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Learning, Sharing, and Teaching => Ask a Mustachian => Topic started by: apoclater on September 30, 2013, 08:35:18 PM

Title: Non-essential car repair
Post by: apoclater on September 30, 2013, 08:35:18 PM
I have a 2001 Buick Regal and it's (unfortunately) starting to nickel and dime me.   The one bright spot of it is, all the repairs have been to relatively non-essential items.  I paid for a $1300 repair to the a/c to replace my evaporator before I found MMM, now my A/C went dead again and post-MMM I'm considering now repairing.  It's a $600 repair for a condensation component.

This wouldn't even be a question if I lived in the midwest or northeast, but since I live in Florida I have to think twice.  Summer without A/C is unthinkable, but since it's almost fall I may stick with this car until next Spring and get a new car then.

What does everyone think?
Title: Re: Non-essential car repair
Post by: onehappypanda on October 01, 2013, 06:04:28 AM
Who did you take it to for the quote on the repair? Repair costs for older vehicles vary wildly, with dealers and some chain mechanics usually charging far more than smaller independent mechanics. Check other places, including anyone your friends can recommend and anyone you know who is the least bit handy, to see how much it would cost elsewhere.

My thinking: Since the hottest part of the year is over and won't pop up again until Spring, you've got plenty of time to do your research and think about it. If you can find an inexpensive fix, that might be worth pursuing. Repairing and maintaining is usually cheaper in the long-run than replacing, IME.

I would also think about the condition of the rest of the vehicle: how are the major mechanical systems holding up? If the A/C is all that's wonky, again it may be worth repairing. But if there are other issues lurking, maybe not.
Title: Re: Non-essential car repair
Post by: DCUrbanMM on October 01, 2013, 08:33:01 AM
I think your basic question is to fix the AC or replace the car.

I have a similar age car (Ford Focus) that's had similar small issues which I have been able to fix (for the most part) myself.  With older cars, we would only be able to get 2 - 3K if we sold in the private market.  The reason I have been doing the small repairs is that the replacement value to me is about $5K - 7K (although the car is 12 years old it has been pretty reliable, carefully driven, and only has 85K on the odometer).  So the cost to replace for me would then be $3 - 5K net.  When I run the numbers, I would prefer having the money invested then sunk into another car, which may have similar issues down the line.  Try to think about what the car is worth to you with the cost of repairs. 

Regarding the AC, since you have 6 months before it gets real bad, you can definitely shop it around.  Try craigslist: there are often mechanics looking for side hustles. 

Title: Re: Non-essential car repair
Post by: daverobev on October 01, 2013, 08:41:46 AM
Thing is... if you replace the a/c, you know it'll be good - you've done the evap, now the condensor, then assuming no leaks you're good. If you sell it and buy something else, do you know the evap or condensor won't go in 3-6-12 months?

If the car is generally sound, stick with it - IMHO. Unless it's a lemon anyway - I think certain engines (3.3l?) are known bad designs. *Edit* specifically this era 3.3l GM, though I could be wrong. Wife had a Skylark with a leaky... umm.. oh I forget, water got in the engine anyway.
Title: Re: Non-essential car repair
Post by: prodarwin on October 01, 2013, 08:46:58 AM
*Edit* specifically this era 3.3l GM, though I could be wrong. Wife had a Skylark with a leaky... umm.. oh I forget, water got in the engine anyway.

Intake manifold gaskets.  On the 60 degree V6 (2.8, 3.1, 3.4) engines.  Yeah, they suck.
Title: Re: Non-essential car repair
Post by: Ottawa on October 01, 2013, 08:59:23 AM
We have encountered similar decisions the past year.

Our A/C quit working on the '03 jetta.  All I know is the charge is gone.  There is a hole somewhere in the system...but we decided not to chase that rabbit...and survived the summer no problem without it.  Turns out we realize that A/C is really only necessary sitting in traffic or short trips: which we don't really do at all.  On the longer trips we just open the windows!

The other thing that went was both elements for our heated seats.  I have not looked into what this would cost...but this is likely something I could do myself.  But again: it's only really necessary when you use your car on short trips...which we don't do.

Amazing how hedonic adaptation can mitigate the loss of these (so far) two features!
Title: Re: Non-essential car repair
Post by: FunkyStickman on October 01, 2013, 11:07:54 AM
I live in south Louisiana, I have a black car, and the only time I use the A/C is when I have passengers, which is rare. Definitely shop around, and unless you've got known issues with the car, I'd say it's cheaper to keep it.

That being said, I had a Nissan van that the A/C went out on at least 3 times, and the last time we got rid of it. Wasn't worth the hassle to keep repairing it. We replaced it with a Dodge minivan... that the tranny immediately went out on. So you know, 6 of one, 1/2 a dozen of the other.