Sunday, February 3, 2013

Here's the best used car for the money!

As all readers of  How to be Invisible know,  I advise never financing the purchase of a car because (among other things) it makes anonymous ownership impossible. The most frequent complaint I get is, "But I must finance the car because I don't have the cash!"  That's often because they want to buy some low-maintenance car such as a Honda or a Toyota.  Hondas and Toyotas are great cars--in fact, we currently have threeToyotas--but they aren't cheap.

Two months go, some Mexican friends asked me to help them look for a Toyota with less than 80,000 miles on it.  They had $8000 in cash. I suggested they forget the Toyota and buy a Mercury Grand Marquis. "Consumers Report rates them highly, they usually have leather seats, seat six, and get 22 mph on the highway."

The next day I located a one-owner 2001 Grand Marquis on Craigslist with 73,000 miles. It had a few dings and there was a tear in the leather upholstery but it was mechanically sound.  They bought it for $2970 and are happy campers.

Last week one of my readers asked me how to get $5000 together as that's what he needed to buy a decent vehicle. I told him to check Craigslist for a Grand Marquis.  Within two days he located a one-owner 2000 model with 83,000 miles. "Asking price is $2500," he said. "Its in good shape mechanically, but needs headliner repair, new tires and has a few dings in the rear bumper. It drives/handles nicely. Does $2500 sound like a fair price to you?"

I suggested a lower offer due to the worn tires and the headliner repair, and received this message from him yesterday:  "I called and spoke with her. I followed your idea and told her since it needed new tires and headliner repair, that I thought the asking price was a bit high. I explained about the expense of parts, etc. She asked me to give her a few minutes to think on it, and she'd call me back. Within 12 minutes flat, she called me back and asked if $1800 would sound fair. SOLD!"

Since Mercury Grand Marquis are excellent cars and almost trouble-free, what makes them so cheap?

Answer:  Younger car-buyers consider these to be an “old-folks” car so they don’t even look for them.  But the very fact that older people were buying them a dozen years ago usually means that (1) the cars are never abused, (2) maintenance was by the dealer, and (3) the cars are sold because the driver has either gotten too old to drive, or has died.

Last fall our son in Montana said he needed a good car for about $5000 so I said I would find him a cream-puff one-owner low-mileage six-passenger Grand Marquis with not a mark on it. Two weeks later we picked up the 2001 model you see below. The man sold it only because it had been his wife’s car and the wife had died.

Does what I say make sense, folks?


  1. Another good car for the money is the 88-96 Thunderbirds and Cougars.

    alot of them came with a V-8 also.
    almost identical to a Mustang GT, but with more room inside, way less $$ to buy and not a cop magnet.

    the Cougar/Thunderbirds are cheap to buy, fairly reliable,(front ball joints are the main weakness) and easy to work on.

    My brother drives hundreds a miles a week,
    he usually gets em for $1000-1400, equips them with high quality tires, brakes and shocks,
    which can then be moved to the next one when this one dies.

    Buicks also fall into this category,
    seniors buy them drive them very little, maintain them well, and with no resale demand, sell em cheap. The Park Avenue usually has a very powerful supercharged V-6
    plenty fast, and blends in so well its almost invisible.

  2. If it's privacy and invisibility you're after, the Grand Marquis and its sisters, the Lincoln Town car and Ford Crown Victoria, should be avoided by anyone who still has color in his hair. Young-looking people who drive these big sedans stick out like a sore thumb in traffic, especially to cops, because they're popular with gang-bangers and drug dealers due to their affordability and imposing size. I hate to steer people away from such well-made cars, but for maximum invisibility, you should stick to cars that a lot of people your own age drive.

  3. I have a Grand Marquis...and grey hair. They are great used cars. I also taught high speed driving techniques in the same style of car. They were used police cars actually. I always felt sorry for those who bought "good used" police cars, after that. Police cars are not good used vehicles by the time they go up for auction. Most were "drove hard" during their previous life. Just a word of caution.

  4. We got a grand marquis for the exact reasons that they are well rated with good repair histories and are typically undervalued. The Crown Victoria is the same car, so that works too. I think part of the reason the lose value faster than they should is Ford has put out some chronic bad transmissions in some of their other models and so the marquis and crown have been tainted as well. We bought ours with about $80,000, it is now over 170,000 and has only required basic maintenance stuff. Shooting for well over 200,000.

  5. The Grand Marquis is a wonderful car. Ive been driving used police cruisers for a while but they tend to evoke a lower class tough guy image... which could lead to being hassled by the police.

    Among the advantages of the Grand Marquis: understated, suggests you may have a comfortable but not extravagant lifestyle, and, best of all, parts are virtually interchangeable with Crown Victorias (with a few exceptions). What does this mean? If you need a new transmission, or seats, or brakes, these parts can be had for very cheap. The transmission in these vehicles is the same model as goes into the f150 pickup trucks. Because they have been designed to tolerate police abuse, parts are stout. Now that the crown victoria has been discontinued, more and more fleets will get rid of their spare parts. Want a computer console, or radios, or a loudspeaker installled in your grand marquis? No problem. Want heavy duty wheels and brakes? No problem. Want oil coolers, steering fluid coolers, and differential coolers in case you need to really get out of dodge? No problem... all are available.

  6. I purchased a 1991 Buick Century from my mom in excellent condition for $100. Yes, I love my mother. She was offered $600 on it as a trade in when she bought a new car and figured she would rather sell it to one of us kids. The car is a white, 4-door, boring sedan that sports a 3.3L V6 getting up to 35 mph on the highway! It is also very comfortable to drive and has plenty of pick-up when I step on the gas. I've put about 100K miles on it (now at 210,000) with no major issues. The car just disappears into the background and I have never had a break in or been pulled over in it. I'm firmly middle aged and don't drive as aggressively as I might have done when I was younger, but I do like to stretch out and go a bit fast on long highway drives.

    K. James

  7. Old cars or used cars as they say are still the best choice when it comes to purchasing one. Bringing to the topic that most of those cars still run today, proving that used autos still do their job. I love to see old American muscle cars or even vintage ones sold by car traders.

  8. Probably your biggest disadvantage is going to be, having the cops pull you over frequently. Your best bet shortly after buying it is to have the plates changed.


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