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Used car choices to replace ciera

It’s time to replace my 1991 Olds Cutlass Ciera. The engine is still going strong but the body is falling apart. It has been the most reliable car I have ever owned.

We have a cash budget of about $4000-4500. I am thinking of the Chevy Malibu or Ford Taurus. I was considering the Olds Intrigue but understand the dohc motor is complicated and expensive for repairs. We have had bad luck with Buick reliablity in the past, so I haven’t really considered the Century. I would consider the Impala I think, though it does seem very big compared to my Ciera. I’m sure with my budget I will be looking at models 2000-2003. DH feels the Malibu is too small. It is a bit smaller than my current car, but I don’t know if I would say too small. He really likes his own 2003 Taurus. His Taurus is very comfy and handles great but I have a terrible time parking because I can’t see the end of the front or back of the car. Does anyone know if all Taurus models are like this or maybe just the 2003? Does anyone have any experience with any of these cars? Which would be most similar to my Ciera? Reliablity is most important to me, also not too expensive/complicated repairs, good safety, mid-sized sedan, prefer American. I appreciate any and all input. Thanks you in advance!

Taurus and Malibu would be good choices for what you have in mind. I would also add the Buick Regal, it’s one of the better cars from US manufacturers, now that the intake manifold gasket problems have been resolved.

Others will urge you to buy the $10 Consumer Reports Used Car buyers guide; it shows whih cars age well, and which not.

With your budget I would stay away from: any Volkswagen, any 4 wheel drive or all wheel drive, any Ford, Chrysler or GM minivan.

There are also good compact cars, if space is not an issue; Mazda Protege, Hyundai Elantra, Chevy Prism.

Happy shopping.


Thanks Docnick. I am going to look at a 2000 Malibu LS tomorrow. 1 owner, 70k miles, excellent condition for $3900. It sounds perfect until I start reading some online user reviews for the 2000 malibu. They are terrible reviews. I could hardly find a good one. Should I be scared and avoid this particular year? Was the 2000 Malibu any worse than say the 2001-2003? Thanks…

Probably yes; the Malibu & malibu Maxx improved greatly after that. I would not hesitate to buy a low milege 4 year old one.

A 4 year old one you would consider 2005 or newer, right? I will not be able to find one that new for $4000-4500. So, you would avoid the 2001-2003 as well as the 2000? If so, that will mean taking the Malibu off my list I think.

Agree; 2005 was the first year the Malibu got on the “buy” list. And that was the V6 model; I would not recommend a 4 cylinder model. You may be able to find a Buick Regal or Ford Crown Victoria in that price range.

In all cases, the maintenance history is just as important as how well the car was built.

You should be able to find a 2001-2003 Buick Regal LS in your price range. I have a 1998 Regal LS and it’s been very good to us. It has about 125,000 miles on it now. Expect to get about 27 MPG on the highway; maybe better. That’s what I got while commuting. The Pontiac Grand Prix is the closest GM car to the Regal. You might look at them, too.

Thanks for your replies. I did some internet searching at Regals and in our area the 2000-2003 models are not in our price range unless they have very high miles. Would you recommend the Regal over the Century? We had problems with 2 older Buicks from the 1980’s, and my mom had a lot of problems with her LeSabre (probably late 90’s model). I recently looked at a 2000 Century that had a loud lifter tick. Do you think our experiences with Buicks were unusual? Would we be fine to consider them on our list of choices and if so are there any models or years to avoid? Thanks again!

“Would you recommend the Regal over the Century?”

I would. I prefer the 3.8L engine. Ours has over 125,000 miles on it and runs quite well. The main differences are the engine, transmission, bucket seats instead of the bench, and disk brakes on the rear instead of drum brakes. Other than that, they are just about identical.

Well, we went to a few car lots yesterday to try out several different models. I drove a Malibu, Taurus, Grand Prix, Century, Regal and Focus. We have narrowed down the list of cars we liked to a 2003 or newer Century or a 2004 or newer Taurus. The Taurus we drove was a 2006. It was a bit over our price range and had only 75K miles. I never thought that new of car would be an option. With my selection now down to these 2 cars, what would you recommend and why? Thank you!

It is a toss up. Which one would you enjoy driving more? I am stuck with a car with uncomfortable seats. When I bought it my commute was 6 miles and didn’t notice it. Now for whatever reason my commute is 80 miles each way in LA traffic.

The other deciding factor when buying a used car is which one is better maintained. Some times no matter what you want to buy you don’t find a decent one during your shopping window.

Be certain to compare the seating of the Buick Century with the Ford Taurus. Try to drive each car as long as possible on a test drive. I had to drive a Century provided by my institution and I wasn’t comfortable with the seat. On the other hand, I’ve used the institution’s Ford Taurus cars and found them comfortable. Someone else may have the opposite experience. You may find the Century just fine if you liked the Ciera. Be certain to do an extended test drive as you seem to keep a vehicle for a long time.