Which car should I keep?



Dear Car Talk,

Which car to keep? My sweet elderly father just gave me his 1997 Lincoln Town Car which has about 80,000 miles on it. I’m not sure of the other features on his car - it does seem like he has had more repairs on his but need to find out more. In the meantime,

I have just just finished paying off my 1999 Jeep Cherokee Classic, four wheel drive, four door - about 172,000 miles - right side rear view mirror is broken off and taped on. Will need new tires and a brake job in the next few months; otherwise, it’s been a great car - with just regular oil changes, replaced the surpentine belt once and had a couple of routine brake jobs.

What do you think - I’m worried the Town Car although certainly a nice comfortable vehicle - will be too much of a gas guzzler and cost more to keep going while the Jeep has fairly good gas mileage and has been a good SUV but does have a lot more mileage???

Thanks so very much for any suggestions,



I’m loathe to suggest this, but I would say hang For Sale signs in both their windshields and buy something a little newer.

The Town Car is definitely nice, and 80k is decent for mileage, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s 10 years old and is going to start needing things pretty soon, despite its mileage. Can’t deny that the SOHC 4.6 is a pretty nice motor, however. It’s possible that this car will go forever, but when you think of reliable car, '97 Lincoln isn’t the first thing that springs to mind.

The Jeep is… well, the mileage scares me. Seems like wear parts such as ball joints, tie rods, shocks, wheel bearings, suspension bushings, etc., are past-due for failure and once they start going, they’ll all go at once.

Honestly, I would think about selling both cars, taking that money (which won’t be a great deal, unfortunately) and putting it toward one newer car.


These two vehicles are so different that the decision becomes a matter of taste and usage rather than cold hard logic. Even economics does not really make much of difference.

I’ve always drooled over the Lincoln Town Car, and envied my bridge partner when one day he showed up in one. By contrast, I’ve never been much of a fan of Jeep. So for me it’s a no-brainer. Ah-h-h-h, Lincoln Baby!

But you will also run into Fordophobes who will push you even harder in the opposite direction, simply because friends don’t let friends drive Fords (even if they call themselves a Lincoln).

Get they idea? It’s really up to you and and your decision of whichever car suits you best. You’d be a winner either way. I kinda predict you will rationalize into keeping the Jeep. If so, wise choice sez I.


This is a tough call; the Lincoln Town car had 2 weak (repair-prone)areas; brakes and power accessories. So a low mileage one with good past maintenance should be a good choice, except for the fuel consumption. The Jeep Cerokee Classic had electrical, brakes, and power equipment problems, in addition to needing much more maintenance later in life due to the 4 wheel drive system. I agree with the other posters that the Jeep will be in for some mega maintenance bills in the next 2 years, while the Lincoln might just chug along for another 10 years without major (expensive)repairs, provided your father maintained it well. Although the Lincoln is heavier, the fuel mileage of the Cherokee is probably not that great either, compared to a Honda Civic, Mazda 3 or Toyota Corolla. If you drove 172,000 miles in 8 years, you need something more economical, since gas prices will rise to dizzy heights over the next 3 years. I would sell both cars and buy a low mileage Mazda Protege, Pontiac Vibe, Hyundai Elantra, or Chevy Geo Prism. Good used Corollas and Honda Civics command too much money and are not a good buy used. Those cars are best bought new. This is a time for hard-nosed, rational decision making. Good Luck!


I think that you are mistaken about fuel economy. The Lincoln should be much better than the Jeep. You did not say whether you have the 4-cyl manual or 6-cyl (manual or automatic). It doesn’t matter, as they all get less than 20 MPG on the highway. The Lincoln gets 23 MPG. They are all about the same (14-16 MPG) in the city. The Lincoln is likely to need far fewer repairs than the Jeep since it has 100,000 fewer miles on it. If you like the Lincoln, keep it. It’s bound to be less expensive than the Jeep. You probably can’t get much for the Jeep, so you might want to keep it too. If you list only one on your auto insurance as a commuter car, you will get an excellent rate on the second car.


Tough call I suppose, but if it were me I would take the Lincoln. Those cars get far better mileage than you would think.
My V-8 Lincoln gets 27 MPG on the highway at 70 MPH when loaded down and with the A/C on; and if one can keep the speed down to a steady 55-58 MPH (a bit hard to do) it will get almost 30.
At 215k miles the car is still rock solid and takes me anywhere I want to go.

One issue I can see surfacing on the Lincoln if it has not already might be the Air Ride suspension.
It’s 11 years old and those air bags are made out of rubber. The rubber will have a tendency to dry rot and crack at the fold where they mate with the tubes. This does not mean it’s a bad design; all rubber rots with time.
There are much cheaper replacement parts to repair this in the aftermarket if necessary and if one wanted to do completely away with the Air Ride there are numerous conversion kits available for a reasonable price that will eliminate air ride problems forever.

Since you now have both cars free and clear have you considered (if you have the space) just dropping the insurance on one and parking it as a backup vehicle to be used in an emergency?
JMHO anyway.


The Lincoln for sure. We are on our third an '85, '97, now an '03. I’ve seen better than 30MPG on the highway and even tow my boat around with it. An added benifet is most repairs are easy, straight forward and accessable, save the heater core on the '97 I had to do twice. Now I find out there was a restrictor that should have been in the heater hose to lower the pressure in the heater core.


This is only tough if you insist on keeping one. To me, you are far better off getting out of both. There is trouble on the horizon either way. So, start looking around. There are really good used cars with under 36000 miles, 3 years old, coming off lease. You could probably get a very nice small SUV for a fair price. Since you own cars a long time, do not lease it. Buy it. If you don’t have the cash find a credit union and join it and get a long loan that way.


Wow! Thanks everyone!!! It’s great to have some advice - I’m still thinking - probably will keep both for now - as do not have any cash to afford a car payment again, of course if the insurance is cheap enough. Will check further on the Town Car’s current repair status. Again, all your info greatly appreciated!!!


Thanks for your informative response - is it possible to not keep insurance on a car - I live in apts and would have to leave the uninsured one sitting out? Oh yes, and how do you know if the Air Ride suspension is dry rotting or cracking? Thanks again.


Without a doubt I’d go for the Lincoln. I got over 4WD SUVs before they were called SUVs. I used to own a Dodge Ram Charger back in the '70s. I’d rather have ride comfort and quiet over 4WD any day. I also would expect better fuel mileage from the Lincoln and less maintenance and repair, with the possible exception of the air-bag suspension which is a known weak point. I think the air-bags can be replaced with a traditional spring setup.

I don’t understand the people saying 10 years old is some sort of problem. If it’s well cared for a 10 year old car will certainly give good service for another 10.


This will depend on your apartment’s rules and state laws. If your apartment complex requires only registered vehicles in the parking lot, and your state requires insurance for registration, then no you could not just drop the insurance on one.


Zooey, I’m replying to your latest question that appears some five posts upward because it got nested.

You ask if you can NOT insure one of those cars, just let it sit. It depends on your state and how they enforce their insurance requirements. In my state you can do so provided you let the registration expire and/or turn in the plates. That means you may not legally drive the car (or let a prospective buyer take it on the road) until you re-register and re-insure. In addition, that car would not be covered for damage. (A tree might fall on it.)

So if you intend to keep both cars for a while, I advise you strongly to keep both of them registered, insured, and have current inspection (if so required). If you do not intend to drive one for a while, sell it promptly.