I’ve always recommended Buick to people shopping for a used car on a tight budget. Usually, my advice goes totally ignored, and most end up paying a lot for a high mileage Toyota Camry or Honda Accord — or they ruin their lives with an older European car. This has always frustrated me, as millennials can’t get past Buick’s geriatric brand identity and realize they’re best used car value out there — so I’ve decided to put my money where my mouth is.
Actually, I didn’t have any intentions of buying an old Buick. This is just another stupid impulse purchase that I’m desperately trying to justify under the guise of consumer advice. Thankfully, it’s good consumer advice, so Autotrader has allowed me to publish it to help legitimize my poor decisions.
It might sound ridiculous, but my newly purchased 1996 Buick Park Avenue Ultra is a rare unicorn I’ve been chasing for years. 1996 was the final year of this classic, malaise-era styling, before the Park Avenue was redesigned to look like a beached whale. The ride quality and interior still has the usual land yacht-style comfort level — a characteristic now extinct, as modern luxury cars try way too hard to be sporty. With that said, this Park Avenue Ultra isn’t completely devoid of spice: 1996 was also the first year of the Series II 3800 V6, which (in Ultra trim cars) came fitted with an Eaton Supercharger. Yup, this golden oldie’s got a modern blower from the factory.
While the 240 horsepower rating of the supercharged V6 isn’t impressive by modern standards, it was the same power level as a 1996 BMW M3 — but the higher torque is what makes this Buick hilarious to drive. Even at moderate throttle, the front tires will try to break loose, and full throttle results in an amusing arm wrestling match against the torque steer from the Buick’s primitive front-wheel-drive platform.
Enthusiasts can knock the front-wheel-drive all they want, but it makes this heavy car even more planted in dicey weather situations, and interior space even more ridiculously huge. While the styling may seem dated to most young people, the amount of modern technology found in this 22-year-old Buick is pretty surprising. It has anti-lock brakes and traction control, dual zone climate control, heated seats, nifty steering wheel controls for the electrical accessories and a pretty impressive stereo system.
was thrilled to purchase this very well-kept example with 124,000 miles for only $2,000 — but it was hardly a steal at that price. Nice examples of Lesabre, Park Avenue, Regal and other older Buick models are plentiful — and cheap. Currently on Autotrader, there are over 200 Buicks advertised for sale with the Series II, and up to 3,800 V6s (produced from 1996 to 2009) with under 100,000 miles for less than $5,000. Given the same year and mileage parameters, there are half that number of Camry and Accord models available, combined — even though Camry and Accord easily outsold Buick 10 times over.
Of course, the Camry and Accord have a well-earned reputation for reliability — but given their high resale value, cheaper examples tend to be abused or have high mileage. The General Motors 3800 V6 platform is also known for its durability — but Buicks in particular tend to be owned by individuals less inclined to skip maintenance, treating their cars to weekly cleanings before bingo night.
So if you can get past that initial impression, an old Buick really is a great buy. It’s a rare convergence of simple and strong engineering, acceptable economy, surprising luxury and incredible value — and a great opportunity for a broke millennial to enjoy one of the best kept secrets of the AARP crowd. Find a Buick Park Avenue for sale
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