Category: Used Car Reviews

An umbrella for used car reviews

Used Car Review – 1998 Chevy Blazer

Chevy S-10 Blazer#blazeit

At Surfwrench, we really like Blazers. We like that they are simple, capable small SUVs that can handle pretty much anything that you can throw at them (within reason). The early ones were a bona fide answer to the revolutionary Ford Bronco and they are pretty damn cool. Today though, we’re taking a look at a 2 door S-10 variant from 1998.

First of all, I had one of these early in my driving career and to me it was a genuinely great car. While the gas mileage wasn’t very good and I was commuting a long way to school, one of the main things that I remembered was just how liberating this car was. It meant that I could get where I needed to go in just about any weather because of the solid 4×4 system. This really was a very good car for a new driver being cheap, durable, and fairly capable when things get dicey. Continue reading “Used Car Review – 1998 Chevy Blazer”

Used Car Review – Land Rover Discovery

Non-Starter at the Disco

Image via Wikimedia, By OSX, Public Domain

You know it’s always weird when I get to plug Surfwrench at the beginning of a used car review. That should be your first red flag. It’s even funnier when I get to plug Surfwrench to the poor sap trying to sell their car before I even drive it. Well, that’s the most stereotypical beginning to anything ever about a near 20 year old Land Rover Discovery — but I’m going to keep going on this because unlike most people, I genuinely like older, unreliable British cars.

I figured, since winter is bearing down on us like an army of white walkers, it was time to start driving some stuff with AWD that could qualify as a winter beater. One of the real marquis names in being able to go anywhere is Land Rover. That and I had never actually driven one, so I started looking for something beat, cheap, and British. Those are a series of statements that are bywords for reliability and quality — said no one ever.

Died in the Afternoon

Right away, I found one on the side of the road and knocked on the door. The owner said that it had some issues, and the price reflected that: a mere $1500. Normally, $1500 for something with leather seats, a V8, and a renowned 4WD system would be a screaming deal — that is, if you can get it to work. The owner said that he hadn’t run it in a while, but for the time that he had it it was his daily driver. He must not have owned it for very long, because it only had 99k miles on the odometer, which in retrospect probably didn’t work. Additionally, it looked like he had driven it into a lake given the amount of rust on the suspension components and musty, moldy smell of the interior.

Honestly, one of the things that has always drawn me to the older Discos is the looks. Yes, they are big, boxy people movers, but much like the Nissan Xterra, they look more capable than their contemporaries, even if they really aren’t. However, the Land Rover does have something that the Xterra doesn’t — some serious pedigree. However, pedigree doesn’t make a car run, because this one didn’t. It wouldn’t start or turn over. It had power, and that’s about it. Even after attempting a jump start, the lethargic 4×4 wouldn’t budge.

Dying is the Most Fun a Land Rover Can Have Without Leaving the Driveway

Undaunted, I started scouring the back end of our little app to see if there was anyone who could help me out. Immediately I found that all of our Land Rover guys were out in Buffalo and Albany. Seeing as that wasn’t going to fly, I remembered that BMW owned Land Rover for a short time. Unfortunately, they owned it later, taking over operations and giving them engines and transmissions in 2000. So this was a real, honest-to-God Rover, and seeing that we don’t get those in the United States, we didn’t have any Rover Techs.

Not wanting to waste any more of my afternoon, I thanked the owner and wished him the best of luck — right after putting his Disco on Surfwrench free of charge. I honestly expect to see this vehicle at the salvage yard shortly, because parts are not cheap and there is really any number of things that could have been wrong with it. They are notorious for very complicated electrical problems, and even using Surfwrench it would have cost much more to fix than the car was actually worth.

I Write Car Reviews, Not Tragedies

So there it is, a used car review without ever even driving the car — kind of a bummer because I was looking forward to driving one of the best names in the business of rugged 4WD.

Used Car Review – Corvette Summer

corvette wings logo
Image by Source, via Wikimedia Commons, Fair Use

Admittedly, Rochester NY isn’t the best city in the world to have a sports car. Between the changeable weather, road conditions, and short season- If you’re going to have something to enjoy for the summer, you might not want to spend a lot of money on it. Because let’s be real, if you really like it, it’s going to spend most of its time in the garage.

This brings up an interesting market observation. In our travels to various clients, contacts, and events we have been noticing something very positive: there are a hell of a lot of Chevrolet Corvettes roaming the 585. This makes us happy, because old Corvettes have a habit of ending up on Surfwrench.com with various problems, and when they do, they often get fixed without breaking the bank like an exotic sports car would.

So, to see what all the hubbub was about, we went out and test drove some of the cheapest 3rd-6th generation used Corvettes we could find. The results we’re as varied as the styling of this classic piece of American culture and ranged from absolutely terrible to utterly sublime. However, what they do represent is a clear evolution from “basically a barge” to “serious performance machine”. So basically, here’s 4 shorter, less flowery used car reviews.

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Used Car Review – 2003 Pontiac Aztek

Pontiac Aztek
Image by IFCAR via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

Good, Bad, and Ugly

Style is a fickle thing. When it’s on point, everyone knows it. Conversely, when its not on point, everyone is more than willing to point it out. I would say that about 90% of cars on the road today fall right in the middle — they are neither here nor there. They all pretty much look the same and therefore evoke no real emotion based on aesthetics. The top 5% of cars in terms of looks leave the viewer in wonderment of man’s ability to make art move. The bottom 5%, well, they make us ask: “why?” In the case of the Pontiac Aztek though the question wasn’t why, the question was, “what the f**k were you people thinking?”

First off, this is a car that literally everyone on planet earth with a motoring blog, or two functioning eyeballs, has s**t on ad nauseum. Every list of the ugliest cars of all time from Edmunds to Time magazine has this very near the top. Time even went so far as to blame the Aztek for the downfall of the Pontiac brand in the late 2000’s. So when I found one of these on sale in a local marketplace, I figured, “ok it’s ugly as sin, but what is it like to drive?” So I donned a disguise and took it for a spin.

Surprisingly Good

Right away, the interior is very roomy and extremely modular. This was an early mid sized crossover and most car makers hadn’t really figured out how to make best use of the limited space. However, the Aztek’s interior really works. The one thing that is absolutely stunning was the overall visibility from the driver’s seat. One of the things that floored me was the idea that you could get the Aztek with a heads up display. However upon further research, it made sense. When the Aztek was being thought up, GM wanted to try a lot of new things on a proven platform and engine. The Aztek was built for people who were going to go out and use every bit of it. So, they added it with goodies that you would expect in a hardcore Range Rover — coolers, split tailgate, audio controls in the very back, tent attachments, air compressors, air mattresses — literally everything but the kitchen sink, and if you wanted I’m sure you could pay someone on Surfwrench to add one.

The performance was surprisingly good. At just 4000 pounds, the 3.4 liter V6 handled itself well and the Versatrak all wheel drive system is actually still one of the better ones out there. It’s not quattro, but it’s not supposed to be. I thoroughly expected it to handle like an absolute whale, but the plastic body cuts the weight and the all wheel drive distributes power nicely. There was a fair bit of body roll but I suspect that it was more the result of a failed suspension component on the driver’s side, rather than the actual design of the vehicle itself.

Then, something weird happened. I kinda forgot that I was in one of the ugliest cars ever made. Yea, it was ugly, but at 14 years old everything still worked. The interior was still fairly clean. There was pretty solid legroom in the back, and with all of the optional extra’s at $4,000 it was a pretty solid deal. It had only done 89,000 miles, but the transmission still shifted perfectly and the engine hadn’t lost any of its steam. GM V6’s are rarely going to win any drag races, but they are a well built and engineered powerplant. It also doesn’t get great gas mileage; 20 mpg in suburban and city settings.

Why It Didn’t Work

In its 5 year run, GM sold less than 120,000 of these cars, which in GM numbers is absolutely terrible. But there is something weird about every one that they sold. The Aztek scored highest in the mid sized SUV Consumer Satisfaction Index in 2001. These people mostly cited loving the interior, all wheel drive system, and the overall “different-ness” of the model. That’s actually a good observation from the people who actually owned them. The entire car was just different, and in the early 2000’s people didn’t really want different. The world was changing in ways that they didn’t understand, so we stuck with what was familiar- square, body on frame SUVs with V8’s that didn’t upset the status quo. The Aztek dared to be different, and while it didn’t do different right, it did stand out. Unfortunately it found itself in the bottom 5%, but that isn’t bothering the people who still drive them (mainly because you can’t see yourself in it).

Wow, look at that. I made it the whole article without making a Breaking Bad joke.

Used Car Review – 1993 Acura Legend

A 20-Something Year Old Luxury Barge That Actually Works!

Image by IFCAR, via Wikimedia Commons, Public Domain

If you came into our office and said, “I have $3000 dollars to buy a used car, but I am looking for a luxury barge, and it has to be older than I am,” there is a decent shot I would have to keep you occupied while Uncle Jimmy gets the men in white coats. Big, complicated, flagship sort of cars are notoriously terrible on resale and for a lot of really good reasons: they break and when they do it is usually extremely expensive. Often when a car is dubbed a “flagship” it is utilizing a lot of technology that a car maker is going to work the kinks out of and then put into higher volume makes in the near future. However if your search for a large, complicated, fashionable luxury barge lead you to the 1993 Acura Legend, we would call off the men in white coats and have a good chat.

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