Fix the car or junk it?

Avatar for poorboy2011
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-02-2011
Fix the car or junk it?
Mon, 04-22-2013 - 5:18pm

As some of you may recall, my car hasn't been in the best shape. I got it for free from family (it's a 2001 SUV, and that model doesn't have the reputation for reliability). They had to put in a thousand dollars in repairs every few years, and so it seemed like the car would be OK for me. I could drive it for a few years, and at worst I'd be out a thousand, right? Then I can sell the car when I'm ready to move on to something else.

It didn't work out to be the case. Over the last 2.5 years, I've had to send the car to the shop for 12 times, and I've put in about $3,800 in repairs. That's not counting the repairs I needed from an accident ($1,900). The current Blue Book value of the car is around $3,900. So I was thinking, no more repairs! No sense in paying more in repairs than the worth of the car.

I just need a car to take me around town -- shopping, work, dentist trips, etc. Since I will relocate by July, 2014, it seems like I just need the car to last another year.

Today I took the car in for some stuff to be checked out, and they spotted some immediate safety issues. Repairing them would cost $560. There are some additional problems that could cost another $400 to fix, but they are not immediate. So I'm not sure what to do -- fix it or junk it?

Reasons for fixing it

-- I need transportation, and it's way, way more convenient with a car. I can go to the gym whenever I want. I can go to the doctor more easily (without calling and waiting for a taxi). 

-- Maybe $560 will be the last time I have to put in any major money into the car???

-- If I want to sell the car, I should get the safety issues taken care of first. It sounds like the repair shop is worried that a part of the car might break at any moment, and that will cause an accident.

Reasons against fixing it

-- The car may just keep breaking down. It looks like I am paying about $1000 per year in repairs. 

-- I can get by on public transportation. It won't be fun. It will be time-consuming (a ten-minute trip to the doctors could take 40 minutes, and my work commute will be 45 minutes instead of 15.) I'll have to limit a lot of my activities (i.e., not doing a whole lot). In other words, it's a carless life. But I did it for years.

-- It's cheaper not to own a car. No more repairs, gas, parking, insurance. I'll be able to save on the repair cost in addition. I'm estimating a saving of $2,600.

-- Even if I go with the minimal repair, I'll need to take the car in once a month to rotate the tires if I don't want to take care of the less immediate issues. I think that's going to cost something.

I've aksed the repair shop to take a look at the car overall and see whether they expect problems to develop over the next year. But when I've asked for that sort of advice before, they always tell me they think the car should be OK, but there are no guarantees. (Of course it's against their interest to say, yeah, you're going to face major repairs, so just junk the car.)

Avatar for poorboy2011
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-02-2011
Tue, 04-23-2013 - 9:07pm

Thanks for the feedback. I'm touched to see that people have my happiness in mind! Hugs for everybody.

I'm planning to take my car to a retired mechanic for a second opinion -- someone who doesn't have an interest in having me as a repeat customer. If the car is worth saving, I'd probably do the repair. If not, I'm not sure I should keep throwing good money after bad. Maybe with the second opinion I'll be able to make a better decision.

Another thing I realized is that even at $1,000 per year, that's still cheaper than getting another car -- in the short term anyway.

When I lived in big cities, I was pretty happy with public transportation. In this small town, I have lived for a few years without a car, and it was limiting. I couldn't do as much because getting to places just took so much longer, and some things I couldn't do at all. The cab is actually relatively affordable, and the service has improved. Before we had an angry dispatcher who yelled at the passengers, but no more (I hope). The airport shuttle isn't expensive either. For a while we had a driver who picked up girls off the street, flirted with them, gave them rides, WHILE ALL THE PAYING PASSENGERS STARED IN DISBELIEF, WONDERING WHETHER THEY'LL MAKE THEIR FLIGHT. The thing that irks me most is encountering people who don't behave in public, but I have a thick skin. Overwhelming self-pity, on the other hand, is harder to defend against.

It's nice to think about meeting someone on the bus. The only trouble is that they're almost all students, and I'm a professor. So one time these sorority girls asked me if I wanted to accompany them to a party, and I had to decline. And yes, I went home and kicked myself ten times.

iVillage Member
Registered: 10-01-2008
Tue, 04-23-2013 - 3:07pm
Fix it...the cost is not out of reason with today's economy and frankly I think your down time waiting on public transportation is worth a far cry more than that. Just my two cents worth :)
Community Leader
Registered: 08-25-2006
Tue, 04-23-2013 - 12:14pm

My instinct is to make the safety repair and keep driving it.   All things considered, I think being carless would add too much stress.

Sure, people do it.  Transit is limited where I live also and cabs are crazy, crazy expensive.  It would be a last resort. 

You could give it a test run, like the other poster said.  But I just don't see you being happy without a car.   


iVillage Member
Registered: 04-10-2003
Tue, 04-23-2013 - 11:57am
Can you do a test run on a carless life? Perhaps park it for a month and see how it impacts you (not only via time management but emotionally as well). Will not having a car isolate you even more? Do you have a car share in your area that would allow you to access a car for a few hours at at time? I can really see the benefits of not having a car but I also understand that there are other considerations that you must take into account!

Bex -

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-08-2006
Mon, 04-22-2013 - 8:35pm
I never owned a car until my mom died two years ago and I inherited hers. I live in a major city and I do not keep the car here - my nephew is using it T college and then I will use it in the city. Walking/mass transit/cab is challenging, but I am lucky that it is doable although I sometimes get tired of carrying things every where. I think you should sell the car...the money can go towards debt, and although it is a sacrifice, getting out of debt requires sacrifice ome times. Perhaps you can 'park' the car or a month and see what it feels like to do without it...see if the gas costs offset the transportation costs...maybe you will meet someone nice on the bus...
Avatar for poorboy2011
iVillage Member
Registered: 10-02-2011
Mon, 04-22-2013 - 5:24pm

Oh, just to clarify: I don't think I'll be able to afford another car. I'm also afraid of ending up with another lemon.

Not having a car in my town means after a certain hour I can't go anywhere. On some days I can't go anywhere...