Author Topic: High used car prices. Is it worth troubleshooting and fixing my ride?  (Read 1248 times)

therethere

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I've got a 2005 Subaru, 150k miles, as our 2nd car. It's primarily used for towing a small trailer camping, we put ~8-10k miles on it year. Last year the check engine light came on with the catalytic converter code a week after the emissions test. This was not long after we waited too long to change spark plugs/spark plug wires. We ignored the code all year because we were planning to replace the car. However, like just about everything else used car prices have skyrocketed the past year.

Now I am a bit at a loss of what to do. From what I gather, replacing the catalytic converter may or may not actually solve the problem. I'm afraid doing so may open a big can of works chasing check engine codes.  When I pulled the codes yesterday, there is now also a rear 02 sensor code. I have not called around for quotes yet, but I'm thinking the diagnostics and cat could be 1-2k, plus whatever else they find. The car is pretty trashed, and I barely expect it's worth 1-2k at this point. And maybe only 3,500 if it were in full working order. So I'm a little wary about dropping so much cash into an older, known to be finicky, vehicle.

I was looking primarily at Pilots and Highlanders as a replacement. But the going listed rate is $15-19k with like 120-150k miles on them, which sounds insane to me. Especially when 1-2 year old cars are listed at like 30k, I feel like it is almost better to buy a new car (if it wasn't for taxes, insurance, and general desire for a beater) because the front-end depreciation doesn't. I was hoping to stay 10-12k for a replacement vehicle with high-ish miles. Is this even possible or are my expectations too high?

Does diagnosing the emissions problems seem worth the effort? Anything I could easily check, or would be low cost to do, to attempt to pass emissions?

socaso

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Re: High used car prices. Is it worth troubleshooting and fixing my ride?
« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2021, 10:31:17 AM »
I'm in the exact same boat, I have an old Kia and have been saving to replace. I had thought to do it this year but the experiences of a few friends and family members who had to replace recently made me reconsider. The market is very tight right now, lots of people wanting to buy and not enough inventory in new or used. I didn't want to feel that I got a bad deal due to the pressure on the market.

I ended up taking my car to the shop and getting estimates for everything they think I need. In my case I just needed new brake pads and a flush of the A/C system. They also suggested replacing the front tires within the next few months. Their opinion was that I could easily get another year out of my car and the repairs were only $1k-ish so I opted to do that. I'll keep saving towards a new car and hopefully the market will be more favorable in a year, I'll have even more $ in the car fund and it'll all around be a better situation to buy.

Syonyk

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Re: High used car prices. Is it worth troubleshooting and fixing my ride?
« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2021, 11:10:32 AM »
Does diagnosing the emissions problems seem worth the effort? Anything I could easily check, or would be low cost to do, to attempt to pass emissions?

P0420?  Replace the rear O2 sensor, and if that doesn't fix it, look at some of the various hacks on the Subaru forums.  You can get extensions that pull the rear sensor a bit further out of the stream, and I think people make rear O2 sensor simulators that provide whatever input the ECU expects, regardless of the sensor.

Subaru emission control systems are a known pain point.  Unless you know the catalyst is actually toast, I wouldn't replace the converter.  I'd replace the front O2 sensor if you haven't (helps with fuel economy), replace the rear one, and then hack/tweak as needed to get the ECU happy for that old a car.  You might also check plug gaps and such if the problem showed up after replacing the ignition system.

RainyDay

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Re: High used car prices. Is it worth troubleshooting and fixing my ride?
« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2021, 11:17:33 AM »
Seems like it would be worth it to fix it.  Even if it costs $2000, then you've essentially "bought" a used car for $2k, and one with new parts!  Let's say it lasts only a year before the car craps out entirely...that's still only $167/month of "car payment."  I'm guessing those used Pilots are way more than that!

therethere

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Re: High used car prices. Is it worth troubleshooting and fixing my ride?
« Reply #4 on: April 30, 2021, 11:35:00 AM »
Does diagnosing the emissions problems seem worth the effort? Anything I could easily check, or would be low cost to do, to attempt to pass emissions?

P0420?  Replace the rear O2 sensor, and if that doesn't fix it, look at some of the various hacks on the Subaru forums.  You can get extensions that pull the rear sensor a bit further out of the stream, and I think people make rear O2 sensor simulators that provide whatever input the ECU expects, regardless of the sensor.

Subaru emission control systems are a known pain point.  Unless you know the catalyst is actually toast, I wouldn't replace the converter.  I'd replace the front O2 sensor if you haven't (helps with fuel economy), replace the rear one, and then hack/tweak as needed to get the ECU happy for that old a car.  You might also check plug gaps and such if the problem showed up after replacing the ignition system.

Correct, it's a P0420 code and now a P0037 code. The P0420 code was on all year, the P0037 is newer. Consistent on once the system is "ready" (driven for xxx miles above 55mph). I've read CO emission standards, and I shouldn't fail automatically just for the check engine since the car more than 10 years old. I've read a bunch online, including those spaced out 02 sensor trick, but that only got me less confident about being able to repair it.

Syonyk

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Re: High used car prices. Is it worth troubleshooting and fixing my ride?
« Reply #5 on: April 30, 2021, 11:39:50 AM »
If you don't feel comfortable doing the work yourself, find a local Subaru shop - not a generic local shop, a Subaru-specific shop.  They'll know a lot more about the state of those systems than a random shop, which will likely look at the codes and throw parts at the problem.

It's a super common problem with older Subarus of that era.

Fru-Gal

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Re: High used car prices. Is it worth troubleshooting and fixing my ride?
« Reply #6 on: April 30, 2021, 12:02:31 PM »
Subaru of that age should easily go to half a million miles with maintenance. Source: Person with much older Japanese car already exceeded 300k miles.

Syonyk

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Re: High used car prices. Is it worth troubleshooting and fixing my ride?
« Reply #7 on: April 30, 2021, 12:15:54 PM »
And a head gasket.  And emissions system issues.  And a couple oil leaks. :p  That generation of Subarus was maintenance intensive past about 150k.  Great cars, just... they like their wrenches.

ChpBstrd

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Re: High used car prices. Is it worth troubleshooting and fixing my ride?
« Reply #8 on: April 30, 2021, 07:53:57 PM »
I was looking primarily at Pilots and Highlanders as a replacement. But the going listed rate is $15-19k with like 120-150k miles on them, which sounds insane to me.

I agree that is an insane amount to pay for a mostly worn out car. Perhaps the issue is that you're looking at such expensive models instead of the 2021 Hyundai Accent (MSRP $15,395), 2021 Chevy Sonic (MSRP $13,600), or one of the last remaining 2020 Honda Fits or Toyota Yaris'es. These are all new or newish cars that would last 10-15 years of steady use, whereas a replacement SUV at that price point has maybe 3-5 years of life remaining.

Too small? People in Europe and Asia don't think so. How much empty air do we all drive around with, convinced that we need it. A luggage rack and hitch rack can go a long way too.

therethere

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I was looking primarily at Pilots and Highlanders as a replacement. But the going listed rate is $15-19k with like 120-150k miles on them, which sounds insane to me.

I agree that is an insane amount to pay for a mostly worn out car. Perhaps the issue is that you're looking at such expensive models instead of the 2021 Hyundai Accent (MSRP $15,395), 2021 Chevy Sonic (MSRP $13,600), or one of the last remaining 2020 Honda Fits or Toyota Yaris'es. These are all new or newish cars that would last 10-15 years of steady use, whereas a replacement SUV at that price point has maybe 3-5 years of life remaining.

Too small? People in Europe and Asia don't think so. How much empty air do we all drive around with, convinced that we need it. A luggage rack and hitch rack can go a long way too.

Yes, I thought it was crazy. We got a CRV with 75k miles on it for 11k 2 years ago, so double the miles for nearly 50% more money is a lot to take in. Even if it is one model up.

It's our second car and the hobby car. I need it to tow and have good ground clearance. I agree that a Pilot/Highlander is slight overkill for what we have right now. But a CRV/Rav4 may be slightly undersized. Seems like they stopped making v6 versions in the last 10 years. We have a CRV for the commuting car which is perfect. I just don't know if I trust the CRV to tow as often as we do as a permanent solution. It may be a stop-gap measure for a few months or this summer.
« Last Edit: May 01, 2021, 08:29:21 AM by therethere »

jmechanical

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I recently had the same dilemma. My car is a 2012, 115k miles on it, would intermittently blow smoke out the exhaust and was using oil. I thought it was toast, head gasket or piston rings, and started panicking. Looking at new/used cars and remembering I used to own a camaro and had done a whole bunch of upgrades/repairs when I was in my late teens/early 20s and I talked myself off the ledge.

Bought an OBDII scanner off amazon for less than $30, downloaded an app, found the code, googled it. Went and looked at the solenoid under the hood and could see plain as day that the wire going into the connector broke off. I replaced the connector for about $50 plus some wire crimping tools cost.

Been about a month since I replaced the connector/wires, no smoke from the exhaust, oil level is holding steady, for the cost of less than 1 month car payment.

YMMV but definitely see if its a simple repair before deciding to replace the car.

Beardog

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I have a 2007 Toyota Matrix with 161K miles on it, and I live with some apprehension that it will need to be replaced in the next year for just the reason you write about: used car costs are crazy right now. 

When I think about potential repair costs, I also consider how much I save on car insurance and excise tax by having an older vehicle.  My car has been great and I haven't had any significant repairs since I bought it 3 years ago.  But if I needed a major repair, I would feel less badly about it since my insurance and excise expenses are so low.

Syonyk

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I have a 2007 Toyota Matrix with 161K miles on it, and I live with some apprehension that it will need to be replaced in the next year for just the reason you write about: used car costs are crazy right now.

It's a Toyota.  With 161k miles.

Have you changed the oil at least twice in the past decade and 100k miles?  If yes, it should be perfectly fine to 250k or 300k miles.  Their gutless non-turbo engines last indefinitely, the transmissions aren't far behind, and the rest, you can fix easily.

FFS, 161k miles on a Toyota is not "one foot in the grave."  It's fewer miles than almost every vehicle I've owned in my life, several of which were literally saved from the junkyard for a long productive life.

Beardog

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I have a 2007 Toyota Matrix with 161K miles on it, and I live with some apprehension that it will need to be replaced in the next year for just the reason you write about: used car costs are crazy right now.

It's a Toyota.  With 161k miles.

Have you changed the oil at least twice in the past decade and 100k miles?  If yes, it should be perfectly fine to 250k or 300k miles.  Their gutless non-turbo engines last indefinitely, the transmissions aren't far behind, and the rest, you can fix easily.

FFS, 161k miles on a Toyota is not "one foot in the grave."  It's fewer miles than almost every vehicle I've owned in my life, several of which were literally saved from the junkyard for a long productive life.

Good to hear!  Thanks, Syonyk!  I try to be very handy and have learned lots of home repair and maintenance skills, but have never learned much about cars.

My last car was a 1996 Toyota Corolla which I bought in 2003 with about 96k miles on it.  I ran it for 15 years until 2018 when the body started to rust a bit and the clutch was starting to go.  B/c of the rust, I decided it was time to buy something else, although it only had about 155k miles on it and was mechanically in very good shape. 

ChpBstrd

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I was looking primarily at Pilots and Highlanders as a replacement. But the going listed rate is $15-19k with like 120-150k miles on them, which sounds insane to me.

I agree that is an insane amount to pay for a mostly worn out car. Perhaps the issue is that you're looking at such expensive models instead of the 2021 Hyundai Accent (MSRP $15,395), 2021 Chevy Sonic (MSRP $13,600), or one of the last remaining 2020 Honda Fits or Toyota Yaris'es. These are all new or newish cars that would last 10-15 years of steady use, whereas a replacement SUV at that price point has maybe 3-5 years of life remaining.

Too small? People in Europe and Asia don't think so. How much empty air do we all drive around with, convinced that we need it. A luggage rack and hitch rack can go a long way too.

Yes, I thought it was crazy. We got a CRV with 75k miles on it for 11k 2 years ago, so double the miles for nearly 50% more money is a lot to take in. Even if it is one model up.

It's our second car and the hobby car. I need it to tow and have good ground clearance. I agree that a Pilot/Highlander is slight overkill for what we have right now. But a CRV/Rav4 may be slightly undersized. Seems like they stopped making v6 versions in the last 10 years. We have a CRV for the commuting car which is perfect. I just don't know if I trust the CRV to tow as often as we do as a permanent solution. It may be a stop-gap measure for a few months or this summer.

How much weight are you towing? Google says the CRV's rated capacity is 1500lbs, which is a medium sized flatbed trailer with a load of lumber or a small boat. The CRV weighs 3,400 pounds, so by the rule of half it is probably fine up to 1700lbs.

Fun facts: a 1984 Ford F150 with a 5.0 liter V8 engine managed 135hp compared to the CRV's 190hp 1.5 liter 4-banger. The hybrid CRV also has about the same torque as the '84 F150, in addition to much more horsepower. Either CRV has better brakes.

Fru-Gal

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Quote
Their gutless non-turbo engines last indefinitely, the transmissions aren't far behind, and the rest, you can fix easily.

FFS, 161k miles on a Toyota is not "one foot in the grave."  It's fewer miles than almost every vehicle I've owned in my life, several of which were literally saved from the junkyard for a long productive life.

Words to live by, @Syonyk!

therethere

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Probably 900# empty, 1500# full. I'm more worried about stopping and control on steep inclines. The CRV is so light that it makes me wary, I don't even like driving it in the snow. I think the CRV would be fine towing occasionally, but I also don't want to destroy it using it like a truck. Since I feel it could last us 15 years as a commuter car.

I'm leaning towards seeing if I can replace the o2 sensors and pass. But I'm afraid I'll just be throwing a few hundred away and it still won't work.

zolotiyeruki

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I have a 2007 Toyota Matrix with 161K miles on it, and I live with some apprehension that it will need to be replaced in the next year for just the reason you write about: used car costs are crazy right now.

It's a Toyota.  With 161k miles.

Have you changed the oil at least twice in the past decade and 100k miles?  If yes, it should be perfectly fine to 250k or 300k miles.  Their gutless non-turbo engines last indefinitely, the transmissions aren't far behind, and the rest, you can fix easily.

FFS, 161k miles on a Toyota is not "one foot in the grave."  It's fewer miles than almost every vehicle I've owned in my life, several of which were literally saved from the junkyard for a long productive life.

Good to hear!  Thanks, Syonyk!  I try to be very handy and have learned lots of home repair and maintenance skills, but have never learned much about cars.

My last car was a 1996 Toyota Corolla which I bought in 2003 with about 96k miles on it.  I ran it for 15 years until 2018 when the body started to rust a bit and the clutch was starting to go.  B/c of the rust, I decided it was time to buy something else, although it only had about 155k miles on it and was mechanically in very good shape.
Uh, yeah, a Toyota Matrix should last a good long time.  I'm still driving the '95 Corolla that I bought 18 years and 150,000 miles ago.  A few things here and there have needed repair, but very few of them are anything other than normal maintenance.  An exhaust pipe here, a radiator there, a power steering hose several years ago, an alternator about 10 years ago.  I do most of my own work, so it turns out to be a whole lot cheaper than a new car.  A couple months ago, I finally replaced the original shocks (at 238,000 miles).  It's gradually rusting out at this point, but mechanically it's still great.

When the rust finally gets to be too much, I kinda want to pull the drivetrain and build an overpowered go kart with it.

rothwem

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Subaru of that age should easily go to half a million miles with maintenance. Source: Person with much older Japanese car already exceeded 300k miles.

Lol.  Subaru=/=typical Japanese car, it has a weird engine design and some finicky stuff related to it. I'm very surprised a head gasket hasn't died yet, they typically go around 120ish on that vintage of subaru. 

With that said, the OP is lucky in that the cat isn't build into the header on that car, so you could probably have a muffler shop weld in a generic cat for a couple hundred bucks.  02 sensors aren't too bad either, an OEM sensor is $128.  I'll bet this car could be fixed up for <$1000. 

Another note--used car prices are nuts, BUT, they're even nuttier on the low end.  Barely running beaters are going for $5000 when they should go for $1000.  Its weird, but it seems like the more you're willing to pay, the better of a "value" you get.  Obviously it would be nicer to not have to buy another car at all, but its just something I've noticed. 

therethere

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Oh yeah, I forgot about head gaskets. I had them done at 80k along with whatever else you do with it, so I'll be coming full circle with repairs soon enough. I've already put way more money into this car than I bought it for. I have a love/hate relationship with it. She's pulled us out of some jams. But there is always something to fix or some undiagnosed loud noise.

I'll have to start calling around to get some quotes. If I could get it fixed for <2000 it might be worth it. Then I just have to cross my fingers that nothing major breaks before I can sell at the end of the summer.

Fru-Gal

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@rothwem I realize a Subaru is slightly finicky and I don't own one, but was trying to be positive. And anyway, if people can keep Jaguars and Fiats alive for decades, they ought to be able to keep Subarus going for far less effort.

RainyDay

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It's a Toyota.  With 161k miles.

Have you changed the oil at least twice in the past decade and 100k miles?  If yes, it should be perfectly fine to 250k or 300k miles.  Their gutless non-turbo engines last indefinitely, the transmissions aren't far behind, and the rest, you can fix easily.

FFS, 161k miles on a Toyota is not "one foot in the grave."  It's fewer miles than almost every vehicle I've owned in my life, several of which were literally saved from the junkyard for a long productive life.

This is very comforting!  Last year I bought a 2010 Toyota hybrid with 95k miles on it, rather nervously, having never owned an older car before.  So far I've replaced...the (regular) battery.  I love the car and would be delighted to keep it for another 10 years!

Syonyk

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This is very comforting!  Last year I bought a 2010 Toyota hybrid with 95k miles on it, rather nervously, having never owned an older car before.  So far I've replaced...the (regular) battery.  I love the car and would be delighted to keep it for another 10 years!

It should be fine.  You might have to do some work on the big traction battery, but even if you have to replace it, it's not that big a deal.

I see a lot of thinking along the lines of "Oh NO!  My $3000 car needs $2000 of work, I'd better scrap it and buy a $30,000 car instead!"

I don't mind spending money and time maintaining older vehicles... but then again, I did just buy this...


ChpBstrd

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@Syonyk that ride is straight mobster. I hope you are accessorizing it with a whiskey barrel and a tommy gun.

Syonyk

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I hope you are accessorizing it with a whiskey barrel and a tommy gun.

Oh, probably not... but it would be a good option for that sort of stuff back in the day, straight 8, 70mph car, not half bad for 1930.  No, I don't intend to test the limits of performance on a 90 year old motor and car.

zolotiyeruki

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I hope you are accessorizing it with a whiskey barrel and a tommy gun.

Oh, probably not... but it would be a good option for that sort of stuff back in the day, straight 8, 70mph car, not half bad for 1930.  No, I don't intend to test the limits of performance on a 90 year old motor and car.
I've sometimes fantasized about the reaction one would get if one could take a modern car back in time.  I can only imagine some moonshiners' faces upon seeing a modern pickup truck.  Four wheel drive, can go 100mph no sweat, advanced suspension, and tons of cargo capacity, not to mention air conditioning?

Syonyk

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I've sometimes fantasized about the reaction one would get if one could take a modern car back in time.  I can only imagine some moonshiners' faces upon seeing a modern pickup truck.  Four wheel drive, can go 100mph no sweat, advanced suspension, and tons of cargo capacity, not to mention air conditioning?

Make sure it's got coil springs.  The way some new trucks ride on crap roads at speed is nothing short of incredible.  Then select 4-Lo and go rock crawling.

If they ran on the gas back then. :/  Wow, gasoline has changed a lot in the last 100 years.  New gas in old cars is a problem.

ChpBstrd

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I hope you are accessorizing it with a whiskey barrel and a tommy gun.

Oh, probably not... but it would be a good option for that sort of stuff back in the day, straight 8, 70mph car, not half bad for 1930.  No, I don't intend to test the limits of performance on a 90 year old motor and car.
I've sometimes fantasized about the reaction one would get if one could take a modern car back in time.  I can only imagine some moonshiners' faces upon seeing a modern pickup truck.  Four wheel drive, can go 100mph no sweat, advanced suspension, and tons of cargo capacity, not to mention air conditioning?
Not to mention getting the fuel economy VW Bug.

But I think they'd really be surprised someone would pay thousands of dollars to put a leather interior in a construction vehicle for the sake of status when they have no pension or reasonable way to ever retire.

innkeeper77

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Oh yeah, I forgot about head gaskets. I had them done at 80k along with whatever else you do with it, so I'll be coming full circle with repairs soon enough. I've already put way more money into this car than I bought it for. I have a love/hate relationship with it. She's pulled us out of some jams. But there is always something to fix or some undiagnosed loud noise.

Thankfully, if you had a good shop do it, the headgaskets should be a one time thing! Reputable shops upgrade the gaskets- the base model subarus had these really dumb single layer gaskets with a black rubberized coating on both sides. The turbo models had multi layer steel gaskets with no coating to wear away- and those gaskets don't give out like the naturally aspirated ones do! So, good shops will mill (flatten) the heads, put in a proper multi layer steel gasket, and then that repair should outlive the entire engine.

Syonyk

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^^ That's another good point - just beacuse X failed at 80k miles doesn't mean it's always going to fail 80k later.  Often, if it's a weak point from the factory for whatever reason, the aftermarket has figured out solutions to it.  It's worth asking - and a reason to try and find a specialized aftermarket shop.  A dealership probably will replace the failed part with the OEM component (that's likely to fail again, if they haven't reworked it).  A random shop that doesn't know those vehicles well will likely do the same.  And the shop that specialized in those cars will know exactly what happened, how to prevent it, and the right way to fix it for the rest of the car's lifespan.

therethere

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^^ That's another good point - just beacuse X failed at 80k miles doesn't mean it's always going to fail 80k later.  Often, if it's a weak point from the factory for whatever reason, the aftermarket has figured out solutions to it.  It's worth asking - and a reason to try and find a specialized aftermarket shop.  A dealership probably will replace the failed part with the OEM component (that's likely to fail again, if they haven't reworked it).  A random shop that doesn't know those vehicles well will likely do the same.  And the shop that specialized in those cars will know exactly what happened, how to prevent it, and the right way to fix it for the rest of the car's lifespan.

I got mine done through a friend at the dealer. But for some good news, somehow my car passed emissions. So I'll be getting a full once over by a mechanic, probably repairing a few things, and hopefully getting another year out of it. I'm pretty happy to not be on a timeline to replace it by the end of the month!

Sibley

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I have a 2007 Toyota Matrix with 161K miles on it, and I live with some apprehension that it will need to be replaced in the next year for just the reason you write about: used car costs are crazy right now.

It's a Toyota.  With 161k miles.

Have you changed the oil at least twice in the past decade and 100k miles?  If yes, it should be perfectly fine to 250k or 300k miles.  Their gutless non-turbo engines last indefinitely, the transmissions aren't far behind, and the rest, you can fix easily.

FFS, 161k miles on a Toyota is not "one foot in the grave."  It's fewer miles than almost every vehicle I've owned in my life, several of which were literally saved from the junkyard for a long productive life.

Hey, I had a 07 Pontiac Vibe and I loved that car! It had the little engine that could. That car went putt-putt-putting over mountains a lot. No picking on it.

;)