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Old-ish car with large repair

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  • #16
    You are driving a 16 year old car, which is great, but it seems like it is time.  Top off the coolant, go to the Honda/Toyota dealership, and see what they have.  Get a decent, reasonable and reliable car, trade yours in, and finance at a good rate.  Keep your emergency fund for a worse emergency.

    When you are an attending you can pay off the car in the 1st couple months if you want.  Live lean when you start out, but you need a decent car.

     

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    • #17
      I see everyone's point. One of my coworkers knew an independent mechanic she had gone to for years, and that is what I did today.  I agree that I didn't like the method of diagnosis from the dealership.  The mechanic explained that he did check for cross-contamination of coolant and gas in the radiator by looking for bubbles. I also didn't have any white-colored exhaust during any of this time period. He said that he found no leaks with respect to coolant or oil in the engine.  He suggested that the coolant level should have been checked with my oil changes over the past year, and refilled gradually as needed; over time, if not checked, the coolant can be low for that reason. The coolant at the shop today, three days after it was refilled, was still at a normal level.  He showed me how to check and refill the coolant, and suggested I check it, even though there is no suspicion of a leak right now, just to be on the safe side.

      It is hard to imagine getting an estimate for almost $3000 work from one person, compared to getting told that there is no evidence of a leak and the cost is $0 (including $0 cost for the inspection today).

      It really would be much easier as an attending, with an attending salary, to have the option of purchasing a more expensive car model (as an example the CX-5 that was mentioned).  Given what I learned from the other mechanic, I'd rather take the more conservative route and monitor my car for leaks.  If my car engine does die, I think I'll probably get a CPO/new car.  I agree with adventure, any car under $10k would be at risk of having the same problem as my car.  That has been the best thing about keeping a car that has, thus far, worked well without major repairs for the past 12 years--I know where it has been and that it has not had major problems. I really wasn't looking forward to spending the time it takes to get a newer car and switch over registration, insurance, etc., but I would do it if I had to in order to get a reliable car.  I do not think I could put $3000 worth of work into this car (as much as I love it).

      I realized that I didn't mention, my car only has 111,000 miles on it...will update after a while when I figure out whether the coolant level is remaining adequate or if I'm having to replace it.

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      • #18
        As a younger attending I bought new Honda’s and Toyota’s for the hassle free reliability and great resale value. I would drive these vehicles for many hassle free years, maintain them well, sell them for good prices and repeat. My time was valuable, and a reliable vehicle with minimal maintenance needed saved me time and allowed me maximal efficiency and a high level of convenience.

        If I was in your shoes I might keep driving the current car until it dies and then purchase a highly reliable, modestly priced new vehicle for the peace of mind and convenience.

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        • #19
          Sounds like you need a new mechanic, rather than a new car. Good job during your research!

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          • #20




            KBB value of my Subaru $248.

            Over the past 9 years, I’ve averaged <150/month in costs (oil changes, maintenence, wipers, tires, fixes, etc). No car payment.

            3 years ago, I was told my headgasket was cracked and leaking and “needed to be replaced”. The car was running fine, but “it’d need to be fixed someday”.

            Last December, it finally died. I spent $3,000 to rebuild the engine and fix it. I’ve since paid $50 for an oil change.

            I decided I was comfortable with the car, knew the rest of it was working well, and that for 3k, I’d have a car that worked. I weighed that against buying another car, and decided this was a better option. For any “used” car, under 10k, I was taking the same risks. Both had risks of something breaking, and at least I knew the status of the car I had… I also didn’t have to spend much time looking, no time at the DMV, no transaction costs, etc. That time was worth something to me too. So far it has paid off.

            Sometimes, a new or improved car is better. I argue that sometimes it’s better to keep the old thing working. It’s an investment, but  My spouse drives a newer vehicle, but I don’t have a need for something fancy.
            Click to expand...


            Fix it for now.  This is what we have done so far, too.  Although, it does hurt paying those repair bills....

            If you don't fix it and drive as is: What is the worst case scenario--you break down on the way to work?  I would not do any roadtrips.  I would get AAA in case you do break down for the towing option.  (Cheap insurance.)  I would start saving money to buy a new car.

            If misery loves company, don't worry, you have plenty of company!

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            • #21
              So, just to update...

              I have driven about 4000 miles on the car since I was told by the dealer in mid-December that I needed the $3000 repair, and an independent mechanic later said there was no leak. There has been no leakage of coolant, so I seriously doubt that the head gasket was really in need of repair.  I carry coolant just in case - $20 cost to me.  One of the calipers for the brakes failed recently, so I had to replace the broken part, and the brake pads along with the part as they were getting low anyway (brake pads last changed at 26,000 miles before I bought the car from a Honda dealer); with labor, the recent repair cost about $800.

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              • #22




                So, just to update…

                I have driven about 4000 miles on the car since I was told by the dealer in mid-December that I needed the $3000 repair, and an independent mechanic later said there was no leak. There has been no leakage of coolant, so I seriously doubt that the head gasket was really in need of repair.  I carry coolant just in case – $20 cost to me.  One of the calipers for the brakes failed recently, so I had to replace the broken part, and the brake pads along with the part as they were getting low anyway (brake pads last changed at 26,000 miles before I bought the car from a Honda dealer); with labor, the recent repair cost about $800.
                Click to expand...


                Phew, great news!  I wouldn't sweat the calipers/pads.  Similar to gasoline, that should be considered ownership/driving cost as opposed to repair cost.  (Unless you never use your brakes....)

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                • #23
                  A few things here to help you from someone with extensive mechanical knowledge. First, do not take a car to a dealer unless it is under warranty. Never. No matter the dealer or the brand. Have a good reputable independent mechanic. Sounds like you found this out so that's good for you.

                  For instance, 2002 Honda Civic brake pads of average quality are $20 per axle (4 pads total), 1 caliper is $50. So that $800 job had a cost of $70 in parts. It takes an hour if you are slow and drinking beer while chatting with your friend. So you paid $730/hr labor rate. Sign me up for that job!

                  Just drive the thing until it quits. Keep the oil full. I have had a head gasket leak in my winterbeater for over 2 years. I just top off the coolant once a month. No biggie.

                  I agree with the AAA suggestion above. It is such cheap insurance and you get hotel discounts with it.

                   

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                  • #24
                    I do not own a vehicle so I don't deal with car-related headaches. However, I occasionally take classes at the local community college and they have a multi-day, car maintenance class offered twice a year. Those of you with some free time on your hands and older vehicles should look into taking one of these, usually cheap, classes in order to be a better DIY car person or to have a better idea regarding cost and acuity of car problems. A little knowledge can save you a ton when it comes to...pretty much anything.

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                    • #25
                      Lesson learned. The parts were very expensive (from the mechanic). I guess I replaced both calipers at $120/caliper and just one hose (on the side that had locked up and was causing a burning smell), the brake pads and the rotors.  Then brake fluid exchange ($80 total cost, mostly labor).  Perhaps such a class would also be good for learning what else to do (or what you don't need to be sold on by a mechanic, such as replacing the brake fluid).  It really was convenient though; it happened on a Saturday, in the late morning, and it was fixed before 6pm.  I didn't have to tow my car home and then bring it to a mechanic on Monday, and I didn't have to leave it overnight and figure out transportation home and back to the shop.

                      I have had AAA for years...I think it's important insurance to have because you never know when you'll need your car towed. I think in my state it's about $150/year for three tows that are either 100 or 200 miles per tow (total up to 500 miles).

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                      • #26
                        Absolutely you had to spend the money.  You're a resident.  You were stuck.

                        Time for a new Civic, new Corolla, new Camry.  Stuff like brake caliperbreaking, who knows what's next.  You should be able to get a new Civic for $16k, $17k.  Honda offering 0.9% right now.  Brand new, should last you another 15 years easy.  About $1,000 a year, BFD.  Don't wait for next thing to break since you won't be able to trade it in.  Just do it.

                         

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                        • #27




                          Time for a new Civic, new Corolla, new Camry.  Stuff like brake caliperbreaking, who knows what’s next.  You should be able to get a new Civic for $16k, $17k.  Honda offering 0.9% right now.  Brand new, should last you another 15 years easy.  About $1,000 a year, BFD.  Don’t wait for next thing to break since you won’t be able to trade it in.  Just do it.


                          I 1/2 agree and 1/2 disagree here. You definitely want to replace your car on your terms, not on its terms (when it really dies)

                          That said, you won't get any trade in value for it. I would list it on Autotrader and sell it for $1000 (or $1500, whatever you can get that gets it out of your yard ASAP). And if a dealer was going to give you $5000 for your trade in, I would be extremely worried about the markup on the next car that I'm buying.

                          I'm really glad you didn't spend $3000 on repairs!

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