Need feedback on which 10 yr old SUV to buy for roadtrip

RednekF350

Piney
Feb 20, 2004
4,249
1,721
1,093
Pestletown, N.J.
I still try to do as much as possible myself on my '02 and '97 trucks such as oil changes, diff and transfer case fluids, brake jobs and other basics like cap and rotor and plugs in my '97 F350. (What's a cap and rotor kids ? :)). I no longer mess with the serious stuff like tie rod ends, ball joints and water pumps.

I thoroughly enjoy doing the things that I still do but I look to mechanics beyond that. I have a really good friend who is a mechanic and he was one of the best and most honest out there. Unfortunately, he packed all his wrenches and moved to Florida two years ago. Him and I became friends not all that long ago and as our friendship grew, he would invite me over to his shop and let me work on my stuff with his lift and tools and he would drink a beer and tell me what to do while he worked on a Firebird he was restoring. I replaced my rear fuel tank myself in the '97 with his guidance. The last thing him and I did together was replacing the radiator core support in my '97. For those who have never done one, step one is: "Remove front of truck." The core support essentially holds the fenders together, among other things and supports the radiator. It took us 6 hours over two nights working at a casual pace with plenty of beer !

I really don't plan to get rid of either truck anytime soon as they are pretty much bombproof as far as running gear, with Dana 60's in the front with solid axles and both are manual transmissions. My '02 is my daily driver and that has the 7.3 International which is known as the Million Mile Motor. I only have 225,000 on it and it hasn't missed a beat. The problem is the body is not going to make a million miles. :(
The '97 still looks like it rolled out of the showroom and only has 125,000 on the clock.

Zach said buy simple in his post above and I am all about that. I have owned nothing but manual transmissions in my trucks since I was 23. Before that, I owned one car, a '72 Chevelle and that was an automatic. I have had an '82 F150, an '87 F350 and the current '97 and '02 F350's. All had to be ordered with manual transmissions and the '02 is the first truck I ever owned with AC. How's that for simple ? :)
 

old jersey girl

Explorer
Jul 26, 2017
182
51
28
south nj near Delaware bayshore
Where in Florida and is he single?! "Cap and Rotor" and carb. I used to have a '68 MGB. Which meant learning basic maintenance 'cause if you didn't, wouldn't run. Lucas Electric, anyone?

I don't want a brand new car even if I could afford one. 1) Depreciates the instant you drive out the dealership lot 2) Too many complicated, battery-depleting electronic computers onboard. Circuit boards exposed to temperature and humidity extremes. O.K. if you only keep a car for a few years; when I like something enough to buy it, I maintain and keep it a loooong time. My daily driver is a 2004 Toyota Avalon.

Agree with Zach that the simpler the better. When I roadtrip I want a vehicle that any competent mechanic in any remote part of the country can obtain parts for and fix.
 

old jersey girl

Explorer
Jul 26, 2017
182
51
28
south nj near Delaware bayshore
I am a dealership mechanic and have been my whole career (and adult life) so I am the guy on the other side of that equation. We get paid on a piece-work basis, so finding and recommending additional repairs is simply part of how we make a living. I personally don't know anyone who sells un-needed work but I'm sure unscrupulous mechanics are out there, as they are in any type of business. The side to this that you may not know, is that we are required, for liability reasons, to look over your car in its entirety, and notify you of any problems we see, along with an estimate to complete the repair. This applies even if the item we notice is totally unrelated to the reason you brought the car in. Dealerships, as well as independent shops-- as well as in some states that allow it-- the mechanic himself, is exposed to liability should personal injury or property damage result from a component failure shortly after a vehicle was in a repair facility. This means that if you bring in your car for a leaky water pump but we notice you have bald tires, we are going to tell you that you need tires, not just because we want you to buy them from us, but because we want it documented on the invoice that you are aware the tires are worn, should an accident result. Even in cases where you specifically instruct the shop that you don't want anything but the main repair item, a competent mechanic will still thoroughly check the vehicle and bring to your attention anything he sees. Don't take it as many do, that we are just snakes and want to beat you over the head for extra cash.

It's always ok to get a second opinion, or call around for better pricing. Sometimes you'll be able to negotiate a discount (it never hurts to simply ask for one) and sometimes not, depending on how busy our schedule is. You will also find that for many repairs, the dealer is comparably priced to the independent shops, and the quality of OEM parts is far better than what's used in the aftermarket. Also, whatever is wrong with your car, the dealer techs have likely seen that problem before and know exactly what is wrong and how to fix it, rather than wasting your money throwing parts at a problem that they don't really understand. We see the latter constantly from independent shops.

My recommendation is this. Number one, buy a simple car without electronic gadgets, this stuff costs a bunch to fix. A common car (toyota/ford/honda/gm) will also be MUCH easier and cheaper to repair than something weird like a VW or a Volvo. Two, find a shop that specializes in that make. This may be a dealer or independent, but nobody knows how to fix everything. And three. Educate yourself as to what maintenance and repairs are needed when, and what they should cost. Brand-specific internet forums are great for this. If you are prepared rather than caught ignorant and off-guard, you will be less likely to be taken advantage of.

Hope this helps.

Thank you, thank you for taking the time to give the complete explanatio. (I'm familiar with this as I have worked as safety inspector and both siblings are lawyers. Don't hate on me; I encouraged them to move out of state)

Good mechanics and dealerships (yes there are some; my last resort on issues my mechanic can't handle is Vineland Toyota and their service dept was great) . They also have to serve people too busy, lazy or dumb to understand how their cars work. Like the guy who paid $50 to have the car detailed but wants the cheapest brake pads. (Dumb ain't gender-specific; see the woman who has a $50 manicure but doesn't get a medical exam.)

As to the rest of Zach's post, preaching to the choir.
 
  • Like
Reactions: bobpbx

old jersey girl

Explorer
Jul 26, 2017
182
51
28
south nj near Delaware bayshore
The last time I got an oil change, this local guy dug out the cabin air filter and brought it in to show me. I think that goes far beyond safety concerns. He does it in front of everyone in the showroom to make you feel like a cad if you don't say yes, replace it. His price for the oil change was $16.95. Now I know better, it was just a lure to get you in. I still went back to him for awhile. On the third oil change, he came out with an estimate of $265 for brakes. So, I decided to change it myself next time. I crawled under the car to put the wrench on the filter, and guess what; his wrench was still on there after thousands of miles! It was stuck, and he likely wanted to get it off, but got distracted. I did a lot of turnpike driving with that wrench on. Since I had already drained the oil, I had to fill it with new oil and bring it to him to get it off. He did it for free, but tried to get me to just use the oil I put in. I said no, it went through a dirty filter, so he relented.

Yes, this is not typical. I have a guy I bring my toyota truck too, and he always does the right thing. He was a toyota mechanic before he started his own shop.
Please tell us you got a picture of the wrench hanging off the underside of your car. A new level of mechanic distraction. I once found a screwdriver on top of the engine of my car in my very good independent mechanic's shop, when I picked up the car on a Friday afternoon. He only has a few guys working for him and oneof the new, young ones left the tool there. Shop owner was suitably embarassed and thanked me. How I decided never to have my car worked on at the end of the week.