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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I’m considering a used 2005 Acura MDXTouring SUV 4D. It has just over 173,000 miles. The owner is asking for $4,800, but I’m confident that I can negotiate him down a bit. I’d be the third owner. I only plan to use it for errands: shopping, appointments, and other short local trips.

I test drove it, and it was a nice ride. The current owner says he’s taken it to his local Acura dealer for service and has the service records. The positive thing is he was transparent about things that were wrong with the car. Example: the actuators on the back doors need to be replaced. Currently, you have to unlock the back doors manually. I’m single and am rarely driving people around, especially now. That’s not a big deal.

I had a mechanic to check it today. The skinny:

  • The current owner was also very transparent that he has to top off the oil every 10,000-15,000 miles. The mechanic confirmed that.
    The hood shocks, the part that keeps the hood up, need to be replaced.
  • Recommended transmission service.
  • I need written proof that the timing belt was replaced.
  • Transmission hold switch needs to be checked. If it falls, I wouldn’t be able to start the car.
Opinions? Thanks, all.
 

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Topping off oil at 10k is no big deal. The "MAINT REQD" light flashes at 6k miles, and stays on at 7.5k miles indicating an oil change is required. If you are still less than 1 quart low at that point, I'd say that's great. Only the 2010-2013 I think MDXes are known for rapidly accelerating rate of eating their oil.

Those hood shocks can be found on Amazon for under $25 for a pair.

Do the transmission drain and fill (not a power flush).

Also important to do a drain and fill of the VTM-4 fluid and the transfer case fluid if records aren't available for the last service on-time. It's pretty easy to do yourself, and shouldn't be outrageous at an independent mechanic.

MDXes are somewhat known for busting the transmission cooler in the radiator and making a mess in the transmission fluid. I'd consider replacing the radiator (cheap if you do it yourself) or plumbing the transmission out of the radiator and adding its own ATF cooler.

Good call on the timing belt requiring docos or taking money out for the replacement.

Not sure what you mean "transmission hold switch". The transmission range sensor when it wears out or is misadjusted can do this. I had a bear of a time getting my new one adjusted just right. But based on what I saw of mine inside at 130k miles, if yours is still working, I bet it has been replaced and is good. There are so many other small electrical issues that can cause a no start or rough running on these (and really all Honda/Acura cars) that this in particular isn't worth worrying about, unless you've seen evidence it's happening on this car.

Mechanically it sounds good as long as you don't feel vibration in the car at highway speeds.

EDIT - knew I was forgetting something without looking at my notes. Ask for doco on last valve adjustment or "valve lash service". If not done in the last 100k miles, plan for that expense now. The longer you go past 100k miles the more damage you are likely to do to the exhaust valves.

As to my opinion on the condition vs. cost, that is highly dependent on your local area, and used car prices have gone up due to COVID. If you've priced it as a private party sell at KBB or Edmunds and that is in the range, I'd say go for it. But based on what I got, I'd have indigestion at that price.

I got mine at the end of 2019, with 125k miles, for $3,000. At the time, that was the trade in value (which is lower than the private party sell, which is also lower than the dealer retail value) for that mileage, in that condition, in my area. I was also buying from a friend so he didn't mind selling to me at the trade in value. Finding a non-related person to do that is hard!
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Topping off oil at 10k is no big deal. The "MAINT REQD" light flashes at 6k miles, and stays on at 7.5k miles indicating an oil change is required. If you are still less than 1 quart low at that point, I'd say that's great. Only the 2010-2013 I think MDXes are known for rapidly accelerating rate of eating their oil.

Those hood shocks can be found on Amazon for under $25 for a pair.

Do the transmission drain and fill (not a power flush).

Also important to do a drain and fill of the VTM-4 fluid and the transfer case fluid if records aren't available for the last service on-time. It's pretty easy to do yourself, and shouldn't be outrageous at an independent mechanic.

MDXes are somewhat known for busting the transmission cooler in the radiator and making a mess in the transmission fluid. I'd consider replacing the radiator (cheap if you do it yourself) or plumbing the transmission out of the radiator and adding its own ATF cooler.

Good call on the timing belt requiring docos or taking money out for the replacement.

Not sure what you mean "transmission hold switch". The transmission range sensor when it wears out or is misadjusted can do this. I had a bear of a time getting my new one adjusted just right. But based on what I saw of mine inside at 130k miles, if yours is still working, I bet it has been replaced and is good. There are so many other small electrical issues that can cause a no start or rough running on these (and really all Honda/Acura cars) that this in particular isn't worth worrying about, unless you've seen evidence it's happening on this car.

Mechanically it sounds good as long as you don't feel vibration in the car at highway speeds.

EDIT - knew I was forgetting something without looking at my notes. Ask for doco on last valve adjustment or "valve lash service". If not done in the last 100k miles, plan for that expense now. The longer you go past 100k miles the more damage you are likely to do to the exhaust valves.

As to my opinion on the condition vs. cost, that is highly dependent on your local area, and used car prices have gone up due to COVID. If you've priced it as a private party sell at KBB or Edmunds and that is in the range, I'd say go for it. But based on what I got, I'd have indigestion at that price.

I got mine at the end of 2019, with 125k miles, for $3,000. At the time, that was the trade in value (which is lower than the private party sell, which is also lower than the dealer retail value) for that mileage, in that condition, in my area. I was also buying from a friend so he didn't mind selling to me at the trade in value. Finding a non-related person to do that is hard!
Thanks for this! I'm in Northern California, so there isn't much wear and tear on the body. I took a closer look today and saw a couple of chips, but they were very minor. I've talked him down from his asking price, and it's totally in the KBB value: https://www.kbb.com/acura/mdx/2005/touring-sport-utility-4d/. I took it on the freeway when I test drove it, so it drove nicely on the highway as well as the road.

After I gave him the rundown from the mechanic, he called his guy at the dealer and called me back. He's also giving me all of the service info. The timing belt and transmission was serviced on January 20, 2018. He's taken it to his local Acura dealer for service, so that's good too. I live a bit too far away from that location, so I'll have to find a local Japanese car shop to take it to.

Unless something goes horribly wrong, I'll be the third owner of this car. Hooray! That means I'll be hanging out in this forum a lot more. 🤩

Now I just need to think of a name for her or ask the current owner what her name is.
 

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i just bought an '05 base model about a year ago for 4000$ on fb marketplace and when i bought it, i didnt realize the water pump was leaking. i was a pretty good mechanic at the time and did the water pump timing belt service myself. (as you are supposed to do the timing belt every 105k miles or so). that was at 180k miles and im currently at 201k with the original motor and trans! no leaks or anything. just resolved an issue with the head gasket leaking a tiny bit when i shut the car off(i accidentally let it overheat when i drained coolant to do a valve job) and i put 1 bottle of kseal in the radiator and all the problems went away (misfires). these motors are bulletproof as long as you replace parts like the pcv valve and **** that keeps it clean... you probably wont have a lot of problems down the road. valve jobs and timing belt service every 95k miles and your j series motor will last forever. Me mums van has the original motor (3.5 honda) and trans and it has 240k lol
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
i just bought an '05 base model about a year ago for 4000$ on fb marketplace and when i bought it, i didnt realize the water pump was leaking. i was a pretty good mechanic at the time and did the water pump timing belt service myself. (as you are supposed to do the timing belt every 105k miles or so). that was at 180k miles and im currently at 201k with the original motor and trans! no leaks or anything. just resolved an issue with the head gasket leaking a tiny bit when i shut the car off(i accidentally let it overheat when i drained coolant to do a valve job) and i put 1 bottle of kseal in the radiator and all the problems went away (misfires). these motors are bulletproof as long as you replace parts like the pcv valve and **** that keeps it clean... you probably wont have a lot of problems down the road. valve jobs and timing belt service every 95k miles and your j series motor will last forever. Me mums van has the original motor (3.5 honda) and trans and it has 240k lol
Thanks for this info. This is why I made sure to get it inspected yesterday. The extra $100 I spent is worth having peace of mind that I know what's going on with the car, and it's not perfect. However, the current owner came through, called the dealer where he's gotten the car serviced, and will also give me all of that paperwork.

I definitely won't be doing any of the service stuff beyond topping off the oil and wiper fluid. This is why I chose the Acura.

From what I've read, if I keep up on the basic and scheduled maintenance, this model will serve me well. The first car I ever had was a new car but was a lemon. I was a teenager and now I'm middle-aged and still remember that trauma. I need a car that's reliable and have been pretty successful with my choices since then.
 

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I wouldn't do all of the "service stuff" that Acura dealers come up with when doing a courtesy inspection. But if you aren't doing all of the scheduled services that Acura the manufacturer recommends - including some expensive stuff like timing belt and water pump replacements and the valve lash service, then lesser stuff like the transmission, VTM-4, and transfer case oil changes, I wouldn't expect it to remain a reliable low cost car.

I don't buy new cars to not take the depreciation hit. But new cars, and the used cars they age into have come a long way from the 80's when they could be - on average - rolling nightmares, to the 2000's as more car companies were getting serious about continuous improvement philosophies, to today. My parent's had a 1983 Cadillac that for 4 years was in the shop 6-10 times a year. Since then - our family's 1990 and 1991 and 1994 Nissan Maximas, and my 2001 Nissan Pathfinder, and 2010 Mazda CX-9 have been ridiculously reliable and low cost, even regarding limited "scheduled" maintenance.

I'm actually not too impressed with my MDX on reliability - or my wife's first 2012 Honda CR-V. There are several regular services (like the timing belt and valve lash) that are very expensive to have done. The Acura always seem to have silly little problems at too young of an age, that show obvious poor engineering choices when I repair them. And I'm ignoring the horrible transmissions that were in the 2001-03 MDXes that was inexcusable.

My wife's first CR-V had a range of issues that required multi-thousand dollar repairs under the extended warranty every single year we owned it. We traded it in the month before the warranty expired. We went to a Honda dealer who by phone confirmed they had a used Subaru we were interested in - they either didn't properly look or lied. It had been sold off to another dealer the day before we called and they said they had it and we drove 40 miles to look at it. I gave them the riot act. But then my wife saw a 2 year old used CR-V that she wanted, we negotiated an extended warranty on it, and so far it has been reliable like Honda has a reputation for.

Sorry got off on a little rant there...
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
I wouldn't do all of the "service stuff" that Acura dealers come up with when doing a courtesy inspection. But if you aren't doing all of the scheduled services that Acura the manufacturer recommends - including some expensive stuff like timing belt and water pump replacements and the valve lash service, then lesser stuff like the transmission, VTM-4, and transfer case oil changes, I wouldn't expect it to remain a reliable low cost car.

I don't buy new cars to not take the depreciation hit. But new cars, and the used cars they age into have come a long way from the 80's when they could be - on average - rolling nightmares, to the 2000's as more car companies were getting serious about continuous improvement philosophies, to today. My parent's had a 1983 Cadillac that for 4 years was in the shop 6-10 times a year. Since then - our family's 1990 and 1991 and 1994 Nissan Maximas, and my 2001 Nissan Pathfinder, and 2010 Mazda CX-9 have been ridiculously reliable and low cost, even regarding limited "scheduled" maintenance.

I'm actually not too impressed with my MDX on reliability - or my wife's first 2012 Honda CR-V. There are several regular services (like the timing belt and valve lash) that are very expensive to have done. The Acura always seem to have silly little problems at too young of an age, that show obvious poor engineering choices when I repair them. And I'm ignoring the horrible transmissions that were in the 2001-03 MDXes that was inexcusable.

My wife's first CR-V had a range of issues that required multi-thousand dollar repairs under the extended warranty every single year we owned it. We traded it in the month before the warranty expired. We went to a Honda dealer who by phone confirmed they had a used Subaru we were interested in - they either didn't properly look or lied. It had been sold off to another dealer the day before we called and they said they had it and we drove 40 miles to look at it. I gave them the riot act. But then my wife saw a 2 year old used CR-V that she wanted, we negotiated an extended warranty on it, and so far it has been reliable like Honda has a reputation for.

Sorry got off on a little rant there...
Yes. That was a rant, but having bad experiences with cars is annoying and expensive. I've been there too.

Some of this process is also a bit of luck, so I'm hoping for that with this car based on the mechanic (not a dealer but an independent one who focuses on evaluating cars for a relatively low price) and the feeling I've gotten from the current owner. In contrast, I was looking at another car, and it was like pulling teeth to have that owner be honest with me about the car's defects. There were a few, and he'd never just come out with the issues the car had. I had to find out with a test drive and a mechanical diagnostic. That doesn't establish trust, so I'm going with the Acura.

I hope with all the info I've gathered, the diagnostic, asking for written records and dates, and a little bit of luck that I'm not going to drive a lemon home this afternoon.
 

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Cars are likely more expensive in your California region, as you could buy a 2005 in Canada for $3500-4000 (CAD) with the about the same mileage or less. We deal with rust here though (although not nearly as bad as eastern Canada, Michigan etc. Bought mine in 2015 (2003) for $6600 (CAD), the only issue I've had is a high pressure steering hose blew. I did the timing belt, and just had the valves done last month at Honda specialist shop. Changing all the driveline fluids would be good to do (trans, transfer case, and diff + power steering fluid), as it's pretty easy compared to other cars. Use Acura/Honda fluids only. Currently have about 277,000 kms mtor runs and pulls hard like its new. I only use synthetic oil. Done wearable things like struts (which improved the ride), hood struts, and lower ball joint and tie rod (as I recall) recently. If you do the struts eventually, stay away from Munroe. I used KYB.

 

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My approach to buying cars is to find something that's around 10 years old, and that has 100-130k miles, preferably with some sort of issue that would scare most smarter buyers away (one that I can fix for a lot less than the owner can). I've been able to get into some very nice cars for literally about 10% of their new cost (since my MDX, this included a Volvo V50, Audi A3 wagon, and the current BMW 530xi wagon). Then, I go through them and replace everything that's likely to need it in the next 50-100,000 miles. Normally this will include struts / control arm bushings / maybe tie rods, as well as the normal service items like timing belts (when needed), and fluids (differential, transfer case if applicable, and of course, transmission). The end result is a car that drives and feels essentially like a new one, and that's very reliable. And best of all, no payments. Ever.

As a result, my cost of depreciation has been between negative (when I end up selling the car for more than I have in it) to a couple cents per mile. I do a lot of long (!) road trips, and would hate to put that kind of mileage on something that was worth too much.

FWIW, my Acura was probably the most reliable vehicle I ever owned. I put nearly 100,000 miles on it after buying it with 160,000 miles on the clock, and it looked and performed like a low-mileage car the whole time. Off the top of my head, the failures included an alternator (only time it ever left me dead on the road), a power steering hose, a vent mode controller (a common failure that's cheap and easy to fix), a window regulator (ditto). I'm probably forgetting a few minor things, but the car was very reliable - I can't think of anything else that would be likely to match the economy, comfort and reliability for the kind of chump change a 1G MDX sells for these days.
 

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Yeah, I'm down with that too. The last thing I want to spend a ton of money on is a car. I'd rather pick something reliable as well that's around that same age 10 years or so. This way you can also find parts for them at a wrecker. Some folks just want something they don't have to fix, or can't really fix on their own, so they go newer which is understandable. My other car is an 05 Freestyle Limited AWD with 337,000 city kms on it and it still works great hauling alround three kids, my wife, and a dog. I have to fix a few things on it such as the Haldex pump on the differential for the AWD (Volvo) system, but really that wasn't too costly. Bought that car in 2009 for a song really and I am trying to see how far it will go. That a thing I like about certain Ford models...you can usually buy them for less and they're really about as reliable as Toyota or Hondas generally, although Ford has made some real lemons as well.
 

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Coincidentally, I just 2 weeks ago bought my first MDX, also a 2005 with 194,000 miles on it, and paid 4500. It was higher than some others on the market, but she had all the maintenance records and that was important for me. Drives flawlessly. I had a 1997 Honda CRV before, so am familiar with the drain and fill, etc. Would have driven that CRV forever except for some black ice caused collision damage.
 
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