These Cars Were Everywhere In The 90s… But You Never See One Now

The 1990s were a great time for cars. Several vehicles became popular from the generation offered back then, and their identity carries throughout several generations. Iconic vehicles even bring big money at auctions with low mileage. It was also an era with interesting styling for American cars, which were slowly getting more unique.

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Not all of these 1990s cars are common nowadays, as many were sent to the scrapyard for many reasons. Others were abused and never saw more than a lifespan of ten years. Regardless, the larger and more critical problems not only make it so that you don’t see them at all, and they’re sadly forgotten.

10 Ford Explorer

Via Motor1

One of the most popular family haulers is the Ford Explorer, and its evolution is quite interesting to see. It was a perfect creation for the suburban family who wanted to avoid a too big vehicle but didn’t want to sacrifice the utility. They sold hundreds of thousands of models each year and exceeded 400,000 by 1996.

Via Car&Driver

However, the Ford Explorer is not known for its durability, specifically with its transmission. The first generation also has cracked heads, but the second generation explorer did start to correct this issue. But the real issue is the automatic transmission, which doesn’t hold up. Rust issues are also not unheard of.

9 Dodge Caravan

Via Consumer Guide Auto

The Dodge Caravan was everywhere in the 1990s. It transported children, it was convenient, got decent fuel economy, and made a lot of sense as purchase. It had the somewhat aggressive looks of a Chrysler vehicle at the time, which certainly gave it some character over other vehicles.

Via Car & Driver

The Caravan was a terrible vehicle for most. It depreciated quickly, and it didn’t take long until it was worthless. But the biggest reason for the depreciation is its unreliability. Transmission failure was premature and common. Often, it would occur even under 100,000 miles. The engine also tended to leak and burn oil.

8 Land Rover Discovery Series II

Via Wikimedia Commons

The Land Rover Discovery was a really fascinating vehicle. It’s not on the top in vehicle sales, but there were certainly quite a few of them around. They were known for being off-road monsters, as a classy competitor to the Jeep Wrangler or Toyota Land Cruiser. They also look incredible and inspire confidence.

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Via AutoExpress

Unfortunately, the Discovery had numerous issues. Cooling issues were common, leading to blown head gaskets. In the late 1990s, failing air suspension and transmission are other issues to consider on the Series II models. These are just the tip of the iceberg, as general expensive servicing costs and poor fuel economy hardly make it a usable vehicle.

7 Ford Windstar

Via Wikimedia Commons

The Ford Windstar is a forgotten minivan altogether, as it was taken out of production fairly quickly. Despite its questionable reputation, it sold heavily at over 200,000 units a year consistently. It could certainly be had cheaply and did its job as a family hauler and looked to compete against the Caravan.

Via MomentCar

However, the Windstar had many issues stemming from transmission failure, blown head gaskets, and some electric issues. The second generation was not great either, as engine and transmission failures were just as common. There’s a solid reason Ford doesn’t make minivans anymore, as the Windstar’s poor reliability couldn’t compete with Japanese rivals.

6 BMW 3 Series


The BMW 3 Series is one of the clearest representations of an aspirational vehicle. They were also quite common in the 1990s for those who had a bit more money and looked for a good balance of luxury, sport, and quality. It signifies BMW’s motto of the ultimate driving machine. Besides the impressive driving dynamics, it also looks incredible with aggressive looks and distinctive body lines.

Via BMW Blog

It’s quite difficult to find an E36 that isn’t worn out with lots of deferred maintenance. Many are not on the road now for this reason, and the low mileage examples are likely collector cars. It does have its issues with the cooling system leading to head gasket problems, but it’s still not as bad as the E46. 

5 Chevrolet Cavalier

Via Carspecs

The Chevrolet Cavalier was a trendy car in the 1990s, with over 200,000 units a year. The second and third-generation models were widespread as commuter cars, as they were fuel-efficient but stylish.

Via Wikimedia Commons

Mechanical issues with the Cavalier are unbelievably common. Head gaskets occur very often, on top of transmission failure, oil leaks, and A/C issues. It’s really a shame because it’s a cheaper car, so all of these issues would have mechanically totaled it. They’re also notoriously unsafe. It’s uncommon to see these on the road nowadays.

4 Chevrolet Lumina

Via Wikimedia Commons

The Chevrolet Lumina was a popular car throughout the 1990s. It was a mid-size offering, and it wasn’t quite special in any way. It was a fuel-efficient option with plenty of room and the character of a GM vehicle. But with over 200,000 vehicles sold each year, it’s hard to argue with its appeal. It also offered the legendary 3800 V6 known for its reliability, but it was among four engine options in the second generation.

Via Wikimedia Commons

Like most GM cars, it depreciated rather quickly. It also had some reliability concerns, like oil leaks, intake gasket failure, and A/C failure in the lower engine options. The 3.8-liter V6 was certainly the best engine available, but even a Lumina equipped with that engine would still depreciate heavily and wouldn’t be worth the trouble.

3 Ford Taurus

Via Wikimedia Commons

The Ford Taurus was a ubiquitous car in the 1990s. There were nearly 400,000 units sold per year and held it for a few years. They certainly had mass appeal for their unique styling that definitely fit Ford’s lineup at the time. It was also a spacious vehicle with smooth ride quality.

Via Wikimedia Commons

The Taurus had many issues, as Ford’s automatic transmission failed frequently. The engine itself was not reliable either, with head gasket issues and cooling problems. Other issues were common, like A/C failure and rattling interior parts.

2 Ford Escort

Via Wikimedia Commons

The Escort is a discontinued and forgotten car from decades ago. Surprisingly it’s also a reliable, small, practical car. It’s especially a good car with a manual transmission for reliability and a bit more driver involvement. It’s also a simple looking car and makes a good commuter as a fuel-efficient and simple option.

Via BestCarMag

The Escort isn’t a common car simply because of its purpose. Economy cars aren’t kept for long as they’re meant to be used as basic transportation, and most owners wish to upgrade to a car with more comfort and features. The Escort was a decent car but ultimately is a cheaply made car.

1 Cadillac de Ville

Via ClassicCars

The Cadillac de Ville had a long history from the 1950s as an American land yacht. It has the classic V8 up front, a massive cabin, smooth ride quality, and comfortable seats. It was a popular choice for most. The styling was certainly fitting as an American luxury vehicle but isn’t for everyone, as it’s styled similar to previous generations.

Via Mecum Auction

The first year of the seventh generation de Ville with the 4.9-liter engine was better than others, but later the 4.6-liter Northstar engine was an absolute disaster. Head gasket failure is not only common but nearly definite. It’s also not an easy job as the engine must be removed to replace it, leading to a costly and catastrophic repair.

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