’t seem to like them.

The reason street rodders prefer small block Chevrolet V-8s mounted to T-H 350 transmissions is because they are readily available, very reliable, even somewhat bullet proof and can be mated to all manner of readily available fuel and ignition combinations. For that reason old Chevrolet RWD cars and half ton pickups remain on the road today and quite a few Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles and Buicks have the basic Chevrolet drivetrain and just keep chugging along.

@melott With older cars of low production volume you will have great difficulty finding reasonably priced parts, if at all. The Cadillac was all that and loaded with unreliable extras. A similar Park Avenue would be a little better; but no much.

The Crown Victoria and Mercury Grand Marquis, on the other hand were standard FBI, police, taxi and other fleet cars. The were much more easily serviced and parts even today are readily available. Rear drive Chevy Impalas and Caprices were also bread and butter fleet cars.

At his age and station in life he has no business being picky, unless he delivers enough pizza to pay for a hard to service and unreliable car.

A Buick Le Sabre is a really beautiful car and much more easy to own. The 3800 powertrain was quite good as well.

This is unusual , most young men want Mustangs, Camaro’s , Corvettes or some kind Jeep. In my area a lot of the young men want trucks ( tricked out ).

Le Sabre?

The General Motors 3800 FWD drive train was world class in the 90s. In my area Buicks were the most popular cars on the road equipped with that engine. Quite a few remain on the road in my area these days. Several regular customers had those vehicles and ran them beyond 300,000 miles with only normal maintenance and the usual brakes, water pump, alternator, starter, etc. needing replacement. It is unlikely that any of those old cars will ever get an engine or transmission rebuilt, though. General Motors did get a few things right from time to time and that was one of them.

Yes, I’d much rather have the 3800 than a Caddy Northstar, lots of problems with those. One thing my friend had to replace every year or three on his 3800 was the alternator, but not big $$.

Evaluating “old cars” depends a great deal on how you define “old”. Some people think a car is old at 5 years, someone else it is 10+ years, some other might think about classic and collectible cars. Most of the car mags are going to report on used cars at 5 years and at the most 10 years old. Beyond that the reliability of the car has less to do with the make and model and more to do with how the owner(s) maintained and repaired the car.

Models that were generally better new cars tend to hold up better as used cars - a very general rule but one that holds up pretty well. The contrary is just a true, crappy new cars made even crappier used cars. Researching in old car mags, and consumer mags can help you find the opinions of the day. Talking to your local shop owner’s who have been in the repair business for a long time will get some good information. I would advise to avoid any Dodge Aspen or Plymouth Volare. The mid-80’s Cadillac with the 4.0 transverse mounted V8 had motors that just came apart internally. Renault 18i, any Jeepster, and old Audi’s with center mounted front disk brakes would all be good to avoid too.

I had a 1998 Buick Regal and it ran quite well for 12 years until it was involved in an accident. My FIL has a 2005 Le Sabre and it runs very well. If you can find one that has been maintained well by all previous owners, that is a good candidate.