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Old Car With 10,500 Miles

Dear Car Talk Community,

I am looking at acquiring a car who’s life expectancy and value are hard to determine. The car is a 1995 Plymouth Acclaim with a V6 engine and automatic transmission. There are 10,500 miles on the car, but not because it has been sitting neglected for 20 years. It is currently owned by a woman who bought the car new and learned to drive at age 72 and has since been living in a small town with her sisters. The car has basically made 5,000 2.1 mile trips on a weekly basis over its lifetime. It has been kept in a garage. The tires were replaced for the first time last year, and the new ones now have 200 miles on them. The hoses were replaced last year. Oil looks pristine. There is just a little cosmetic damage on the passenger side from backing out too close to the garage door. Apart from that it is in excellent condition without any sign of rust. The ride is smooth without any weird sounds coming from anywhere. The acceleration felt surprisingly good, comparing it to my manual 2001 Mazda 626.

My questions:
How many miles can I expect to put on this car when it goes from short weekly trips and maybe going as fast as 45mph to 40 miles a day on a highway when I commute to work and back? I see no reason mechanically why the car would have any problems as long as the oil and coolant are clean and at the proper levels. Though I have heard that older slightly used cars may not last long after suddenly being used more regularly.

When should the timing belt be replace? 90,000 miles? 40-50,000 miles? Right now?

What is it worth? I would call it a steal at $2,000 and at $3,000 I wouldn’t be very interested. I plan to offer $2,500 for it.

Am I wrong?


There is really no way of knowing how something like this will turn out. The timing belt kit and flushing the brake fluid is a must.

The car being garaged is a huge plus.

The biggest issues you may face will be things related to rubber. That could mean brake master cylinder, problems, shock/strut problems, or possibly some engine/trans seals.

Given the price of cars in today’s market I would think 2 grand at most for the simple reason that you WILL be facing some of the repairs mentioned above right off the bat and possibly later on.
It could be that some of those things will never fail.

I don’t think there’s any way I’d go 2500 or more on an Acclaim even with very low miles.
Just my 2 cents.

I’d consider $2500 a very generous offer. 21 years is definitely old. An Acclaim wasn’t a well made car or a well designed car. Below average in its day. The V6 is peppy and it also drinks a lot of gas. Your average mpg won’t reach 20 and might come in a at 15 or so.

You are over valuing the low miles.

My assessment would be about $1400 or so max. The premium for low mileage is not as much as most people think.You have to carefully explain that the car will need work for use as a daily driver and then also show her the KBB value. I sold our 1994 Sentra 4 years ago for $750 in very good shape. The V6 and automatic were a good combination. This is probably the most reliable car Chrysler ever built. But that’s not saying much!

Do the brakes, check the coolant and replace if not already done so.

I would definitely not take a long trip with this car until you have it debugged, so to speak.

If the car was in a heated garage, expect some corrosion.

Run @JB78, RUN away from this car. It was a bad car back in 95. By comparison to today’s cars it is worse now.

imho, Life is too short to drive crappy cars!

Look at this car compared to the alternatives for that price. Hit any car lot or Craigslist for 2 grand cars and see what pops up. Extremely high mileage or flirting with the car crusher in most cases.

Wheels is wheels is the way I look at it. If the A/C is cold; another plus.

Unless you have documentation that the timing belt was done in the last 6 years, for example, it is WAY overdue by time . . . and you should plan on having it replaced immediately

For $2000, you could buy a far more modern car. Sure, it would have many more miles, but you could buy a much nicer car. That’s my

In all honesty, I would rather buy a high mileage, much newer Accord or Camry for $2000. And if it’s a 4-banger, it would probably have a timing chain

It is a carp shoot, sounds like a good bet for a $2000 0r $2500 car to me. But be sure to have a grand in the bank, for whatever, sometimes cars do not like changing driving habits. For sure check if it has a timing belt and replace it,

The bigger dilemma is not the original price, is how much money are you going to put in the car. As mentioned, the car is pretty old and is going to require money spent on items from timing belt to other stuff. If you bought a newer car, even with higher miles, you can expect to get more in return for your investment in repairs.

I’d find a better place to spend my money.

I Owned Since Almost New (6,000 Miles), A Dodge Spirit From
that Era, But It Was The 2.5L 4-Cylinder Version. That Power Plant Was Smooth And Nearly Bullet Proof. I Went Out The Door With The 9 Month Old Car For $9,245 And Included A Very Good Factory Warranty (Bumper-To-Bumper & Drivetrain).

It was an excellent car with no bad habits, good in snow, and very reliable/dependable. It never let us down. I put almost nothing into over 15+ years except basic wear items, (tires, brakes, batteries, etcetera). It Was gentle on tires and gas. It had OBD1 onboard diagnostics, but I never really needed it much.

It was quite reasonably comfortable and easy to drive and had a decent trunk and seating for six. It got totaled once by a drunk, revived by me, and lived on to be handed down to one of my kids.
I can’t speak for the 6-Cylinder. I’m not even sure it’s an “interference engine” as far as a timing belt (or chain).

The transmission was excellent. Be sure and service it with the exact right Chrysler fluid (ATF-3, ATF-4 …???). Those Transmissions are great, but choosey and the wrong stuff can ruin it.

The age of this vehicle scares me a bit, but if purchased cheap (under $2,000) would probably be worth a shot.

Google that particular engine and visit and do some research.

You don’t say where the car is geographically so I will offer up my experience. If it saw any road snow/salt, you better look at the undercarriage very carefully. I have seen cars like this that looked absolutely pristine otherwise but the frame, brake lines etc anything under the car was rusting off of it…

Like others I think I would just view as a good quality old car but nothing special due to the work that will probably be needed. So I wouldn’t be excited either way but if I wanted to buy an old car anyway, that might be a good one with no rust.

You could probably buy a car a few years newer . . . but with more mileage . . . for the same price

But the newer car will have more safety features, possibly better brakes and maybe slightly more fuel efficient

I think that should be a factor

There’s no way on God’s green earth that I’d fork over $2K for a 1995 Acclaim. Everything elastomeric on the car is 21 years old, subject to rubber degradation, and, frankly, that car was just one in a long list of K-cars. $500 perhaps, IF it seems to be in good shape, but nowhere near $2K.

According to Edmunds, this car in clean condition is worth about $1800. If you can agree on a price less than $2000, get a prepurchase inspection by a mechanic you trust. Then reduce the price by whatever it needs. The timing belt is probably a $500 to $1000 job. That takes the price down near $1000 immediately. You will probably find that the cost of repairs is more than the car is worth. If you do much of the work yourself, this will give you more room for bargaining.

The Acclaim was considered the Accord Killer…The only thing it killed were peoples wallets. It was a very unreliable vehicle…and now being 21 years old…it’ll still be unreliable…only it won’t have a warranty.

@MikeINNH There’s actually a guy down the street who has one and his daughter drives it to school. They have two other cars. He’s from England and may not be familiar with really reliable cars. In any case, because of the dry climate here, the car shows little rust, and it has a block heater so she can start mornings. It just looks a little out of place.

The people across the street have a Mercedes and an Audi, as well as a classic Boss 302 Mustang. The rest also have upscale cars such as Lincoln Navigators.

In my area a used car that is driveable is worth $1500, if you want a car with paint on it $2000. People want more than $500 for cars without titles or a car without the engine. There are no $500 used car deals here, not in the last 25 years.

In 2008 I purchased a 1993 Acclaim with a failed torque converter for $600. Paying $1500-1800 for a functional car was out of my budget. I repaired the car, drove it for six months and sold it to a co-worker.

That car wouldn’t interest me, but it may be a perfect car for the right person. Some car parts age by time rather than miles. All of the rubber and plastic parts are suspect on a vehicle of this vintage, as well as the fluids. There could be significant corrosion in the cooling system unless the coolant was replaced every 3 years. Short trips like that can result in exhaust system corrosion and carbon build up inside the engine. So before writing any checks, ask a shop to do and pre-purchase inspection, making sure to include the above items.