Repair or Purchase?

Tiny
BOWLINGMOM
  • MEMBER
  • DODGE CARAVAN
I have a 1998 Grand Caravan SE with 193,000 miles. The vehicle has been meticulously maintained. It is also a "conversion" van with the bubble top, offering 10-cd changer, real television, second radio/cd player, and electrical outlet for game playing, etc.

I love my van!

Last night the transmission died and I don't know whether to replace the transmission in a vehicle with this much mileage, or to bite the bullet and get used to car payments again.

Any thoughts? The stuff I've read online sounds like many problems come out of replacing the transmission. What would you do? ($3300 parts/labor for a new transmission with 3 year warranty).
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Thursday, December 28th, 2006 AT 5:42 PM

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Tiny
SERVICE WRITER
  • EXPERT
If you like it repair it. Your looking at about 8-10 car payments? I hope your getting a jasper transmission. Best available IMHO. I wrote an article a while back on this subject, if I find it I'll post it. If not I'll give a synopsis.
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Thursday, December 28th, 2006 AT 6:20 PM
Tiny
SERVICE WRITER
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This wasn't the article published, but a draft. It should serve the purpose anyway. :)

As a service writer, I am continually asked, when should I get rid of my car. Or I am faced with a distressed customer whom has spent $600.00 on a car that they think they could buy for $500.00, clamoring that it is time to get rid of this thing and buy a new one. There were times of internal stress that was felt because our customer was possibly putting money into a vehicle that they thought they shouldn t be, giving the illusion of ripping of the customer . While we never have a crystal ball to know what will happen in the future, giving the best advice possible is paramount.

We had a customer named Neil that had an old Pontiac 6000 that looked like it was on it s last legs. Visually as well as mechanically. I told him to lose the car before it nickled and dimed him to death any worse. Even though it was cutting my own throat, I owe him my honest opinion. We talked about other options that were out there and he looked around but couldn t quite find what he wanted, besides he liked his old jalopy. It served his needs and was paid for. Faithfully, I would see him every couple months for a few hundred-dollar repair bill. This went on for 5 years. He eventually moved to New England, driving the old ricketty but dependable Pontiac wagon. It made me analyze my recommendations a little closer and re-think about when is the time to replace. He had reminded me how I told him that he should have changed vehicles. Meanwhile, I had watched technicians over the years driving some real rust buckets or buying them from a customer because the owner didn t want to spend $500.00 to repair a car, because the car was only worth $1000.00. The technician looked at it differently setting aside the repairs for him would be much less expensive. The shop owner I work for had always presented the answer to the question: is it worth fixing? Into a logical light. He would reply to the owner do you like the car? And then follow up with, Can you buy a car that you know is the exact same condition as your present car for the same cost as what your repair bill will be? Many times customers repaired their car with this logic. But living in this disposable society, I still had trouble quoting a repair that rivaled the expected market value of the car itself.

For years I fought with doing the right thing for my customer as well as the right thing for my employer. There had to be a better way of answering these questions based on more than what I would do if it was mine or what I felt was right for them. After all, what is their financial obligation compared to mine? That is part of the equation for whoever s car it is. What I needed to know was how it could be answered with a common denomonator. We had a customer thaat came in and needed $600.00 worth of work on their 1994 Hyundai. They were customers that kept up on the maintenance we recommended and did repairs as required. Being a loyal customer, it seemed reasonable that they would be a good customer to use for number crunching. I added all of their invoices from 36000 miles to the present miliage. I used these numbers because this is the miliage that the majority of the manufacturer s warranties expire. The currant miliage is subtracted from the 36,000-mile warranty expiration point. I then divided the dollars spents by this to get a dollars per mile figure. It came out to about $.08/mile. Which didn t mean much at this point. So to get a better comparison to what new car is going to be costing the customer; the puchase price is divided by the first 36,000 miles that it is under warranty. Since a new car owner is getting problem free driving for 36,000 miles the purchase price should not be extended beyond this. Using a purchase price of $15,500 plus the sales tax, tags, title brings it to about $17,000 yeilding about $.47/mile. This figure does not include oil changes, tire rotation, interest on a loan or an insurance premium increase. Now that means something! I went back to other loyal customers in our database and found they generally pay $.07 to $.13 per mile to run their vehicles. So they save a minimum of $5,100.00 more annually if they drive 15,000 miles.

The question of moving into a new car can now be answered much more confidently. It is in a way that a customer can relate to making the difference to repair or not. It seems to give them incentive to keep a car and maintain it to get the miliage that is obtainable with today s vehicles when it is taken care of.
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Thursday, December 28th, 2006 AT 6:40 PM
Tiny
BOWLINGMOM
  • MEMBER
Great article and tremendously helpful. I've just about decided to keep the vehicle and take a chance.

I'm going to have a more thorough inspection to see if anything else is going wrong at this point. My thought is that my son enters college in September and if he gets into his first choice, a vehicle is not needed the entire 4 years. So I'm hoping to get at least 8 more months of use from my minivan and then switch to his car (newer with much less miles) at that point. I figure that $3300 for 8 months is about $412.50 - much less then the vehicles that I was leaning towards. Besides, if I buy another used vehicle, I worry about how it holds up as I wouldn't know much about the driving and maintenance habits of the former owner.
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Friday, December 29th, 2006 AT 3:57 AM
Tiny
SERVICE WRITER
  • EXPERT
While it's getting checked over, have them take a look at the left front strut tower. :Idea: These are common to have rot and require repair. It is visable when the hood is open. Common here in WNY, not sure around the country however.

Another problem with getting a used vehicle is that the previous owner is usually motivated to get rid of it because of a problem (s). :Cry:

I wish you luck!
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Friday, December 29th, 2006 AT 5:35 AM

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