You're asking the wrong person. As a former mechanic and instructor, I wouldn't own a Ford product due to numerous design problems with steering and suspension parts, or a GM product because they have so many ways figured out how to separate owners from their money after the sale. As much as I don't like these cars, there's just as many people who wouldn't have anything but one of these brands.
I can share that if this problem was caused by rustproofing, it would have been resolved by the person or company that did that job. Also, any time someone tells you, "all it needs is, ... ", You can be sure it doesn't. If it needs a minor or inexpensive repair, the seller would have done it to make the car easier to sell or so it will bring a higher price. More likely the seller knows it's going to be a very expensive repair, or they gave up trying to figure out the cause, and they just want to sell the pile to unload it on someone else. This applies more to private parties with a car for sale. It's not often someone has a car in good condition with no problems or defects, so they decide to sell it. An exception might be if someone says they have a new car on order, but then you should see another car in their driveway, otherwise they'll be walking if you buy this one.
I don't pay attention to prices either, so I can't tell you what's a good deal. Prices vary in different parts of the country too. One suggestion is to visit a number of dealerships and compare prices. To be sure you're comparing apples to apples, look at the mileage, age, tire wear patterns, oil spots on the ground, uneven gaps around the doors, even worn areas on carpeting, seat covers, brake pedal pads, and steering wheel buttons. After you look at enough cars, you'll start to see the same things over and over on certain models.
I worked at a very nice family-owned new-car dealership for ten years, so I learned quite a bit about how they work. If you visit a GM dealership during business hours, expect to not get away without sitting in a salesman's office for a while. They are very high-pressure. I read an article a few years ago by an editor at Edmunds, who got hired for one month at a GM dealership, then another month at an import dealership to learn the tricks of the trade. He emphasized many times that none of the tricks he was taught at the GM dealership were illegal or unethical, but they were tricks just the same to get you to spend a real lot more than you intended to when you showed up.
The exact opposite is true at most import dealerships. They know their cars are going to sell without the need for sales gimmicks or tricks to get you in.
At my dealership, one of the owners had a saying, "it takes more advertising dollars to get one new customer than it takes to keep ten current customers happy and coming back. In fact, I did see the same people over and over, and we had very few complaints. Every week someone would show up with a box of donuts or cookies to thank us for something we did.
At most new-car dealerships, every trade-in gets a safety inspection and an oil change. The used-car manager tells us if we should repair all the defects we found, or whether they're going to send the car to an auction. They don't want to sell clunkers as that would hurt their reputation. Used-car dealers buy those auction cars, then they can take the time to sort out all the problems. This is where you can still run into an unexpected problem like the one you're looking at. A lot of self-tests the computers run only run under a very specific set of conditions. Some of them might not run for days. Once they do, that is when a defect might be detected, and the Check Engine light turns on. The selling dealer had no way of knowing that was going to happen, but now you're stuck with it. The reputable dealers usually offer some type of warranty to cover things like that. The most common is a 30-day, 50/50 warranty to cover certain systems or parts of the car. That means for 30 days, you pay half the repair cost and the dealer pays the other half. This can be a good deal for both parties, especially if the dealer has its own service department. They don't actually incur any cost for the repair, but they aren't free to work on other jobs either. What you pay typically is just enough to cover the dealer's cost in parts and his employee's labor. You don't have to bare the full load for a problem that neither of you knew was going to show up.
I can offer another possible option that does have some risk, but can save a lot of dollars. I have a friend with a repair / body shop who specializes in rebuilding one and two-year-old smashed Dodge trucks. He's way out in the country, and has over 50 regular customers. I just finished helping him replace a frame on a dump truck that was tipped over while fully-loaded. That's the kind of stuff he's willing to tackle. Farmers in the area tell him what they want, then he has about a dozen yards around the midwestern states where he finds these trucks. We're up in Wisconsin, but we had to go to Missouri to get my truck. It was two years old, had 4200 miles, was hit in the side but was still drivable. With all the costs of the truck, fetching it, and the repairs, the total came to less than $22,000.00 for an almost new $50,000.00 truck. The problem now is for the last few years too many shop owners are bidding on them and they're bringing too much money. He has switched to looking for inexpensive Chevies, only because his shop is on a busy highway and he can set them outside for people to see. Most of his regular customers aren't interested in cars. They need trucks.
I tried once a long time ago, and found out I have no talent for bodywork, but I am able to recognize quality work. The average person isn't gong to see most signs of shoddy workmanship, so the better place to start is simply by asking other people for referrals to good shops to do business with. Around here, most body shops have a half dozen repaired cars, either for loaners or to sell. They rent them too, so you could drive one for a couple of weeks, then negotiate to have the rental charge put against the price of the car if you like it and want to buy it. If an insurance company previously considered the car "totaled" from a crash, the word, "Salvage" will appear on the title. That lowers the car's value when you want to sell it, but also when you want to buy it. All salvage-title rebuilt vehicles in Wisconsin have to be inspected by the State Patrol before they can be sold. There's a charge for that, so my friend tries to schedule three or four cars for one day. The officer comes right to his shop and spends all day there. They get real picky, right down to working fog lights if they came originally on the car. New and used-car dealers can get away with a lot more, even defective parking brakes, as long as every known defect is disclosed on the window sticker if it isn't going to be repaired. In that respect, salvage vehicles are less expensive and scrutinized more than regular trade-ins.
Also be aware you can take any car you're considering buying to any shop for an inspection. If a seller refuses to let you do that, he's hiding something; move on. Thorough inspections take about an hour, but you must be realistic about what they'll find. Tire wear, brakes, steering, suspension parts, exterior lights, mirrors, and any other safety systems are inspected. Some mechanics want to include a test-drive where they check for pulling to one side, vibrations, noises and rattles, and things like that. They usually aren't real interested in things you can find yourself, like a non-working radio or a seat that won't adjust.
You might also observe which car models you see in the employee parking areas at dealerships. Most mechanics aren't paid real well, at least early in their careers, so they drive the worn-out stuff no one else wants, but they drive what they don't mind working on. When looking for an independent repair shop to do business with, look for one that's busy. That means they're keeping their customers happy with quality work. Avoid shops where some mechanics are outside on a smoke break, or they have nothing better to do than polish their tools. Others are avoiding that shop for a reason. I'm lucky that in my city, we have a real lot of very good dealers. The owner where I worked instructed his service writers that if they weren't busy with customers, they were free to photocopy a few pages of service manuals for guests, and to borrow complete service manuals to other dealerships. We borrowed special tools and service manuals between the GMC dealer down the road, the Cadillac, Ford, and import dealers across town, and we even repaired each others' trade-ins at times. The one notable exception was the Chevy dealer. He is well-known to be one of the biggest crooks in our county. We also had one independent shop owner who was a crook. He's out of business now due to lack of customers, but he's managing a local franchise muffler shop now. He still doesn't have much business. In one case, while at the dealership, I was asked to provide a second opinion for a $600.00 brake repair estimate. We did the job for just over $200.00. Fortunately we only have those two disreputable shop owners, but almost everyone around here knows to avoid them.
One last consideration is how long you intend to keep a car. I dislike all the new technology because I know it's going to break down and be expensive to repair. I still have the first new car I bought in 1980, and it's real easy to find replacement parts that keep it running. Ford has a long history of not making parts available after as little as three years. That's okay as long as aftermarket manufacturers continue making those parts, otherwise you'll be scouring the salvage yards looking for them. I drive the wheels off my cars until they just won't go anymore, then I drive them a few more years. I need vehicles with easy-to-find parts. That's not a consideration if like to trade every few years.
That brings me to my last comment of value. When you do trade, you're usually better off dollar-wise to do so when your car develops a problem. First of all, the dealer expects your trade-in to need repairs, so they've already factored that in to what they're willing to allow you for it. Second, their cost of repairs is less than what it would cost you. Suppose they offered you $1000.00 trade-in value on their $10,000.00 car. Now, if they learn your car needs $300.00 in repairs, it might only cost them $200.00, but they might still give you $950.00 for trade-in. Also, there's more profit in more expensive cars, so instead of $1000.00, they might allow you $1500.00 trade-in on their $13,000.00 car, even if your car isn't worth $1500.00 to their next buyer. They give you that higher amount to entice you to buy from them.
There's plenty of business out there for all the dealers, so there's no need to cheat or for dishonesty. What we do see a lot of is poor communication and unreasonable expectations. Very often things get lost in translation, then it's the entire industry that gets the bad reputation. As in any other profession, we have our bad apples who spoil it for all of us. You have us to help you avoid some of those problems.
Sunday, May 2nd, 2021 AT 6:27 PM