Factors to Watch Out for When Buying Hummer Used Cars
Once largely the domain of the U.S. military, the utilitarian vehicle known as the Humvee went commercial in 1992 when AM General decided to make a commercial version of their most well-known military vehicle. Some 20 years later, Hummers are no longer produced, so if you intend to buy one used understand you’re purchasing a vehicle that is no longer supported by an automotive company. If that doesn’t bother you, Hummers are great if for no other reason than the fact that they’re tough.
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In the 18 years Hummers were produced, AM General and General Motors combined to produce three models: the H1, H2, and H3. Their size, utilitarian nature, and price tag ($50,000-$150,000) limited their appeal to the extent that only 200 to 300 vehicles were sold annually. That meant dealers were struggling to find enough buyers to make the venture worthwhile. When the recession hit in 2008 it all but finished off Hummer; GM tried to sell the nameplate to a Chinese company but, as the Los Angeles Times reported, that deal fell through.
Advantages of the Hummer
When AM General first decided to bring the Hummer to the consumer market, the United States was fresh off an easy victory in the first Gulf War. The 24-hour news channels chronicled just about every detail of the war, bringing military vehicles like the Humvee into the mainstream.
AM General wanted to capitalize on the fact that America’s attention was riveted on all things military. Thus, the commercial Humvee was born, tailored to an American public looking for big, tough-looking vehicles that would rule the road.
There’s no doubt that the Humvee and its commercial cousin are as tough as they come. That’s one of the advantages of owning a Hummer. Even buying a used one that’s already 15 years old is not all that risky considering they are built to withstand the toughest punishment for decades.
As long as a used Hummer has been maintained and is still in good working order, it is generally not considered a risky buy. You do have to worry about price, however.
For example, Kelley Blue Book values a 2001 hard top H1, in excellent condition and with 100,000 miles, at $37,865. There are times when these vehicles are over-priced by private owners because they may have spent two to three times as much to purchase the vehicle new and they can’t bring themselves to part with it at such a loss. You should always check Kelley Blue Book or NADA values before purchasing a used Hummer.
Watch the Front End
According to Flash off-Road, the biggest mechanical problem with the Hummer is the front end. They reason that the original Humvee was designed to be driven off-road at slow speeds–not on the highway at high speeds. Constant highway driving at high speeds wears on some of the major components of the front and causes the original parts to wear out quickly. The website recommends that you check a used Hummer for its steering, pitman and idler arms, and bent wheels.
Flash off-Road further says that if the original parts are still installed they will probably need to be replaced on a used vehicle that’s more than a couple of years old. If they’ve already been replaced, and high-quality aftermarket parts were used, you should have nothing to worry about. They caution that poor-quality tires could make any potential problems with the front end worse.
Hummer’s High Maintenance
When you’re buying a used Hummer, you also need to keep in mind that these are very high-maintenance vehicles.
Remember that they were originally designed for the U.S. military, an organization that routinely does maintenance work on its vehicles to keep them in top-notch condition. There are few components built into a Hummer that mitigate the need for routine maintenance, unlike most typical family sedans. This means that, if you’re purchasing a used Hummer on which the owner performed little maintenance, you may be buying a money pit.
For example, today’s vehicles can go between 5,000 and 7,000 miles without an oil change. If you were to drive the typical Hummer every day at highway speeds, you couldn’t get away with that much time between oil changes. Doing so would cause a severe breakdown of oil, to the point that it would no longer be reliable for your engine. Brakes are another issue that has to be dealt with regularly, given the size and weight of these vehicles.
Air Conditioning Issues
Air conditioning is a concern with earlier Hummer models, given the fact that the ’92 and ’93 H1s utilized R-12 units that are now illegal. Also known as “Freon,” R-12 was banned for use in new vehicles in 1995, thanks to America’s signing on with the Montréal Protocol. According to the EPA, this international agreement was put in place to protect the world from ozone depletion caused by chemical substances like Freon. Automobile air conditioners have never blown as cold since.
Knowing that, be advised that the original air conditioning units in one of those earlier Hummers will still require R-12 as long as there are no leaks. Though it’s not technically impossible for you to recharge the unit yourself, the government has made it nearly so by requiring you to be a certified mechanic and pass a written examination to be certified in R-12 refrigerant replacement. Since most of us are not qualified to do so, you’ll end up paying a repair shop to do it for you. Naturally, this will cost more than the same job performed on a modern air-conditioning system.
If your R-12 unit does have leaks, it will most likely need to be replaced. It’s possible to fix one of these old units but it’s not very practical.
When you buy a used Hummer from ’92 or ’93, be prepared to deal with air-conditioning issues.
Gas Tank Modifications
All Hummers built prior to 1996 have only one gas tank; the gasoline version is 23 gallons while the diesel is 25. The problem is that Hummers typically only get 7 to 11 miles per gallon. Having to stop at the gas station so frequently is annoying to a lot of consumers, so some do-it-yourselfers took it upon themselves to install an auxiliary gas tank near the rear bumper. If you’re purchasing a used Hummer, and the owner tells you he installed a second gas tank, you MUST get underneath and verify the location of the tank.
Because gasoline is so volatile, it is against the law to mount a secondary gas tank anywhere outside of vehicle’s frame rails (check out Lynch Hummer in St. Louis to see what the chassis of a typical Hummer looks like). If a Hummer owner has done so, and you purchase the vehicle as it is, any insurance claims that result from that gas tank will not be covered by your insurance company. Furthermore, you could be held criminally liable if an explosion from that gas tank were to injure or kill someone.
Along those same lines, 2009 H3s were recalled by General Motors to fix a condition in which front support straps for the fuel tank could fracture. If they did, it would leave the fuel tank supported only by the rear straps and the debris shield. The tank could potentially shear off or be prone to complete detachment in a rear-end accident. You can see details of the recall here. Make sure before you purchase any used 2009 Hummer that this issue has been corrected.
Wheels and Tires
As briefly discussed earlier, wheels and tires are a big issue with Hummers.
Some people even suggest that this is the biggest expense for those who purchase used Hummers because they don’t understand how these vehicles were built.
There are only two types of aftermarket wheels and tires suitable to carry the vehicle’s weight and work properly with its steering and suspension. GT/Cepak wheels and tires are the preferred ones among seasoned Hummer owners because they are still being made and meet all manufacturer specifications.
AM General also still makes wheels, but no tires. Goodyear was making tires for the AM General wheels, but it appears as though that may no longer be the case. You would have to check with your Goodyear dealer to see what he carries.
Knockoffs from any other manufacturers are not advised.
Using wheels and tires from any other manufacturers could result in a change in steering performance and damage to the vehicle’s front end.
Hummers are tough vehicles built to last longer than almost anything on the road. If you have the money, and you’re willing to invest the time and resources in proper upkeep, a used Hummer will do right by you.
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