Gearhead Diary: Big Old Buick

PHOTO COURTESY OF SELLER A 2003 Buick LeSabre is a lot of car for the money these days.

Matt Bartmann

As a guy closing in on the big five-oh, it seems like I should be looking to fill a sporty car gap in my life. That’s just what we’re supposed to be doing. Or so I’ve heard. And that’s a route several friends at my age have taken.

And my wife and I have been car shopping. The SUV that we got a couple months ago is fine, but it sits too high for comfort and is a bit twitchy to drive. A fine car, but not the car for us.

We’ve been wanting something we can just get in and drive for six hours without feeling cramped or otherwise uncomfortable. Sporty cars have not been ruled out in our search, nor have other SUVs and small trucks. But generally, those aren’t the best long-distance runners.

Also, of course, we’re wanting something that’s inexpensive to buy and maintain, whether I do the wrenching or pay someone to do it.

In tossing various ideas around and looking at local classified ads, there is one line of cars that just keeps coming back to the front of the search.

A Big Old Buick, to quote a favorite Bruce Springsteen song that’s been stuck in my head for weeks. Or a medium-sized Buick.

O.K., not that old. Mid 2000s. Which is a new car by my standards. And of course, it certainly wouldn’t be a good snow car. But we’re not looking for a snow car this time.

An old-person’s car? Maybe so. Buick has lately been trying to market their cars and SUVs to younger folks, but “old-person’s car” is not an easy stereotype to lose. Doesn’t matter to me.

I’ve been discussing these needs with various family members and friends.

Ted, a good friend who is a bit younger than I am, has a very broad knowledge of almost any car, from every country of manufacture. And he’s one of the most experienced mechanics I know. He likes fast cars. Heck, Ted’s building his own midlife crisis car, a Cobra replica. I usually trust his judgment.

I half-heartedly ran a classified ad for a 2003 LeSabre by Ted, expecting the usual friendly banter about yet another silly idea.

What Ted had to say was not what I expected. “That’s not the worst idea you’ve ever had,” he said, suggesting that I’ve had my share of bad ideas. “The 3.8l V6 is a time-proven engine. Never seen one fail before 250,000 miles with proper maintenance. Those are very solid cars.”

And another thing about Buicks: People who buy them often don’t drive a lot, and they tend to take very good care of their cars, so it’s not uncommon to find Buicks, now 15 years old, in near-mint condition and with very low miles for their age.

Of course, Buicks are very well appointed, and despite a 200+ horsepower engine, they get pretty good gas mileage.

PHOTO COURTESY OF SELLER The sumptuous interior of a 2003 Buick LeSabre.

$1500-2500 seems to be a typical asking price for a well cared for, low mileage car from a private seller. A little bit more from a dealer. It’s a lot of car for the money.

As of this writing, we’ve yet to purchase a car. We did test drive a 2003 LeSabre last week, though, and found it to indeed be extremely comfortable and easy to drive. It just wasn’t the right one for us.

And maybe we won’t end up with a Buick, but they are definitely on the watch list.

As for that sporty midlife crisis car? Eh… there’s still time for that. For now, I’ll be happy to go straight to an “old-person’s car.” There’s a lot to be said for comfort.

Did you like what you just read?

Show your support for Local Journalism by helping us do more of it. It's a kind and simple gesture that will help us continue to bring stories like this to you.

Click to Donate