Home » Circle The Low-Mileage Wagons: 1990 Toyota Corolla All-Trac vs 1993 Ford Taurus

Circle The Low-Mileage Wagons: 1990 Toyota Corolla All-Trac vs 1993 Ford Taurus

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Welcome back! For your consideration this Monday morning we have a pair of station wagons with remarkably few miles on their odometers. But first, let’s see how Friday ended up:

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Huh, interesting. When I first saw the ads for those two cars, I was firmly on Team Buggatti. But the Maxi Taxi’s charms have grown on me, and now I think I might go that way instead. It’s just so ’70s it hurts. I can’t resist it.

Also, you might have noticed our polls have had a bit of a mid-cycle refresh, thanks to our own Matt Hardigree. Matt found a poll plug-in that works with WordPress instead of fighting it tooth-and-nail. It’s easier for me, and should be more reliable for you all. But today is the first time I’ve done it this way, so if anybody has any trouble with it, please let us know.

Now then: In the course of shopping for cars for this column, I get used to seeing cars with lots and lots of miles on the odometer. When I do find low-mileage cars, they’ve usually been sitting around wasting away for long periods of time. Today, however, I happened across two station wagons here in Portland that are both under 100,000 miles, and don’t appear to have been left to rot. Let’s check them out.

1990 Toyota Corolla All-Trac – $1,000

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Engine/drivetrain: 1.6 liter inline 4, 4 speed automatic, full-time 4WD with lockable center diff

Location: Hillsboro, OR

Odometer reading: 73,827 miles

Runs/drives? Ad says so

I have to admit that when I first read this ad, I bristled at the seller using the term “vintage” to describe a car built in 1990. That’s the year I graduated high school. If this little Corolla wagon is vintage, then what does that make me?

(Don’t answer that.)

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This Corolla has an ace up its sleeve when it comes to foul weather: full-time four-wheel-drive. For slippery conditions, the center differential can be locked via a button on the dash. Aside from that, it’s standard-issue Corolla: a 1.6 liter four, an overdrive automatic, and not a whole lot of excitement. But Corollas of this vintage are well-known for racking up the miles; this car is probably only about one-quarter of the way through its useful life.

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Honestly, I’ve always thought these cars fell out of the ugly tree and hit every branch on the way down, but they are practical. A small wagon with all four wheels driven, Japanese reliability, and good fuel economy? It works for Subaru. Maybe the Corolla All-Trac was just ahead of its time.

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So why so cheap? It’s hard to say; the ad is very light on information. The seller says the car has a “great back story,” but then doesn’t tell that story. Once again, call for details, I guess. Or rather, text; anyone young enough to consider this car “vintage” doesn’t make or answer actual phone calls.


1993 Ford Taurus LX Wagon – $1,800

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.0 or 3.8 liter V6, 4 speed automatic, FWD

Location: Portland, OR

Odometer reading: 96,700 miles

Runs/drives? Very well, according to the ad

For something a little bigger, a little more comfortable, we have this second-generation Ford Taurus. Still admittedly not the most exciting thing on four wheels, but it’s a good solid car. This ad is a little short on details as well; we’re not even told which of the two available engines this car has. Either way, it’s backed by a four-speed automatic, as in every ’93 Taurus except the SHO.

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This Taurus has only 96,000 miles on the clock, remarkably low for a twenty-nine-year-old car. Those miles are spread out over only two owners, so it hasn’t been passed around. This instills some confidence in its condition; a car with this few miles and 20 owners would be a lot more suspect. Still, a close inspection is never a bad idea.

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And it’s a wagon, a bodystyle that makes more sense to me every day. Fold down the seats, and you’ve got acres of nice flat foor to fill up. I do believe this car has a “way-back” seat as well, if you need it. It has a bunch of other options, including working air conditioning, and the most useful thing Ford put on a car in the ’90s: that little five digit keypad by the driver’s door handle. I always thought these were silly, until my wife bought an Explorer with one. Now I wish every car had one.

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Condition-wise, it looks all right from what we can see. There is a little damage to the right corner of the front bumper, and what looks like it might be a shadow of rust along the bottom of a couple of doors, but it’s still presentable outside, and actually quite nice inside.

So there they are: a pair of wagons with not even 180,000 miles between them. One is considerably cheaper and has the advantage of 4WD, but the other feels, to me anyway, a bit more honest. What say you?


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69 Responses

  1. Both ads are gone, so we’ll call it a tie?

    Coming from the midwest, I am insanely jealous of the condition of the cars you find for this column from Oregon! Do cars not rust out there? Or are people just so casual that there’s less wear and tear?

    1. “Do cars not rust out there? Or are people just so casual that there’s less wear and tear?”

      Generally speaking the two rust hotspots out here are the coast and snow areas. Cars from beach communities will have rust even in SoCal but the amount of rust drops very quickly as you move inland. Because coastal rust is caused by sea spray you can track the rust by looking at stationary metal objects (door hinges, yard decorations, non galvanized nails, etc). A car stored outdoors at sea level by the seawall will rust far, far faster than the same car stored even a hundred yards further inland; by a mile inland rust is usually a non issue. Elevation also plays a factor; a car stored on a cliff a few hundred feet above the same seawall will rust far less quickly too.

      For snow it’s a matter of how much snow. In most of California only the mountain areas 4000′ or higher get snow at all. I dunno about other states but California DOES use salt on icy roads so that dosen’t help. Still it needs to actually snow to have that problem. The one silver lining of our current series of megadroughts is no snow -> no rust.

    2. Oh they rust on the coast like butter in a microwave. Not a reliable used car market. But as we have seen most cars presented here and in found are for the woke crowd.

    3. They rust badly out at the coast, but here in Portland we’re 80 miles from the salt air, and it snows maybe once a year here, and the whole city shuts down for it. So yeah, they just never rust. My ’95 Corolla has 260,000 miles on it and not a speck of rust underneath. There’s a teeny tiny spot starting below one taillight, but that’s it.

  2. I have the same Corolla Alltrac (Corolla 4wd Wagon in Australia) as shown for the last 12 years. Its a slow but stout little pony but with some monroe air shocks for the back, some spacers on the front and a set of all terrains click the diff lock on it and can handle the worst of conditions far better than a small car based AWD should. Mines on 320,000 kms with only wear items replaced. still original clutch and radiator A steal at that price.

  3. No doubt, the Corolla, saw them all the time in the Alps chugging away in the snow (together with Tercels 4wd and old Audi Quattro’s). Always loved the funky styling of this generation too.

  4. “The seller says the car has a “great back story,” but then doesn’t tell that story.”

    Presumably the kind of backstory that goes “my village was burned to the ground by orcs, and I watched my parents die in front of me,” if it’s just $1k.

    I’d still check it out though.

  5. Despite both ads being a bit sparse and the Toyota being ugly as sin, it’s gotta be the Corolla. A 90s era Toyota with mileage that low and only $1k? How can you not?

    I’d buy it just to see the pure indestructibility in person

  6. I’ll be in the minority, but I’d be all over that Taurus. The Vulcan v6 (so long as the cam Syncro gets replaced every 100k) , is a pretty long-loved engine. Always liked the styling on these, particularly the wagon. Would be a great daily.

  7. The Taurus looks better, and seems to give more info on its history, but they Corolla should be nigh indestructible.

    I’ll take “Over-built Japanese cars for $1000, Alex”.

          1. Okay my bad you are correct she played blossom. But Amy farafaller is the character she played on big bang theory, just the most popular show on TV for the last 10 years dipshit. And since they haven’t chosen a permanent replacement yet he hasn’t been replaced moron. And misspelling I’ll mark up for auto correct and given your lack of knowledge on the previous subjects I’ll chalk up to advance age and dementia.

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