There are people here who will disagree with me, but I'm more than happy to share my opinions. My daily driver is an old, tired, rusty trusty '88 Grand Caravan with over 415,000 miles. I have four newer vehicles, but none that I would trust to take on my upcoming trip through a few states. I'll keep this one on the road as long as possible because it has all the toys the new ones have, but only one computer, for the engine. We get so frustrated with all the unnecessary, unreliable, and complicated computers the insane engineers have seen fit to hang onto every system, then we have to give owners the terrible news every time they need a new one. Even very basic and easy-to-repair electrical problems turn into a diagnostic nightmare costing hundreds of unnecessary dollars.
Your 2003 model already has way more computers than I want on any vehicle I own. That complexity doubles every few years. I've been helping a friend in his body shop when he rebuilds one and two-year-old smashed Chrysler products, and I just shake my head in amazement at all the nonsense he is willing to put up with to fix the damaged electronics. Electronics do not do well in the environment they're put in, and now to seriously increase the chances of a failure, there's a computer module inside each door, one for the lift gate, even one to run the dash lights. You can be pretty sure you'll be spending a lot more money for repairs on a new vehicle of any brand compared to your car.
Speaking of brands, a national instructor lists the top three manufacturers in the world for customer-friendly business practices as Chrysler, number three, Toyota, number two, and Hyundai as number one. That isn't referring to reliability, fit and finish, or quality. It refers to how well they address customers' needs and complaints, and how they design their vehicles for the needed maintenance and repairs. BMW, Volkswagen, and GM are at the bottom of that list with all the tricks they have designed in that cost unsuspecting owners money after the sale, ... A lot of money. At that point they have you hooked, and there's not much you can do.
Also consider you're familiar with your car and any other problems it has right now. That may not sound like a big deal, but allow me to bring up the story we used in the tv repair business years ago. People would ask if they were better off buying a new tv for, lets say $400.00, or repairing their old one for $75.00. To start with, there was usually very little we could tell them about any future problems that were developing in their old tv, other than a weak picture tube. If this was the first problem they had in ten years, which was easily possible in a few brands, it was pretty likely they weren't going to suddenly start having all kinds of new problems soon. It was more likely a new tv would have something go wrong. Not good news if it went out during a football game on Sunday afternoon when we were closed.
So the repair part of the story wasn't an issue. A new tv could break down, and so could their old one. The advantage to fixing their old one is they knew how to work it and were familiar with it. The advantage to the new one is you might get some new features, but that was only an advantage if you actually would use them and appreciate them.
That boiled it down to the cost of repairing an old tv to the cost of a new one, and this relates to what you asked about repairing your car so you could trade it in. Suppose for the sake of argument we were going to allow you $100.00 trade-in allowance on that new tv so you'd pay the other $300.00. That $100.00 is for a good, working tv, not one that needs repairs. That means you have to stick $75.00 into it to get $100.00 trade value. On the other hand, if you trade it in not working, we would still give you $50.00 toward that new tv. You were 25 bucks better off trading the old one in and NOT having it fixed first.
The reason for sharing that exciting story is because it's the same with cars. All car dealers know that most people trade in their old cars when there's a problem, and they expect that. That means they've already discounted what they're going to offer you to cover much of those repair costs. You are not likely to get any more for your car after you pay for the repairs, in this case a used engine. Most new car dealers don't even keep cars this old on their lots. They send them to auctions where only other car dealers can buy them, problems and all. No problems or defects are disclosed there. The buyers are taking their chances, and they are hoping the problems they end up with are things they can solve. Even if they knew your car had the engine replaced, they don't know how long ago, what kind of maintenance it had, how many miles were on it, etc. They DO know the history of an engine they rebuild themselves, and that allows them to resell the car with confidence and a warranty.
If you choose to keep your car and put an engine in it, used ones from reputable salvage yards generally come with a 30 or 60 day warranty for major things. Those expensive things usually show up right away, if there are any. The profit the repair shop makes covers a small part of their mechanic's labor if he has to do the job a second time. The salvage yard will find a different engine if necessary. You only pay for the job once.
I've been unemployed too, but for six years, (and I have no intention on looking for a new job when I pay over half my wages in taxes to support others), but I'm lucky that I can do all my own repairs. Something you might consider is having your engine looked at by the students in an Automotive Technology program at your nearest community college. At mine, we charged ten dollars per hour labor for what the job was supposed to take according to the "flat rate" guide, not what it actually took us Parts were marked up ten percent, and the profit formed a "breakage" fund that covered something if we accidentally broke it, which was rare. The students are well-supervised, and mine were very conscientious. The downside is due to their other classes, and my classroom time, they only had about a dozen hours per week to work in the shop. What you save in dollars is offset by not seeing your car for a few weeks, or possibly longer if the engine needs to be rebuilt. You may not get a warranty either because the people doing the work may not be in that class when you come back. That may be up to each instructor. My coworker was real hard-nosed about that. "No warranty"-period! I always took care of my customers, and I had over a dozen people in the community who would sit on a broken car until it fit what I was teaching because they knew the value of having live vehicles for the kids to work on.
They also will not take your car in until they're studying Engine Repair. Any work they do takes work away from the employers who hire their graduates, and they accept that when it's related to the students' training. In return, we never worked on things that didn't relate to the systems under study at that time.
Your engine may not need a total rebuild either. The cylinder heads likely are okay so that can save a lot of money. Your local mechanic will have to disassemble the engine and inspect and measure the parts before he can provide a more accurate estimate. At that point, however, if you decide to not go ahead with the repairs, you'll have a basketful of parts to trade in.
Tuesday, September 2nd, 2014 AT 8:40 PM