On November 15th, I received an email from our mobile mapping team at work….well, everyone did. The info was in regards to a fleet of 20-30 Ford Escape vehicles that they felt would be nice to allow employees to purchase as they were being retired from the fleet. Some of our maps are still made using manually collected source material and the best way to do this is to physically drive around our continent. All of that driving means the vehicles are costly to maintain and at some point, the cost outweighs the value due to reliability. In 2019, we’re rolling out Toyota RAV4 vehicles and the Ford Escape cars were sitting around gathering dust. While our company could feasibly get more at auction, they decided to raffle them off to interested employees.

The letter read, average miles, 250,000 and $800 for 2014 and $1000 for 2015. Put your name in the bucket and they’ll draw winners. The cars are obviously being sold as-is and the higher up individuals picked will have dibs on the better car.

I requested service history for every single vehicle and I combed through it on my lunch break. The approach was slightly different than that of my colleagues. I picked the vehicle with the most high-price parts already replaced that were certain to fail in the immediate future. The first thing I did was isolate only vehicles with a new transmission followed by all suspension work done and then finally, the most pricey components such as drive-shaft, steering rack, control arm, brakes, tires and motor mounts.

This nailed it down to 4 possible vehicles. I was 12th in the list of interested employees and 6 dropped out after the lowest mileage cars they picked (not the best strategy in my opinion) had some visible interior mold.

I was out of town so I never was able to visually inspect mine. Elbow grease problems such as mold are no problem. Again, it’s all about the mechanical condition and I really lucked out! Most vehicles were above 250K miles..some closer to 300K.

My car, F52 internal code that was picked for me based on my last of top 10 vehicles in order I wanted was a 2015 Ford Escape S (base model) with 258,000 miles, a brand new transmission, suspension, steering rack, drive-shaft…well I say brand new I mean this was all replaced about 100,000 miles ago but still, not the original parts. The motor itself has never been opened up but the belts and such were all done. The rule of these cars was to do all maintenance on time as soon as required by the manufacturer and to replace everything that breaks as it breaks. I assume they used all Ford (motorcraft) parts but I wasn’t sure. I do know that not all oil changes were done at Ford but if things were done poorly, the car would not have made it to the mileage it did.

Luckily, the interior was clean-ish. It needed to be cleaned but no water ingress, no mice poop, no major accumulation of dirt and grime and the car was in decent shape pending a shampoo / steam wash.

The exterior, there are a couple of broken plastic bits, the paint itself…..flawless. These cars were wrapped with vinyl the week we took delivery of them so the quarter million mile paint had never seen the sun. The UV had yet to bleach it and the sand and car washes never swirled the paint. It was remarkable really unwrapping this vehicle and seeing the beautiful red metallic paint underneath.

There aren’t many S-trim Ford Escapes on the road. Most people spend the couple of grand more for the SE and get a ton of features like heated seats, one-touch windows, rain sensing wipers and auto headlights along with a big touch screen. Those customers also get a vehicle with more things to fail and they get reduced fuel economy in the form of a turbocharged motor with an extra axle for the all wheel drive system. I have just front wheel drive, no extra features and a naturally aspirated 2.5L motor. It’s a very simple car if its only job is to get you to and from work.

I handed $1,000 to my co-worker, received 2 keys and a title and went outside to hope the car started. I had brought my MicroStart XPS car starter just in case. It started right up. The interior smelled of cigarettes, the motor whined a bit but it quickly started blowing heated air. On the drive home, it pulled hard to the left in need of an alignment but I got it home and immediately ordered a lot of various parts:

  • Oil
  • Oil Filter
  • Spark Plugs
  • Air Filter
  • Cabin Air Filter
  • Coolant
  • Front & Rear Wipers
  • Mudguards for the rear wheels
  • IPhone windshield mount
  • Floor mats
  • Rear cargo mat

I spent a total of 3 hours on getting the maintenance up to date and went to Tire Rack and ordered 4 brand new Michelin X-Ice 3 tires to replace the 30K mile all-seasons currently equipped.

Finally, the car came with a rear quarter panel window because in its place was a metal panel with cameras mounted. I spent $150 for the local glass shop to reinstall the OEM window. There was a cost of $80 to mount the tires, $79 for an alignment and $55 for a New Hampshire state inspection. Finally, I spent $350 to register the vehicle and $390 to insure it for 6 months.

Before I started commuting in it, I had to remove the vinyl wrap and in one evening, I did about half of it This is Winter time so I took the car to a detailing shop and paid a couple hundred dollars to have the vehicle detailed and the interior shampooed and steam cleaned.

The last thing I did was pay Ford an hour of labor to give the car a complete overview and $129 to have the automatic transmission fluid changed. They gave the car a clean bill of health with the only issue being some small oil leaking from one of the rear shocks. Nothing to worry about until Summer time they said.

They did say that the transmission only has about 25,000 miles left in it. Luckily, there are a lot of Ford Escapes on the road. This translates to eBay having a lot of low mileage motors and transmissions from these cars that have been in accidents. 473 listings for a 2.5L motor all under $1,000 shipped. When the motor goes, it’s very cheap to get a 30K mile motor and stick it in. Same for the transmission although I’ll probably buy new.

Why invest money in a quarter million mile car? The thing is, the body is perfect….utterly perfect shape. One of the co-workers who passed on buying one of these rode with me to lunch one day “This was one of the Escapes?” They were amazed. The car only had one person ever sitting in it so every surface away fron the driver area is brand new. The exterior paint was flawless, the suspension was new enough to be soft and comfortable. It pulled well enough onto the freeway and the only issue being a jolt from 2nd to 3rd gear that I’ve just become used to at this point.

These cars were never driven in salt / ice weather. We take them south every Winter and this vehicle spent most of its life in Texas and the rest of the southwest. There’s no rust on the body at all. That’ll change with this being a winter beater but we’re talking about 5-10 more years of life out of this body with the occasional suspension work and eventually I’ll need to swap the motor and transmission but we’re talking about spending $2500 total to keep the car road-worthy for the next 10 years. Next year, insurance will drop to $300 (always happens when i renew a car for the 2nd time that was added to my policy) and state registration is only $250 next year. I’ll be keeping the winter tires on year-round because the car won’t be driven from May 1st – November 1st. That’s what the Golf R is for meaning I can keep Summers on the Golf R and winters on the Escape. Heather’s dad will drive the Escape all Summer but he drives 50 miles a month at most. It’s good to keep it going and he’ll keep it gassed up.

All in, we’re at $3200 USD to get this car road worthy including the purchase price. There’s only one more issue I need to fix on our next warm day. Cylinder one’s spark plug had a little bit of oil on top when I changed the plug. I am not seeing misfires but with time, I will. The cylinder head gasket is leaking. No big deal. It’s a $22 part and about 3 hours of my time to do it myself…faster once I’ve done it once. Ford quoted a 2 hour rate to do it for me. If we continue to have very cold weather with no break in sight, I’ll take them up on that.

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Overall, I’m super stoked! I’ve been seeking out a winter beater for years. Since I bought my 2nd Golf R and realized the first took a dive in resale at 50K miles, I’ve been trying to keep the Golf R under 50K this time around. We just hit 40K which isn’t awful considering I got the car in the Summer of 2015. I’ve had it for 3.5 years and it only has 40K on it which is an average of 950 miles a month…most cars in our neck of the woods average 20K miles a year. That’s the problem when the grocery store is half an hour away for most of us and an Apple Store is 2 hours away and 2.5 hours to the nearest airport.

$3,000 spend on a vehicle work about $4500 and hopefully just another 2-3K in the next 5 years to keep the car alive. I’ll be way ahead both in overall costs to keep it going and still manage to get 3K for it when I sell it but most importantly, keeping the resale value of my Golf R higher than it would be otherwise. I can’t take back the rust currently on it…well I can with a re-spray of the underside with paint, replacing the lower sub-frame and front & rear control arms along with wheel hubs and suspension and the rust will almost be eliminated. So…$4,000 out of pocket and the Golf R will have almost no rust on it. It’s something I’ll probably do eventually once I have the cash to take that up and know I’ll be able to permanently store the vehicle somewhere safe. It’s one of those situations where the Golf R is not a collectors car but I know in 20 years, if it still has less than 80K miles on it, it’ll be worth about $25,000 still. The R32 from 2004 and 2008 each go for $15K if you have less than 100K miles. Of course, this requires keeping the Golf R in good shape, not driving it too much and keeping with all OEM parts and maintenance.

Back on topic, this is a really great thing. The escape has been my daily drive for 3 weeks, I’ve put 1000 miles on it and it’s given me no trouble at all.

Here are a few photos. Thanks TomTom for hooking this up! I know some people aren’t handy so they turned down the opportunity to own one of these and they considered the effort to be higher than the cost. In some cars, this was the case. I’m lucky to both do my own maintenance and not mind spending a little every month to keep the car on the road. Even if it lasts just 2 winters, it’ll be worth the cost. Even if I had bought a $5,000 winter beater, I would have spent most of this money anyway because tires, oil, registration and insurance is all necessary when buying a used car in any condition.

I’m stoked…so stoked!

Also, you can see some photos of my car on Twitter over the last few years – https://twitter.com/hashtag/tomtomcar 

Some Videos: 

 

Some Photos: