View Full Version : Bought a Buick.

11-25-08, 07:05 PM
Not for me, for a roommate.

He is moving in to replace an existing roommate, and needed a car. I called him over and we poked around Craigslist for about a half hour when we stumbled on a 1997 Century Custom with 137k, $1600.

I told the guy we were heading over immediately. We stopped at the bank across the street, got the cash, and drove up the boulevard (he lived nearby). Took it for a test drive, came back 5 minutes later, and a car pulled up behind us with people who wanted to buy it. We handed over the cash, declared ownership, signed some papers, and took it home.

The people who arrived after us were apparently late, so they missed out.





It smells like cigarettes but the interior is in otherwise decent shape. Some of the rubber seals on the door need replacement or need to be glued back, but the panels and seats look nice.

AC works, heat works, radio sounds great, and power windows and locks work. Has keyless entry too.

There's a dent on the trunk lid and a couple big dents on the fender. The hood needs to be pushed back into place, but otherwise its nice. Not in mint condition, but pretty damn amazing for the price.

The 3100 V6 has some power from 0-30, then peters off. You can't really hear the motor, or anything else. If you step on it, you hear a hum from the front while the car accelerates modestly.

The factory radio sounds great for being nothing fancy. None of the speakers are blown and the display has HUGE letters, probably so older Buick drivers can see it.

The Check Engine light is on and brake light comes on intermittently. Brakes work surprisingly well. I expected mush, but they stop with some authority.

Handling? Well, if you can imagine laying in a waterbed and rolling around, that's how it handles. Thats fine, because it rides beautifully. Buick has something called "Dynaride", which is probably a gimmicky name for Buick's traditional mush ride.

And steering... well it steers.

I like the interior though. The plastic is rubberized or padded, and the bunched vinyl on the doors feels nice.

The gauges are big and clear, if a little cheap looking.

So there you have it, basic reliable transportation from GM with a few niceties. It was an excellent value back then for people who just wanted a comfortable, conservative car without the power and showiness of a Cadillac or the common cheapness of a Chevy.

Quick ratings:
Powertrain: 3/5 Its slow but smooth. I can't feel it shift, which is a little odd. I can't really hear the motor either. There's sufficient torque for moving around town but not a whole lot of passing power.

Audio/Electronics: 4/5 Everything seems to work and controls are almost child-friendly with how large all the knobs and displays are. This particular Century lacks power mirrors and power seats.

Comfort/Interior: 4/5 There isn't any lateral support to speak of, but I like the idea of having the utility of a bench seat. Everything feels nice, if not expensive. Buick values through and through.

Steering/Suspension/Handling: 2/5 It steers reasonably well enough, but around corners you really have to slow down. The whole car seems to float on a body of water.

Overall: 4/5 I get it now. I see why people buy this kind of car. Its not my style, but its something I can understand. The value for money when it was new was pretty darn good. An Intrepid offered a LOT more car for the money, but less dependability.

11-25-08, 07:06 PM

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11-25-08, 07:09 PM
A good winter beater if you would....cheap, reliable, dull and comfortable. Back in high school, a friend of mine had a 1993 Century Custom Sedan, and that was a decent car....especially for the $350 he paid for it. He had the optional 3.3L V6 (built off of the 3.8L, but not as big), so it had OK power (slow as heck compared to the deVille I had at the time), but it was super reliable, got great mileage (29 on highway, low 20s in town) and it was pretty comfortable for long road trips too....it had soft cloth seats, just like my deVille...so to me it always seemed like a junior Caddy.

11-25-08, 07:12 PM
Same car I had for driver's ed it back in the day. It's just that, a decent car.

11-25-08, 07:51 PM
It has 4T60E. It is an OK transmission in that application. Soft shifts could be a lot of things, but I know for a they have run a lower line pressure in some Buicks for "smoother" shifting, most likely what it is. I wouldn't do anything to it if the fluid has never been changed before. Infact I would just leave it alone all together.
Could be a low gear ratio in it too. I don't know what it is off hand. I think they have a 2.92 first third is one to one and overdrive is .705. Pretty on Par with standard GM fair .
3.1 with Dex Cool, just make sure you keep the fluid level in the overflow tank at the hot level when cold, that will ensure the gakets always have fluid on them, less chance of low fluid and then acid breaking down the gaskets. They may have already been done one so you are good to go if that is the case.
For 1600 bucks you can't go wrong.

My dad has a Malibu with the same drivetrain and has kept the dex cool that full and changed it ever 50,000 miles. 190,000 miles later the engine and transmission are all original.

11-25-08, 07:55 PM
My Mom has a 2000 Century, her third Buick, and it's been completely reliable. The car has made several long, cross-country road trips without a hitch, and it's very good on gas.

11-25-08, 08:48 PM
I just looked it up on "carsurvey.org" it gets a real good report.

ted tcb
11-25-08, 09:28 PM
Good score for the money.

When I read the title, "I Bought A Buick", I thought I would see that Ian purchased that Riviera.

Not this time, I guess.

11-26-08, 12:52 AM
What can I say! Back in 1997 my wife needed a replace for the leased Chev Lumina SST (or whatever it was called, hotrod Lumina). This was to be a corporate, tax deductible, lease car for a two year peiod ..... the Buick Regal with the sport supsension (I think they called it the "touring suspension") filled the bill $19,000. out the door fully loaded with leather ..... not a bad deal considering what I had just paid for my son's Honda Accord SE ($16.500.). As it turned out my wife left her position with ATT and went with a company that supplied a lease car as a benefit . As a consequence, being stuck with the Regal leaser, I got more familiar with the car than I had ever intended. To be honest, with the "Touring" suspensiom it was a decent car, especially for the price. The leather was OK, the rest of interior was crap! In the two years we had the car the interior literally fell apart. they never did fix the cupholders under warranty inspite of continual repair attempts. But basically it was a decent car. I drove it on a 3000 mile trip out to the mid-west from Virginia and the car returned an average of 34 miles per gallon, very respectable for a comfortable 5 passenger sedan.

11-26-08, 01:09 AM
Dynaride is just what you assume, a Buick name for the couch on wheels suspension. Grandmas 91 and my 94 PA had dynaride, you get used to it, learn its limits REAL quick. The big radio numbers are standard across the board for that Generation of Buick. Not familar with the 3100 directly, but friends have had good luck with it. The 3800 is all we've ever had, such a solid motor.

11-26-08, 01:10 AM
I rented a Century once in the early 2000s. I had a long way to drive and started to panic. So I swapped it out for a Regal LS with more comfortable leather seats, moonroof, and upgraded stereo. Didn't have to pay extra...it was my lucky day.

11-26-08, 01:47 AM
Yeah, what we had was a Regal LS with "Touring" suspension, not really a "Century" what the hell they looked pretty much alike, but I quess the Regal was step up. Decent transportation at a decent low price, my wife's had the 3.8 engine which was adequate for its' purpose.

Lord Cadillac
11-26-08, 09:45 AM
The Century is a comfortable car. I had one for a rental a few years ago - I liked it..

11-26-08, 10:50 AM
I drove a '99 Regal GS last week at work. I loved the power but hated the interior.....so bland.

11-26-08, 11:04 AM
Lady just traded her '02 Century in for a certified Impala. Nice car; had the leather seats and the upgraded sound system. Rode comfortably, decent power, better assembled than my car. But a little too mundane for me.

11-26-08, 08:39 PM
I drove a '99 Regal GS last week at work. I loved the power but hated the interior.....so bland.

I second that! When I was shopping 2 years ago for my next car, my 2 choices were (both black on black)

2000 Buick Regal GS, 80k miles, $8000
2000 Cadillac Seville STS, 91k miles, $10000

After driving both, I liked the power on the Regal, but just couldn't stand the interior. So outdated! (what with the oversized numbers on the radio and all that.)

Then I sat in (and drove) the STS. SOLD!!! Bought the car the next day for $9500, with trade (a 95 Eagle Vision that had a cracked frame) out the door for $9000.

11-26-08, 09:31 PM
The Check Engine light is on and brake light comes on intermittently.

You realize that depending on the CEL code, it probably won't pass St. Louis emissions tests...

Intermittent brake light probably means it needs a brake flush.

11-26-08, 11:42 PM
Both my mom and her sister had this car, same color, too. Decent enough cars, but being used to a Caddy, the lack of power annoyed me whenever I drive them. They are the automotive equivalent of beige, inoffensive yet instantly forgetable.

11-27-08, 01:20 AM
Yeah, that's a Buick. Never liked the low-end ones much... Those Centuries were trying too hard to compete with imports; my LeSabre was just a big ol' American boat for people who wanted them. That said it got astounding fuel economy, had good power (K&N Air Filter, performance plugs & wires, and a freer-flowing exhaust turned it into very good power but still no firestarter), and rode like a sofa. In fact my girlfriend called it "The Sofa". You can't feel them shift, either. The brake light business, the brake lines may be done. Get someplace big and empty, and step HARD on the brakes. You're a big dude, Jesda, just STAND on 'em. If the peddle comes back you're OK. If it sinks in and doesn't come back, well, you've got a bad brake line. Happened to me once, no thanks to some jerkass pedestrian who just ambled out into traffic, causing me to have to stamp hard on the brakes.

11-27-08, 12:50 PM
Everyone should have a Buick at some point in their life....it's the quintessential American car. I had that Roadmaster over four years ago and I still have a soft spot in my heart for it.

11-27-08, 01:12 PM
While I believe Chevrolet is the "quintessential" American car, I agree that Buick has always had a special spot in the marketplace. The Buick Roadmaster was the car for doctors and company vice-presidents who didn't want to challenge their patients, or bosses sensitivity with a Cadillac (particularly true in the Mid-West). I remember back in the 1950's my dad telling me the the word around RCA, (for you youngsters, one of the pre-eminent American corporations of the time) where was a vice-president, was "buy a Cadillac and get fired." Around D.C. there were a bunch of depressed older lawyers who had a hard time coping with the demise of Oldsmobile! Buick has also supplied some of the best styling among GM products, even overshadowing Cadillac for sophistication, witness the '60s Rivieras!

DopeStar 156
11-28-08, 12:27 AM
My dad's 98 Regal LS has the 3800 and I love that thing. His doesn't say Dynaride though, his says "Buick Motor Division" instead....