Would you buy an American car?

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UPDATE: Consider “American car” to refer to one built by GM, Ford or Chrysler. Not Toyotas built in the US, etc.

Extraordinary times in the car industry mean extraordinary deals.

American carmakers are knocking thousands of dollars off the sticker prices of some cars with incentives ($10,000 or more in the case of big SUVs and pickups), while struggling dealerships are doing everything they can think of to beef up dwindling traffic. Even two-for-one deals are becoming increasingly common.

But is saving big bucks worth the risk of buying from an automaker that may soon be out of business?

Maybe. It depends on your financial situation, how much of a bargain hunter you are and how much risk you’re willing to shoulder.

Here’s what you should know:

  1. Doc says:

    Well, if I had a job….

  2. Toyota Driver says:

    I drive a Toyota Camry that’s built in Kentucky. Does that count?

  3. Dallas says:

    I would buy an American made hybrid or all electric, like the upcoming Volt. unfotuneately, my next car is already on order for Feb delivery – a Prius.

    No more standard gasoline engine cars for me regardless of the price of gas.

  4. faith says:

    I got a great deal on a used 2007 ford. The comparable used Japanese cars cost alot more. I like to buy newish used cars and keep them for 10 yrs (my last ford had 150k miles on it…and it was still running – just thought time was running out).

    I love the prius for day to day stuff… but it isn’t big enough to get a family of 4 and luggage to the airport, or to do a major shopping run.

  5. floyd says:

    We have a Toyota pickup made in the US (Kentucky?) and a Subaru made in Indiana. Those qualify as American made. I’ll buy from the Big 3 when their quality standards come up to those of Japanese makers.

  6. dusanmal says:

    I came to this country without prejudice about the quality of American cars. Just the opposite, I thought of them as a winners in quality. Here is my experience since (I do drive a lot) with cars of similar type/price, all purchased new, driven by same drivers over same roads and maintained in a same “better than recommended” way:

    -Chrysler: problems needing repair in average of 10000-12000 miles. Owned for 80000 miles. Catastrophic engine and transmission failure at 80000 mi – went to junkyard.
    -Chevy’: problems needing repair in average of 6000-7000 miles. Owned for 45000 miles. Lost money selling it.
    -Ford: problems needing repair in average of
    3000 miles. You name it, it broke (paint? chipped off; steering wheel? fall apart, literally;… engine? head gasket blew 3 times)
    Owned for 35000 miles. Lost money selling it.
    -Honda: One repair needed over 174000 miles (at 117000 miles alternator broke). At 174000 miles car valiantly died protecting me (uninjured) in collision with tractor-trailer…
    -Mazda: Two repairs needed over 95000 miles (at 54000 mi and 80000 mi). Sold it used with profit (long paid off before that).
    -Subaru: three repairs over 189000 miles (51000 mi, 85000 mi, 140000 mi). Sold it used with profit (long paid off).
    -Mini Cooper: Still owned at 50000 miles. No repairs yet.

    Now think about would I purchase another American made car judging from my experience…

  7. bobbo says:

    10 years ago I decided I wanted a Pontiac Bonneville, moonroof, and one of three colors. At the dealer on the test drive if everything was not absolutely perfect, I would pass on that particular car. Salesman really got pissed when “that can be fixed before delivery” was not good enough.

    I took delivery of the 5th car I drove. Only one repair since. I’m very happy and always wondered what happened to the forest green car I actually preferred.

  8. ECA says:

    The tech to make a good car is out there..
    OUR auto makers JUST WONT USE IT…WHY?

    My Oldsmobile 1986, still gets 30+mpg..
    Since its USED, I do need to repair a few things..
    At 20 years old, I need to repair things..
    It has a 6 cyl engine in it..Runs great, MOST times.

    A few things I look for in NEW cars..
    5 speed transmission..They could of installed these years ago, AND DIDNT..
    280-283 6 cyl engines are GREAT..

    Things I HATE..
    aluminum HEADS
    PLASTIC injectors..think about your PLASTIC sprinkler and compare to a metal one, WHICH lasts longer…

  9. john says:

    I grew up near Detroit…American cars were a must…

    5 years (and 120000 miles) ago I bought my first foreign car…a used Toyota Sienna. Now it has 175000 miles on it and it is still in perfect condition…no major service…no leaks…never a problem. Detroit can’t do that.

    When gas hit $4 I bought a slightly used Toyota Yarris…I can’t imagine that I will ever buy another piece of Detroit crap.

    The Sienna is now the most American car of any…more American than anything from Ford or GM…I think I read that they are now made from 80% American made parts…

  10. Uncle Patso says:

    I’m with #4, BryanP — not about to buy a new car of any kind. Our current car was bought 3 years old (lease return), a Saturn from when they really were “a different kind of car company.” Even so, most of its components seem to have been designed to keep the parts department in business. Alternator, head gasket, radiator, water pump, etc., etc., etc. If it had an automatic transmission I’m sure it would have failed by now. At least the thing still goes when we need it to and gets halfway decent mileage.

    If we had to get another car, I don’t know what we would do — there’s hardly a car made in the last 10 to 15 years that I’d give two cents for. The few that are decent cost much too much. Has the Prius been around long enough for those 3-year leases to expire yet?

  11. OvenMaster says:

    A new American car? Of course not. Too expensive, even for the smallest models.

    A used American car? Certainly. Let someone else take the depreciation hit and get the bugs out of it.

  12. steelcobra says:

    I have a 2003 Toyota Matrix with roughly 50,000 miles on it. The only work I’ve needed to have done on it is a tire rotation and oil changes. And it gets about 30MPG. My parents buy Ford/Chevy and regularly have trouble with them. And after leaving my car with them for a year and a half they loved it.

  13. OvenMaster says:

    What’s the difference between an American car made in America that falls apart, and a Japanese car made in America that doesn’t?


    It isn’t where a car is built that makes the difference… any assembly workers can put a car together from a mountain of parts. It’s how those parts and the car as a whole were designed in the first place that make the difference.

  14. ECA says:

    you got MOSt of it..

    the other problem is letting OTHEr countries into the USA..
    YES there is a Small car that gets over 50mpg on Diesel.. USA wont let it be SOLD in the USA, as it dont meet our Standards??

  15. Miss_X2b says:

    Had a ’66 Chevelle Malibu (bought it used) with 150,000 miles on it and now it has 398,000 miles on it. Someone else has the car now and it still runs like a clock, no problems. 283 short block, 8 cylinder engine. Cast iron engine is the best. Keep changing the oil and it will run forever.

    Had a ’83 Chevy Celebrity (bought it used), loved that car. Had close to 200,000 miles on it and while it did need a new alternator and a new master cylinder, it too ran like a clock. It was stolen.

    Was involved in a very low speed accident (approx. 15 mph) while driving a ’91 Honda Accord. Had a near head on collision with an ’83 Oldsmobile Delta 88. Not a scratch on the Olds but the Honda was complete destroyed and although my passenger was wearing his seat belt, he still cracked his head open on the windshield. Never again will I set foot inside a rice burner.

    Had a ’92 Cadillac Seville (bought it used). Probably the most beautiful car to look at BUT It was a TOTAL piece of crap. The car nearly bankrupted me. Never again with a Cadillac.

    Now I have a 2008 Impala LS (bought it new) and so far (8,900 miles) it’s running great, no problems.

  16. yogi says:

    You might think that with the subsidy and hand out.. they might re-tool for the future and forget the guzzling of the past.

  17. Chuck says:

    Just helped my youngest buy a new car (his previous got totaled). Was shopping for a used late model Honda, and was stunned at the deals available for new (about 8% more than a two year old 20K miler). There are some amazing deals out there right now.

    Me, I’ve got a two year old Chrysler, and wondering if I need to hurry up and get rid of it before the value goes to zero due to a lack of anyone to provide parts or warranty service.

  18. EvilPoliticians says:

    Why must every new car cost so much and then depreciate like a falling rock? Stupid consumers.

    I prefer Hondas but still can’t bring myself to buy foreign trucks. I don’t need bells and whistles. Just something rugged.

    Same thing with cars. My old Honda CRX I bought with 170K miles got 43 mpg. With all the Fed mandates, it takes a much more complicated Prius to match that today.

  19. Greg says:

    “UPDATE: Consider “American car” to refer to one built by GM, Ford or Chrysler. Not Toyotas built in the US, etc.”

    What about Cadillac’s made in Mexico?

  20. Ivor Biggun says:

    I’m prepping to pickup a GM pickup as I write this. The asians can build a technically good vehicle, but have no idea about ergonomics and what drivers want. The germans build horrendously overpriced cars that aren’t 10 or 20K better than an American vehicle.

    So I’m now in the market for a 2009 GM Pickup or Avalanche to replace the 2000 model I have. I’m in no hurry though, the 2000 model with 110K miles on it is doing fine.

  21. Mr. Fusion says:

    Most of the “quality” issues attributed to American built cars are based upon bullcrap. I remember reading a study looking at Consumer Reports rankings. CR had identical vehicles with different badges would have vastly different rankings.

    For a Ford alternator they would get a poor ranking but a Mercury alternator ended up with an excellent ranking. The alternators all came from the same box and the cars built on the same line by the same people.

    The more expensive the car the less inclined the owners were to report problems. That could have been due to knowing a bad reputation would reduce resale value. There was also the factor that higher end cars (more profitable) get better treatment from dealers.

    The study was done around 15 yrs ago and I have a copy buried somewhere.

    While American automakers have built some duds, so too have the imports. I still have a scar from a Toyota Corolla door handle spring that rusted out and cut me. But then two weeks ago I skinned a knuckle while opening the oil cap on our Grand Caravan.

    Much of our “import” vs “domestic” cars bias is bullshit. American cars only looked worse because they held such a large market share so inherent problems happened much more frequently.

  22. Mister Mustard says:

    #21 – Iv

    >>The asians can build a technically good
    >>vehicle, but have no idea about ergonomics
    >>and what drivers want.

    Then how come everybody’s buying the Asian vehicles, and leaving the GM clunkers to rust on the lot?

  23. GRtak says:

    I want a Saturn Sky really bad. I just hope they last until 2010 when I will be able to afford one.

  24. I’ll wait for the Tesla sedan and the infrastructure to charge it before I buy an American car. Then, I’ll pay a premium for one.

  25. Thomas says:

    My own personal anecdotal evidence suggests that American designers (GM, Ford, Chryslter) just do not build cars with an overall low cost of ownership. I’ve had many friends with American cars and right at the five year mark or so (if they are lucky) they start having issues. My sister had an old 83 Honda Civic she bought used many years ago. Drove it from Southern California to New Newfoundland to Texas over course of a decade in the military and sold it a decade or so after she got it for more than her purchase price. My pop bought a new 92 CRX and had that for 12 years and well over 100,000 miles before he sold it.

    It just seems that all the stories about long lasting American cars are few and far between and rarely involve cars within the last 20 years. However, the stories of people with Japanese cars that they still own and are still running fine are legion.

  26. Mr Truther says:

    So if it is not made by a Union it is not a American car? I am a American making cars in America to be sold in America but my product is not American.

  27. Doug says:

    I’ve had two toyota camry’s. One an 87 and another that I drive now which is a 92. I drove the 87 camry for 7 years. Each year I put in around 500 dollars in repairs. Last year I had it I put in over 800 dollars, and still was not running right. I junked it in 2004 with about 130,000 miles. The current camry I have I also put in around 500 dollars a year. Last year I put in around 1200 dollars into it. Currently I have 135,000 miles. My girlfriend has a 1994 ford escort she bought in 2001 for $1,500. She put in around 100 dollars a year in repairs. It has 95,000 miles. Still drives. Ford was definitely a better deal. The camry’s were more expensive with more repairs. Escort was cheap with very little repairs


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