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Opinions Needed

I have an opportunity to purchase a 1991 Nissan Sentra for $1000. The gentleman selling the car acquired it from the estate of an elderly woman that purchased the car brand new. The car only has 54,XXX miles on it. The problem is that the car has an “internal transmission problem” according to the mechanic that inspected it for me.

I can purchase a transmission, with 74,xxx miles on it, from a salvage yard for about $200 with a 90 day warranty. I have a transmission shop t flush the transmission, change the seals, change the filter and install it for $425. This would mean I would have $1625 in the car.

Alternatively, I can get a transmission, from Japan Direct, with 22,xxx miles on it for $575 and pay the same shop $425 to install it. Total $2,000.

I would love your opinions. Does this seem like it would be worth it or would you walk away.


What is the nature of the internal transmission problem?

Sounds to me like the car was probably bought, driven for a few years, and then the woman got too old to drive and it sat in the driveway gathering dust. As such, expect a lot of irritating issues, especially with rubber parts. Also don’t be surprised if a mouse or three made a home somewhere in the car.

In short, you’re looking to put over 2 grand (because the transmission isn’t the only problem you’re going to have) into a car that’s worth less than 2 grand.

Run away. Far away. As fast as your feet can carry you. This purchase has more “red flags” than the United Nations building.

  1. the car is a '91. It’d only be worth $1000 if it were in good running order.

  2. never ever ever believe the “only driven by a little old lady” story…or anything else a salesperson says. “Bought it from the estatet of a little old lady” is the more refined version of the tale.

  3. you have no idea what problems will emerge should you successfully change the tranny and take it out on the road. I promise you, there will be problems.

  4. Are you certain it has only 54,000 miles? Is this a 5-place odometer? Perhaps it has 354,000 miles. That would explain the tranny problem. They don’t usually break in 54K miles.

The “estate on an old lady” line is as old as the hills. The minute someone tells you this, run away. The teller of the tale is a crook.

It is a private sale, not a dealer. I have not checked the Carfax, that would settle the question of ownership. The current owner bought it for his daughter, who drove it for about a year. The odomoter is a 6 place odometer, so it hasn’t tripped as far as I can tell.
Thanks for your comments

Private owners lie too.

Look, if the car were in good operating condition it would be worth $1000. Under the existing conditions it defeintely is not. Even if the owner is teling the absoluet truth, it still isn’t worth $1000 with a busted tranny.

Not a good deal in my opinion. Even if everything you were told is true, the fact is that it isn’t in good condition and I suspect that the transmission is just the beginning of the issues you are likely to experience.

Count my vote as a no also. Everybody has a story about a car and a 20 year old car with a transmission problem is not worth 1000 dollars.

It may (key word) be worth 500 bucks at best assuming the mileage is legitimate (there’s ways around that too) and the rest of the car is in excellent shape.

I would also wonder why a 54k miles Sentra would have a trashed transmission. Maybe the car WAS in excellent shape when he acquired it and his daughter made a right hash of it as the Brits would say. If so, odds are the transmission was not the only thing thrashed.

“The next deal is down the road…” - Annonymous

I agree $1000. is too much for it considering it needs transmission work. I bought an '88 Ford Escort GL with 78,000 miles in very good condition a couple years ago for $800., it was also owned by an elderly lady. So far it’s been a great car and all I’ve had to do to it is replace the a/c compressor and recharge the a/c system ($60 for a rebuilt compressor, $20 worth of freon), but I knew it was bad when I bought the car and knew it wouldn’t cost much for me to get another one and repair it.

The faster you leave this “deal” behind you… the better off you will be.

Even if fixed for a 91 you would still be lopsided in value if you tried to sell. Find another great deal.

That too. Hell you can get SE-Rs for that kind of money, and they were a much better car than the base Sentras.

Agree that this would only be a good deal if the car was perfect. I once bought a car (1977 Mitsubishi Colt) that had really been owned by a “little old lady” (not from Pasadena!) with only 20,000 actual miles. The plastic covering was still on the seats and doors.

But it needed a new bracket to hold up the alternator, the oil had likely been changed very few times, it developed blowby as soon as I had purged all the false seals out.

On the whole it was a cheap car to drive, but had constant and irritating little things go wrong with it.

When you by such a car, insist on the maintenance records; if unavalilable or incomplete, RUN FAST!!