Question - I would appreciate your help with a matter that has really been putting a wedge between my husband and me. I am driving a 1990 Volvo 740 with 112,000 miles. My daughter will start to drive in six months, and I want to give her the Volvo and get a new, or newer, car for myself. The problem is that my neighbor has convinced my husband that we should buy a 1989 Mercedes-Benz station wagon with 100,000 miles on it (they just bought one and they love it).
I, on the other hand, want to buy a 1995/96 Mazda Millenia with 20,000 miles on it. The Mercedes will cost about $13,000, and the Mazda will cost between $15,000 and $18,000. What should I get? I want a big car that is safe (I have three kids), and I want a comfortable ride. I originally wanted a Lincoln Town Car, but my husband says I'm too young (I'm 38). I don't want a minivan or a sport utility vehicle! - LizRAY: I'd go right ahead and get the Millenia, Liz. It's fun to drive, very comfortable and big enough to be reasonably safe (we checked the Car Talk Web site at cars.com and found the Millenia got four out of five stars in the crash test for the driver and five out of five for the passenger - which is very good). It's also likely to be pretty reliable, and with only 20,000 miles, presumably nothing major will wear out soon. You might even have some time left on the warranty.
TOM: Plus, you'll have a better chance of picking up guys in the Millenia. You'll never meet guys driving a Mercedes wagon. Hmm. Maybe that's what your husband has in mind!
RAY: That aside, a 10-year-old Mercedes station wagon is not much fun to drive. It's safe, that's true. But with 100,000 miles, it's not going to be that reliable, and you're going to be very unpleasantly surprised at the cost of repairing it. A price of $13,000 may sound like a bargain now, but once you get your first bill for an $800 brake job, a $900 tune-up and a $1,200 exhaust system, you may feel differently.
TOM: Besides, we all know that the only reason your neighbor wants you to get one is because he knows he's going to need a parts car!
Question - My girlfriend and I read your column all the time. Lately we've been trying to come up with an easy and convenient way to get more exercise. I started wondering: Is it safe to remove the power steering from a car? If so, how would a person do it? I'm thinking that this would be a good way to get better arm and shoulder strength. I tried it on an old Pinto some years ago by bypassing the power-steering pump with a shorter fan belt. I think it worked, although I did get a sore elbow once in a while. - Rick
RAY: Don't do it, Rick. It's not a very safe thing to do. If you need to make a quick, evasive movement at a low speed, you might not be able to do it, and you might hit something - or, even worse, somebody.
- Wait! Before you buy a car, make sure you read Tom and Ray's guide, "How to Buy a Great Used Car: Things Detroit and Tokyo Don't Want You to Know." Send $3 and a stamped (55 cents), self-addressed, No. 10 envelope to Used Car, P.O. Box 5541, River-ton, NJ 08077-5541.