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Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
9/13/22 10:58 a.m.

Buying a car can be one of the most exciting moments in your life, whether you acquired your ultimate dream ride or you finally got something (a little) more reliable.

Sometimes, though, that purchase doesn’t turn out the way we hope–and we suddenly realize buying that car was a big mistake.

Sounds familiar? Why not share with the rest of the …

Read the rest of the story

APEowner GRM+ Memberand UltraDork
9/13/22 11:25 a.m.

I once bought an '82 Olds Cutlass Ciara as a daily for my wife.  I knew they were junk but I somehow managed to convince myself that because this particular one was going to be an exception because it was low mileage and clean.  I worked on them when they were new and they were crap then so I don't why I thought this eight year old one would be different.

Patrick GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/13/22 11:33 a.m.

Sunbeam Alpine, lost my ass to make it go away.

z31maniac MegaDork
9/13/22 11:43 a.m.

My '13 135i. It was a clean, low mileage dealer maintained car. The Euro/Exotic Indy steered me toward on of those over an E92 M3.........told me the M3 would send him on a nice european vacation for what it would cost to maintain it. 

135i had 26k miles on it when I got, 32k when I traded it in. In that time it needed plugs, coils, VCG, OFHG, belt/tensioner, battery (which has to be programmed to the ECU because of how it regulator works), and the DCT reprogrammed 3 times. Then it developed a knocking sound at high rpm that we couldn't determine was coming from the engine or trans. 

I drove it down the street and traded it in on Mazda 3 that we still have. 

Outside of the maintenance, it put me about $6k upside down in the Mazda. 

AMiataCalledSteve Reader
9/13/22 11:44 a.m.

I don't know I would consider it a BIG mistake, but in retrospect my MR2 was showing a series of red flags that I ended up paying for. I bought the car at night in an unlit parking lot from a guy who had only owned it for a few months, only took it for a short test drive, and gave the guy pretty close to what he was asking because the interior was so nice despite its high miles. Turns out it needed a lot of little things that I wasn't aware of, it was a little rusty, and the reported engine rebuild (with no paperwork) seemed less and less likely by the day. I had overpaid by at least 1k. I sold it a couple months later because I never fell in love with it enough to justify the time I would have to spend fixing it. The master cylinder failed on the way to meet the buyer, but miraculously he bought it anyway at a discount. Overall I lost a good bit of money on the MR2. I would say it's the only car I've had that I wouldn't consider "well bought," but it was still fun and I had a cool car to tool around in for a little while, so it wasn't all bad. I actually remember it pretty fondly, but objectively speaking the car was definitely a mistake to buy.

maschinenbau GRM+ Memberand UberDork
9/13/22 11:45 a.m.

Oof. Probably my short-lived Fiat 124. 

How it started: https://grassrootsmotorsports.com/forum/grm/just-tell-me-it-will-all-be-okay-nd2-miata-as-a-da/180460/page5/

How it went:

JimS Reader
9/13/22 11:51 a.m.

Bought a one-owner low-mileage Chevy S10 Blazer.  Everything that could break did break. Biggest piece of junk.  

frenchyd GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/13/22 11:53 a.m.

Boat tail Buick Rivera.    After washing Waxing and carefully detailing it.  I was sitting inside looking at how beautiful it was.  
    Suddenly the taillights came on. All by themselves ,  nobody near the car.   Yep the running lights too but not the headlights or brake lights.  
 After pulling the dash(4 times)  and going nuts trying to  figure  it out I found out the electric wind up clock would unwind and then trigger a solenoid to kick the winder around to wind it up.  
    The contact points ( made of lead) froze and melted a stream of lead across the printed circuit board.  Looked exactly like factory.  
 That was the easy problem.  
    It had a nylon timing gear to make sure people didn't hear it.   A corner of the nylon broke off and held the pressure relief open and zero oil pressure. 
    The condenser overheated and ignition went south.   
  Then the isolation plate underneath the Quadrajet melted and  the engine refused to idle with that air leak.   
   That's when I patched everything up. And traded it in on a new Chevy Vega GT that turned out to be one of the best Cars I'd owned. 'Til then.  

calteg SuperDork
9/13/22 12:22 p.m.

Jag XKR convertible. 

Same story as everyone else. Super low mileage, absolutely pristine, I thought "this Jag won't bite me in the ass." 

Wheel speed sensor goes out on the drive home. Thankfully it was easy to reach and just cleaning it fixed the issue. Various other issues left me stranded on the road twice. 

After about 3 months I got sick of it, several dealers were doing the "we'll match KBB" promotion. Miraculously KBB was a few thousand more than I paid for it, took it to 2 different places and neither of them would touch it with a 10ft pole.

Ended up selling it private party to a guy who flew out from CA. Nav stopped working for him somewhere in AZ, and I think something else broke during the road trip. Thankfully he insisted I take it to the local Jag dealership for a PPO, which I did. It passed their "inspection" with flying colors so when he complained I at least had a leg to stand it.

Keith Tanner
Keith Tanner GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/13/22 12:27 p.m.

1989 Toyota truck with the 3.0. Figured the miss was just a spark problem. It had piston parts in the oil pan. Dropped in a reman engine and then it still didn't have enough power to pass slow cars at 6,000'. It was reliable other than the bad engine but it just wasn't up to the task even in full health.

Interestingly, it's probably the only car I've owned that I have few/no pictures of. That says a lot.

David S. Wallens
David S. Wallens Editorial Director
9/13/22 12:37 p.m.

My A2 five-door Golf GL. I was just about to graduate from college and needed a new car as my Accord had just died. I was in a rush and paid too much. And sold it too quickly and didn't recoup enough. 

I didn't care for the Golf and sold it for a (new) Sentra SE-R. smiley

Toyspyder New Reader
9/13/22 12:41 p.m.

1974 Fiat Spyder. Color red which matched the color of my face every time it broke down on me in traffic. I owned that car for slightly less than 6 months. That was about 5 1/2 months too long. It was without question the least reliable car that I have ever owned and I have owned 53 vehicles in my lifetime.

Colin Wood
Colin Wood Associate Editor
9/13/22 12:45 p.m.

My parents were gracious enough to buy my first car for me, a 1994 Acura Integra RS. It worked well as my first car to putter around after school–but it quickly turned into a money pit.

See also: My mother bought a van with a manual transmission when she didn't know how to drive a manual because that's all she could afford at the time–I remember her telling me the story, and how annoyed she was that the dealer tacked on a $15 (for the time) cigarette lighter.

As for myself, I've got my whole life ahead of me to make terrible automotive purchases. wink

MadScientistMatt UltimaDork
9/13/22 12:51 p.m.

I once thought it was a good idea to use a C4 Corvette with close to 200,000 miles for a long commute. After a year of nickel and dime issues, I got tired of it and replaced it with a clean, low mileage '95 Honda Civic.

And that turned out to be the disaster. It seemed to have breakdowns every month, many of which had me stranded on the side of the road. In one case, I brought it to a shop for a noise in the front end. A few hours later, they called and told me it had different sized brake rotors on each side. Somebody a few owners back was very good at hiding very bad work...

wae PowerDork
9/13/22 12:54 p.m.
rustomatic HalfDork
9/13/22 12:59 p.m.

BMW e39, twice.  They are so nice to drive, but so bad to own.  At least I drove one of them at Laguna Seca in the rain and looped out before it blew up . . .

dculberson MegaDork
9/13/22 1:17 p.m.

Oh, man. So many bad choices. But the worst was probably the 1984 full size Bronco. It had a huge suspension lift and 35" x 12.5" tires - which at the time were massive, but in today's world maybe not. It had the 351 W and a 4-speed manual with the granny first gear. The rear window didn't roll down right so I couldn't open the tailgate. The transmission ground going into third gear and would kick out sometimes. It had a serious exhaust leak where the EGR crossover was. The steering was unmodified in the lift process so the tie rods made an "X" that resulted in some seriously sketchy handling. And the best part? I noticed all of this on the test drive and still bought it, giving the seller his $3500 asking price. I learned a ton on that truck, so it wasn't all a loss, but I think I sold it for about $1500 a year or so after buying it. I was so sick of looking at the thing and just wanted it gone.

It did get a ton of attention, and after I'd worked on upgrading and repairing the engine a bunch was a total beast. But I never could get the tailgate to work and the transmission didn't miraculously heal itself. Ahh, to be young and dumb again. I was about 19? Maybe? So turning heads and power hopping in 2nd were more important than perhaps they should have been - or at least are now.

Toyman! GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/13/22 1:39 p.m.

Worst ever. 

1983 Nissan Stanza. It was a horrible car in just about every way. Poorly designed, hard to work on, expensive to repair. I hated that car so much that it was 30 years before I bought another Nissan product. 


BoxheadTim GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/13/22 1:45 p.m.

Most of my cars, probably. 

Slippery GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
9/13/22 2:03 p.m.
Toyman! said:

Worst ever. 

1983 Nissan Stanza. It was a horrible car in just about every way. Poorly designed, hard to work on, expensive to repair. I hated that car so much that it was 30 years before I bought another Nissan product. 


I honestly thought you were going to say e24, lol. I am glad that one wasn't the worst. 

Slippery GRM+ Memberand PowerDork
9/13/22 2:04 p.m.

'62 Corvair Spyder. Complete but waaaay rustier than it looked, especially for being a California car :(

Toyman! GRM+ Memberand MegaDork
9/13/22 2:12 p.m.

In reply to Slippery :

I liked the e24. It is still one of my favorite body styles of all time. But that wasn't enough to offset the problems and the PITA. 

The Stanza had no redeeming qualities. None. Take the worst BMW ever made and wrap it in Japanese economy sheet metal. That is a Stanza. 

CAinCA GRM+ Memberand HalfDork
9/13/22 2:17 p.m.

When I got out of the USAF in 93 I was basically broke. I needed cheap reliable transportation. I bought a clean 84 Mustang 2.3L 4 cylinder 4 spd with about 80k on it. My parents had an 82 GL 5.0 that they had bought new and had been really reliable.


The 2.3L 4 cylinder was gutless. The 4 speed developed a leak and needed to be topped up on a monthly basis. The timing belt jumped timing at about 85k. I replaced it but found that the timing mark on the cam pulley was non-existent. I got it lined back up the best I could but it never ran right after that. It cracked an exhaust manifold a few months later. Ford didn't have the correct CA car replacement anymore. I called all of the local junk yards and they all reported that the manifolds they had were cracked too. I finally bought the closest part Fard could give me. The battery started dying on a regular basis. After fighting that for a few weeks I tracked it down to a relay the failed in the on position. It would drain the battery in about 2 hours. About a year later it wouldn't pass smog. I got a one time waiver from the smog ref but it had to be fixed before I could register it again. Around this time I started a new job that paid just enough that I could afford to trade it in on a new 96 S10 with the 4.3 V6. 

bigeyedfish Reader
9/13/22 2:33 p.m.

2010? Hyundai Accent.  I bought it to commute 35 miles of highway each way to and from work.  I tried so many times to shift into 6th gear, but it didn't exist.  Absolutely miserable on the highway.  I got rid of it by hydroplaning at 70 mph and smashing the hell out of it.  The cup holders were pretty nice though.  That wreck didn't even spill my coffee.

bobzilla MegaDork
9/13/22 2:50 p.m.

88 C4 Z51. That car hated me. 

the swift GT was prety bad.

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