Home » The Classic Confrontation, In Plain White Wrappers: 2000 Chevy Lumina vs 2001 Ford Taurus

The Classic Confrontation, In Plain White Wrappers: 2000 Chevy Lumina vs 2001 Ford Taurus

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Good morning, and welcome back to another week of Shitbox Showdown! I hope you all enjoyed your holiday weekend. Since we have a short week, I’m continuing in my quest to give David a heart attack by messing with the formula, and we will have only three Showdowns this week, and then do something special on Friday. Speaking of Friday, let’s see what you thought of our cheap RV options last week:

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As I suspected. Lewd jokes aside, the Beaver really was the better bet.

Today, in honor of the Indepenence Day holiday yesterday, I thought we’d revisit the classic Ford versus Chevy confrontation, in the form of two plain white sedans. These cars were once the default family-car option in America, before the Age of SUVs and the coming of the great Crossover. But outdated as they may be, these basic four door sedans still have a lot to offer, especially at the bottom end of the price range. Let’s check them out.

2000 Chevrolet Lumina – $2,300

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Engine/drivetrain: 3.1 liter V6, 4 speed automatic, FWD

Location: Long Beach, CA

Odometer reading: 156,000 miles

Runs/drives? Just fine

The Chevy Lumina was based on GM’s ubiquitous W-platform, which accounted for roughly 70% of all cars on the road in the 1990s, or at least it felt that way. This is the second-generation Lumina, introduced in 1995. This 2000 model would have been the last year of regular retail production, with 2001 Luminas being limited to fleet and rental customers. But really, every Lumina ever built feels like a rental car.

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Exciting it may not be, but the Lumina is a nice comfy car.  For a couple of years, after the rear-wheel-drive Caprice was discontinued but before the front-wheel-drive Impala was launched, the Lumina was Chevy’s largest car. This one, with a split bench seat in the front, is technically a six-passenger vehicle, though I would say any six people who chose to ride in this car all at the same time had better know each other really well. Or they certainly will, by the time they get where they’re going.

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All the fun or sporty versions of the Lumina – the Euro, the Z34, the LTZ – had been discontinued by the time this car was built, and the two-door variant had been re-christened the Monte Carlo, leaving this basic 3.1-liter-V6-powered Grandma Special as the only option.

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This Lumina looks like it’s in good shape. There are a couple of dings and dents, but it’s still presentable, and the interior looks quite nice, especially for a 20 year old GM vehicle. The seller says it runs and drives well, and is ready to go with no work needed. So that’s something.

2001 Ford Taurus – $1,300

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

Location: Camas, WA

Odometer reading: 138,000 miles

Runs/drives? Yes, but transmission might be questionable

Oddly, seventy percent or so of all cars on the road seemed to be Ford Tauruses in the 1990s as well. Yes, I know that’s not mathematically possible, but there it is. Eighty percent of cars on the road were Dodge Caravans too. Not to mention the 62.3% that were Toyota Camrys. It’s just how it was.

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This 2001 Taurus is from Ford’s “Less Ugly” design period. Wait–that wasn’t it. Oh right: “New Edge.” This particular car eschews the standard-issue Vulcan V6 for a 24 valve Duratec V6, giving it a not-unrespectable-for-the-time 200 horsepower. This is coupled to a four-speed slushbox, but at least it has a floor-mounted shifter.

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The Duratec engine has a good reputation, but the transmission in this particular car might not be up to the task. The seller says it slips a little going into 3rd gear. This might be nothing, or it might be on its last legs. It might conk out tomorrow, or it might go on slipping a little for another ten years. You never can tell with an automatic, but for only $1300 it could be worth a gamble.

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The rest of the car looks decent: the interior is clean, and I don’t see any issues outside. Again, despite packing more power than the Lumina, this is not an exciting car. But who cares? It’s less than two or three payments on anything else, and it drives. Baby it along so you don’t cause the transmission any extra stress, and forgo a car payment until the used car market straightens itself out.

Obviously, neither of these is anyone’s dream machine, and in refrigerator-white, they won’t win any beauty pageants. On the other hand, they’re cheap, they cost next to nothing to insure, and nobody is going to steal them. It’s just down to which brand of plain vanilla you prefer.



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46 Responses

  1. Flashbacks to my days working the used side of a Chevy dealership in the 90’s!

    The Lumina, just because the Fords were dog ugly–er slightly more than the Lumina.

    We had an absolute FLEET of Refrigerator white ex rental Corsicas, Luminas were luxurious beside those!

  2. Oooof. This is match of both shitty shit cars. But my hatred for the Taurus also goes far and deep. So many fell victim to Ford’s long running junker.
    I can guarantee that transmission will go out ASAMFP. Before you can figure out that acronym.
    And the Lumina was such an ugly ass car. The couldn’t even jouge it up with that coupe z34. So fugly.
    But if I had to choose out these two hideous monsters I’d have to say the Chevy.
    It pains me & gives me vomit taste but it’s the tolerable of the two knowing the mechanical side & parts aspect.
    That bench seat…yikes. Gross.

  3. No. I refuse. I want shitboxes, not Camazotzian ennuimobiles. My parents, rest their souls, owned four Tauruses between 1986 and 2005, and I hated all of them. (Nice people, but yeesh, after I was born my parents had terrible taste in cars.) And the Lumina is just as bad. And the white paint is…

    No. Goddammmit, no. This is like making me choose between a bus pass and a kid-size Razor scooter with wheels that no longer light up.

    I have a soul, damn you.

  4. Lumina, all day every day.

    They don’t have the transmission issues of the Ford, get better gas mileage, and I could just about rebuild a 3.1 in my sleep if I had to, and I’d never have to.

  5. For $1300, I’d be willing to take a chance on the Ford. And if the transmission shits the bed and you have to spend a grand or three fixing it, at the end of the day, you still have a much better car than the Lumina.

  6. That chevy is just urgh. Its like they called their design team and said “I want a car with four doors, just a car, nothing else.” I do appreciate the bench seat and column shifter though. But had to go with the Ford.

    1. Agree. And it took me a bit to realize it, but it’s the wheels arches esp.

      The Taurus has normal semicircles that of course nicely frame the wheels, but the Lumina’s are squared off…the look is subtly jarring.

      It kinda worked for the previous-gen Lumina, which seemed lower and wider, but not here.

  7. Contrary to nerd wisdom that favors the SHO, the best Taurus to get is the late 90’s one in Rose Metallic (mauve) with the ovals everywhere. That coupled with a cassette playing an endless loop of political commentary on the “blue dress” and grotesque cigar stories would be the perfect time capsule. I can dig super plain and anonymous, but the white Taurus is really pushing the limits. It still gets the nod because you could actually convince your neighbors you’re really into that car and want to keep it forever. That’s not hysterically funny, but there are some potential giggles to be had.

    All I think when I see a last gen Lumina is: “A teenager learned about understeer when he hit the curb at his high school parking lot entrance”. No giggles, no joy.

  8. The Chevy is the far better buy, and the far better car to own. The Lumina should be a lot more reliable, and this is not even including the known weakness of the transmission in the Ford.

    In my family, large family gatherings used to look like a Ford dealership just got a triple shipment of new Tauruses. They were definitely the default choice.

    This Ford is from the later part of the time when the head gaskets on a Taurus V6s seemed almost like a wear item. In the extended family, I know of four Tauruses that had warranty cylinder head work done at around 30,000 miles or less. And one car had it done twice before 60,000 miles, and was showing symptoms of losing a third head gasket when it was traded in. At least two had major transmission failures under warranty as well.

    That said, I just plain like the Ford better, so this would be a difficult toss-up for me.

  9. The Lumina is super-outdated even for 2000, BUT it actually, you know, WORKS. You could probably put in a decent used transmission in the Taurus for the difference, but the job is going to SUCK, and this is the car you depend on for work, so F* that. Lumina – Just because if I am buying a car like this, I am kinda desperate. I’ll bite the ugly bullet for something that works, continue to take some abuse as it gets me to/from work.

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