Author Topic: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help  (Read 9101 times)

MrD

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Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« on: December 14, 2012, 11:43:30 AM »
For as long as I have had cars I have had major car problems.

My current car is a 2006 Chevy Impala that I just recently put about $1200 into. Now I have another problem and if I chose to fix it, it will cost around $2000. The car according to KBB is worth around 8000-8500. I can hold off on this $2000 repair for a bit as long as I keep checking on the coolant levels etc. I owe about $1800 on the car.

I currently drive to a client site that is roughly 235 miles away. So every week I will be driving about 500 miles at .555 cents a mile. So roughly $277.50 a week in money. I will be doing this drive 13 times, so about $3607. Now subtract out the cost of gas and I have a "profit" of ~$2500.

I am thinking of just driving this car for the 13 drives and then selling it as soon as its over and use the trade in I still have left as well as the $2500 to buy a new car.

Any opinions and any opinions on what car to get? I have had so many problems in my life: replaced an engine, a transmission, 3 A/C systems, a head gasket. I am SICK of car repairs sucking away from my emergency fund.

gooki

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #1 on: December 14, 2012, 01:00:54 PM »
Probably best to avoid "American" cars.

mlipps

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #2 on: December 14, 2012, 02:50:34 PM »
Probably best to avoid "American" cars.

+1. Get a Toyota or a Honda, but continue to buy cheap if you're going to be putting that many miles on a car long term.

Jamesqf

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #3 on: December 14, 2012, 02:59:41 PM »
Seems like you'd be a good match for a (1st gen) Honda Insight.  Used to do a similar drive in mine.  Was real nice being able to deduct ~50 cents/mile business travel expense, when my actual cost was closer to 5 cents/mile.

But any small Honda, Toyota, or similar of '90s vintage should cost well under 55 cents/mile to run, and be far more reliable than your current vehicle.  And if it does break down, you could buy a replacement cheaper than your current repair costs.

Self-employed-swami

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #4 on: December 14, 2012, 04:09:52 PM »
+1 to everyone who said to buy a honda or toyota.

MrD

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2012, 04:53:31 PM »
Any love for a Hyundai

mm1970

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2012, 08:36:48 PM »
We love our Honda Civic and our Toyota Matrix (Matrix gets better gas mileage, both are automatics), but I have heard good things about the Hyundai Elantra.

As in, Consumer Reports scored it the highest in class for 2009 (last time we bought a car), above the Corolla and the Civic.

Jamesqf

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #7 on: December 14, 2012, 08:50:27 PM »
But older Hyundais - say pre-2000, which is the age the OP should be looking at - don't have nearly as good a reputation for quality as more recent models.

mm1970

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2012, 09:32:52 PM »
But older Hyundais - say pre-2000, which is the age the OP should be looking at - don't have nearly as good a reputation for quality as more recent models.
Yeah, I hadn't thought of that.  I was thinking more mid-2000's, not the 90's.

frugal_engineer

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #9 on: December 15, 2012, 10:11:39 AM »
Probably best to avoid "American" cars.

The reputation for american cars having low reliability is completely ridiculous.  Honda Toyota and Hyundai have pumped out just as many pieces of garbage as GM Ford and Chrysler.  The whole foreign cars are more reliable thing had merit for like 5 years in the early 90s when there was a perceivable difference in new car quality control between manufacturers and ever since has been kept up with hearsay more than facts.  If you treat a car well and maintain it, it will last.  If you beat it and don't maintain it well, it won't.  This is true regardless of manufacturer. 

As for recommendation, look at what you need it for.  There are diamonds in the rough all over the place.  If you do a lot of road traveling you might look into Pontiac Bonnevilles in the last few years they made them, extremely comfortable (probably similar to the impala), good mileage (30+ highway), and a rock solid engine.  But definitely look at what you need first, and have someone look at used cars for you if you don't have the experience to determine what is broken.  It sounds like youre ending up with used cars that have not been well maintained.  Determining how a car was treated before you buy it is key, otherwise you are buying someone elses problems.  My 2 cents.
« Last Edit: December 15, 2012, 10:19:47 AM by cvh8601 »

Nate R

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #10 on: December 15, 2012, 10:59:37 AM »
American cars having low reliability ridiculous?

Not sure I agree completely. Most of my friends w/ north of 100K on their American vehicles have more problems with things than those I know w/ more than 100K on Toyotas or Hondas. And many of these vehicles are newer than 2000.

frugal_engineer

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #11 on: December 15, 2012, 11:07:30 AM »
Not sure I agree completely. Most of my friends w/ north of 100K on their American vehicles have more problems with things than those I know w/ more than 100K on Toyotas or Hondas. And many of these vehicles are newer than 2000.

Right, this is the anecdotal type evidence that I was talking about.  An informal poll of people who may or may not take care of their cars.  Simply isn't the way to make an informed decision.  Its certainly possible that the friends with american cars have had some bad luck and ended up with poor example.  But, its equally possible that the friends with foreign cars had some good luck and ended up with good examples.

Jamesqf

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #12 on: December 15, 2012, 07:50:17 PM »
Right, this is the anecdotal type evidence that I was talking about.  An informal poll of people who may or may not take care of their cars.

So what would you suggest as an alternative?  Where is there a source of reliability data that's more accurate?

Also note that we're suggesting that the OP replace his current vehicle with a pre-2000 model, so the claim that US automakers have improved reliability since then is irrelevant.

Togoshiman

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #13 on: December 15, 2012, 08:14:29 PM »
There are any number of empirically-supported surveys of car reliability, Consumer Reports being the most obvious.  I'm not American but I can understand the desire to buy from a company based in one's country.  But it is pretty objective that the Japanese brands have long been more reliable than their competitors.  As others have pointed out, recent gains by the US manufacturers are laudable, but not relevant for Mustacheans buying 8-10-year old cars.  For that vintage, the stats are simply that Toyota and Honda are more reliable, on average, than other makes.

People freak out about statements like this, but I don't really understand why.  It's fairly widely-agreed that German cars are more expensive and less reliable than Japanese, but  the 'defenders' of these brands generally cite the driving dynamics as being worth the cost.  What I don't get are people who are supporters of the Big 3 not using similar logic - e.g. An Impala, all things being equal, will probably be less reliable than a Camry.  However, the purchase cost is less and you have the satisfaction of of buying American.  Plus, you might happen to like it better simply due to personal taste.  That seems to be a better reason than, "My uncle had one go half a million miles and I heard Toyota had a recall, so you must be wrong about your views of American cars".  Put another way, if someone told me that my car was less reliable than theirs or X brand, my response would be, "yes, and I still like it better."  Not sure why it becomes a personal affront to one's nationality or a perceived insult to one's judgment or intelligence.

OP, rather than rely on most of us, who by very nature will give you anecdotal responses, hit the Consumer Reports and JD Powers of the internet.  There are plenty of valid criticisms of both, but statistical surveys are better than the proverbial water-cooler.  If it were me, I'd pretty much stick to Corolla/Camry or Civic/Accord if your criteria are reliability, fuel economy and that is based on the services noted above.

Jamesqf

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #14 on: December 16, 2012, 12:06:08 AM »
I could be wrong, but my impression of the Consumer Reports &c reliability info is that they're only interested in fairly recent models, say within 5 years or so of new.

Then you touch on the other reason I'm not likely to buy/recommend a car from the Detroit 3: they just don't have any interest in building cars I'd want to drive - not that I'd want a Camry either, you understand.

mlipps

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #15 on: December 16, 2012, 08:35:09 AM »
I could be wrong, but my impression of the Consumer Reports &c reliability info is that they're only interested in fairly recent models, say within 5 years or so of new.

Then you touch on the other reason I'm not likely to buy/recommend a car from the Detroit 3: they just don't have any interest in building cars I'd want to drive - not that I'd want a Camry either, you understand.

Consumer Reports has been in business for...well, I don't know how long, but I remember my mom citing it when we bought a 1991 Prism in 1997. Each years issue covers about 8 years back or so, but the website has all the data, and most local libraries have all the buying guides for every year so you just have to pick up the one that has the info you need.

Self-employed-swami

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #16 on: December 16, 2012, 09:49:31 AM »
If you are looking for a really cheap car to buy and run, I'd recommend trying to find a 2000-2002 Echo.  They should be in the under $3000 range now, and if they were property maintained, should go for 400,000kms easily!

Nords

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #17 on: December 16, 2012, 10:30:19 AM »
I could be wrong, but my impression of the Consumer Reports &c reliability info is that they're only interested in fairly recent models, say within 5 years or so of new.
Then you touch on the other reason I'm not likely to buy/recommend a car from the Detroit 3: they just don't have any interest in building cars I'd want to drive - not that I'd want a Camry either, you understand.
IIRC earlier this year when we were searching through the online CR ratings, they only went back about 10 years.  Our daughter bought her '99 Honda CR-V mainly on the hope that it was as reliable as the model years 2002-2011 that were rated on the website.

Jamesqf

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #18 on: December 16, 2012, 11:56:41 AM »
Consumer Reports has been in business for...well, I don't know how long, but I remember my mom citing it when we bought a 1991 Prism in 1997. Each years issue covers about 8 years back or so, but the website has all the data, and most local libraries have all the buying guides for every year so you just have to pick up the one that has the info you need.

I think you missed my point.  Sure, a back issue from say 2000 might have reliability data on 1995 models, but will that data be updated to reflect ongoing experience, so that you'd find up-to-date info on the 1995s in a 2012 issue?  I don't think so. 

I also wonder exactly how they collect, or would collect, such data.  For vehicles under warranty, they could perhaps use manufacturer stats, but for anything older, I'd think they'd just have to rely on things like reader surveys which are just collections of anecdotes.  Nor can I offhand think of anything else that would include the experiences of people like me, who fix their own cars. Or as the case may be, don't have to fix them :-)

mlipps

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #19 on: December 16, 2012, 01:07:59 PM »
Millions of data points collected via surveys by a non profit are still more reliable than 2 or 3 from your neighbor. You're right though that it doesn't have good info on cars after 7 or 10 years of life. Still better than nothing though.

Togoshiman

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #20 on: December 17, 2012, 07:25:47 AM »
I would respectfully suggest that surveys with large enough samples are not collections of anecdotes.  Good statistical controls factor in survey biases, errors in sampling (e.g. exclusion of people who service their own vehicles, people who complain because they can't understand a feature that works perfectly well, etc).  Not an apologist for Consumer Reports by any means, but for a person without a deep knowledge of cars or interst in acquiring that knowledge, they can be very useful.

Just an aside - for MMM readers who don't know much about cars, why not follow Mr. M himself and get a nice Scion?  He's thought about the issue for years, is a self-professed car lover, etc.  Just a thought.

Bakari

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #21 on: December 17, 2012, 08:29:08 AM »
For as long as I have had cars I have had major car problems.

My current car is a 2006 Chevy Impala that I just recently put about $1200 into. Now I have another problem and if I chose to fix it, it will cost around $2000. The car according to KBB is worth around 8000-8500. I can hold off on this $2000 repair for a bit as long as I keep checking on the coolant levels etc. I owe about $1800 on the car.

I currently drive to a client site that is roughly 235 miles away. So every week I will be driving about 500 miles at .555 cents a mile. So roughly $277.50 a week in money. I will be doing this drive 13 times, so about $3607. Now subtract out the cost of gas and I have a "profit" of ~$2500.

I am thinking of just driving this car for the 13 drives and then selling it as soon as its over and use the trade in I still have left as well as the $2500 to buy a new car.

Any opinions and any opinions on what car to get? I have had so many problems in my life: replaced an engine, a transmission, 3 A/C systems, a head gasket. I am SICK of car repairs sucking away from my emergency fund.

What are the specific repairs it needs?  Have you by chance gotten a 2nd opinion and competing estimate?  Is it totally unfeasible to find a friend with some mechanical skill and fix it yourself?
Replace an engine, and the most complicated part of a car is essentially new, for a lot less than a new car.  Replacing a transmission (I learned this year) is surprisingly easy to do on your own at home.  Replacing an AC system - just don't, when it breaks, pull it out - get some beaded seat covers, window tint, and a fan that plugs into the 12V outlet, and save the cost of AC repairs and get better gas mileage. 

If you do end up replacing it, though, consider selling it on craigslist rather than trading it in at the dealer.  The dealer is in business to make a profit on every transaction, so they will offer you less than what they think they can sell it for.  Sell it yourself and keep the cut the dealer would have taken.
As to what to replace it with, is a motorcycle or scooter a possibility?
« Last Edit: December 17, 2012, 10:27:31 AM by Bakari »

Forcus

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #22 on: December 17, 2012, 08:49:22 AM »

What are the specific repairs it needs?  Have you by chance gotten a 2nd opinion and competing estimate? 

This. There is NO reason a new engine should soon develop what sounds like a blown head gasket within a reasonable mileage timeframe (150-200k miles). Ditto for the A/C systems, the GM ones are generally robust and should almost never need maintenance. Unless this car has something like 300k on it, my bet is on a soul-sucking repair place that is putting the screws to you.

My bet is that if the engine was using coolant the first time around, and was "replaced", what they actually did was use "head gasket in a bottle", which can work, but not necessarily forever. Or they replaced head gaskets and didn't remedy the original issue, or do it properly. Same for the A/C. If they didn't clean it out properly after a real failure (e.g. a bad compressor), the junk in the system will cause another failure.

I think that might be the real question here. Trusting the wrong folks.

cbr shadow

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #23 on: December 17, 2012, 10:17:59 AM »
This might not be your issue at all, but since you've had so many car issues I'll bring it up..
Have you considered that it's the way you drive or not keeping up with the maintenance schedule that's causing these issues?

A friend of mine has always been plagued with car trouble.  In 5 years his power steering went out twice and he went through several cars. 2 transmissions went out and he had engine issues twice.  One of those was a Honda (which i recommended).  He started saying he just has bad luck with cars, and that even Honda lets issues slip by.  Anyways, I drove with him on a long trip in my car and was shocked about how he drove my car!  He would slap my automatic car into drive while still rolling backwards which caused a little grinding 2 times, turned the steering wheel as far as it would go, then kept giving pressure on it while turning slowly which made the car whine.  He also would accellerate very hard when unneccessary and then hit the brakes hard.  In general he was very hard on these cars.  Anyways, I came to the conclusion that he did not have bad luck, but he was a bad driver.  I'm sure it didn't help that he got oil changes every 10-15k miles or whenever he "thought of it".
Again, this might not even apply to you but I thought I'd bring it up for you to consider.

MrD

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #24 on: December 17, 2012, 07:19:25 PM »
Wow thanks for all the info guys!

To answer some questions, yes I trust the opinion of this dealer/mechanic. Also I drive cars like a baby and regular maintenance is a priority.

I may be going a little off the beaten path here for MMM but I think my plan is to do this:

Drive my car to and from my client for the next 3 months and accrue around $2500 in mileage expenses. The car will then have about 90-95k miles on it and I will most likely get 7500-8500 for it. I will then use this money to buy a 1-2 year old Hyundai with a 10 year / 100k warranty on it. I figure if I am going to save $100/month for unexpected car expenses I may as well just have a $100 car payment and have a car I know won't cause trouble. Hell I may even be able to buy a 1-2 year old Hyundai for around 10k.

Thanks again everyone!

unpolloloco

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #25 on: December 18, 2012, 12:17:43 PM »
FYI - the 10/100k powertrain warranty only applies to the original owner.  The 5yr/60k bumper-to-bumper warranty is transferable, however.

adam

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Re: Mr Life Long Car Dilemma, Please Help
« Reply #26 on: December 19, 2012, 09:40:35 AM »
Did I miss it, or did you not tell us what the actual repair is?

FWIW, I put 113k miles on my wife's 07 Ford Fusion with nary a hiccup.  Still runs like brand new, but will probably require new brakes and struts soon just due to age and use.  I was very impressed with the build quality of this car.