Is a higher mileage Toyota better than a lower mileage Ford?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 1996

Dear Tom & Ray:

I am a 20-year-old blond female, and a devotee of your column! Your
pamphlet Ten Ways You May Be Ruining Your Car Without Even Knowing It!
probably saved my last car. Now I need you to help save my marriage.

My husband's car, a 1986 Celica, threw a rod and has been scrapped. My
husband is furious with me for suggesting what I consider a suitable
replacement. His choice: a 1987 Toyota Tercel with 85,000 miles. My choice:
a 1990 Ford Tempo with 41,000 miles. They're both about the same price. He
feels the reputation of the Toyota ourweighs the extra mileage, but I think
mileage alone should be the determining factor. What should we do? -- Karyn

TOM: Well, I could see his point, Karyn. If someone were trying to sentence
me to drive around in a 1990 Tempo, I'd be bent out of shape, too.

RAY: The real answer is that we don't know which one's better.
And while mileage and reputation are both important, the most important
factor is the condition of the particular car you're looking at.

TOM: So while, generally speaking, a Tercel might be a better car than a
Tempo, this particular Tempo might be better than this particular Tercel.

RAY: So what do you do? You check them out. First of all, I'd say on paper
these cars are about equal. Weighing the mileages and the reputations, I'd
have to guess that they both should have 50-60,000 more miles on them. And
since your husband is the one who's going to have to drive this car, I'd
let him make the choice. What do you care, Karyn? You don't have to drive
the Tercel. You've got your Jaguar convertible, right?

TOM: Your husband should get this prospective Tercel to a mechanic he
trusts and have him go over it stem to stern. We go over this process in
detail in the used-car pamphlet. Without a thorough check-up, you really
don't know what you're buying.

RAY: And if the Tercel checks out, let him buy it and give him your
blessing. And if not, ask him if he's driven a Ford lately.

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