A Vehicular Crossroad

Rachel’s car has finally hit that point.

The point at which we need to choose to keep it till it falls apart or get rid of it now.  For the second time in the roughly 60,000 miles that we’ve owned it, it needs a head gasket.  The car is a 2000 Chevrolet Malibu with a 3.1L v6.  From what I’ve heard this is an extremely common problem with this engine.  Awesome.

So, our dilemma…

The car is paid off.  Irregular maintenance has not yet turned into regular maintenance, so monthly costs have been negligible for the better part of a year.  It’s in good mechanical condition (besides the recent development), although it’s in extremely poor cosmetic condition.

The cost of repair is approximately $1200.  We can safely assume if we were to buy a new (to us) car to replace the Malibu we’d be looking at payments somewhere between $200 and $400 a month and a minute trade in value.

At those costs it would only need to last us another 3-6 months before the benefit of repairing it outweighs the cost of a new car payment.  Of course, this assumes that we don’t have any other major issues with the car in that 3-6 month time period which is big possibility.  On the other hand, we haven’t had to do anything to the car (and it’s been paid off) for almost a year, so really it’s already earned the new head gasket.

It’s a gamble, we either bet on our car to last another 6 months or we bet against it, and move on with our lives without the complication, but with a little added cost.

One last thing to consider: We only drive 1 car on a regular basis as I ride the bus to and from work.  Therefor; having one unreliable car has been something we’ve been prepared to live with for a while.

What would you do?

We haven’t decided but if someone decides they want to give us an offer… let us know in the comments.

5 thoughts on “A Vehicular Crossroad

  1. Before recommending an option, there are a few things I would ask:

    1) Have you tried contacting Chevy or seeing if this is a known recall/defect that you could get them to pay for at part of it?
    2a) How much could you get out of it in its current state?
    3b) How much could you get out of it with the head gasket fixed?

    With that aside, I would pay to have it fixed and in the meantime look for a good used car in the $3000 price range. I say this because you will have a working car to use that while using you can try to sell as I’m guessing you will be better off selling it with that work done than without it done. Secondly, that mount for a used car is something for the sake of this discussion I’m assuming can be afforded without a loan. IMO, a loan on car is never worthwhile. Additionally living in NY with the salt and weather conditions (and in this case your two dogs) it does not make sense to have a super nice vehicle IMO.

    In regards to finding a nice used car in the $3000 range, it can happen and the best way is to put the word out to friends and family that you are looking and usually a well maintained car comes along from a trusted person that is being sold for no reason other than they wanted to get a new car. My brother just picked up a 2001 Buick Regal, 80K miles, leather, moonroof, loaded, for $2500. The deals are out there.

    As a personal preference from an environmental standpoint, I prefer keeping cars longer and/or buying used.

    If the exact situation were upon me, the aforementioned is how I would proceed. Good Luck!


  2. If you only need one car and have two, then why not fix this until you deem it not worth fixing any long and/or it dies completely?

    Seems pretty straightforward to me when you list what you have, what you need, and what your options are. Perhaps there are other factors you did not list here?


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