Pontiac Aztek or Ford Focus
February 26, 2008 12:52 PM   Subscribe

Currently I drive a 2000 Ford Focus and looking in to buying a 2001 pontiac aztek for $5700. I need some recommendations on it.

Hi All,

Currently I drive a 2000 Ford Focus with 96,000 miles (KBB-$3300) and my daily commute is around 2-3 mile round trip to work and weekend shopping for about 5 miles. Once a month I may drive to a friends place or some where for about 10-15 mile round trip. I recently replace to strut springs and cost me about $250. Other than the sound of things rattling and shaking there is nothing really wrong with it. But at the same time this is a basic model and it doesn't have cruise control, power windows, power doors, etc...

Recently I got my eyes on a 2001 pontiac aztek for $5700 (KBB-$5800) with 90,000 miles on it and thinking of selling my Ford Focus and going for the Aztek.
Air Conditioning Cruise Control Traction Control
Power Steering AM/FM Stereo Roof Rack
Power Windows Single Compact Disc Privacy Glass
Power Door Locks Dual Front Air Bags Alloy Wheels
Tilt Wheel ABS (4-Wheel)Power Seats, Ice Chest Console, Rear
Tailgate Bench, Rear 50/50 Seating
Premium Sound Leather, Heads up display
OnStar, Towing Pkg

As much as I like to go for an Honda or a Toyota seems like it's out of my price range. I'm looking for something below $6000.
Therefore I need a second opinion on this from fellow mefiers.
- What are the pros and cons of pontiac aztek ?
- Should I go for it or am I better off with the Ford Focus that I drive now?

Thanks in advance.

P.S. : I know some of you might think that I should be posting this question in an Auto forum. But most of the time users come to these forums when they have problems with their vehicles and with a subset of users like that it's difficult to get a general idea about the product.
posted by WizKid to Travel & Transportation (25 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Look at it this way: you have a basic car (which means fewer things to go wrong) that you know the history of; why would you spend $5700 just to have a car with almost as many miles, that's also got extra features that can break?

If you're going to buy a car with high miles for a low price, you *want* a basic-features car, and ideally one from a reliable manufacturer (American and German manufacturers need not apply.)

Besides the Aztec is particularly unattractive.

I strongly advise you to stick with what you've got, until you have enough money to buy something with far fewer miles and better reliability -- after all, $5700 would cover a new engine, a new transmission, and a whole lot more on your Focus, so even if it starts falling apart you're better off.
posted by davejay at 1:20 PM on February 26, 2008

Agreeing with davejay. Keep the Focus. A quick google of Pontiac Aztek reviews didn't turn up much nice stuff.
posted by malaprohibita at 1:27 PM on February 26, 2008

It doesn't look like this makes a lot of sense for reasons davejay mentioned above. Also, buying a used car usually means inheriting someone else's problems.

If you live only 2-3 miles from work, might I suggest riding a bicycle? It will greatly reduce the wear and tear on your current car.
posted by splatta at 1:28 PM on February 26, 2008

I've a 2000 Ford Focus myself. I've owned it since almost new, so we know each other quite well. It has had the various problems that plague Fords of that vintage, like needing a new idle sensor and the occasional vapor locks that go with it. That was a contributing factor towards not only its tendency to stall at a moment's notice, but also to overheat needlessly. Heck, I've even replaced the driver's seat because the original simply broke. No lie.

And since I know that I've been no saint with my Focus, I would estimate its condition as "Fair." With that in mind, the Kelley Blue Book value of my car is $1,200. But even if it had spent the last eight years hermetically sealed in a bank vault, an "Excellent" Focus is going to trade-in for only $2,150.

I put all of this out there to say this ...

If I was getting another vehicle, there is no way that I would trade my eight-year old for a seven-year old, particularly since I'd be paying more than three or four times its value for the only somewhat younger replacement. Instead, I'd use some of that money to take my Focus to reputable mechanic and have them do a stem-to-stern overhaul. Whatever needs fixing, have them fix it. While the Ford Focus isn't as reliable as a Honda or a Toyota, it is a serviceable vehicle that ought to give you a few more years of daily commuting with regular maintenance and some loving care.

In the meantime, you can save up, work on your credit if needed and get your personal finances in order. A better, newer car might be out of reach right now, but maybe in a couple of years, you can take your dear Focus to the Honda dealer and trade it in for a 2006-ish Accord or something equally reliable and capable of holding its value.

As far as the Aztek goes in particular, I've always considered it one of the least appealing cars I've ever seen. Time magazine agrees, having listed it with their 50 Worst Cars of All Time. BusinessWeek included it in their own top ten of ugliest cars. Also worth reading is a post from 2005 at Coding Horror: "The Pontiac Aztek and the Perils of Design by Committee."

(Of course, the Aztek does have its fans ... so to each their own, eh?)
posted by grabbingsand at 1:29 PM on February 26, 2008

Have you checked out the editor and user reviews on Edmunds? It seems that the professional car reviewer disliked it (mostly because it is a bit ugly... anyone remember how much they disparaged its look when it first came out?), but the people who actually owned them, for the most part, loved them:


One thought, though... do you actually need a SUV/crossover style vehicle? You're going to take a decent hit on gas mileage, coming from a Focus. Edmunds put it at 19/26 when it was new. That may or may not be adjusted to the "new" system. I'm guessing not. Still, for a little SUV, that's not horrible.

I'm still a lover of GM products (actually sold them for a while, years back), despite everything they've done to convince me otherwise. From a technical standpoint, the 3.4L V6 is not the best engine in the world, though. It's underpowered and inefficient. It's the same motor that GM used in its minivans during that time period. Build quality (on the car AND the motor) were not the best, either.

On the more personal side, I've known two people who have owned Azteks, and both of them loved their little SUVs, despite their quirks and occasional problems. Anecdotal evidence and all, though. YMMV.
posted by XcentricOrbit at 1:33 PM on February 26, 2008

The Aztek is/was awesome, just misunderstood. People fear change!

While I would say trading in a 2000 Ford for a 2001 GM with comparable miles is by in large a net positive, it's not enough of one to justify the ~$2500 it will set you back. Another thing you might want to consider is the difference in fuel cost you will be incurring by moving to a larger vehicle. One additional question I would have is if the Aztec is considered a wagon or an SUV by your insurance company, because you may incur up to a 25% higher premium if it is considered an SUV.
posted by fusinski at 1:35 PM on February 26, 2008

If someone put a gun to my head, I would still buy an older Honda or Toyota, with as many as DOUBLE the miles of a Ford Focus or Pontiac Aztek. Just buy the best $6000 Honda you can find.
posted by thilmony at 1:39 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

No more driving than you do, do you really need things like cruise control, premium sound, etc?
posted by owtytrof at 1:47 PM on February 26, 2008

I drove an Aztek for 3 months and really liked it. Much better looking than the Honda Element, too.
posted by rfs at 1:51 PM on February 26, 2008

The devil you know is better than the devil you don't know. I say keep the Focus, especially given the little amount you currently drive.
posted by zsazsa at 1:55 PM on February 26, 2008

The Aztek is the ugliest car on the face of the earth. Keep the Focus.
posted by electroboy at 2:57 PM on February 26, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for all the replies and keep them coming. :-)
posted by WizKid at 3:05 PM on February 26, 2008

How ugly is the Aztek?
It's so ugly that I recall reading about a fellow in an Aztek who had stopped at the scene of an accident. When the Fire and Rescue team arrived, they spent ten minutes using their Jaws of Life and Sawzalls on the Aztek before realizing their mistake.

(Thank you, thank you, I'm here all week, etc.)
posted by mojohand at 4:39 PM on February 26, 2008 [1 favorite]

Don't buy the aztec. Overhaul the Focus, the good thing about Fords are they are relatively cheap to maintain. Run the ford for a another year and then trade in against a younger Toyota/Honda/Nissan. Don't trade in an 8 year old car for a 7 year old car, wait and trade in for a 3 year old car that's taken most of the depreciation already.
posted by arcticseal at 5:40 PM on February 26, 2008

Just buy the best $6000 Honda you can find.

Good advice. Heck, it's great advice.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:47 PM on February 26, 2008

The OnStar won't work!

Overall the Aztek was a very functional car that was very ugly. My sister-in-law owned one and loved it, until after she had it for a year and weird things started happening like the entire dash woull blink off and on, then later the 4wd would go out, etc, etc. Mechanically suspicous in my mind.

Spending and extra $2400 for a car with about the same mileage, the same or worse repair costs most likely, and much worse MPG's (about 10 MPG less) doesn't make much sense.
posted by internal at 6:19 PM on February 26, 2008

An ex-boss of mine had an Aztek. He loved it, and, to paraphrase him (Hi Mike), 'I don't have to look at it when I'm driving it.' A car is a tool. I think it's kinda silly to make your buying decisions based on aesthetic concerns. You might disagree with me, but, considering that you bought a Focus and are contemplating buying an Aztek, I doubt it. Conveniently, there are plenty of other reasons to not spend three grand on a tailgate bench and an ice chest console.

P.S. My Toyota was $2000. The one I had before that was even cheaper (and I sold it for slightly more than I put into it). Now, neither one of those was from the current decade, and they both have more miles on 'em than your Focus and the Aztek put together. I've never spent more than about $3000 on a car. In that range, and in my experience, the best car choice is almost always an import.
posted by box at 6:34 PM on February 26, 2008

Response by poster: Well it seems like Aztek is a bad choice after all.
Currently I'm looking at Yahoo Auto to find a Toyota or a Honda.

Any other brands/models that you would recommend?
posted by WizKid at 8:21 PM on February 26, 2008

Ditto thilmony: Go buy yourself the nicest $6,000 Honda you can find.
posted by limeonaire at 8:23 PM on February 26, 2008

Oh, and if you want a specific model: Get a Civic. You'll never want for parts, it'll last a million years, and every repair shop/oil change place has dealt with 'em. My boyfriend's got a great '96 Civic; I have a 2005 Civic Hybrid that I scored for only $12,000. There are some great deals in the range anywhere in between.
posted by limeonaire at 8:25 PM on February 26, 2008

I've owned a 84 Accord, 93 Civic, 96 Accord, 05 Accord and now an 07 Civic Hybrid. I'm thinking I recommend a Honda Civic or Accord. Civic makes best sense for MPG!
posted by thilmony at 8:52 PM on February 26, 2008

I'd say keep the focus. I myself drive a 1983 Volvo 240 turbo which i acquired for $500 dollars. This allows me to use all that other money for more important things like reducing debt. It seems strange to even think about another car purchase unless you plan on many extended road trips and are concerned about the reliability of the ford. Good luck with whatever you do and remember that you can easily make a 2-3 mile round trip on a bicycle in 15 minutes while prolonging the life of your auto.
posted by johnbot at 9:40 PM on February 26, 2008

Be careful if you buy a civic; you want a one-owner car that's never been modified, *not* a car that's changed hands a few times and has been wrenched on. Civics are the '57 Chevys of our generation, what with the easy engine swaps and double-wishbone suspension on the older models, so lots of kids get 'em, beat 'em up, then dump 'em.
posted by davejay at 12:24 AM on February 27, 2008

Besides Toyotas and Hondas: yeah, I'd also recommend Nissans and Mazdas. They're not as reliable as Hondas and Toyotas, but they're (sometimes significantly) cheaper.

And any Japanese luxury make--Acura, Lexus, Infiniti--is likely to be overpriced, especially if things like leather seats and branding aren't important to you, but probably still worth considering.
posted by box at 7:28 PM on February 27, 2008

Another way to think about this question is: how much would you pay to add AC/PW/PD/etc to the Focus? (Not that you will actually do so, although you probably could, since I think Foci were sold with those options, and a creative mechanic could almost certainly retrofit all or most of those to your car.) If you are willing to pay $500 to upgrade the Focus, but you are considering paying $2000 or $3000 more for a "new" car that is just as old and has just as many miles, something in the equation does not make sense.

Almost always (except when you have a real lemon) it is cheaper to keep the clunker you own running rather than buy something new. There are exceptions to this, but they usually involve your car catching fire or your situation changing -- you used to drive around the neighborhood once a week, and now you have a daily commute across California, say. Otherwise, the way you actually save money is by keeping your (imperfect) Focus, not buying a $6000 Honda/Toyota/etc that will probably need some maintenance anyway. Even with the most perfectly reliable car, things like tires, brakes, and so on wear out and need to be replaced. If you have been keeping up on those things in the Focus, keeping it is a better option than 90% of the used cars I've seen -- people tend to stop taking care of the little things once they make a decision that they will be selling soon.
posted by Forktine at 6:10 AM on February 29, 2008

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