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Oldie vs. newish-- which car to take to NY (and let rust?)

My husband just bought a 1992 Acura Vigor with 120k (?) miles on it, for $400 (don’t ask why). It’s had at least 3 owners and hasn’t been driven 20 miles in the last year. I am moving to Ithaca, NY for 3 years (residency) and was planning on taking my car, a 2002 Mazda protege (one owner-- me-- immaculately maintaned, but 115+ miles), which has never seen snow or salt. The Vigor already has a small amount of rust in a rear wheel well.



Should I take my Mazda to the frozen north where it may decompse? Or take the (potentially less reliable) Vigor as a sacrificial lamb? Both cars have ABS and a front airbag.

That '92 Vigor will not be anywhere near as reliable as the '02 Protege. When you think about the extremely frigid temperatures in Ithaca in the winter, consider the much higher probability of being stranded with that '92 Vigor when it fails to start for various reasons.

Yes, the Protege will suffer a bit from the salt-covered roads in that region, but if you want to be able to show up reliably and on time for your residency assignment, I suggest that you take the Protege. And, if you take the Protege to the car wash on a regular basis for an undercarriage wash in addition to the regular washing procedure, you can ameliorate the damage from road salt to a great extent.

Incidentally, if the battery in the Protege is more than 3 years old, replace it before you get to Ithaca, and also be sure that the crankcase is filled with either 5w-20 conventional motor oil or (preferably) 0w-20 synthetic oil. These lighter viscosity oils will make the car far easier to start on those really cold mornings.

I would also suggest that you get a set of 4 winter tires for the car. Even if you have adequate traction on flat slippery surfaces, the Ithaca area has lots of hills and you will likely have a problem staying on the road with the standard tires–especially if they are “performance” tires. I recommend the Michelin X-Ice tire for its outstanding traction as well as good dry-road handling and superior tread wear, as compared to its competition. Most important of all, a set of 4 winter tires will allow you to stop the car in a much shorter distance on snow, and even on ice.

I would suggest the answer is how important is reliability to you. If you can live with that occasional time when it may not start or has other problems, then the best economic choice is the Vigor. If the thought of getting stuck somewhere is not something you want to chance, then the Mazda would be first choice.

That is based on averages and either car may perform flawlessly or both may have many problems.

Good Luck

We live in Salt belt NE and a few of us have never had a rust problem in cars up to 15-20 years old…In addition to the other good advice remember that rust is more costly to repair and can make your car as unsafe as any mechanical failure.

A dedicated garden sprayer, a quart of motor oil, a pinch of gasoline (thinning) and treat the body cavities through drain holes, trunk liner and door jams once every two years. A ten minute job every other year and weekly winter washings and your body will out last the motor. It’s a DIY project with a little research…

BTW, that "little rust’ is more than you think between the liner and rear quarter. Access through trunk liner with a squirt of motor oil, and it’s done for two years. Rust needs 0xygen.
You’re just cutting it off.

So you can choose either car and disregard the rust factor…

If the thought of getting stuck somewhere is not something you want to chance, then the Mazda would be first choice.

If you’re stuck in town or in a built-up area, it’s not as bad, but getting marooned out in the sticks can be fatal. Consider whether you’ll be driving out of town on a regular basis, and whether you’re expected to show up even in a blizzard.

Rust really isn’t a problem in cars anymore, even in heavy salt areas. Until recently I had a 97 Chevy Lumina with close to 300k miles on it, driven in northern Michigan it’s whole life and there was virtually no rust on the vehicle. Take a look around, you won’t see any late 90’s+ vehicles with serious rust issues anywhere.

Thanks for all the advice/ tips. I’ll probably wind up taking the Protoge, but taking the Vigor is still tempting. I lived in Ithaca before, so I know what I’m in for. Switching oil formulas, updating battery, and snow tires (of course) will need to be done for either car. The tip about putting a little oil/ gas into the drain holes is a great idea. I plan on living on town, close by, so in theory, an occasional no-start would not be life-endangering, but very annoying. I am expected to be on time and work thru blizzards (who in Ithaca isn’t?) but no lives will be depending on me.

I guess I’m just apprehensive about taking the protoge, as my last car, a 1987 626 turbo died/donated after Ithaca (of rust and out-dated-ness— no airbags or ABS, if I recall correctly).

Thanks again!

I don’t think switching oils is necessary. I’m guessing that Mazda recommends 5w30. 5w30 is fine for Ithicas coldest and hottest temps. Switching oils is an obsolete practice not necessary with todays multi weight oils.

"97 Chevy Lumina with close to 300k miles on it, driven in northern Michigan it’s whole life and there was virtually no rust"
It was there, you saw <10% of it. Rust will only be hiding from view for years then metastasize into gaping holes in the final couple of years.

It is if you keep a car >10 years…that Vigor did not have a little rust. It’s a lot when you can finally see it. Open up your access fender liner through your trunk…on a five year old car. It’s there…truck frames lines and retainer clips really take it as well and are all “allowed to rust”. Newer cars just do a better job of hiding it from view with plastic body parts over the metal. Rust is still a big friend of the automobile company.

Agree, and synthetic oil can make a difference as well.

The important thing is not rust, it’s what you know.

Your husband “just bought” a Vigor. Great. It may be a good car and it may be a money pit. Only time will tell.

Your Protege, on the other hand, is a known commodity. You’ve had it for some time, maintained it according to the factory schedule (we hope), and you know what you have.

Right?

I suggest you take the Protege you know (and trust), and leave the Vigor you don’t know for your husband. After all, he’s the one who bought it.

Forget rust; it’s not important. In three years neither of these cars will be worth anything, regardless of their condition. Besides, you may be surprised at how well modern rust-proofing, which your Protege has, withstands winter’s worst.

Take the car you know and trust. It will continue to serve you well. Why gamble with an unknown? Stop worrying about rust. You can’t stop it. Just forget it and think about reliability. That’s what matters.

If you are only taking one car, take the Mazda. It should last well pat residency; possibly until your loans are paid off.

And if you are only taking one car, I guess Hubby isn’t moving with you. That’s tough. We have friends that started their University teaching careers about 2000 miles apart. After about 5 years they finally managed to land appointments on the same faculty. Good luck!

Thanks mcparadise and jtsanders. Yeah, husband has to stay. He’s tenured here in small southern city. No one warned me about the ramifications of being a career couple.

I like your argument, McP. And my parents do as well. My father turned green at the mere suggestion of taking the (very much unknown) Vigor. You’re right, the ProT will be essentially worthless after another 3 years. And despite my (inherited) emotional, irrational attachment to cars I’ve owned (except the 84 Ford Escort. Bleh), I suppose I could think the payoff for taking the ProT to Ithaca for sacrifice as being able to buy a new (used) car after the 3 years are up.

FWIW- the car has never seen anything but synthetic, and factory maint by the book (owner’s manual).

Thanks again.

“Forget rust; it’s not important. In three years neither of these cars will be worth anything, regardless of their condition. Besides, you may be surprised at how well modern rust-proofing, which your Protege has, withstands winter’s wors”

From a value and safety standpoint I have to disagree. A rust free high mileage car is worth something as a fixer upper. A rusted car that can’t pass inspection with low mileage is often worth Zero. Body repair cost sometimes dwarfs mechanical repair it’s so labor intensive. A small rust hole in a hidden place (under carpeting) or trunk area can cause unseen health problems. ALL used cars should ALWAYS be regularly inspected for rust and loss of body gaskets (rust area related) that could allow exhaust entry.

I can’t have that cavalier attitude towards rust. Many cars as I’ve stated “look” rust free on the outside, but have rust related safety issues that need yearly close inspection.

My newest car, an 05 Rav 4 now gets yearly body inspections while I treat it with motor oil. It will provide safe and completely rust free service as my 86 Nova did for my son for 15 years. It still got a decent trade in with 250k+ miles. Mechanical maintenance is only half the battle that’s much harder to win in the Rust belt.

Otherwise, I agree the Protege looks like the best bet.