I agree about the engine comment. I have a 1998 Ford Taurus that I bought for a work car. That car has the smaller 3.0L V6 engine that still runs like brand new. Here is the part that is difficult to believe- my car has 246,000 miles on it! Mostly 1-owner (company) highway miles, but still 246K is impressive for a 1990s Ford. But being a company car- it has been well maintained- which may be the only reason it lasted this long. Maintainence is the key to the long life of a car.
I have heard some say that the 3.0L is better and some say that the 3.8L is better, but I can say that at least my 3.0L is a great, smooth engine, with sufficent power.
The comment that LV202 had about the transmissions seems to be true. My cars transmission is now having problems. When warm, it shifts oddly and it jerks. I was told it could cost from $90 to $1600 to fix it. I have not had the time to take it to another transmission shop- so I have parked it for a while. Despite the high miles- it seems to be a good car, although as mentioned- no where near the build quality of a Mercedes or Lexus.
My aunt used to have a 1998 Taurus back a couple of years ago- it also had quirky transmission and one of my friends has a 1996 Taurus, with a odd shifting transmission. It is definitely one of their weak spots, as is the power steering pumps and electrical problems. For the money though- they seem like good cars. I only paid $1300 for my 1998 Taurus a few months ago. I am either going to sell/trade it, or have it repaired and keep it and drive it for my work car and sell the Buick.
If you are looking for CHEAP transportation- it may be worth looking into, but look for low-mile, well maintained car. I think a 2001-2002 can be bought for as low as $7000-$8000. The re-sell value is very LOW.
Originally posted by BobK
Story as I understand it on Taurus/Sable. 3.0L engine was great, but underpowered. Came with a transmission that was not so great. 3.8L engine was a head gasket eater. Once they start, they seem to continue to go bad. Tranny behind that engine was supposed to be solid. Third option: SHO with stick shift! Yamaha engine for which Ford paid over $6k each. If ya need the automatic, find a 3.0 that has had the tranny replaced fairly recently and just drive a little slow.... but still faster than my diesel Benz.
I paid $1800 for an '87 300E that has some problems but seems to drive well and my daughter likes it . Then again, I saw a 400E on driving the highway this am for under $5k. Just keep looking.