Outside opinions on makes and models

Hi again folks.

Today’s question focuses on buying a cheap used car. So far on the affordable and available list are the following two:

*1990 Toyota Corolla Wagon, 3spd Auto. 111k

*1992 Plymouth Colt Vista Wagon, 5spd Manual. 89K.

We have also come across some great 90’s Ford escort wagons. The mileage on those are amazing. But they are as rare as the 1st two.

What about maintenance?

OK! I know what 99.9% of you are going to say: Toyota. Duh.

But Toyotas run over 1K more than the Plymouth (or Ford), gas mileage is relatively equal (ok, fine. Plymouth gets 1-2 miles per gallon less than toyota and about 5-7 less than the ford. I’m ok with that if it’s a good car).

If you are wondering, YES, we like ugly/funky/whacky cars. The plymouth’s price, mileage, interior, and obscurity is right. Someone please let me know if we’d be crazy to ponder this oddity over a toyota wagon or… the Ford Escort wagon, if we can find one for a good price?


Take all of them to a trusted mechanic and have them give the cars a once over. The one in the best condition should win.

I’d take the manual Vista over the automatic Corolla. The 3-speed automatic will reduce the gas mileage, and the automatic sucks the life out of the car. I remember shopping for Corollas in 1991. We drove an automatic and a 5-speed. There was no comparison. I wouldn’t buy an automatic.

Those little Escort wagons are great, aren’t they? If you can find a nice one.

The maintenance a vehicle had before you buy it is more important than anything else. None of the cars you’re looking at are difficult or expensive to maintain, but buying one that’s been properly cared for will make a big difference. These are the kinds of cars some people drive and ignore, so make sure you know the history.

I’d stay away from anything in this price range with an automatic transmission. Manuals get better mileage and the cost of one automatic transmission repair will equal what you pay for the car.

The Colt Vista wagon was built by a Japanese company for Chrysler, not sure which one perhaps Nissan. It seemed to be a pretty good car and holds up better than most Chrysler made cars.

Corolla wagons are good cars too, but I like the manual transmission in the Colt. Have a mechanic check out the Colt and if it looks good then don’t worry about the looks and buy the Colt.

Opinion? You’re Looking At Cars With Just One Tire Out Of The Crusher. Just Pick One. You Won’t Have It Long. Which Color Do You Like?

The sad truth is that we are talking about cars that are 17 to 20 years old, none of which are worth much. One broken timing belt or bad water pump and it’s toast! Buy a couple of them. Don’t tighten the license plate screws too tightly. Don’t waste more money having it checked out. You wouldn’t want to put more money into fixing anything. You are not discovering some kind of new money saving transportation solution.

"Someone please let me know if we’d be crazy to ponder this oddity over a toyota wagon or… the Ford Escort wagon, if we can find one for a good price?"
OK, You’re crazy. You’re welcome.

I’m wasting electrons. Enough said.
Sincerely, CSA

P.S. Don’t pay much more than the metal scrap value. That’s your warranty!

My future wife and my Mother-in-Law had 86 and 88 Dodge Colt sedans when we met. The Colts were Mitsubishi and were decent cars for the time. However both of your choices are 17 - 19 years old so it’s a crap shoot. If it were me I would base my choice on the condition of the vehicle and how well it was maintained. Both the Corolla and the Colt have timing belts and may need replacing.

Ed B.

86, 88, Future Wife? How Long Have You Been Engaged, Like 20 Or 25 Years?

I’d go with an American badged car, like Ford. Mitsubishi made The Zero for the other side in WWII and they wound up being defeated by P-51s and B-29s. B-24s were built right in MoTown! Does that tell you a story?

The Japanese were shooting down P-51’s right up till the closing days of the war,a good plane will not compensate for pilot error.

Not so much, The only Japanese planes that were in the same league as the P-51 were the Ki-84 ,Kawanishi N1K, and the Ki-100. And most of those were never produced in significant quantity. By the time the P-51 entered the pacific theater (circa mid 1944), Allied had achieved air superiority in most areas and the majority of Japan’s experienced pilots were dead or MIA.

Not saying that P-51’s weren’t lost in the closing days of the war, but it was the exception rather than the rule.

Don’t Forget The “High-Tech”, Early “Guided Missles”, Produced By Nakajima.

These Ki-115s saved weight and cost by not having to install “landing gear”. Since they wouldn’t be landing, they used droppable “take-off” gear, instead. The company also saved thousands of yen by not having to offer a warranty. Pilot complaints were unheard of with this model.

P.S. I loved watching Bob Hoover put his P-51 to the limits.

What do those planes have anything to do with cars?

Colt, if you’re going to look for old threads with out-of-context posts, you’ll find them by the thousands…

In 20 year old used cars you’ll need to take whichever is in the best shape. A good once-over by a trusted mechanic is critical to finding out.

Know that in any 20 year old car you can expect problems. Even if the shop says it’s in perfect shape, it’s still old, and something could fail any moment. The best you can do is improve your odds with a good look-see.

Hey, hold on…I just realized this thread is two years old. Who pulled this up again?

Despite what my other threads on here might imply about it, my 1993 Escort has been a good car, worth the $1300 I paid for it in 2006. I have never paid more than $3000 for a car in my life, and am nearing 40 - so I have learned a bit over the years. The Escort has a manual transmission and the typical issues you would expect for a car of its age, but it drives rather well, and has a better ride and feel them my automatic 1992 Corolla did. I bought it because it was cheaper than a Corolla, but recommended as “the best car for the price range you can get if you can’t find a Corolla”. The 1.9L motor I am told is a Mazda motor, and gets decent MPG - I get 31-33 on the highway with it. Not bad for a cheap, underappreciated car.

Corollas are good cars, and I regret selling mine to this day - but for the lower price ranges, you find many that are beaten down and abused - not many well cared for without a premium price tag. Dollar for dollar, I think my Escort was a better deal than a comparably priced Corolla - no reservations about that comment.

The Vista would probably be hard to find parts for, if nothing else. I would stay away from it.

something tells me the choice was already made. thread is dated may 2009


For some reason that I cannot fathom, a new member–screen name “Colt”–has chosen to resurrect VERY old threads in order to make inane comments. Additionally, he/she likes to add a HUGE number of very brief posts to new-ish threads.

All told, this new member is using up a whole lot of bandwidth for…

Yup. This has been noted, and I’m closing the thread. I closed everything that hasn’t been posted in for the last three months today, but clearly some stuff got missed in the cutoff.