Reader Question: Bug Out Ute II?

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Here’s the latest reader question, along with my reply!

Tim asks: Thank you for your quick and illuminating response to my earlier question. I am going back to measure my garage to verify the dimensions as the Suburban was cutting it close, but perhaps I can get it in. I have a few quick follow-up questions, if you don’t mind:

1. If you had to pick between the Ford Excursion and the Chevy Suburban, which would you pick?
2. Does it make any sense to look for a Suburban at all if an Excursion is an option?
3. If a Suburban is an option, are there any particular years I should look out for?

4. Regarding the Excursion, are there any particular years I should look for, or they’re all good (this is my current assumption).

My reply: The Suburban has the advantage of choice. You will find many more potential candidates because they never stopped making Suburbans whereas the Excursion was last made in 2005. That means it will be harder to find one with reasonable miles and in reasonable condition.

The Suburban, as you probably know, is just a longer Tahoe. Thus it has all of the merits described  previously as regards its drivetrain, parts availability and so on. I’d look around for either, though – as regards Suburban vs. Excursion –  and buy the best one you can find for the least amount of money.

. . .

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  1. If I may offer a consideration. I have been scanning the discussion so far over the past few minutes, and I agree with the general sense. My suggestion is to consider the possibility of a heavy duty Ford or Chevy pickup truck and put a bed cap on it. The main criterion this will not satisfy is fitting within your garage, but it seems that if you’re considering an Excursion, that criterion is more flexible.

    Here is my reasoning:

    1. You’ll have more options
    2. They were both used by feds
    3. Most people will struggle to distinguish between a pickup with a bed cap and an SUV from the same company, and the subset that can will also be more likely to know your Excursion/Suburban is a civilian model anyway.
    4. HD pickups are built more durably and are designed to go much longer than most SUVs which are built on lighter duty platforms. 300k miles is the norm for these.
    5. Such platforms have much more useable storage space under a bed cap than an SUV and are frequently used for camping out of the back of.
    6. Many had more engine options than the SUVs in the lineup did.

    On the downside, though, pickups hold their value more, especially heavy duty models, and they are even longer than their SUV brethren.

    • Hi Soj,
      I agree with most of what you said.
      Just a few notes:
      In the case of the Excursion vs. the Superduty pick-ups (I own both an Exc and an F250- I think I’m on a Greenie terrorist most-wanted list somewhere… :D):

      The Excursion is actually built on an F250 chassis- almost all of the parts are interchangeable with the F250. They’re just as heavy-duty….including 8-lug axles.

      And while it’s true that there are way more pick-ups out there to choose from, the problem is that pick-ups are often used for rough work, heavy trailer towing, or more spirited off-roading- It can be very difficult to find a good 3/4 or 1 ton pick-up, especially as they get older. Whereas the big SUVs are more commonly bought by people with large families who use it as a bus, and for road trips and such…and if they tow anything, it’s usually just a light camping trailer or utility trailer (At least ya know no one has hooked up a 5th wheel or gooseneck to it and hauled 20K lbs.- I mean, I’ve never seen anyone towing a skid steer with an excursion…).

      Other than that, I guess it just depends on what the intended use is. If you’re hauling lots of people and pets…it’s nice having the whole interior, including the cargo area air conditioned).

      It can be hard to choose! I don’t have any passengers…so the Excursion is my “car”/nice vehicle…and my pick-up (Supercab, open 8′ bed) is for doing stuff.

  2. You might find this interesting (for those living in NJ):

    It looks like the Excursion (based on the second item) is exempt from inspection because of its weight (8900 pounds).

    Vehicles Exempt From Inspection
    Exempted Vehicles
    Certain vehicles are exempt from inspections, but they do vary, so be sure to check what is required for yours.

    The following vehicles are exempt from inspection requirements (N.J.A.C. 13:20-7.2):

    Gasoline powered vehicles registered passenger, model year 1995 & older with a GVWR 8,500 pounds or less.
    Gasoline powered vehicles registered passenger, model year 2007 & older with a GVWR 8,501 to 14,000 pounds.
    Gasoline powered vehicles registered passenger, model year 2013 & older with a GVWR 14,001 pounds or more.
    Historic motor vehicles
    Approved Collector Vehicles which are less than 25 years old
    100% Electric vehicles
    Motorized bicycles
    Farm tractors and traction equipment
    Farm machinery and implements
    Fire trucks having a GVWR of more than 8,500 pounds
    In-transit construction equipment
    All Diesel-fueled motor vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) 8,501 pounds to 17,999 that are plated commercial. The owner or lessee is required to inspected these vehicles.
    All diesel powered vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) 8,501 to 17,999 that are plated passenger, not for profit, governmental, commuter van, farmer or farm truck except buses
    All diesel powered vehicles model year 1996 and older that are plated passenger, not for profit, governmental, commuter van, farmer or farm truck except buses
    Omnibuses which are subject to inspection by the Commission‘s Commercial Bus Inspection and Investigation Unit
    School buses which are subject to inspection by the Commission‘s School Bus Inspection Unit
    Tactical military vehicles operated on Federal installations within this State

  3. Eric:

    Going back to the Excursion itself, is there any reason I should favor Diesel over Gasoline or vice versa? I know you mentioned that Diesel enables the use of bio-diesel, like vegetable oils, etc. Will I run into the environmental police if I go that route?


    • Hey Timur,
      I’ll leave your question for Eric to answer, but in case ya don’t know: Avoid the 6.0 diesel at ANY COST! Sometimes one can find very attractive deals on Excursions with the 6.0….but they are pure garbage! The 7.3’s, while solid engines, have VERY complex fuel systems, reliant upon scads more sensors and computer modules than the gas engines, and as they are pressurized at 3000 psi, every little O-ring, seal, sensor, module etc. that even starts to fail, will put the engine out of commission or make it impossible to start- and since these vehicles are getting old….those little things do seem to fail one after another- and finding somebody good who even knows how to work on them competently or even diagnose them, can be tricky.(And the resultant bill if you do find someone good, will always be high). The gas engines throughout the Excursions production run were relatively simple….just your stand gas-engine stuff of the era- and anyone can work on ’em…if needed).

      By ‘biodiesel’ do you mean the commercially available stuff? Do they even sell it in your area? You do NOT want to run any of the modern diesels on home-brew waste or veggie oil….. I’ve heard that they do fine on good quality commercial stuff, as long as it doesn’t get below 40*F. (Sorry, Eric…I got carried away…)

      • Nunzio: Thank you! I was leaning toward the V10 engine for the sake of simplicity and am looking to get a black 2005 4WD model with 150K-180K miles or so. The 2005 seems to have the best reliability record. I’ve been plugging away in the forums, but it’s hard to find a local deal. I may have to buy online and get a pre-purchase inspection done by real mechanics.

        What do you think a good price is for the above car in good condition? I’m getting somewhat conflicting information and I see prices all over the place ranging from 8K (usually salvage) to 20K. I see people calling 17K way over-priced, so I am getting a bit confused on the pricing.


        • Hey Tim,
          Ah! Sounds like you’re making progress!
          Personally, I wouldn’t restrict myself to 05’s- They’re all quite reliable- and by this point in time, any problems that may’ve been a common issue of any given year have likely been resolved long ago.

          Pricing: Ooooh…..that can be tricky- but man! $17K sounds ridiculous…’specially for a gas one (Ironically, the gas ones up until just a couple of years ago, used to go really cheap -I paid $4500 for mine…and it wasn’t a special price because I bought it from my friend!)

          These days though, things are going for ridiculous prices- so I guess it just depends on what someone is willing to pay. I figure mine is probably worth about $9K realistically. I’ve seen a few locally over the past couple of years for around that price. Hey…if I should see any in the near future, I’ll let you know!)

          I look at it like this though: I’ve always driven old, high-mileage vehicles….but I’d never pay like $17K for any vehicle of this age, because no matter how nice they are, the paint is getting old and won’t last forever; there may be hidden rust that hasn’t manifested itself yet…and there ARE going to be things in various states of decay that will need attention at some point in the not-to-distant future. Even if they’re in great mechanical shape, there are going to be issues with some things; maybe things that don’t matter much…but the more you pay, the more you expect- and the more you want to keep it “perfect”- which can result in investing way more money into a vehicle than it’ll ever be worth- or what you would get paid for it if it got stolen or totaled.

          Dealers/online sellers though are going to want top dollar for anything nice. So basically, I guess they’re worth whatever you’re willing to pay. If the money isn’t too much of an issue for ya, maybe just finding the right one and getting it fast would be worth more to you. Heck, I’m seeing diesel ones with well over 200K miles being advertised in the $20K’s…it’s insane!

          But yeah…I love the V-10. I also have an F250, but it’s got the 5.4 V-8….which is O-K, but I wish it had the V-10! And they both get the exact same MPGs! I’m just glad though that I don’t have mess with 2 batteries, and 15 quarts of oil and expensive parts, etc. of the diesels.

          Oh, and you probably already know it, but just in case: Anything you’re considering buying- especially online…first thing to do is run a VIN check on it (I used to like Autocheck better than Carfax, as they seemed to catch a lot more info- but I haven’t had a reason to use ’em in years…so I don’t know how things are today). I went to look at a truck locally a few years ago- supposed to have like 170K miles on it…turns out, I ran the VIN, and it had over HALF a MILLION miles! (Poor guy that owned it truly didn’t even know- He had bought it from a dealer with supposedly low miles…but at the time he bought it, it already had 400K miles on, as revealed by the Autocheck- and he had paid a lot of money for that truck. Funny thing is, the truck was still in pretty good shape and drove nice!)

          And you have to watch out for vehicles that have been in severe accidents, or floods. There is still a lot of “title washing” going on out there….but if the VIN check will usually give you a clue as to if it’s ever been totaled, even if there’s no “brand” on the title. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve driven nothing but salvage vehicles for the last 25 years…but if you’re paying top dollar, you certainly don’t want that…and you don’t want anything that’s been in a flood.

          Hey, I’m envious! I remember the day I bought my Exc! Hey, mine’s an ’00, and the A/C is still ice cold! (Front AND rear).

          • Nunzio:

            This is very helpful information! Thanks!

            I’ve looked at a free Carfax report on one of them to get an idea. Regarding the V10, someone in the Ford forums mentioned that the pre-2003 models suffered from a spark plug ejection issue and that the 03 model fixed it by upping the threads from 3-4 to 7 (whatever that means). I also saw on that 2005 had the fewest complaints and 2003 was next best, so I was using that as a guide. But your point about that issue being resolved a long time makes sense. If I’m getting one with 150K plus mileage, it’s very possible the issue already presented itself.

            The prices on the earlier ones do seem to be lower so I think I should consider them as well.

            I don’t want to overpay for a car, but my deal doesn’t have to be the best deal, just a fair deal, if everything else is good. I will definitely look to pay no more than 15K and not worry about the year as much.

            If you see any in black that might be good, by all means, please post them. I’d appreciate it.

            Thanks again!

            • Hi Tim,
              Ah, I wouldn’t worry about the spark plug issue. I’ve been driving nothing but Triton engines (The 4.6, 5.4 and 6.8 (V-10) ) for the last 23 years (They’re all the same basic engine- the V-10 just has 2 extra cylinders- but otherwise is the exact same block in every other respect)- and all of mine were/are pre-’03 and I’ve never encountered the issue. I believe the problem has more to do with improperly torquing the spark plugs and or using certain brand plugs which don’t have deep enough threading (I always use Motorcraft plugs in these Fords)…and even if that problem occurs, there is an easy remedy which doesn’t require any major work, like head removal- You can even buy the tool to do it yourself for c. $100.

              Yeah, I forgot that you want a black one… That’ll narrow down your choices, so when you do find one, you may have to pay whatever they’re asking, ’cause it’s a rarer color in an already rather rare vehicle.

              I wouldn’t worry about there being no service history. Usually service only gets reported and thus made available to the VIN-checkers if it’s been serviced at a dealership. Most people are going avoid the dealerships and their high prices once the vehicle is out of warranty, and even more so when it’s 10 or 15 years old; ditto if it is owned by someone who does their own work.

              One thing to look for, is long periods in which the mileage never increased. Like: If it lived it’s life in states where inspections are required, and it racked-up 140K miles in the first 5 years…and then 7 years later only has 150K…..

              Another thing to look for is how many owners. An older vehicle will likely have had several owners..nothing to be alarmed at….but if it’s had 10 owners, that’s a bad sign; or if it’s been titled in wildly varying parts of the country- Like CA. then IL, then VA. then NY, then TX…that’s a very bad sign..and may well indicate some hanky-panky that went on to wash the title. Of course, a few moves between nearby statrs, or one major move between far-flung places would just likely be a person moving (if the same owner) or it being sold a couple of times.

              But basically, on the VIN-check, if the mileage adds up, and the ownership history isn’t a mile long, and it hasn’t been totaled, that’s about the most you can expect to learn from a VIN check.

              Hey, here’s another idea on finding one:
              Google: Excursion . That’ll bring up Craigslist ads from all over the country. You may be able to find one not too far away, that you can get to personally. Of course, never send money to a stranger with no recourse!

              Ooo! Darn! I just remembered: There’s a guy on youtube -I believe he’s out in NV or UT, who makes vids about Excursions, and always seems to have some nice one for sale. I can’t remember his name…but if should come across him again, I’ll let ya know. If I were in the market for another Exc, I would definitely look this guy up….his prices seemed fair, and he points out any defects- Not a professional car salesman…seemed like just a hobbyist who just started making videos because he loved these trucks, and was buying and selling ones for his own use…and through the videos, kinda just had things mushroom into a little business.

              BTW, if you don’t mind me asking, what part of the country are you in?

              • PS: A good thing: On all of Ford’s other vehicles (except the Excursion) that use the Triton engines, in (or after?) ’03 they switched to a problematic three valve (3V) configuration. Luckily, the Excursions never got the 3V- even after ’03 -so truly, your safe with any year. But if you read stuff about the V-10’s or it’s siblings, as used in other trucks, just bear in mind that it likely doesn’t apply to the Exc.

                One thing I am not sure of though, that you may want to look into: At some point (likely ’04?) these engines got Variable Valve Time (VVT) or Variable Cam Timing (VCT)- not sure if the V-10’s in the Excursions ever got that, or if only the 3V’s got it- you may want to ask on one of the forums- ’cause personlly, I’d avoid the VVT/VCT, as it’s just another point of failure -not that there’s anything particularly wrong with Ford’s implementation of it….but it just makes life harder (and much more expensive) if repairs are ever needed…and reduces long-term durability. ‘specially for a bug-out vehicle- the simpler, the better.

                  • Lol- Definitely not! The one I’m thinking of is a small-timer…nobody famous…I wouldn’t recognize his name again if i saw it! When I have some time, I’ll click around and see if I can find him again.

                    • Yes, I am definitely make sure it’s a 4X4. Also, I have been working the ford-trucks forum heavily and getting a lot of information there. It sounds like I can avoid the rust issue by getting a car from AZ, NM or a southern state, but those hot dry states are the best.

                      PS: These comment boxes are getting real small!

              • Nunzio, you’ve really helped me make a lot of progress! Thank you so much!

                I live in New Jersey (unfortunately).

                Here’s a couple that I zeroed in on:


                It does seem that I should be able to find a vehicle for under $9K with under 200K miles.


                • Hi Tim,

                  “PS: These comment boxes are getting real small!”

                  Put this link in your toolbar:


                  This sends you directly to the comments page. You do need to register and sign in to access this page (ignore the “no login providers enabled” bit and login anyway). It lists every comment in temporal order and in “widescreen” (no compression). It also shows comments awaiting moderation that do not show up in the comment thread following a particular article. This can be helpful to those anxious that their post has been deleted by Eric (it hasn’t, unless you’re a particularly tenacious and delusional stalker sporting multiple names). Occasionally, a comment will automatically go into moderation, but it is viewable on the full comments page.

                  Directly to the right of each comment there is the name of the post and a “view post” link which takes you to the top of the article. To access a particular comment without having to find it by scrolling under the article, click on the date and time link on the right side of the screen (in the “submitted on” column). This takes you directly to that comment. If it is early in a thread you can reply directly to it. If it does not have a reply button under the comment, scroll upward until you find a comment on that thread with a reply button. Clicking there will put your comment in that thread. If you want your reply to be directed to a specific person, scroll up until you find the most recent comment from that person with a reply button and click on that (sometimes this is not possible).

                  It is far easier to navigate the comments from the full comments page than by scrolling underneath each article. I hope this info is helpful.


                    • Hi Tim,

                      I’ve posted the link many times and it works for most who try it. Occasionally people respond as you did. Maybe try logging out and logging back in? Unfortunately, I don’t know how to fix your problem. Maybe there are some more tech savvy folks here who have some ideas?


                    • Hey Tim,

                      Maybe try logging out, then click the link and see if it prompts you to log in?

                      I wish I could help more,

                  • Thanks; I tried that, but it didn’t work. It’s ok, I go back to an earlier comment and reply there.


                • Aw, gee…Joisey! (I’m originally from Long Island!). I live in KY now (Thank Gawd!)

                  Ooo, definitely don’t want one that was used for plowing…and I guarantee ya that one has way more than advertised.

                  I thought that $5K was a scam at first….but it seems to be legit. Why so cheap though? Definitely worth investigating! (Low miles for ND…and if it’s lived there all it’s life, those are gonna be all highway miles….which would be more like 40K miles in Jersey miles!)

                  Expensive to ship it- likely $1.5-$2K…but well worth it if it’s solid.

                  Thing that sucks about buying online too, is that by the time you get the details, set up an inspection, etc., the vehicle you’re interested in will likely be gone if it’s a reasonable deal.

                  Yeah, southern vehicles can be great. I bought a car a while back that had recently come from GA- over 30 years old, and while not pristine like one from NM, NV or Arid-Zone-A, it was great compared to anything from up north. So many Yanks living in the South now though…and so many recycled Sandy/other hurricane/flood vehicles ‘floating’ around…it can be a job finding a true Southern vehicle. At least out West, ya usually don’t have to worry about recycled floods.

                  Dayum! If that ND one were any other color, I’d be tempted myself! There’s gotta be something major wrong…a dealer KNOWS those things are in high demand and command good money. Even if something is wrong, it would likely still be worth it, unless there were a whole bunch of issues….. For $5K, if it weren’t for the shipping cost, I would buy that without much scrutiny…. (Of course, in Joisey though, you have inspections to deal with, which can be ex$pensive to pass, regardless of actual things that may be wrong with the vehicle… Hehe…no inspections here!)

                  • I’m actually going to start looking at vehicles from the arid zone. I can then do a vin check and make sure they spent their lives there and that would make rust a non-issue. If the vehicle looks good, I can hire an online inspector and if it looks good, I can have the vehicle shipped directly to the local ford dealership here and have them do an inspection and make necessary repairs (one posted on Ford-trucks sent his car right to the dealership and did 5k worth of repairs; I hope I won’t have to do that much).

                    • I was with you…until you mention the Ford dealership!

                      You bring any 15-20 year-old vehicle into a dealership, and they’re gonna have a field day finding a whole bunch of of stuff “that may not be up to factory new specs”, but which may easily last another 10 years, and they’ll charge ridiculous money to do things that would cost literally a quarter of that price to have done by a good independent mechanic- and they’ll likely be clueless about things which may fail in the future. I mean, I’ve seen people spend thousands at a dealership just having little piddling things done…only to drive away and then have a major issue pop up a month later…and then they get rid of the vehicle because they don’t want to deal with a major repair “after having already having had so much done to it”- when in reality, what they had had done initially didn’t need doing..or if it really did, could have been done for hundreds instead of thousands.

                      The dealership will find lots of things wrong with even a one year-old car. They operate on the premise that anything that is not up to brand-new factory specs thus needs replacing/repairing. On a 15-20 year-old vehicle, NOTHING is up to factory new specs.

                      When I was in the process of preparing to leave Lawn Guyland, an acquaintance I had been doing business with for several years asked me to mind his used car lot for a few weeks while he had some business to do elsewhere. I obliged.

                      A guy comes to the lot and is interested in a Taurus SHO. It was in good shape for what it was. He test-drove it and liked it- but wanted to have it inspected at the local Ford dealership before purchasing. The car was c. 8 years old if memory serves. Soon as I heard ‘dealership’, I said to myself “He’s not gonna be buying this (or any other 8 year-old) car”.

                      Sure enough, I meet him at the dealer with the car a few days later….and the dealer finds all sorts of BS to “fix” that pretty much equaled the price of the car. The car ran and drove perfectly…they just found all sorts of little things that slowly deteriorate over time, but which still had lots of life left…like rubber suspensions bushings.

                      I was actually impressed more with the car after the inspection, that the “tech” couldn’t find anything mechanically or structurally wrong with it…so had to resort to things that just slowly deteriorate over time, but which typically last 20 or 30 years without issue.

                      If it ain’t broke…don’t “fix” it. Find a good independent mechanic who tends to work on older vehicles, and who find things that may actually need attention, and who will do maintenance and repairs for a fair price…not over-inflated dealer prices to pay for their multi-million dollar facilities.

                      If you don’t do your own mechanical work, you NEED a good independent mechanic, because a dealership or unconscientious mechanic will drive you to the poor-house, and make owning an older vehicle very distressing.

              • Oh, and I am definitely looking up the Youtube guy. I will post here and if you can let me know it’s the guy you’re talking about, that would be great.


          • One more thing: If there’s no record of service (just the car passing inspection) from 120K to 160K, is that an automatic deal breaker? I know I had service on my BMW all the time from my repair shop 7 minutes away and I don’t think those records are anywhere.


  4. If I may add my two cents as both an Excursion owner and an part-time online sales manager for a business that sells vehicles online:

    Suburban vs. Excursion: Depends how old ya want to go. To me, the ultimate bug-out vehicle would be a ’73-’89 Suburban, purchased out West (Commie-fornia, Arid Zone A [AZ], NM, NV. where you could find a virtually rust-free one of that age- as they are mechanically simple, bulletproof, and parts for them are ubiquitous and cheap and available everywhere.

    If you desire a more modern one: Excursion- especially with the V-10 gas engine- as they are TANKS compared to comparable Suburbans, and since they share parts with the F250 and 350 pick-ups, not only are parts ubiquitous, but those parts (and vehicles) were designed for fleet use, and can rack-up ludicrous mileage with no problems….whereas comparable Chevy products just don’t hold up as well at that age.

    V-10’s drive like sports cars. 7.3 diesels, although better than subsequent diesels, are very maintenance-intensive, and have a LOT of sensors and computer modules which fail one by one as they get old. But I’d still prefer the vintage (70’s/80’s ‘Burbans- as there is just so little to go wrong once it’s in good mechanical shape- simple HEI ignition…carry a few spare parts and you’ll never get stuck, and can go anywhere.

    There’s a reason that Suburbans from the 2000’s sell cheap- vs. Excursions and vintage Suburbans. You get what you pay for (And you WILL pay for a good vintage ‘Burban or any Excursion!). With the Excursion, you do get some modern comforts and a very nice ride though.

    Re: Buying online: FORGET it, unless you or someone who is very mechanically (and autobody) savvy can inspect it, test drive it, and inspect the title FIRST. Too many horror stories out there, both from private sellers, small businesses (like the one I work for) and the big dealers/online services. Buying sight-unseen online is a roll of the dice…and there’s a good chance you will lose! -This is what keeps me from getting a vintage Suburban from out West. (We sell commercial vehicles…so have no dogs in this fight…).

    If you live out West…vintage Suburban is a no-brainer. Otherwise, an Excursion would be a good bet. I freaking LOVE my Excursion- it’s got over 180K on it (just broken-in)….and I like to drive a tad rapidly….and this baby’ll get up to 100MPH with ease and pass everything out there. It’s confortable…it’ll haul or tow anything…tons of room…and it FEELS much more substantial than a 00’s Suburban. If you ever get a chance to test-drive one…I think you’d be convinced after one drive. It truly is the king of the SUVs. Best vehicle I’ve ever had. Mine only gets 10MPG- but I hear of saner people getting near 15MPG…which, considering the price of diesel these days; how much the diesel ones go for, and the much higher maintenance on those diesels, the diesels don’t really save you anything, unless you’re constantly driving across the country.

    • Nunzio,

      Thank you for your detailed response! I was definitely leaning toward the Excursion anyway, so I will be searching for that first before I look for Suburbans. Your information was very helpful!

      It’s hard to find a black Excursion within 100 miles from me at a reasonable price under 150K miles or so I may need to buy online and send a mechanic from one of those online car services that will do an inspection for me for a fee. I don’t know a mechanic (my trusty mechanic retired) so I’m not sure what else I can do.

      If you have any other advice you can provide to help me reduce my risk, that would be greatly appreciated.


      • Hi Tim,
        I’m glad that you found my observations helpful. A few other thoughts I fogot to include in my previous post:

        *One thing that makes the Excursion far superior to comparable Suburbans, is that the Exc. is built on a 3/4 ton chassis (The F250 chassis) -a real 8-lug truck, whereas the Subs are half-ton/6 lug (They used to make 3/4-ton Subs too, but I don’t know if they ceased doing that by the 00’s or if they’re just very rare). The Exc is thus beefier in many respects (Suspension, brakes, frame, etc. -and even if you don’t really need that beef, it does mean that the Exc holds up much better over time- which is nice, especially when you’re looking at c. 20 year-old vehicles)

        *Another thing: Most Subs have the 350 motor (Not sure if they even offered them with a 454 in the 00’s- but if they did, they’re extremely rare)- and a Sub with a 350 is a real dog- and more so if you’re towing anything. Plus, a Sub, whether it has a 350 or a 454 gets horrendous MPGs.

        The benefit with a Suburban of course, is that they can be had significantly cheaper than a comparable Exc. -and are quite plentiful…you could likely find one locally with no problem….. But IMO, you get what you pay for, and the comparative rarity of the Exc. and thus the extra effort of finding a suitable one is well worth the effort.

        Re: Sending an inspection service: It’s better than nothing….but, without going into too much detail, I can tell you that from what I’ve seen, those services do not employ good mechanics (They don’t pay enough to attract real mechanics) -They pretty much hire people with *a little mechanical knowledge* and send them out with a checklist= They may catch some obvious things…but I’ve seen people buy expensive vehicles that were inspected by these services, and the vehicles were train-wrecks- everything from bad head gaskets to patched-up frames, which even a reasonably competent mechanic who was at all conscientious would catch easily.

        So, purchasing online, while it can work out, and you can take steps to try and minimize risk…is ultimately still a crap-shoot. One possibility might be to browse some of the enthusiast forums- such as that have Excursion sections. You can learn who the long-time trusted members are, and often find vehicles for sale on such forums…or find very knowledgeable people in various parts of the country who may live near where there is a truck for sale that you have been considering, who would go and inspect it for you. In my book, that would be about the best you could hope for….but, I know, it would be a hassle to arrange. Just a thought though, as I have seen people get some great vehicles that way, even for quite reasonable prices.

        Heck, when I used to participate on one of the forums, there was an older guy in NM (Unfortunately, likely either dead or too old now) whom I had often considered contacting to have him find me a vehicle in his area. Another guy in MD who I would trust implicitly to buy from sight-unseen (He sold vehicles for a living- and would deliver them- driving them to you, and flying home)….but he never has what I’m looking for (Deals mainly with cars and small trucks)- They are out there…but it takes time to find such people……

        My own mantra is that I would never buy sight-unseen UNLESS I was getting a good enough deal in which I couldn’t lose even in the worst case scenario- but such deals are pretty much non-existent- especially in today’s market.

        I’ve bought a few vehicles(Including my Exc.!) sight unseen from the guy I work for…whom I’ve known for 25 years….and even from him, I only bat about .500. (But I get good enough deals that I’ve never lost anything). So the way I look at it, if I only bat .500 from a long-time friend, who has been in the auto trades his whole life….the prospect of buying blindly from a stranger is not very attractive.

        Oh, and don’t let mileage scare you. An old high-mileage vehicle that was actually driven and well-maintained is usually better than a low-mileage one that just sat for extended periods or was only used for short runs- These vehicles, being made entirely of Ford truck parts, were made for fleet use…and can rack-up hundreds of thousands of miles. Personally, I’d rather have a high-miler that was maintained, and maybe was on it’s second transmission and had other common-failure parts replaced already, than a low-miler of similar age on which those parts may be original and near end of life…and you can get a much better deal on a high-miler, and use the money you saved to re-do anything that needs attention, and still not lose anything vs. a low-miler. Just something to keep in mind.

        My Exc. had 183K on it when I bought it 5 years ago…and has been flawless, except for the transmission- and that, only because it had been rescued from a salvage auction, and the forklift they move the vehicles around with must have cracked that transmission case- as that is why the tranny failed…’cause the case was cracked.

        You mentioned your garage. Do keep in mind that an Excursion is taller than a Suburban…

        Best of luck in your search, what ever way you decide to go! If you have any questions that you think I may be able to help with, feel free!

        • Nunzio,

          This additional information is very helpful! I will start by looking at and see what I can find in the forums. Maybe I’ll get lucky there. I just read Eric’s guide and the whole car buying set of recommendations for buying from dealers, while I understand their need, gives me a headache. If I can find a local mechanic from the forum and and if I can also find Excursions for sale there as well, I will be very happy.

          Thanks also for information on the mileage. Eric mentioned this as well, so I have to get past my inertia. I have a BMW 530i with 191K miles so it’s hard for me to think of getting another vehicle with close to that mileage. First, I feel like I’m not getting something better than what I have; and second, the BMW has an unknown leak, some weird noise when I turn the steering wheel left when the fluid is a little low and the front passenger seat doesn’t lean back properly. I’m not planning on fixing these problems, but it naturally gives me pause on getting high mileage vehicles. However, as you noted, we’re comparing apples and oranges as the Ford vehicles are designed for fleet use and several hundred thousand miles.

          Thanks for your information so far and for offering to answer additional questions! I appreciate it.


        • Nunzio:

          I’m actually responding to your other comment about the Ford dealership as I couldn’t get to the comment page recommended by Jeremy and I didn’t see the reply button.

          All I wanted to say was: Thank you for setting me straight on the dealership!


  5. Eric,

    Thank you for helping me narrow down the SUV to a 4WD Chevy Suburban or Ford Excursion! However, I’m still faced with numerous online sites and numerous choices (even when I include “home delivery” options, which is what I want).

    There are: CarGurus, AutoTrader, Cars, Carvana, CarMax, etc. and I’m seeing lots of Chevy Suburbans (and even Ford Excusions) for sale on these sites and it’s giving me a headache. Some site list the number of owners and the number of accidents and also rate the deals (Excellent, Good, Fair, etc.). I’ve limited my searches to Excellent and Good deals (maybe I should just stick with excellent), but I still have too many options. Limiting the color to gray and black does help, but not enough.

    What do you recommend I should look for next to narrow the options down?
    1. Should I look at the number of accidents or is that irrelevant?
    2. Should I look at the number of owners or is that relevant?
    3. Are there any online car sites I should avoid?

    You mentioned mileage isn’t necessarily an issue, but I still don’t think I’d want a car above 150K miles, but even with those qualifications, I am kind of stumped as to the best way to filter my results to a manageable selection.

    Anything you can do to help me narrow down my search would be greatly appreciated.

    Thank you!

    • Hi Tech!

      Buying any used vehicle is always more difficult than buying any new vehicle because with a used vehicle, there are so many more variables – including miles, condition, equipment and so. In addition to the price. With a new car, you only have to worry about the price – as all new cars of a given make/model are new – so now worries about condition- as well as identical and you can specify things like color and trim.

      With used vehicles, I believe condition is the paramount consideration. Is it sound? This is something that requires due diligence to determine and encompasses a physical inspection of the vehicle, digging into its past for evidence of problems, seeking service/maintenance records – and so on.

      Some of the car buying/selling services you mention will handle some of this for you and even provide a limited guarantee in some instances but be aware that the cost of that is reflected in the full retail price and is not always a guarantee that the vehicle is sound.

      I personally believe in an actual, hands-on, pre-purchase inspection by someone you trust and who is competent to do this job. I also prefer to buy my vehicles from private sellers, because the deal is almost always better because you can haggle better (usually) with a regular person who is just trying to sell their vehicle as opposed to a dealer or similar that does this professionally and knows all the tricks. And – to be fair – wants a higher price because of the money they will often put into a used vehicle to get it ready for sale, visually and functionally. Often, you can save a lot of money if you are willing to do such things yourself or even pay your mechanic to do them for you.

      I would be on guard for evidence of major (structural) accident damage (as opposed to a minor cosmetic damage) and with SUVs especially, the presence of any rust on structural parts such as the frame, as well as brake/fuel lines (big headache if these are heavily corroded and require replacement).

      I would worry less about the number of owners than the record of maintenance. If the prescribed service intervals have been followed it is probable that the vehicle was well-cared-for generally and in that case, the odds are good it will be a good vehicle. On the other hand, a vehicle that appears to have been neglected that comes with no service records should probably be avoided – even if the price is “too good to be true.”

      Because probably, it is!


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