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To Fix Up or Trade Up, That is the Question

Folks,

 

I need your advice. I have an 89 Reliant, 4 dr. with the 2.5 Litre engine and A/C (no other options). I bought this car 16 months ago with 114,000 km. I put on 225 km/day commuting to work and back so today it has 163,000 km on it. Today, the alternator died on it. Aside from a set of tires, this is the only major problem I've had with it.

 

It is due for a tuneup for sure and possibly some other major maintenance. I've been getting around 28-29 miles per imperial gallon. Due to the amount of driving I'm doing I'm considering trading the K car off on something that gets better mileage.

 

My question is, should I be wary about things going wrong with the K car and look to trade up to something more reliable and better on gas or should I just spend some cash on a tuneup and other items to bring it up to par?

 

If the answer is to fix up the K car, what items should I have the mechanics check out knowing that I've done nothing to it and don't know the history of it's first 114,000 km?

 

If the answer is to trade up, what would one recommend for high reliability and fuel economy based on 225km/day of driving? Note that I only have about CAD$3000 to play with and can't afford to buy or lease anything new.

 

Thanks in advance for your opinions,

 

Larry Jorgenson

Humboldt, SK, Canada
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Comments

  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,692
    I don't think I'd trade a known vehicle for an unknown one, especially in the price range you are shopping in.

     

    You should look at repair and maintenance costs in relation to monthly car payments on a new car. Can you fix this old car up for say the equivalent of $100 a month? Well if you can, then you won't finance a new or nearly new car for anything near that, and buying a cheap used car might easily result in $100 a month bills anyway.

     

    I'd say that unless there is something really dreadful wrong with your car, I'd fix it up.

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  • wtd44wtd44 Posts: 1,211
    And I agree. The math seems to say you have a very good deal going with what you have, versus the alternative you outlined. Run the K car until it is well worn out, then go for the "trade up." I personally have had great luck with (preDaimler) Chrysler vehicles. I have not yet owned any of their vehicles built since the merger.
  • div2div2 Posts: 2,580
    It's almost always cheaper to repair the car that you currently own. Most people just want a new/different car and they will use a couple of expensive repairs as the economic justification for trading. I usually buy a 2-3 year old vehicle and put 150000 miles or more on it before I sell it.
  • marmommarmom Posts: 2
    I need some advice. I have a 2003 Acura MDX that has a crease in the liftgate and a scratch on the bumper. The body shop estimate is $600 to fix. I will be purchasing a new vehicle(not another Acura) soon and trading the MDX in. Should I fix the back end or trade it in as is? Thanks.
  • driftracerdriftracer Posts: 2,692
    for several reasons. If it's traded/evaluated with the dent in place, you have to understand that used car managers are not body shop managers, and don't estimate down to the penny. They may decide that what you have an estimate for of $600 is actually a $1600 hit.

     

    Driving up with a damaged vehicle also prompts going over the vehicle with a fine tooth comb. That little ding or scratch that wouldn't have been noticed on a normal walk-around gets seen and there's a few more hundred dollars lost.

     

    Having "curb appeal" is priceless. Get the dent fixed, get the vehicle detailed, and drive up with a clear conscience and a beautiful rig - a quick walk-around, and you'll get all the money for the rig that you deserve.
  • marmommarmom Posts: 2
    Thanks so much for the advice. I will do that.
  • driftracerdriftracer Posts: 2,692
    long story short, but in reality, that $600 dent could cost you $2k at trade-in...
  • I've had my 93 SL1 (and associated headache) for a year now. The week after I bought it, something happened and the car was overheating ... extremely. Since the sales lot I bought the car from mysteriously vanished (the entire lot!), I took it to a Saturn dealer.

     

    The dealer replaced the water pump or a sensor or something - can't remember now - total bill $650. When I started up the car on the Saturn lot, the car was shaking vilontely (had not done this before). I shut it down and walked back inside.

     

    The informed me that my timing chain had skipped (funny they didn't notice it when they had my car in pieces). So they wanted another $1,000 to fix that). Total bill now $1,650.

     

    I came back a few days later and started my car again which now puttered (evidently to a bent valve). They said that it would cost another $950 to replace the valve. I was now completley out of my savings. So they said that it would be ok to drive the car as long as I didn't mind the puttering at an idle.

     

    On the way home I realized that my accelerator now had a point after an inch or so of being pressed down where it became stiff. I figured out I could push harder to get past the point I needed to be able to merge into traffic without being run over, but that the power I had when I first drove the car was now about half. I took it back to the dealer (3rd time in one week) who said that I had a bad throttle box (of course I don't even know what these parts are). They wanted another $900 to fix that (funny how every repair is $900!!).

     

    I figured I'd tough it out until I could afford to have it repaired. Until about another week goes by and the alternator goes out. A friend of mine knew how to replace the alternator so he did. I can afford free :)

     

    But now as I'm driving down the road the headlights (and dash lights) just sporadically dim out for a second or so and sometimes the car nearly stalls just idling. My friend doesn't know what the problem is. The alternator was a new part.

     

    So now, I have a bent valve, dimming headlights, sticky accelator, sometimes have to jiggle the battery cable to start it, and on top of it all it seems to burn oil quickly.

     

    Here's my question. Am I just a glutton for punishment hanging on to this car, or is it worth saving up the money to fix all these problems? And are these problems normal on a car this old with 146,000 miles? Do I keep the car or get rid of it like a hot potatoe?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,692
    Given the car's resale value and mileage, and given that you have no used car lot anymore to sue for being ripped off to begin with, I would definitely pull the rip cord, take the painful hit and put your money into something worthwhile.

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  • wtd44wtd44 Posts: 1,211
    So much money wasted-- what a shame. I vote with Mr. Shiftright.
  • I would drive it until the engine blows without putting anymore money into it. or sell it asap. I had bad luck like you did. I bought a 138k/10 yr corolla for $2k. I junked it after the head gasket blew and got a reliable car. It needed alot of work!
  • wtd44wtd44 Posts: 1,211
    High mileage vehicles are like time bombs waiting to go off...
  • armtdmarmtdm Posts: 2,057
    Not so if maintained rasonably well. todays engines can easily go 150,000-250,000 miles with decent maint. A new tranny, front end etc, is always less expensive then the depreciation hit when that new car leaves the lot. I have three over 100,000 now and doing well and all are safe and realiable cars to drive anywhere.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,692
    I think wdt44's point was not to contend that some engines do in fact go 250K, but rather this: that after a certain point, a high mileage vehicle is subject to sudden and unpredictable disaster. The statistics suggest this is true, just look at the odometers in any wrecking yard, on cars that were not in collisions. Some bad and sudden thing brought them there.

    For this reason, I like to advise people to pay very very little for cars with over 200K on them, as their lifespan could be measured in days....or months...or years...nobody knows what's going on in there. Engineers never planned for engines to go that far.

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  • wtd44wtd44 Posts: 1,211
    Right on! I can't imagine that I would ever buy a car that had over 200K on it. In fact, I would walk away from the vast majority of cars with 100K. Only desperation would get me into that position. I like 'em new or near new. During the last quarter of the first 100K of my own miles, I start looking to move on. I don't recommend this avenue to anyone, rather I am just reporting that this is the way I go about it.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,692
    I'd say about 175K on a modern car or thereafter, it could drop dead any minute and, in terms of market value, is essentially worthless except as a high risk beater. I'd certainly pay well below wholesale book, even for a well maintained car.

    Think of it as if you were buying a 40 year old pitcher for your baseball team. His arm could be gone in one pitch.

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  • driftracerdriftracer Posts: 2,692
    Dude, you need to contact the hosts to have them delete your post - they don't do the cursing thing here on Edmunds...
  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,880
    They should delete the poster as well.
  • crankshaftcrankshaft Posts: 105
    Several months ago my 91 cougar with 3.8L(84k)blew its head gasket.The #3 cylinder received a good dose of coolant.The engine did not seize or overheat.The body is in very good condition,many new parts were installed prior to the disaster.I do not know whether is is a good investment to fix this thirteen year old vehicle or sell it for parts.These engines are known for doing this and I fear it would happen down the road again.I would appreciate any feedback.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,692
    The car has such little value, it would be difficult to justify---unless all else is perfect and the miles aren't too high. But the cost of repair will exceed the value of the car. Probably you could just go out and buy another '91 cougar in nice shape for less. I'd say don't do it unless you do all the work yourself and you need "garage therapy".

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  • isellhondasisellhondas Issaquah WashingtonPosts: 17,880
    Some cars are "one major event" from being basically totalled.
  • wtd44wtd44 Posts: 1,211
    You might even consider a junkyard engine swap, but as Mr. Shiftright says, you gotta need garage therapy to stand it. You mentioned parting it out-- would you do that yourself, or were you referring to selling the unit to a wrecking yard?
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,692
    It really has so little value. A wrecking yard might take it for free but wouldn't give you anything...well, maybe if you drove it there, $35 or something.

    parting it out doesn't make sense, either. What are you going to do with a partial car in your driveway?

    So to be realistic about it, you either have to fix it yourself or give it to a kid or something to fix up.

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  • crankshaftcrankshaft Posts: 105
    thanks for the input.i can do some repairs but engine swaps and head gaskets are a little too much for me.bad thing is i had month old tires on it when it quit.i am going to put it up for sale,cheap.hopefully,someone with the skills and patience might find it worthwhile.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,692
    there you go. That is a sensible approach I think given the value of the car and the severity of the problem. You never know what you're going to find when you open an engine.

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  • wtd44wtd44 Posts: 1,211
    Why not sell the nearly new tires at a reduced price, and the deal is the buyer must also take the car they are on! Uuuuuuuuuuh... just a... thought.
  • crankshaftcrankshaft Posts: 105
    like if you use your supermarket card,buy four slightly used tires get car free(after rebate???)
  • wtd44wtd44 Posts: 1,211
    That's it!
  • vs001vs001 Posts: 3
    I have a fully loaded 2001 eclipse GT with only 30000 miles that I have babied for the past 4 years. Got hit badly by a hailstorm that also picked up some gravel and stones. The front windshield was cracked and the sunroof and rear windshield were smashed to bits. Some water also entered the car and wet the carpet (didn't see too much water on the dashboard).

    When I drove for a short distance, i smelled something burning and the speakers started making a hissing sound and then loud creaking noises. I immediately pulled over and turned off the car. The hissing/creaking from the speakers continued although key was removed from ignition.

    Got the car towed to a body shop where an adjuster looked at it after 2 days and said it might be totaled. The battery has been disconnected to stop speakers from making sounds. My guess is that the amplifier is shorted, but i don't know if there are bigger problems. The radio does not turn on but the speakers make noise anyway (if the battery is connected).

    The car is in excellent shape mechanically and I would like to know what is the best course of action if the appraiser's estimate is close to 80% of Actual Cash Value.

    1. I could argue that they repair it. Would they be required to pay for further damages within the next few months if there is further damage to sensors etc?

    2. Take the money they offer and buy a new/ slightly used car. Nada guide has the car at 14,100. KBB has it at 13000 (accounting for leather, sunroof, alloy, in dash cd changer etc)

    3. Take the ACV less Salavage value and keep the car. Get the glasses fixed (about 2000$), amplifier replaced (about 500$ plus labor) and ignore the little dents on the body which I am told pop out in the Texas heat. If i do take this option, is there some way I can get the electrical system examined to check for possible damage to other sensors (body shops in the Austin area don't seem to have much experience with electrical systems and the only dealer is 30 miles away and I don't know if i should be driving there)? Would you recommend disconnecting the fuse for the amplifier circuit and driving the car short distances to get estimates?


    If anyone has knowledge of Eclipse, do you know if there are important sensors under the seat/ on the floor?
    Also, if the car were totaled due to hail damage, do you know how it would show up on on title searches such as carfax? i.e. would i be doomed if trying to sell the car in a couple of years?

    Any help would be much appreciated. Thanks.
  • Mr_ShiftrightMr_Shiftright CaliforniaPosts: 45,692
    I think if you are satisfied with the settlement check you should bail out on this car for any number of reasons, the biggest one being that with a salvage title and hail damage you cannot presume anywhere NEAR book value. So you would be investing in a severly depreciated asset and yes, there would be great difficulty in selling it.

    Given what you describe, I can't see how it wouldn't be totalled. Flood damage is almost always an automatic total these days.

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