Recommendation for a used car

Dear Car talk community,

I have a 1991 Olds Toronato, lately it has been giving me problems (stalls very often). maybe forced to look for replacement.

The car will be used for daily 10 miles/day local driving. seems to be a waste to get a brand new car. Things look for in the car— mechanically reliable, good safety features, 4-wheel drive, if possible good fuel efficiency.

1) what models and yrs would you recommend?

2) how to get a reliable used car?



  1. Go to new car dealerships and drive as many makes and models that are interesting to you.
  2. Decide which you like the best.
  3. Do your research –,,,,,, etc. are all good resources.
  4. Find a 2 - 4 year-old one, preferable one owner with all the maintenance service receipts.
  5. Pay for a pre-purchase inspection from an independent mechanic who specializes in the make.
  6. Most Asian brands (Honda, Toyota, Huyndai, Lexus, Acura, Nissan, Infiniti, Subaru) offer good reliable used cars for fair prices.


You might get that stalling problem fixed, could be pretty cheap, then decide about needing a newer car.

If you could milk a Toronado for that long, I would think for just 10 miles a day of local driving, another fwd car would be fine. A used Ford Focus would give best bang for the buck overall, a used CRV for awd if you insist, both IMO are good cost effective choices.

Twotone -

Most likely someone driving a 1991 Olds Toronado either can’t afford or does not want to spend as much money as it would cost to get a Lexus, Acura, or Infiniti in working order. Most of the other brands you mention - Honda, Toyota, Nissan, and Subaru - are going to be rather pricey even used, unless you go 10+ years old.

Thanks to changing consumer sentiment, many Ford models are also getting to be just as pricey on the used car market (I’ve seen dealers asking $19k for a 2008 Taurus with 95,000 miles, which I think is absurd). The Focus and Crown Vic are about their only sedans which still go for pretty fair prices used.

The real bargains are probably going to be used GMs and Hyundais - they still depreciate rapidly, but if you are careful what model you pick and get it inspected, you can still get a reliable vehicle at a significant discount to new.

Dear Twotone,

thank you very for the sound advices. Just talked to the mechanic, seems to be wise to look for a gently used car than spending a lot of money on diagnostic on the 20 yr Olds.

I’d appreciate some more advice to limit the search on a few models, since time is somewhat limited in searching for an substitute. Main interests:

  1. a passenger car, NOT SUV; is mid size safer than a compact?
  2. mechanically reliable, not a lot of repairs to do
  3. 4-wheel drive would be nice
  4. good safety features
  5. ideally good fuel efficiency, if possible.



Yes, larger = safer, typically. If you really want all wheel drive (‘4-wheel drive’ is what some pickups and SUVs have), then a recent Subaru would fit your needs. If you can get by without awd, then there are many, like Fusion, Camry, Accord, Malibu, etc.

I’m with Texases on this one.

Have you had the stalling diagnosed yet?

I have sent this as a separate question. the current status is that the mechanic has drivent the car, able to reproduce the stall, however, they pulled on all the wires, checked on things, cannot find the reason. they said that it may not be wise to spend a lot of money trying to diagnose it, since it is fairly old, though each yr i add on limited mileage.

any input on how the diagnose the problem would be appreciated. I kept the 1991 olds in decent shape.

Dear Mechanic,

I have a 1991 Olds Toronato, gently used since for the past 10 years, it has been used most for local 10 mile/day driving. Until several months ago, it never had any mechanical problems. However, lately the engine would stall, most of the time this happened while I stopped before making a turn, but it has also stalled several times during driving. The places it stalled during driving seem to be related to turns in the road. A local car shop that i have been using for yrs worked on this several times, but the problem seems to persist.

The only thing that i can recall that might be slightly related to this was— for the past few years, on longer drives, at some point the car seemed to have a bit of hard time going. But it had never really stalled until recently.

I really like this car. Is it too old to keep? I wouldn’t think it would be wise to spend a lot of money to get it thoroughly checked out by a dealer (it is actually hard to find a GM dealer nearby).

I understand that a car would like to have a ride at around 50 mph for some distance once a while. I wonder whether my car has been used too much for local driving, but i am afraid of taking it on a highway with it’s current problem.

I got a reply-- recommend replacing power steering pressure switch, makes good sense, however, was told my car model yr does not have it. please see this follow up:

I brought the car to the local mechanic whom i always use. He called parts store and dealer. Part store does not have that switch listed for my model yr, dealer does not say that the car has it. He will physically look for it today.

Any help would be appreciated. (

several observations:

i am light on the gas peddle. for the past several yrs, when i got into a longer drive, the car would occasionally struggle when it is uphill combined with some curviness in the road. but actual stalling is recent. The very first time it stalled was in the past winter, at a red light. It was a few days after the battery got changed, since the it was found to be a bit low at inspection.

  1. Another thing is that the radio reception is getting worse and worse. 1st is FM bad for a couple of yrs; now it’s AM. seems to be worse after the car got worked on. I kept on reminding them to see whether there is any interconnection in that general area.

I’d appreciate your advices!!!


Dear Twotone,

thanks for the advices.

Here is my confusion. Unless there is something wrong with the car, why would someone sell a 2008, or 2009 car? I know to ask for carfax report, and bring the car to a mechanic prior to purchasing. But how would i know the reason that the previous owner sold the car is not because the car has a problem? Or some people just like to have brand new cars all the time?


If you don’t demand high gas mileage, used Grand Marquis, Ford Crown Vic, Lincoln Town Car
from the late 90’s are often very low mileage, in good shape, and pretty reliable.