Author Archive

Mark Holthoff

Mark Holthoff likes cars and likes writing, and he's been interested in both for as long as he can remember. He has over a dozen years of experience in the automotive industry, which includes launching a car buying advice hotline for Edmunds.com. In addition to Klipnik, his work has appeared on TrueCar, Edmunds, and other outlets. His first car was a 1974 Triumph TR6, which he bought with his life savings of $2000 and kept on the road with spare change, borrowed tools, and duct tape.

Weird and Rare: 2000 Isuzu VehiCROSS 4WD SUV

For October 5, 2021, our used car find is this well-kept and unusual 2000 Isuzu VehiCROSS compact four-wheel-drive SUV with 108k miles. It’s offered on Craigslist by a private seller in the Sedona area for $14,500 or best offer.

Here’s what makes this one special.

New Wheels, Same Look: Fitting Aluminum “Steelies” to the 240D

One of the very best modifications you can make to a W123-series Mercedes is swapping its original 14-inch steel wheels for aluminum versions of the same. The aluminum rims (pictured above) are the same dimensions as the original “steelies” (14 x 5.5 inches). But they weigh half as much — just under 10 lbs each for the aluminum versions vs. almost 20 lbs for the steel ones.

Here’s why that matters.

Porsche 981 Boxster/Cayman: Model History and Buyer’s Guide

Two seats. Mid engine. Flat six. Manual gearbox. Low price. The formula for Porsche’s entry-level sports car, the Boxster (as well as its fixed-roof sibling, the Cayman), is a great one. It’s made the model, now in its 25th year, a major success story for the German automaker.

The Boxster has changed quite a bit since its 1996 debut — and not always for the better. One of the most significant updates occurred with the current generation, dubbed “982” by Porsche, which first appeared for the 2017 model year. That’s when Porsche swapped its traditional horizontally-opposed six-cylinder engine for a turbocharged flat four. To be fair, the four-cylinder version is still an excellent car. But there’s no doubt some of the original magic has been lost.

The good news is that the previous generation, known as the “981,” represents the best of everything Porsche’s mid-engine sports car has to offer, including a free-revving and sweet-sounding flat six as standard equipment. Combine that with the fact that these cars are now between six and 10 years old, making them more affordable than they’ve ever been, and you have a recipe for a genuine used car bargain.

Lexus GX 470: Model History and Buyer’s Guide

With some vehicles, the designers and engineers get pretty much everything right. They look sharp, they drive well, and they last — sometimes well beyond 200,000 miles. The Lexus GX 470 (2003-2009) is one of those vehicles.

Hailing from some of the peak Lexus years, the GX 470 offers the unusual combination of off-road prowess with on-road civility. And it does so with both style and grace — not to mention a good dose of Toyota reliability.

Back in the day, a brand-new GX cost a pretty penny. One could easily top $50,000 with options. That reserved them mainly for the well-to-do (and/or highly leveraged). But nowadays, outstanding used examples can be had for less than half that amount, making the GX a relative bargain in the world of used SUVs — especially considering its superior off-road capabilities.

So if you’re in the market for a luxury vehicle that can almost literally go anywhere and won’t break your wallet in the process, a used GX should definitely be on your shopping list.

Volvo V70 XC / XC70: Model History and Buyer’s Guide

Volvo wasn’t the first automaker to offer a lifted, all-wheel drive wagon. That honor goes to American Motors, whose novel Eagle wagon first hit showrooms in 1979. Unfortunately for AMC, the Eagle was far ahead of its time. Sales were tepid, and it vanished from the market just eight years later.

But times change. When Subaru followed suit with the Outback, which first appeared for the 1995 model year, their timing was impeccable. Americans had just begun their love affair with the SUV, and the Outback offered much of an SUV’s utility in a friendlier-to-drive package. It was sales hit — and continues to be to this day.

Volvo — long the wagon-maker of choice for college professors and suburban carpoolers — took note of this development. They took their excellent V70 model, added 1.4 inches of ride height and all-wheel drive, threw on some rugged-looking trim, and voila! The Volvo “Cross Country” — or “XC” for short — was born.

The Cross Country wagon has been a mainstay in the Volvo lineup ever since. (It’s sold new today in two different formats: the midsize V60 and the full-size V90.) And unlike the Subaru Outback, which is now far more SUV-like, Volvo’s XC wagon has always stayed true to its longroof roots.

With the XC wagon nearing a full 25 years in production, now is an excellent time to look back through its variation generations, each of which offer some compelling value propositions for the used car buyer.

Acura RL: Model History and Buyer’s Guide

In the race to establish premium Japanese automotive brands in the US, Honda was first with its Acura division. In 1986, Acura debuted its flagship model, the Legend, alongside a sporty hatchback, the Integra. Both sold well and established Acura as a top luxury marque in North America practically overnight.

The Legend was a truly remarkable car, deserving of its rather ambitious name. Shortly after its debut, it found a place on Car and Driver’s 10Best list three times in a row (1988-1990), and its second iteration, which first appeared in 1991, was even better. YouTube car reviewer Doug Demuro profiled the second gen Legend in this video, calling it one of the coolest cars of the era.

The RL was born when Acura changed its model naming convention, moving to alphanumeric monikers in the mid 1990s. Thus the third-generation Legend, which first appeared in 1996, became the Acura RL — or, more specifically, the “3.5RL” since Acura wanted to call attention to the new 3.5-liter V6 engine under the hood.

While the RL was technically a new model, it built upon the essential goodness of the Legend that preceded it, featuring top-quality Honda engineering in a handsome and highly-functional package, with plenty of luxury touches to make it feel special.

And those are the qualities that make the RL an interesting used car purchase today.

Used Cars to Avoid: 2001-2002 Mercedes-Benz S600 V12

The Sonderklasse — German for “special class,” or “S-Class” for short — is the ultimate Mercedes-Benz sedan. Each iteration, dating back to the 1950s, has been a showcase for the automaker’s best design, features, and engineering. And short of an uber-elite Maybach model, a V12-equipped Mercedes-Benz S600 has long been the finest S-Class money could buy.

But it wasn’t always the most reliable. In fact, one particular version of the S600, sold during the 2001 and 2002 model years (in the US), has proved to be one of the most problematic Mercedes-Benzes of the modern era.

Well-Preserved 1985 Volvo 760 Turbo Sedan

For September 7, 2021, our used car find is this remarkably well-preserved 1985 Volvo 760 Turbo sedan with under 100,000 miles. It’s offered on Craigslist by a private seller in San Luis Obispo California for $4500 or best offer.

Here’s what makes this one special.

240D Fuel Economy Update (Summer 2021)

It’s been a little more than three months and almost 2000 miles since I picked up the Colorado Beige 240D from its original owner in California, so I thought it might be time for a fuel economy update. In that time, I’ve driven the car from Monterey to Seattle, taken it in for a 250,000-mile service, and done various day trips around the area, including an overnight jaunt to Port Townsend.

1995 Volkswagen Passat GLX VR6 with a 5-speed Manual

For September 16, 2021, our used car find is this unusually well-kept and original 1995 Volkswagen Passat GLX sedan with 85k miles and a five-speed manual transmission. It’s offered on Craigslist by a private seller in the Fort Myers area for $6700 or best offer.

Here’s what makes this one special.

2005 Volvo V50 T5 Wagon with 6-speed Manual

For September 1, 2021, our used car find is this clean 2005 Volvo V50 T5 wagon with a six-speed manual gearbox. It’s offered on Craigslist by a private seller in the Eugene Oregon area for $6500 or best offer.

Here’s what makes this one special.