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Taurus vs. Alero

I just purchased a 2000 Oldsmobile Alero with 90K miles on it with no warrenty. In a matter of two weeks I’ve already had to send it to the shop twice for repairs and there are still a lot more to be done. Much to my dismay, my mechanic told me I should try to get my money back. Of course, I can’t do that, but the dealer did offer to trade me for a 2001 or 2002 Taurus with 90K miles instead. My mom drives a Taurus and is nothing but happy with it. However, I’ve been reading a lot of bad reviews about the Taurus and bad head gaskets and things. My question is, do I keep the Alero and keep making the costly repairs or do I chance it with a Taurus?

I don’t want to pour salt in the wound, but the right time to bring a used car to a mechanic to be checked out is before you agree to buy it.

The reliability reports for both vehicles aren’t good. My cousin has a 7 year-old Taurus with 65,000 miles on the odometer that has had nothing but problems over the past year, including a transmission failure that cost $1800 to fix. If the dealer is willing to trade the Alero for the Taurus, I’d bring the Taurus to your mechanic first to ask him whether it’s a better bet than the Alero.

I know a lot of people are probably sick of hearing this, but you’re less likely to have reliability problems with a Honda Accord or Toyota Camry. My previous car was a 1993 Camry I bought used with 72K on it. When I traded it in it had 224K and still ran smoothly, though it needed a new gas tank and a few other miscellaneous repairs related to rust due to the salted winter roads where I live. I traded it in on an Accord with 40K, and that has served me extremely well over the past 3 years, with the only expenses being oil changes and a new set of tires at 75K.

Of course, a used Accord or Camry should be checked out by a mechanic before you buy it as well. No car is immune to problems.

Good luck…


Well, have the Taurus checked by a mechanic. What kind of problem is the Alero having. It usually take couple of weeks to bring a used car up to par with your desire. Both of these car are on the average side of the reliability scale but I think your problem is mostly related to the previous upkeep of the used car and I doubt the Taurus is going to be much better. My guess is just based on the fact that both are priced about the same and are being resold by the same dealer. The probably have been acquired in the same auction.

what is the estimate to repair the alero to a safe driveable condition? You have already spent some money on it it may be worth continuing to fix it.

Taurus can be a nice car. I prefer them though if they have the 3.0 with 24 valves the other 3.0 lacks power for this size car in my opinion. Do you know what engine the cars the dealer is offering as a trade has? I have a friend who was a service advisor at a Ford dealership. He said he saw a fair amount of customers with taurus that got to 200k and beyond. That convinced me to buy my first mercury sable ls which is basically a taurus in mercury clothes. I think the life of a used car has as much to do with how the previous owner drove and maintained it as it does manufacturer. See if the dealer has any maintenance records on the Taurus that may help you decide.

So what kind of repairs are you having to do to the Alero?
There are “bad car” repairs and there are normal wear and tear items.

i just bought a 2000 taurus wagon with the 3.0 24 valve dohc . it had 124,000 on it i paid 3500 for it
i had to replace the plug , wires, and had an oil leak around the oil pan and one at the valve pan
cost me 600.00 to fix it but i love the car

Well said. Ditto!

I have owned an 86 and a 92 Taurus and a really hard time keeping the 86 on the road and out of the shop, but the 92 was an improvement. If they fixed the transmission problems by 02 it should be a reliable car. Do the background check and have a mechanic take a look.

According to my car dealer friends, a lot can be said for choosing the Taurus and Areo over the Accord and Camry. They stress though, 1 to 2 years old and less than 30 k miles. Cost of ownership compares very favorably to Accord and Camry for next 4 to 6 years…At the 90k + range, that’s strickly Accord and Camry domain for more trouble free ownership. These are dealers that sell American cars predominately.

The Accord and Camry are good cars, no question, but you’re going to pay a lot more both in initial purchase of a used one and on any repairs. The Ford Taurus, especially the later ones, have proven to be very reliable cars with much cheaper parts and much simpler repairs. The Ford Taurus you can buy for a given amount of money is going to be much more reliable than the Accord or Camry you buy for the same amount.

Of course, it all comes down to condition-- I think this trade the dealer is proposing sounds like a suspiciously good deal. Definitely learn your lesson and get the thing checked out before you consider making the trade.

The Alero is known for at least three common faults.

One is intake manifold gaskets that are prone to leaking (mostly to the inside where the coolant mixes with the engine oil, bad news). Gms fault with this, but no recall. Long story and many of them here.

Second is front brake problems like premature wear and disc warping.

The third is faulty blower motor resistor blocks. There were many of these.

I can’t say diddly about the Taurus as I don’t know anything about them aside from the fact they wear a Ford badge.

I personally know three former owners that showed and told me about them.(The Aleros)

My son has a 2001 Alero (bought used in 2004) which he drives daily, but has had the resistor block changed once and the front brakes twice in the last 26k miles.
The intake gasket was replaced just before he took the car over and has all the previous service/maintenance records.

The Taurus, 96 and newer, does not really have the problems you’re likely worrying about.

Head gasket problems were widespread on the 3.8L engine discontinued after the 1995 model year. You don’t have that problem with an 01 or 02.

Transmission problems were mostly licked around the same time.

For best luck, try to avoid a plastic intake manifold (some later designs were fixed for this problem - but earlier ones had a nice aluminum manifold that was trouble-free). Also look for an AX4N transmission - the AX4S isn’t bad, but the AX4N is definitely superior.

The 12V vulcan is known to be a relatively bullet-proof engine, but it does have its quirks. Its DPFE sensor is prone to failure, but is not very expensive ($40-50) and trivial to replace for a DIYer. The camshaft position sensor also causes some problems and is a bit more expensive to replace ($300-400 at a dealer). They tend to last 80-120k, though, so constant replacement is not an issue. The 24V has the same DPFE sensor issue, but the camshaft position sensor is not a problem. They tend not to be quite as reliable overall, though (it isn’t a tank of an engine like the 12V)

With over 45 years of car ownership, I have owned many makes. The domestic cars were no more expensive to own in their “lifetime” than the Hondas and Toyotas; even though they may have had more repairs. The reason I tend to stay with the Toyotas, was NOT COST of ownership or parts but, as I got older, I was less in the mood to “hike” home when my Fords and Chevys left me “standed” which they were more prone to do… reliability was more important than overall cost of ownership. Though, the most trouble prone make I’ve owned were my SAABs.

The first generation Taurus 84?-95 were dogs. the second generation were great 96-99. I owned one and when traded it had over 300,000 miles on it. Besides several tires, brakes and oil changes ( Lucas oil treatment added) the only thing I changed was 1 starter and 1 alternator. That car was bullet proof! I now own an 01 Taurus and it is great also. Keep in mind just because you find an Accord or Camry it will not guarantee it is any good. Those models are good but every manufacturer makes some bad klinkers once in a while.