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1999 Mercury Mystique or 1999 Pontiac Grand Prix?

LilnoobsLilnoobs Alpha Queue Registered User regular
edited June 2012 in Help / Advice Forum
Hey all, I have a choice between these two cars and could use any advice or experience you have.

Here's the skinny. The Mercury will cost me (taxes, fees, license, etc) ~$3500 and the Grand Prix will cost me ~$2400. In terms of my own finances, I can buy the Grand Prix outright, but the Mercury I'll have to make payments for about 3 months after the down payment.

The Mercury has 150k miles on it, the Grand Prix has 170k on it.

I checked both their Carfax reports and both cars have had 3 owners. The Mercury started as a rental car and then had two owners who "drove it less than the industry average". As I mentioned, the Prix also had 3 owners. Neither car has had any significant work done.

The Mercury is right on mark with the Kelly Blue Book (KBB) price. The Prix, however, is about $1-2K short of the KBB price. I asked the dealer why, and he said one back door was dented in and could not be opened. Would that alone count for the ~$1-2k difference on the retail price?

So I think that's some of the background of the cars. I need a car that will do mostly highway driving with good gas mileage. It seems both cars have similar MPG, is that true? I drive twice a week but on those days I drive a bit over a hundred miles and it's all highway driving.

Besides test driving both these cars, I don't know what else to look for or watch out for, so this is where I ask your help. The Prix seems like a good deal, but that's what has me worried. The Mercury seems to be priced accordingly which makes me feel a bit better. What should I watch for in these two cars while test driving? Or what should I ask the dealer?

If you can, please limit your help to choosing between these two cars. I'm at the point right now that I'm just going to test drive and see which feels better. Is there anything I should listen or watch out for in the steering or transmission? The brakes? Any known defects in these models?

Posts

  • DorkmanDorkman Registered User regular
    Given a car that age, I would rather go for the cheaper of the two. A 13 year old car is creeping up on the later part of it's life cycle, so forking over as little money as possible would be a huge plus for me. Being able to purchase the car without going into payments would be a plus as well.

    I also feel that there are far more Sunfires on the road then any car in existence, so finding parts for it should be considerably easier.

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  • MushroomStickMushroomStick Registered User regular
    The thing that sticks out for me is "started out as a rental car." That would be a deal breaker for me.

  • darqnessdarqness Registered User regular
    Going for a car with no payments, and then socking away money for the eventual engine or transmission replacement would be best.

  • zerzhulzerzhul Old General Registered User, Super Moderator, Moderator, SolidSaints Zerzhul mod
    The thing that sticks out for me is "started out as a rental car." That would be a deal breaker for me.

    I tend to be in agreement with this sentiment. Drivers of rentals tend to drive things pretty hard since "it's not MY car!"

  • ShadowfireShadowfire Registered User regular
    zerzhul wrote: »
    The thing that sticks out for me is "started out as a rental car." That would be a deal breaker for me.

    I tend to be in agreement with this sentiment. Drivers of rentals tend to drive things pretty hard since "it's not MY car!"

    OTOH, rental companies maintain their cars well (both because its their business, and because they kind of have to).

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  • zerzhulzerzhul Old General Registered User, Super Moderator, Moderator, SolidSaints Zerzhul mod
    Shadowfire wrote: »
    zerzhul wrote: »
    The thing that sticks out for me is "started out as a rental car." That would be a deal breaker for me.

    I tend to be in agreement with this sentiment. Drivers of rentals tend to drive things pretty hard since "it's not MY car!"

    OTOH, rental companies maintain their cars well (both because its their business, and because they kind of have to).

    That's generally true, within safety requirements.

  • LilnoobsLilnoobs Alpha Queue Registered User regular
    Huh, see, I thought of the rental car and said to myself "probably they took care of that", interesting comments so far. I do agree since it is a short term car the cheaper one is probably best. I'm looking at least for 6 months on the car. Anything more would be frosting on the cake.

  • chrishallett83chrishallett83 Hi! Registered User regular
    The thing that sticks out for me is "started out as a rental car." That would be a deal breaker for me.

    Yo.

    "Drive it like you stole it", indeed...

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  • L Ron HowardL Ron Howard Registered User regular
    Having had a Ford Contour, which is the same thing as the Mercury, I'd say buy any other car ever. Well, except for maybe an Escort. Seriously, are those your only choices? Those are horrible, even for the price. Are there no 1984 Honda Accords with 250k miles on them for sale?
    I'm not trying to be too down, but the Ford has no reliability at all. I don't have personal experience with the Grand Prix, but I have not heard anything better.
    With the Ford, almost expect to have to buy another car to drive around because you'll be fixing it all the damned time.

    The automatic transmissions in both the 4-cyl and V-6 engines are crap. They fail for different reasons, and replacing them is stupid. You have to pull the tranny out through the wheel well in a certain manner. If you have a manual one, be ever so gentle with it, as they are not meant to handle any amount of torque. I'm going to assume that it's an automatic because it was a rental car. If it's an automatic, the filter needs to be replaced fairly often. If there are no records of this, don't even look at the car, as the tranny will blow up on you. Every 30k miles, I believe is when it's supposed to be done. The filter often clogs and then the tranny explodes.
    The suspension is junk, unless you spend the $6k+ for the European one. My friends, who also (stupidly) had a Cuntour like myself, know that the bushings that come from Ford are crap, with the aftermarket (any part not made by Ford) ones being only slightly better, unless you buy super expensive ones from a race shop. Bushings will need to be regularly replaced, more than you would think. I have had cars where they only need to be replaced when they go bad in 100k+ miles. In the Cuntour/Mystique, expect maybe half that. It's not that the car is heavy, it's that the bushings from Ford are super cheap.
    If the rear struts haven't been replaced yet, you will need to replace them, as they seem to last maybe 50k miles at best. It wouldn't surprise me if you start seeing various electrical gremlins too. Again, the Ford ones are stupid cheap and never last. The Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM, aka Ford) replacements are usually awful, unless you spend for the European suspension.
    On my car, the cooling fan for the engine blew up. Not only did the fan blow up, it took the fuseboxes with it. Both were replaced, but it would eat fuses more often than it would need a new tank of gas.
    The headlights are probably more yellow than the sun, because they were made from super cheap plastic that does not age well, especially if it's seen any sun. It's best to spend the $200+ to replace them with some from Ebay, though those aren't guaranteed to fit by any means.
    Everyone I know had problems opening at least one of their doors. I'm going to assume that that isn't the case right now, but it will be. For me, the driver's side rear door had difficulty opening, and I think the rear passenger side door wouldn't open from the inside.
    If the windows don't roll down, the best way to fix it is to replace the door. In order to replace either the window or the mechanism is to cut the door apart, replace the broken part, and reweld it shut. If all windows do not open decently, as in it doesn't struggle, you might get lucky. There's no way to maintain it, you just wait until the window opener fails and replace the door, as it's nigh impossible to get into the door to do anything.

    I want you to know something. These cars hate you, on a personal level. They will do all they can to make you miss anything and everything, suck your wallet dry, and leave you with nothing. They're worse than a bad girlfriend, because there's no sex in return.
    I recommend you get just about any other car ever than that Ford.

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  • ShadowfireShadowfire Registered User regular
    O_O

    My experience with Fords is quite a bit better than Howard's. I just got rid of my 02 Taurus. After 10 years it just couldn't hold up to Vermont winters anymore and the rust was bad enough that it would have cost more to fix than it was worth. However, at 150k miles I never had a transmission failure, engine problems... nothing. The worst were front end issues that were not terribly expensive (the power steering rack and pump was about 1k, the most I ever spent on a maintenance issue), and at least half of that can be attributed to the shitty winters. We also have an 07 Focus with around 70k miles that has never had a major maintenance issue, not even front end problems.

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  • MushroomStickMushroomStick Registered User regular
    zerzhul wrote: »
    Shadowfire wrote: »
    zerzhul wrote: »
    The thing that sticks out for me is "started out as a rental car." That would be a deal breaker for me.

    I tend to be in agreement with this sentiment. Drivers of rentals tend to drive things pretty hard since "it's not MY car!"

    OTOH, rental companies maintain their cars well (both because its their business, and because they kind of have to).

    That's generally true, within safety requirements.

    In my experience, rental cars are maintained just like any other fleet vehicle - the bare minimum to pass any required inspections/certifications.

  • L Ron HowardL Ron Howard Registered User regular
    Shadowfire wrote: »
    O_O

    My experience with Fords is quite a bit better than Howard's. I just got rid of my 02 Taurus. After 10 years it just couldn't hold up to Vermont winters anymore and the rust was bad enough that it would have cost more to fix than it was worth. However, at 150k miles I never had a transmission failure, engine problems... nothing. The worst were front end issues that were not terribly expensive (the power steering rack and pump was about 1k, the most I ever spent on a maintenance issue), and at least half of that can be attributed to the shitty winters. We also have an 07 Focus with around 70k miles that has never had a major maintenance issue, not even front end problems.

    IIRC, the Taurses (Taurii?) have a different transmission. Their platform is much larger, so they have a bigger V-6 and can fit a better transmission in there.

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  • LilnoobsLilnoobs Alpha Queue Registered User regular
    I know the two cars are shitholes but I dug myself a bit here and I'm out of time, so those are my two options. In comparison, there is also a '99 Honda Accord available--for twice the price of the Pontiac and Carfax reports the car was once "a total loss" and then got one of those "salvage/rebuild" certificate things. I rather not touch that mess even if it is a Honda.

    The Pontiac also is cheaper for the car insurance. I think I'll go with that and just have it done with. Thanks for the help everyone.

    (and for the record, I had a Contour once but got rid of it before the trans fell. I also had a Ford Aspire which worked really well, but that was an older model so maybe when Ford wasn't shit)

  • L Ron HowardL Ron Howard Registered User regular
    I'm sorry that your choices are between a shit sandwich and an enema.

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  • Sangheili91Sangheili91 Registered User regular
    I'm not a "car guy" whatsoever, but I figured I'd pop in to say that I own an 04 Grand Prix with 100k miles on it, 40k of those I've put on it myself. There were some minor issue here and there, but nothing major. Brakes, new tires, etc. Standard stuff. It rides well and gets decent mileage. I've been happy with it.

    Although now I'm afraid my transmission will blow up any minute. O.O

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  • SquirrelmobSquirrelmob Registered User regular
    First off, are they both automatic? If one's manual, personal preference would guide me toward the manual transmission.

    Secondly, having driven a Contour (Mercury lookalike) and a Grand Prix (albeit, later model), I can say the Grand Prix was probably a better car when it was new, and from what I can tell Pontiacs hold up a bit better than Mercuries.

  • JohnnyCacheJohnnyCache Starting Defense Registered User regular
    If you're buying cars that old and that high mileage if the run and drive straight that's about the size of it.

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  • ThroThro Registered User regular
    My family actually had a 99 GrandAM (so, similar but bigger/4-door). Parents bought it new. It was the worst car I have ever had.
    So, here's the defects we ran into:
    The brake rotors would warp after 2k miles or so, causing the car to shudder when trying to stop. Mechanics would overtighten the new rotors, causing them to warp too.
    The alternator burnt out, twice. Once while I was driving causing the car to die completely; I managed to coast into a turn lane out of the way of traffic.
    The radio got super hot, even when off. Eventually the display burnt out.
    Those stupid round air-vents get loose, so when you turn up the aircontitioner to medium or higher they spin like Sonic the damn Hedgehog.
    Since it was new, all of this was under warranty. Yes, all of these things happened before the warranty even ran out.
    Then, the horn broke. I had never actually used the horn, so we didn't know it was broken till it made the car fail state inspection.
    On the upside I got to learn a lot about my state's Lemon Laws.

    I can't say my experience was typical. But it sucked.
    Lesson Learned: honk more often.

    Umm, good luck with yours, I guess.

  • badpoetbadpoet Registered User regular
    edited June 2012
    What part of the U.S. or Canada are you in? There has to be better choices out there for you. Seriously, both those cars are bad choices.

    Also, did you check into private purchases? You don't have to buy a car from an auto dealer and can do the legwork (Carfax) to check up on the vehicle history.

    badpoet on
  • wmelonwmelon Registered User regular
    Regardless of whichever car you end up getting, you'll want to get a Pre-Purchase Inspection done at an independent shop. That way you can be somewhat sure you're not buying a car that's going to break in the next 5 minutes. I definitely also second badpoet's recommendation of going with a private purchase. You're far more likely to find a decent vehicle that way in the price range you're looking at.

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