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USED CAR: Cheap and high mileage, or lower mileage and higher priced?

Okay, I need a used vehicle. Was going to buy one at Car Max, but didn’t. (Don’t care about any comments on Car Max, thank you) My choices for a vehicle are a Kia Sorento, Mazda Tribute, or Ford Escape (all 6 cyl). Please do not give me other “choices,” as I AM going to buy one of the three, and nothing else. Now, I can get one of the three for about $5000.00, but it would be a 2002 to 2006 model with 120-150K miles on it. If I want to get a 2008 or newer, with under 70K miles, it’ll cost me around $11,000 - $16,000. I am already figuring a new set of tires and a replaced timing belt / water pump into my budget. Any thoughts on which way to go? I’m gonna need the vehicle for at least 5 years. Thanks!!

Take each to a mechanic BEFORE you buy anything. The cheap ones might be better than the newer ones, but you never know. With that many miles, and age, how they were treated before they were traded in is more important

Buy The Used Vehicle That Comes With Maintenance Documentation Showing That It Was Well Cared For By The Previous Owner.

Buy a vehicle that has a timing chain, not a belt. I have never replaced a chain on my maintained vehicles, even after 300,000 miles.

Buy a vehicle that comes with the best warranty, both bumper-to-bumper and drivetrain, 100% parts and labor.

Don’t buy a car that has been involved in a collision. Have it checked by a body shop if you don’t know what you’re looking at.

Buy the newest, youngest vehicle that you can easily afford.


I like the mechanic idea, and maintenance history. A high mileage maintained car could be a better bet than a lower mileage that is in need of a trans and coolant flush, tires, brakes and timing belt and tune up.

@commonsenseanswer engines with a timing chain aren’t always worry-free.

GM had major issues with their LY7 engines, meaning the 3.6 V6 from a few years ago. One of the problems was that the chains would stretch. That’s probably a case of poor engineering, though.

@GunDoctor, get the car with under 70K. That should easily last you 5 years, provided you immediately replace the timing belt and whatever else is needed or already overdue.

Set aside some money each year for repairs and maintenance.

I too would not want to be saddled with a 150K 2002 model car for another 5 years so would go with the 2008. But agree it should be checked out.

Thanks guys. I had found an escape that “looked” really good, but the local Ford Service manager, another local wrench jockey, and you guys agree. YES, whatever I buy will go to my favorite local mechanic BEFORE any money changes hands, and then it will go back to him, after purchase to have the basics taken care of.

I suggested a car with a timing chain. I was only offering advice to help you and it is based on decades of personal experience.

I have had many cars with timing belts and have replaced many of them myself. Now I own several cars with timing chains, 6 cars, actually. I’m down to just one vehicle with a timing belt, recently replaced along with the pump, tensioners, seals, etcetera.

It’s not by accident that I have one vehicle with a t-belt. As I replace vehicles I buy only timing chain vehicles. The maintenance savings and convenience of having these vehicles pays me back over and over. I’m done with belts. I wish I had done it sooner.

They don’t sell Kias and Mazdas around here and I didn’t take the time to see which of these vehicles utilized a belt (I don’t know about the Ford).

Gun Doctor, many regulars here don’t appreciate people who ask for help and then come back with an attitude. It’s not helpful.


Gun Doctor, most, if not all, auto manufacturers are going away from the timing belt to the chain. Honda still uses the belt in the V6, but doesn’t use it anymore in the four 4-cyl. engines they offer.

@jtsanders personally, I would rather change the belt, seals, tensioners, water pump, etc. every few years and know everything’s fine rather than not do anything and hope everything’s fine.
After all, chains, guides, tensioners, etc. occasionally have problems.

I think the attack on Common Sense Answer is uncalled for as CSA was only trying to be helpful by offering advice that on average a chain will last the life of the car as opposed to a timing belt which is no way, no how going to last the life of the vehicle.

Most chain and/or tensioner failures can usually be traced back to not changing the oil often enough and that falls back upon the car owner. The same principle applies to motorcycle chains. Clean/lube a cycle chain regularly and it lasts a decent amount of time. Ignore it and 5k miles may be the limit. Clean lube makes a huge difference in longevity.

For what it’s worth and after quite a few decades, I’ve never had to replace a chain in anything of mine or even needed to other than one repair on a SAAB one time and in that case the chain was fine but the tensioner shoe was worn and which caused it to rattle slightly.
Even the old Mercury Sable I owned had a good chain with 420k miles on the clock.

I was okay with timing belts until I took my Mitsu in for a belt change around 2003. They got the balance shaft 180 degrees off and the engine had a naasty vibration. It took a few trips back and forth and then to the dealer to fix the problem. The 1st store refunded part of my cost, but no refund for the time I put on this or the headache it caused. After that experience, I have made it my mission to stay away from cars with a timing belt. This is usually not something I can tackle in my backyard and relying on others is not always a matter of payinf only.

@ok4450 the chain problems that GM had with their LY7 engine had nothing to do with oil changes.
They pathetically tried to blame the oil change intervals and shortened them. When that didn’t work, they finally came out with several TSBs. Some of the TSBs essentially explain that certain DTCs mean the chains have stretched. They now have a part # which includes all the parts needed for a timing chain job.
They also have several training videos explaining, step by step, and with videos, on how to replace the chains and rebuild the LY7 engine. I’ve seen them, because I have access to that website. The fact that they even did that proves, to me, at least, that GM feels their technicians are going to spend some time fixing these engines, and the technicians had better get some idea what’s involved. When I worked at the Benz dealer, the manufacturer also had videos explaining how to repair the more problematic POS engines. They didn’t have videos for the more reliable engines. I wonder why . . .

Thanks, OK 4450.

My older Intredid V-6 3.5L had a belt and newer one, a V-6 2.7L had a chain, no, 3 chains, and one was several feet long. I did a couple of belt jobs on the 3.5L (factory recommended 120,000 intervals) and never touched the 2.7L. Both cars always ran perfectly and NO engine noise, just a quiet purr, despite the fact that some 2.7s were know to wear the lining off some guides. It could have been an oil change neglect thing as you referenced. The only thing that was stupid to me is the chain driven water pump on the 2.7L, but thankfully it never let go.

Now my GMs, mainly with 3.8L, 3.6L, and 3.5L V-6 engines have chains, simple short chains and they too are quiet and smooth. I doubt they’ll ever need servicing, running on clean Mobil-1EP all the time.

Besides my one Dodge Caravan that has a belt that I recently did the whole bit on I have decided to stay away from timing belts. We have too many cars and too many drivers driving too many miles.What a relief for me.


So, I Never Did Determine. Which Of The 3 Vehicles - Ford, Mazda, Kia - In This Discussion Has Belts And Which Has Chains ? I’m Curious.


Okay, Mr. “common sense answer,” if you would have taken the time to actually read my question, you would have noticed that I chose 3 vehicles, and only three. I also stated that those were the only three I was interested in. Therefor, your comments are completely off topic, and just you trying to be all smart and wise.

Ya know, I agree that a chain might be better. BUT, and this is a big but: I asked a very, very, very specific question. The answer I got is much like someone asking a question about which apple to use in a pie, and getting a reply about the best orange to make juice out of. Yeah, both fruit related, but… I have made a decision. and that is that I am not going to ask any more questions on some anonymous internet forum. I will ask folks face to face. So, good bye.

" . . . if you would have taken the time to actually read my question, you would have noticed that I chose 3 vehicles, and only three. "

I did take the time. I still don’t know which vehicles utilize belts and which vehicles utilize chains. I did see that the Doctor set aside money for at least one of the vehicles that could require a belt replacement. Choosing the vehicle without the belt would free up money for something else.

One thing I look at when buying a car is whether or not it’s got a timing belt. I was offering my opinion and advice. Nobody has to accept it.

Here’s another one. Personally, I would also avoid buying a car that has a turbo-charger or super-charger. Again, a personal opinion that one can heed as advice or leave it.

I guess with the missing information in the Doctor’s original question, which ones have belts/chains and which ones don’t, it created a GIGO situation for me. You can’t please everybody, but you can try.

Bye, bye, Doctor.


The only childish posts that I see are yours, Gun Doctor. Just let it go and enjoy the responses. If you get one you don’t like, just ignore it.

that on average a chain will last the life of the car as opposed to a timing belt which is no way, no how going to last the life of the vehicle.
That isn't entirely true. Most people, when the belt breaks and they need a new engine, scrap the car and get a new one. Thus, the life of the car ends there. Same with the "lifetime" transmission fluid.

CSA: I bought a car with a turbo, but I bought it new. No way, no how would I ever buy one used, though.