Which Buick Century?

Hello again! I had posted in the past asking for advice on a used car choices. I have decided I like the Century the best. I drove one in town that handled very nicely, but the driver seat padding seemed to have broken down, so it felt like you were leaning toward the door. I found 2 other Century’s I am interested in and over the phone was told that both seats sit level, so I hope its true. Here are the two choices. Both are an hour drive away in different directions. They are both 2002 Buick Century Limited and both appear to be in very nice condition. One has 105K miles, is at a large dealership in a big city. It is a one-owner car, traded in, carfax documents the work done over the years, and it incl. 30 day warranty for $4975. The other has 79k miles, is at a small dealership in a smaller city. It was bought by the small dealer from a large dealer. It is a 2 owner car, carfax does not show any maintenace records for this car, but it was in an accident in 2005 with moderate damage. It is $5500 and also has a 30 day warranty. Which car would be the better choice? I keep my cars a LONG time and want to get the best deal. Thank you in advance!

First off CarFax is not a reliable or meaningful gauge of how well a car has been maintained-- it’s only good for finding accidents and title fraud. So, realistically, the only meaningful difference between these cars is the 26k miles and the small accident. I’d personally be inclined to go for #1 just because it’s cheaper. Or if the mileage issue is important to you, you could try to talk #2 down, since you can truthfully say you found a virtually identical car for $500 less.

Either way you lean, get it checked out by an independent mechanic BEFORE you buy, because CarFax and the dealer’s say-so are not reliable ways to establish the condition of a car.

Thank you for your input. Do you think the car with 26k fewer miles would conceivably give me an extra 2 years of use?

I see you added to your post…do you think the mileage differnece is a non-issue?

You need to see, drive and evaluate both of these cars. Then the one you are most impressed with have that one checked over be a mechanic in the area.

The extra miles on one car won’t mean less life, or more life per se. The extra miles might mean more wear on the brakes and struts. This is the stuff the mechanic inspection should cover. To give an opinion on one car over the other is tough without more info.

Perhaps you should consider replacing the seat in the car you test drove. There are new, or newer, driver’s seat available from salvage yards at low cost. Seats are very easy to remove and install one that is in good shape. A local body shop can give you a price for changing the seat.

The car I that test drove sold already. I don’t think it was as good of deal either though - 2003 Century Custom with 99k for $6639, although, they may have been willing to go down to $5995.
I know looking at both would be ideal, but with them each an hour away in different directions, I prefer to choose the best one to go see…I could go see one during the week, but could not possibly visit both until the weekend. Of course, I worry they will be sold by then.
As far as breaks, Carfax (I know may be unreliable) says the one with 105k miles had 4 tires mounted and fronts break pads and rotors replaced by the dealer when they listed it for sale. For the car with 79k miles, the dealer told me breaks and tires were inspected but not replaced. The car with 105k miles has been for sale for over a month. The car with 79k miles was just listed today. Neither car has had the intake manifold gasket done.

Mileage isn’t as important as it used to be because in old cars engines used to wear out more or less linearly based on their mileage. Nowadays, engines generally don’t wear out at all if they’re well maintained and not abused. So these days you need to look at the general condition of the car as a whole more than just the mileage.

In this case, I do think the mileage difference is more or less moot. There is a bit of a psychological aspect of buying a car with under 100k, though, so I certainly would understand paying a little more for that one. In practice, though, I think it will make no difference in how long they last.

I would pass on the car that’s been in an accident. There’s plenty of other fish in the sea.

Here’s an update…I drove by myself to see the car with 79k miles on it last night(hubby would not come). The interior and exterior were great, although steering wheel was very worn. The engine sounded and looked kind of old (by my very non-expert opinion), the engine was loud when accelerating on the highway, 2 tires looked very good and 2 looked ok, it looked like maybe the bottom of a gasket above the front plugs had leaked a bit since it was black and moist there. The guy said it was “just residue”, it could be I guess.
Here’s another twist…the sales rep from the car with 105k miles on it is actually driving the car to our house to show it to us. Should I consider this “good service” or a “red flag”? Has anyone heard of this before? So, at least my husband will get to see this car.

Thanks for all your help!

First, outstanding work looking over that one with 79K. The “just residue” cmment is a red flag. He knows it’s residue of oil that the black stuff was stuck to. He isn’t being fothright with you. Your other concerns are red flags also.

The guy with the 105K car is probably just hungry. These guys have been having a hard time making a decent paycheck lately. He may be just “going the extra mile”. If you do as good a job checking this one out as you did the other one, you’ll be able to tell. If it looks good to you, have your favorite shop put it on a lift and give it a good going-over.