Does overhauling an older vehicle really increase it's lifespan?
November 12, 2012 6:59 PM   Subscribe

I'm tempted by a 2001 Ranger w/ 150k miles for $5500. My last Ranger died around 220k, which seems normal. This one has had a ton of work done - does that mean it is likely to last longer?

My goal is the best truck for ~$5k. I understand I'm looking at the last 2-6 years of the vehicle's life before things go seriously downhill. I'm good with that.

I've looked this truck over and I'm content that 1) it runs better than the average 2001 Ranger, 2) the folks selling it are trustworthy and have cared personally for the truck (personal vehicle/project until owner had a baby & needed back seats), 3) visible condition is very good (very little rust, clean engine, nice interior). The fix-list is long and includes replaced truck bed, exhaust system, transmission, clutch, down to a new dome light and fog lights - and bunches of other stuff.

But what I'm wondering is, does all this work actually mean it will last longer or am I just paying more for a car that is still likely to die at whatever the average age is?

(For clarification, I'm less interested in talking about this specific truck than I am about the topic of longevity via replacements. Thanks!)
posted by doub1ejack to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total)
Get a pre-purchase inspection for ~$100.

There is absolutely no way we can tell you how long this car will last based on the information you provided.
posted by 6spd at 7:05 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

One anecdote:

My 1997 ranger went to live on a farm after the fuel pump failed around 150,000, and that was after many of the listed repairs on yours (transmission, clutch) but also the drive shaft. So, know that a drive shaft and fuel pump issue could come up soon in this ranger with this many miles.
posted by shortyJBot at 7:26 PM on November 12, 2012

I think the OP is talking about generalizations, as opposed to the actual 2001 Ranger.

In my experience, it all boils down to friction: parts that rub against each other, by nature, are going to eventually fail: pistons, some suspension parts, transmission components, internal parts of pumps (fuel and water), etc...

Regular maintenance (oil changes, etc) will mitigate some of that wear, and prolong the life of those friction-dependent parts... but they will still fail, eventually. Now, any vehicle getting 200K miles is doing pretty good, even considering that modern vehicles are arguably built "better". (The truth is, they have WAY more moving parts, and therefore, more things that can fail).

Are those 200K miles city driving? Highway driving? Hauling or towing? These things can make a difference.

It sounds like your seller has some pretty detailed maintenance records, which is a good sign that they took good care of the Ranger. When ANY owner takes care of their vehicle instead of beating the sh*t out of it and neglecting even basic maintenance, it's going to last longer and be in better shape towards the end of its life.

So, to get to your question: the amount of parts that have been swapped, IMHO, means that those parts will likely make the vehicle last longer, but the number of maintenance procedures that have been performed leaves more room for error (you have to remove stuff to put stuff in, and then put it all back together)... so I think it all evens out in the end.

Get your 70K out of it and be happy. You're basically paying $0.08 a mile (not counting regular maintenance and fuel) for those 70K. That's not too shabby.
posted by Master Gunner at 8:30 PM on November 12, 2012

The ranger was one of the last truly 'american' design philosophy cars made. (the only one still going that I can think of is the jeep wrangler). Let me explain. Different countries seem to have a general philosophy in how cars are designed and what technology is used. Japanese cars tend to be very well thought out, with small incremental changes over time that slowly improve the car. The first Japanese cars were just assembly's of american technology changed just enough to make assembly possible in a non USA country (for instance the Toyota F engine in landcruisers is a Chevy stove pipe straight six in metric sizes). However Japanese cars are designed and built to not really have more than routine maintenance performed and to make assembly line production as cheap as possible with as high as quality as possible. You end up great cars like honda civics that run trouble free for quite a while but when the break are very expensive to repair and may require whole assemblies to repair a minor part failure.

American cars are designed to have every kind of maintenance done on them and to to be very robust. New technology is frowned upon as expensive to make and hard for dealerships to repair. With this (and not counting GM idiotic cost cutting with which you just end up with cheap cars that 's run like shit till they stop and are impossible to repair since they never ran well to begin with-see 80's chevette and camaro). The ford ranger and ford crown victoria and jeep wrangler and xj cherokee exemplify this philosphy. Nothing flashy, not the best -anything- in their class but a solid car that you can depend on (if you keep up the maintenance) day in and day out and when repairs are needed they are usually easy, straightforward and parts are cheap and available.
A well maintained ranger is worth getting and keeping if you need a small pickup. Due to various reasons (mostly new cafe standards) we are not likely to see their like again in the US market for a long time. There will be a ton available in junk yards for part scrounging and every repair shop in existence can work on these things. Sounds like fair price for a good one in good condition with the record to prove it. All the work done it doesn't guarantee it will last longer or not require any repair/maintenance (in fact the best way to shorten any cars life span is to neglect these things and well made american cars really respond to good maintenance). It does mean this vehicle is more likely to last longer than one that isn't maintained. So buy the ranger and keep it running as long as you can-it is the last of a dying kind of car.
posted by bartonlong at 8:54 PM on November 12, 2012 [1 favorite]

I've had three Rangers, sold the 1990 for $3000 in 1999, had 300,000 on it. Had a 1997 4wd, step daughter stole and totaled. Last year sold a 2001 for $5500, had 240,000 on it, still going strong @ 275,000.
I do take care of my vehicles, synthetic oil, K&N filters, etc, so it all depends....
posted by raildr at 8:56 PM on November 12, 2012

What's the Kelly Blue Book value for the vehicle? I am at work so I can't check it, but $5500 for an 11 year old modified Ranger with 150k and visible rust seems way overpriced to me.
posted by Kevtaro at 9:48 PM on November 12, 2012

No, a long list of fixes does not inherently mean a vehicle will last longer. It could mean that the vehicle was someone's hobby, or that parts were worn out and replaced out of necessity, or that the owner has a lot of mechanical skills and can do such work more cheaply than someone who has to take their cars to a mechanic.

The fix-list is long and includes replaced truck bed, exhaust system, transmission, clutch

It has a clutch, so it's a stick shift. 150K is rather early for a manual transmission to need repair unless it's been used hard. The bed would've needed replacement only if it were badly rusted out or if it were beat to hell by heavy use. I suspect this truck has been used a lot more than is evident on the surface. The long list of other repairs may have taken care of all the stuff that would be compromised by heavy use, but it easily may not have.

FWIW, no 2001 Ranger with 150K on the clock would be worth $5500 in my neighborhood, even if it looked like new.
posted by jon1270 at 3:14 AM on November 13, 2012

Has it done much off-road work and particularly off-road hauling? Are there are signs that the vehicle has been modded or repaired in line with having done much off-road work. Look underneath it and check for signs of wear at entry and exit points.

If so, in my limited experience of owning a pickup, the actual mileage grossly underplays the wear and tear on major parts if it has been pulling loads and/or going off-road. I'd second what jon1270 says.

A clean engine is nice. But when you drive it, does it pull smoothly and without any smoke?

Also: IMH experience, cheapo pre-purchase inspections for high mileage vehicles are pretty useless as they contain words like "consistent with mileage", which tells you nothing about likely failure rates. Take a mechanic or mechanically savvy friend who'll give you the straight dope.
posted by MuffinMan at 3:16 AM on November 13, 2012

Finally got a chance to check out A 3.0L V6 long bed 2001 Ranger with standard options @ 150,000 miles in *good* condition is only worth about $4k. Fair condition (rust), less than $3500. In addition to the advice re: the vehicle's reliability above, I would look up the exact vehicle on KBB, print it out, and use it to negotiate the price down.
posted by Kevtaro at 4:21 AM on November 13, 2012

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