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Which one?!?!?!?

I have a problem folks. I am a 16 year old high school student. My parents have given me a choice on which vehicle to choose from. They wish for me to drive my father’s old 1997 Ford F-150 pickup truck with over 234,000 miles on it. After making a pass at the local “shady dealer”, I noticed a car that made my eyes pop! A 2003 Nissan Sentra SE-R Spec V. Now remember I live in a very small town in Wyoming. So newer, tuner cars like this are rare. The car has only had one owner, and has roughly 64,000 miles on the odometer. I need a vehicle that will last through my next years of high school and into college. Which vehicle do I choose and why?

Is the Ford free? How much would the Nissan cost?

The Ford would be free for purchasing. After that there’s registration, gas, and other fees. Another focus would be that the Ford got TERRIBLE crash test ratings. The Nissan is currently priced at roughly $5,700, and I think that with all the highway driving you need to do in WY, the savings on gas would justify at least some of the purchase price.

Well, you know the Ford truck and you don’t know the Nissan Sentra. The 64,000 miles may have been hard miles. If you drive intelligently, you will be fine in he F-150. You can also do light hauling with the truck to earn some money.

Taking that to heart, I also know fully well that the ford has been driven hard. My father has a bit of a lead foot, and I cannot recall any time in my life when he has not driven down our road without slinging plenty of gravel. Also, I wouldn’t even dare getting serious about the Nissan without having a mechanic check the car from top to bottom first.

The Sentra would get 3X the mpg compared to the PU. $5,700 vs free, you can buy a lot of gas for $5,700. Both will need some repairs, which likely could be less for the Sentra. If you sell the PU can you put some of the money from the sale toward the Sentra?

The Sentra is the more practical way to go, except that its hard to argue with free.

Tough call. At six or seven years old the Nissan isn’t exactly a spring chicken. Despite the low mileage it could still have issues, and it very well might have been driven hard given that it’s a Spec V trimmed model.

You know the truck has been driven hard, but what about the maintenance? That plays a big part. How new is the suspension, brakes etc. Transmission ever been replaced?

I know… The cost of the Sentra is more-or-less what I’m trying to find justification for here.
Currently, the Ford will need a new set of tires, a change of oil and other seasonal maintenance requirements. But, as “Triedag” said, I do not know what is going on with the Sentra and I have yet to have a mechanic check around.

You are on the right track. Find out what else is available for the $5700 you would put into the Nissan for comparison. I once purchased a 1955 Pontiac for $450 back in 1962. The engine had just been overhauled by the dealer (a Rambler dealer) and the car seemed to check out o.k. Well, it wasn’t o.k. I had problems with the valve train from day one. The studs on which the rocker arms were mounted would plug up and the valve train would chirp. I had the studs pulled and cleaned a couple of times, but the problem would reoccur. At that time, I had a pretty good choice of cars in the $500 price range. My way out of the situation was that my dad was going to purchase a car from the same dealer and trade in his 1954 Buick. We swapped cars–he got more for the Pontiac on trade and I got a more reliable car. I should have been suspicious of the Pontiac since it didn’t have an oil filter–it was a factory option. Furthermore, an overhaul at 60,000 miles,even in those days, should have been a warning sign. If anything seems wrong with the Nissan, run the other way. My late dad used to say, “There will always be cars”.

The truck has had no major work done. The biggest work that it’s ever had (that my weekend warrior father and I couldn’t handle) was a snapped automatic drive gear leaver. Other than that we’ve replaced a heater core, the spark plugs, and have done oil changes every three weeks. ( In my father’s line of work, that’s about 9,000 miles in between changes)
And even though the Sentra is 6-7 years old, the ford is over 13. Being a high school student, a new car is completely out of the question.

Thank you very much! I’ve been doing research and the car is blue-booked at 8,700. The dealer wants 5,700. Is this a deal? Or does the dealer know that something is majorly wrong with the car and he’s trying to get it off his hands asap? But I will always continue looking.

The oil changes are a good sign. Can we assume that the 9k between changes is mostly highway?
The main concern with the truck, aside from safety, would be the transmission. Has it been serviced regularly?

Any idea as questioned previously if you could sell the truck and put the $$ towards the Sentra assuming it checks out?

The transmission has NEVER been serviced. Other than possibly checking the fluid every 10k miles.
I also researched the trade-in value on the Kelly blue book: $2,900 for a “good” condition.

The lack of transmission answers the question. The fact that it’s still working is pure luck and it’s running on borrowed time. Sell it or trade it in before it’s too late. Trading it might be easier and safer. You don’t want to have to deal with the new owner if the tranny fails.

That is a very good point. Another problem is that the changes between 2 wheel drive and 4 wheel drive hi. have become substantially rougher in recent months. I’ve got a feeling that trading the truck in would be the better deal, of course only once I have a mechanic check out the car.

My response would be neither. Sorry I am not sure the SE-R Spec V is what I would suggest to a 16yo. But I understand your concerns about the truck too.

I am not sure what all to suggest out there but you could drive the truck for a while and keep an eye out.

Best of luck on your choice.

If I may ask, Why? Sure it is a performance tuned car. But the same could be said for the truck’s 5.7 liter V8. The fact of the matter is, that if I need to go at an illegal speed (which I won’t, the cops around here are not forgiving) then both, or any vehicle would go over 90 without much trouble. It’s what every parent needs to do: trust their child. If the kid wants to go drag the streets, then let them. If they get in a wreck, make them pay for it. (of course you need to teach your children to be safe, and make sure that their safety comes first)
Once more, the spec v has a much better crash test rating (according to the ford scored poor, and the spec v scored well.

Since these “tuner cars,” as you call them, are rather rare in your area, you have to wonder why this Spec-V with only 64K miles is sitting on a “shady dealer” lot.

Have you asked yourself that question? Do you have an answer?

Spec-Vs are purchased by the “fast and furious” crowd, and driven accordingly. How do you know this car hasn’t had been pounded to within an inch of its life and then traded for something else before the big, expensive trouble starts?

If the car was really in good shape wouldn’t it be on a non-shady dealer’s lot? These are thing you need to think about.

The F-150 has seen better days, and won’t last forever, but a free ride is a free ride. I’d take the truck, drive it for now, and start figuring out how to come up with the money for something better. The truck is unlikely to make it through college with you.

That something else might be a Sentra SE-R Spec V, or it might be something else. That’s up to you. Although we’ve all done it, I’m going to advise you not to fall in love with a car. It never works out.

Your points are valid. Buying a Spec V doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll abuse it. You seem like a level-headed person. I don’t blame you for wanting something other than an F-150 with 230K miles on it. As you say, if all you care about is going fast, any car or truck will do that.

That doesn’t mean, however, that someone else has not already abused the SE-R you’re fawning over.

What do your parents think about the Sentra, and who’s paying for this? Can you afford to buy the Nissan?


My son drove a Nissan 200SX SE-R for a few years. It was a blast to drive, got great gas mileage, and was reliable. What more can you ask?

Thank you, that answer was logical, made sense and has some good points.

  1. The shady dealer was a joke, not to be confused with the typical “bad part of town” car lot, this is the only used car lot in town, and their selection is poor so nice newer cars are rare.

  2. The lot owner gave me the previous owner’s phone #, he moved here from California. Apparently has family here, and sold the car because he and his wife needed something larger for their family.

I do thank you for your answer, and taking the truck might be a good choice of action, but what happens when the transmission falls out? The current trade in is about $3,000. That’s bound to drop if the transmission is bad. I’d also argue that I’m not “in love” with the car, but it meets all of the parameters is set when looking for my first car. Those were:

  1. Four doors.
    For hauling people, groceries, and anything else I need.
  2. Good gas mileage.
    This car has a 4 cylinder engine compared to a 5.7 liter V8
  3. Looks good/in good condition.
    To me, the car is attractive looking, sure the splash guards and rear lip are an obvious appeal to the younger generations, but why should that be a bad thing?
  4. In proper running order.
    I believe that Nissan is a fairly reliable automotive company, and about 1/4 the mileage of the Ford, without the classic f-150 transmission problems the car’s looking good. Of course, I won’t know anything for certain until I have a mechanic check it out.