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Old 02-15-10, 03:10 PM   #1
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CAR PROBLEMS: What would you do

I really need to think this out... I have an old car. I like my old car. It suits my needs plus no car payment, insurance is low, registration low etc. Every year about this time for the last 5 years, I've had to put about $1500 worth of repairs into the car to keep it running but that is still cheaper than a payment etc.

I knew I needed a new clutch (yes it's a stick) but the check engine light came on. I took the car in and just got the call. I can't explain the problem - it was way over my head but bottom line the repairs will be around $2600. The car is only worth $500.

Part of me says do it (less hassles that way). The other part says buy a new car and another says go shop around for a repair shop, maybe the dealer is screwing me. I want to do what makes economic sense. Any suggestions?
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Old 02-15-10, 03:18 PM   #2
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I would get some reccomendations from friends of good mechanics. I would then take my car to one of them and explain your desire to have good, dependable transportation. Ask them the cost to do as thorough of an examination as they can on your car and to let you know of all concerns, and the cost to repair them. Not sure this is possible with the car in in it's current state.

Make your decision then. Sounds like you are on the tipping point though, if annual maintenance is going to start running into the thousands. You can get a lot of car for a $300-400 per month payment.
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Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.
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Old 02-15-10, 03:23 PM   #3
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For a primary vehicle, I wouldn't recommend investing more than the vehicle is worth when the repair is done. That said, there still are a lot of variables that add bias one way or the other.

jsharr's recommendation for a "second opinion" is a good one.
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Old 02-15-10, 03:27 PM   #4
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If you mind our asking... what kind of a car is it?
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 02-15-10, 03:32 PM   #5
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I was just reading in the NYT about a program whereby you can lease a new 4-door Honda Accord for $ 199/month. I wonder if a lease may be a practical alternative.
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Old 02-15-10, 03:36 PM   #6
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If you give me some explanation of the problem, or just start listing words the person on the phone used, we can get an idea as to what the issue is. The miles, make, etc would also help. As for cost, assume that ANY mechanic is going to cost less than the dealer (they call them stealerships for a reason), so ask around for a good mechanic. In my case my car probably has more repairs in it than it's worth, in my case it's that many more things that I don't have to worry about breaking. In case you know anyone mechanically inclined who so much as owns a socket set, a clutch can be changed in a front wheel drive car for around $250 in tools, and $100-200 in parts. That assumes that you can borrow a torque wrench and jack/stands. In my case the local auto parts store loans torque wrenches for free.

Edit: +1 for manual transmissions.
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Old 02-15-10, 03:37 PM   #7
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A lease is really just an expensive rental. Good for manufacturing equipment, bad for cars. jmho.

Pam, what is the year and model, and what is the alleged repair? Gotta be careful with CEL diagnosis, some techs aren't so good at those and it hurts right in the wallet.

You might want to consider looking around for something used like waht you have, but 5 years newer. If you're patient and do your homework, buying used is the best bang-for-buck.
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Old 02-15-10, 03:39 PM   #8
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A lease is really just an expensive rental. Good for manufacturing equipment, bad for cars. jmho.

Pam, what is the year and model, and what is the alleged repair? Gotta be careful with CEL diagnosis, some techs aren't so good at those and it hurts right in the wallet.

You might want to consider looking around for something used like what you have, but 5 years newer. If you're patient and do your homework, buying used is the best bang-for-buck.
+1 on all of the above.
Also, if you can get us some info on the CEL, even a code number and vehicle we can start tracking down the issue.
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Old 02-15-10, 03:43 PM   #9
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If you mind our asking... what kind of a car is it?
1997 Ford Explorer Sport 2WD manual trans. 150,000+ miles. It has been a good little car. It is still running smooth although the clutch is worn out. I didnt understand the problem and will be going back there tonight with my gear head friend to have it explained further. My friend also suggested taking it someplace else. The problem had something to do with a nuzzle sensor, fuel, something. My head started to explode when the Service Guy told me the price.

If there is no guarantee by car will be good for another two years, I'll probably consider something new(er), definitely used. 50K miles or less. It just I have no idea what I want - I hadn't planned on buying a car. I would love the same thing but these cars are really hard to find. Ford messed up when they stopped making htem.
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Old 02-15-10, 03:47 PM   #10
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Can you get the details of the repair, or even just what area of the truck?
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Old 02-15-10, 03:47 PM   #11
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Yes, the advice about the check engine light is spot on. My CEL came on and I immediately went to the dealer. After a $100 diagnosis I'm told the top O2 sensor is bad. Rare in this car but bad nevertheless. I noticed it only came on when it rained. I start thinking it may be a bad wiring connection at the sensor. I disconnect the shovel connectors at the sensor and reconnect them a couple of times. Two months now and quite a few rainy days and no more CEL.

Get a second opinion anyway.
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Old 02-15-10, 03:54 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by Pamestique View Post
I really need to think this out... I have an old car. I like my old car. It suits my needs plus no car payment, insurance is low, registration low etc. Every year about this time for the last 5 years, I've had to put about $1500 worth of repairs into the car to keep it running but that is still cheaper than a payment etc.

I knew I needed a new clutch (yes it's a stick) but the check engine light came on. I took the car in and just got the call. I can't explain the problem - it was way over my head but bottom line the repairs will be around $2600. The car is only worth $500.

Part of me says do it (less hassles that way). The other part says buy a new car and another says go shop around for a repair shop, maybe the dealer is screwing me. I want to do what makes economic sense. Any suggestions?

If you got the price from an actual "Dealer" the above highlighted sentence is def the case.
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Old 02-15-10, 04:07 PM   #13
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OK, let's do the math here: $1500/year for 5 years, plus the current $2600 bill. That's $10,100. Next year, it'll be $11,600.

That's a lot of repairs for a car that old. You can get into a new car with anywhere from a 3/36 warranty to a 10/100,000 warranty for mid to high teens.

I'd say it's time to ditch it and get something new. Lots of financing incentives out there on some cars these days. Do some research and see what you can turn up?
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Old 02-15-10, 04:18 PM   #14
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Pam,

I used to drop off a Ford Ranger with instructions of "fix everything" for years, until it hit 260,000 and I figured it was time for something new. (I wanted a Wrangler ) But, there are times in the life of a vehicle when a lot of things die. Usually multiples of 75K, or so it always seemed to me.

I would definitely get a second opinion on the repairs, and before I would dump that kind of money into a vehicle that old, I would want to know the compression of the cylinders, etc.

Also realize the dealer will use new parts, used or reconditioned might be available.
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Old 02-15-10, 04:23 PM   #15
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A sensor should be cheaper than $2600 to fix, no?

Find a decent mechanic who can do it for cheaper.

Your $1500 figure sounds like the number that dealerships like to push costs up to, IME--- something less than a down payment-- so that old car owners will say "ok, go ahead." I had a volvo dealer do this to me a few years ago on an '89 wagon. No way did it need $1500 worth of repairs.
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Old 02-15-10, 04:53 PM   #16
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Pam, do they have an Angie's List for your area?

http://www.angieslist.com/angieslist/

Might be a decent way to find a mechanic with good reviews if your friends/coworkers cannot reccomend one.
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Phobias are for irrational fears. Fear of junk ripping badgers is perfectly rational. Those things are nasty.
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Old 02-15-10, 05:11 PM   #17
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Since it's not some kind of exotic, you should be able to find a non-dealer mechanic to fix it for a much more reasonable price. However it is on the tipping point. If you think you might want to spoil yourself and get something newer, go for it. My Hyundai Elantra is a little over 50k miles and it still has a new car feel to it. Heck, my wife's Taurus has about 130k and it's still running fine. I'll bet you can get a pretty good used car for not a whole lot of money.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 02-15-10, 05:30 PM   #18
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You all have no idea how I appreciate your advice... car engines aren't my expertise!

I called the dealer and told them to hold off any work. I want to meet with them to truly understand what needs to be done and if possible negotiate a better deal. Afterall I have been a good customer for them for the last few years. BTW that's about $900 for the clutch and $1700 for whatever the other thing was. My friend say a clutch should be doable for 5 - 600.

If that is not possible, I have the name of a good mechanic. I will be going there to see what they can do and what they believe needs to be fixed.

Last resort... I have thinking of a new car - not a crazy money vehicle - something practicle and reasonable - a Kia Sedona. I just need something that will carry bikes. I can get the base model (if I can find it anywhere) for about $23,000 out the door. I have some money to put down on it. My payment will be about $350 (=gulp=) a month. Other than that nothing else appeals to me - no where in this economy am I going to pay more than that for a car!!!
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Old 02-15-10, 05:36 PM   #19
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I smell a Ford dealer rip here. I'd also recommend a 2nd opinion. But if it does need that much work and expense, I'd sell it and get something newer. Find a well maintained Honda CRV if you like the SUV set-up. You'll get 20 MPG and it won't need $1500 in repairs a year, it will be more like $150 a year for oil changes.

Example: http://santabarbara.craigslist.org/cto/1588986814.html

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Old 02-15-10, 05:45 PM   #20
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Get a motorcycle? You can easily get a good used Honda that requires a minimum of maintenance for under $3000
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Old 02-15-10, 05:57 PM   #21
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if the check engine light is ONLY for the O2 sensor, I'd say ignore it. I ignored the one on my subie for about 310,000 miles.

on the replacement car front - you can get a slightly used subaru with 100,000 miles on it & know it will last another 250,000 miles with regular oil changes for alot less than a Kia Sedona. Or, check out the Honda Fit Sport. Top of the line, fully equipped, 35 mpg - less than $20,000. You can fit a couple of bikes in it. You can fit a kayak in it.
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Old 02-15-10, 06:53 PM   #22
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Pam - if you're looking in that range, you should look at the Chevrolet Equinox. Chevy's quality ratings have come way up, it gets 32 MPG on the highway and it's comfortable. We looked at it and almost bought one for my wife before deciding to go in a different direction (sedan).

Just another option... or potential bargaining chip in the purchasing process.
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Old 02-15-10, 07:32 PM   #23
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Just for the heck of it, when you're at the Kia dealer, look at the Kia Soul. Small & boxy but not as ugly as the Scion xB. If I were to buy a new vehicle right this minute without further investigation, that would be pretty much the top of the list. I'm not quite sure how big it will be for carrying bikes, but it is boxy and kinda cool lookin'.
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Originally Posted by bragi "However, it's never a good idea to overgeneralize."
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Old 02-15-10, 07:48 PM   #24
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As always, late to the party.

Take your vehicle to AutoZone, O'Reilly's, Advanced Auto, NAPA... just about any auto parts store can hook up a code reader for free.

-Depending how long you can live without your truck, find a Vo-Tech school with an Automotive Repair program. Should be cheaper than an independent shop and will be cheaper than the dealer.
-Odds are the quality of work between the Vo-Tech and the dealer's own Service will be a wash, as a lot of the Vo-Tech students intern at the dealerships.
-The dealer will go by manufacturer recommended parts and service intervals "for optimum performance"- which is another way that the dealer and manufacturer can pad their pockets. You don't have to change your oil every 3k, 5k will work just fine.
-Dealerships make the most profit off of Servicing and the Finance Packages they sell to their customers.
-If you decide to buy another, and it looks like you're wanting to find something that sits up a little higher than a car does, you might see if you can find a Dodge Grand Caravan with the Stow-n-Go seating. Both the middle and rear seats fold flat into the floor.
-And if you do end up buying, go through your local bank/credit union. You'll get better rates, and your payments would be going back into your local communities economy (hopefully).

Sorry to ramble, but I've got something to deal with myself, and your input on that subject did help put things into perspective. Thanks!
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Old 02-15-10, 08:31 PM   #25
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You should get more than $500 for a explorer with 150k, even with clutch issues...I have been stalking craigslist near me for somethign like that and people are asking a good amount. Taking into account the issues I would expect at least 1000 start asking at 15.

Used minivans (if you go the sedona route) also seem to be quite cheap, they have had some sort of fall out and there is next to no secondary market for them. Even as a 25 year old guy I considered getting on because of the value they can present used.

but check out the options...

here is a title hassle but for 5500 you could get an 03 with 80k miles of your same car.
http://losangeles.craigslist.org/sfv...602679098.html

others of interest
http://losangeles.craigslist.org/sfv...602605664.html
http://losangeles.craigslist.org/wst...602654980.html

I would not go new, but I would not pay more than the worth of the car. I vowed something along the lines of "if i can't fix it I don't need it fixed" of course I am coming up on a year without a car, so it didn't work out all that well.
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