Thursday, April 30, 2009

End of line for Lofty?

Our car, a '98 Chevy Cavalier that I affectionately named 'Lofty' when I purchased it in October 2001, has not been nice to us this year. I guess that's fair since we've been making this poor little student car do the work required of a full minivan for the past 7.5 years. It's my first car and we've said more than a couple prayers of gratitude that Lofty's lasted this long.

In January, on the coldest day of the year, the battery quit. $100 for a battery, $200 for the tow truck. That's the 3rd or 4th battery to quit on us in this car. The struts and shocks completely failed on us during the winter - haven't replaced them as it's not totally 'necessary'. In March, the EGR valve quit days before the emissions inspection letter came in the mail. $400 for a new valve and labor. I pushed off the emissions test and, lo and behold, the check engine light went back on a week later. The less-than-a-month-old EGR valve was replaced today. And while it was at the auto shop, we were told that the wheel bearings were totally shot. The estimate is $400 and if we don't do it soon, I'm told the wheels will just fall off the car. Great.

I honestly thought when I bought Lofty that I'd be able to buy another car five years later. Now, 7.5 years later, I'm still completely uncapable financially to buy a car for our family. Yet, I wonder how much longer Lofty is really going to last? Is it worth doing all of these expensive repairs by depleting our puny savings, should I buy a car that I don't have money for, or should I practice provident living and safe financial practices and walk the 6 miles to church every week?

Decisions, decisions.

1 comment:

  1. Ahhh...the joys of cars. Coming from the wife of a used car lot owner we have learned a few things in our dealings the last year that our lot has been open. 1. there is no perfect car. Even if it's just a ding, there is something with everything thing. I love my Dad's customer who bought brand new and brought a hammer with him. As soon as the paperwork was signed he hit the car in the door and said now i can drive it without worries. :) 2. We hate the check engine light!!! The check engine light does not necessarily mean something is wrong, I think it is designed just to make your heart race for a second. So make sure you trust your mechanic!!! Also, along those lines, if you decide to buy just because the check engine light is on now doesn't mean it's not a great car. Sometimes they are programed to come on after so many miles and you just need it turned off. Yes, another way our car companies drain us of money after the sale. 3. Usually when it rains it pours. We have bought cars with what we thought had a "small fix" to make them sale-worthy and ended up not being comfortable selling them to anyone at all so we just took them back to the auction. Usually when they start to go bad they go bad it seems. (usually...not always) 4. No matter how much it seems you are saving money, sometimes it is best to put all those little fixes into another used car. There are some really good older cars (10+ years old) that will continue to run for 10+ years and can be purchased for a couple thousand dollars if that. Then the investment isn't as much. But again...make sure you trust your mechanic and have them look at it before you buy it. If you have something similar to where you are at I recommend starting there. If you are unsure I'm sure both you and your husband are great at research, just plug it in a search and see what the common problems are...that will give you an idea if that car will be a good deal or another money hog.
    Good Luck!!
    Sorry it's so long, hope it helps.