It sounds like you're talking about wear and tear items, especially if you talk about a truck with 150K miles. Ford has really stepped up their game since about 2005. Meh, any vehicle has its problems. One that's 20 years old with that many miles is hard to use as evidence to say you won't buy from Ford ever again.
We are not talking about what Ford is producing in 2014, but what they produced 20 years ago back in 1994. That was a disaster, and the car that I'm talking about wasn't 20 years old when we bought it second hand in 97/98. That was a 50K miles car that already had been in for repairs several times.
Most of these things I'm describing happened before the car had 100K miles on it. The car literately fell apart a couple of years after we bought it. I've never had a car that was THAT unreliable, and we sold it off for a couple of hundred after the engine failed completely. And that was the year after spending over 2K on a new rebuilt transmission.
And the stories I've heard are that these cars generally are very poor. The US auto industry made a lot of very poor products before; I guess they are better now. But it's important to remember so Ford and the other US manufacturers don't revert back to their old sins.
I've had other Ford products that were on the other scale, quality wise. Like the LTD Crown Vic that was in our family for almost 15 years, doing well over 200K before anything broke on this car. This was sold when the gas prices went through the roof; not because anything was wrong with it. Same engine, and the trans shifted solid. It's a mystery that these cars are produced by the same company... one built like a tank and the other built like a heap of tin foil.
I had a couple Tauruses that were new company cars. I never had any issues with mine, and we typically kept them to 60000 miles. Later Crown Vic's with V8s vs the 6, and they were even better. But I imagine 20 years later with far higher mileage, it's a matter of age and use. If you condemn a brand or model, take that into account. If you had a new 1994 for 2 years, it's likely the reliability may be equivalent to a 2014 that you will turn in time to a 2016. It's interesting though to read ones that buy over 20 years old now with over 100k on here. Especially old luxury cars. Then they get a 5k repair and can't afford to drove it. I would rather put my money in a new Civic, and the odds are it is a better buy. Even buying an old Taurus, it's proven to be a costly mechanical move as well.
Only very few 20 year old cars are relevant. The Taurus is not one of them, and there are few of them around after all these years, even though it IS possible that some low mileage examples have survived. My point is that if you come across one of them, run the other way. Maybe they were OK the first 2-3 years, but these cars fell apart after 5-6 years and I can't even imagine how it would be to run one of these cars when they are 15-20 years old. This generation of Taurus were poorly engineered and poorly put together, and will never be a cheap runabout.
It's crucial to understand this. Many say that all old cars are expensive and difficult to keep on the road, and that your money should be spent on new cars. It's not so. There are some full size US cars like the Crown Vic from Ford, the Caprice Classic from GM, as well as some older Japanese cars that seem to never die, even with high mileage and little maintenance. I've known people that have virtually free transport buying a Civic for 2-3K and driving it for 5 years with little hassle and low gas bills.
If you are after cheap transportation, do NOT buy a old Taurus even if advertised for maybe $500. What you'll see is that the previous owner either has put much money into it (and finally giving up...) or the car will have a series of imminent problems.
That's actually not true. If you can pick up a car for $500 that someone has just put a ton of work and money into, that's a good car to buy. All that means is that someone else got stuck with the repair bills, which is unfortunate for him, but fortunate for you.
I actually saved a ton of money buying low mileage late models that were hit in accidents, and for whatever reason were not fixed. I avoided frontal hits. Not the prettiest, but if the frame is not affected, it's cheap. You can also use a bad Carfax to beat a price down on a private owned sellers car. I had a couple with reconstructed titles, which if you keep it, it's not such an issue.
My best Taurus was a 95 model with a damaged door hit in 1998.
Good advice, generally, for the impecunious motorist. However, the ultimate cheap-motoring car of all time - between very cheap to buy used, quite good fuel economy, and great durability/reliability was not in fact a full-sized car (though those are excellent), and certainly not a Japanese car. It was the Buick Century/Olds Ciera of the late 80s-early 90s.
We used to use those old Buick Centuries as taxi-cabs, back in the late 90s/early 2000s, and they were unbelievable. We had one '88 or '89 Taurus in service, and the thing was in the shop more than on the road - really a nightmare. The taxi company boss at the time became maniacally anti-Ford due to that car.
The only cars we ever had that came close to the Century/Ciera in profitability over time were the Plymouth Acclaims.
Even if the previous owner has poured tons of money into the vehicle, it doesn't mean that you as a new owner will or won't do the same. The exception is of course sturdy examples that have had various wear and tear replacements done to them, i.e. car models that are known to be long lasting (and the Taurus is NOT one of those).
BUT: On this generation Taurus, basically anything can break. You can replace the head gasket, and guess what, one year later you will have to do it again.
The Century/Ciera was pretty solid once the engine choices were the Pontiac Iron Duke 2.5 I4 and the 3.3 Buick V6 (read: 1989-1993).
I worked at a Buick dealer during that timeframe, and the Centuries were the most reliable/durable cars. The 2.2 and 3.1 Chevy engines were more prone to gasket issues, and the 3.8 Buick that preceded it had drivability issues. The 2.8 Chevy MPI V6 didn't like its head gaskets, and its carbureted predecessor had both carburetor problems and a propensity to spin rod bearings (fixed in 1987). The 3.0 Buick carbureted V6 from 1982-1985 was the worst. Like other Buicks from that period, the bottom ends were prone to spinning rod bearings, and they had no power.