Which car?

I have a '05 Honda Element EX with 120K miles on it. I bought it used with 46K on it, and have been a very good boy about regular maintenance. I have recently inherited my mother’s 2003 Taurus wagon with only 38K miles on it. This car, too, has been meticulously maintained. I cannot afford to keep both cars, and I wish to remain without car payments for as long as possible. Both cars are equally practical, and are similarly equipped except that the Honda is an AWD version 4 cyl. with a manual transmission, and the Ford is a FWD, 6 cyl. automatic. So…I have a two year age difference, and 80K mileage difference, and the consideration of future reliability of either car. I’ve already tried to sell the Ford on Craigslist and got no results even though I think the price (about 2G lower than book value in fair condition) was quite fair. I think the Honda would be easier to sell, and might fetch a better price despite the high mileage. The more I think about this the more confused I get. Any thoughts out there?
Richard in NJ

It is a tossup for sure, spend 65 bucks each for an independent evaluation of the cars as far as what potential repairs in the near future are needed, and an opinion based upon their analysis.

Take the Ford to a Ford dealer and see what they offer you for it. No trade; just a straight-up sale. If you have a CarMax near you, do the same thing. Also try the same thing with the Element at a Honda dealer and the same CarMax. If you like the prices, just sell it to them. This will also give you a bottom price (basically dealer trade in) to ask on line. Then try selling through Craigslist or another outlet. Personally, I’d keep the Taurus because of the low mileage and good reliability. Taurus reliability is not as good as the Honda Element, but the extra mileage counts for a lot.

Which one do you like?

If I were in your shoes, I would keep the Taurus and get rid of the Element in a heartbeat. You don’t see very many Taurus wagons around, and the Taurus is a very good car, in my opinion. Ultimately, what do you want to do? Which do you prefer to drive?

This is odd - considering I sold a 97 Taurus 18 months ago at full KBB blue book in less than 48 hours, with multiple competing offers after 24. I’m curious what you’re asking for it… In my experience, the Taurus was VERY reliable, with the few repairs being generally very easy and affordable (there’s a reason my mechanic swears by them - he says you can do better for reliability, but its hard to do better for repair cost, especially if you DIY the work).

That’s not to say that the Element isn’t a very good vehicle, too… I don’t like their look (but strangely, I liked the catmouth Taurus), but that is entirely a personal decision.

I would say that in terms of my likes and dislikes, both cars have equal pros and cons, albeit different ones. I park on the street, so the shortness of the Honda allows me to fit in spaces that the Taurus would not. Cargo area in both vehicles is quite large–my keyboard and amp will fit in either one no problem. The Honda would be better for tall stuff but the Ford is better for long stuff–you pays your money and you takes your choice there. The Ford is quieter and a smoother ride…

Personally I like both cars. Taurus wagons are kind of rare, very functional, and are low repair and maintenance vehicles. The Element is kind of funky, good reliability and repair record, and practical. Both get similar mpg, and use regular gas, so running cost is close to the same.

I would expect the Taurus to sell. Does it need a good detailing? Is there some body damage? The Element should sell easily too, the manual transmission might be a problem for some buyers but AWD is a plus.

Put the Element up for sale at a “high end” price and see if you get some bites. If you can sell the Element for a good price, that might be the best way to go financially.

Another option is put the Taurus in “moth ball storage” for a while. Run up the miles on the Element for the next 5 years. Then when the Element is worn out, put the Taurus back into service.

A-ha! I didn’t think that the dent would make so much difference, but eviDENTly it did. (There is some minor damage to the rear bumper on the left side–see picture.) Book value for private sale in fair condition is listed at $6800. I listed it for 4900 o.b.o., thinking that the low mileage and otherwise good condition would make the price reasonable. Guess I was wrong.

The picture looks like the plastic bumper cover is punched in. Sometimes this can just be pushed back out with out much trouble or money. If you want to sell the Taurus, get a body shop estimate to make it look better. The paint looks great, so it should not be a hard sell if the bumper is put back in shape.

Agreed with UncleTurbo - the bumper might be easily repaired. Worst case, you could order a replacement cover online for about $250 (painted and shipped). They aren’t that hard to replace - as long as there is no other significant damage. You might easily get that $ back and more. Personally, I normally just get quotes for anything I know needs repair, show them to a prospective buyer, and knock that much (or nearly that much) off the excellent KBB price. That gives them the option of leaving it be, if it is not a significant issue (ie, a very slow oil leak) or getting it fixed and having the repair warrantied. If I repaired it myself, they wouldn’t have any warranty on the work at all…