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October 2006

Saturn Nearing the End?

Back on 30 Jan 2004 I posted that my Saturn had finally reached the point at which I had always said I would get a new car… namely, I got a repair estimate for more than the value of the car. It was burning oil and they said it needed some major overhaul or whatnot to fix it. Well, I just added oil more often, and it has been fine for another 2 years and 9 months.

But today I took it in for routine service (way overdue, the last year or so has not been good for those sorts of things) and they say the clutch is barely hanging on and could go at any moment. That’ll be $1100 or so to replace. Plus it needs work on the brakes ($350). Plus a new horn ($100). Plus a new Oxygen sensor ($150), plus the regular routine service ($200). Add taxes and all the other random charges and you are over $2000. Kelley Blue Book gives the value at $1700 or so if it was in “Fair” condition… and of course unless I did all the work listed above, it would not be in “Fair” condition. So “as is” it is worth a lot less than that, if anything at all.

So… looks like the call for now is… fix the brakes (since it could be a safety issue) and do the usual fluid changes and such, but nothing else. I’ll then take the car back and drive it until it stops moving. Then I will buy a new car.

It would be really nice if it could make it until January or so. But the dealerships opinion is that it probably won’t and it is rather lucky it hasn’t died already. But, we’ll see. I’ll drive real gentle like.

It is a 1996 Saturn SL2 with 175000 and change on it. That isn’t a bad life. It did OK.

Every single car I have ever been the primary driver on… with the possible exception of the Toyota Corrolla that got totalled, I don’t remember… died between 175000 and 180000 miles. The 1976 Dodge Colt did. The 89 Ford Taurus did. I don’t remember the Corrolla. I should. But I don’t. I didn’t have that car that long.

Anyway… we’d prefer to wait as long as possible, but I guess we should start car shopping pretty much ASAP and see what is out there in price ranges we are comfortable with.

11 comments to Saturn Nearing the End?

  • ivanbou

    Instead of taking it to the dealer, why don’t you take it to one of those repair shops they talk about in car talk, that they refer as trustworthy. Your clutch should not cost that much to replace + the o2 sensor. Oil? Just keep adding it. You should be able to find a place that for 500 dollars can do all that work.

  • Abulsme

    Shhh!!! Ivan!!! I am *trying* to get a new car out of this damn it! You are not helping! Now I’m going to have to look more seriously into the repair options after all. :-(


    Seriously, I do want a new car, but I’d rather wait a bit longer if I can. Like maybe early 2007. That would be good timing for us. But we could do something right now if we really wanted (or needed) to.

    The question is not really the exact price of the repairs. A few hundred more or less won’t make a difference in the big scheme of things (at least now that I’m not paying for two houses!). It is more a question of how long we keep pouring money into this car and if it is still worth it.

    Even since that last post something else was found wrong with it that would be a few hundred dollars more if we had it fixed. It is an old car. More and more things are wearing out and will need to be replaced.

    If I spent the money and had everything fixed on it that needs to be fixed it might very well go another year or two without any major problems. On the other hand, something else big could break next month.

    Is it yet at the point where my monthly maintenance costs are more than the monthly payment on a new car would be? No. Not even if I had all the stuff done it needs plus more just for the hell of it. But… at some point you have to let go and say it is time for a new one, right?

    Or should I go into full preservation mode and say I’ll spend whatever the hell it takes so I can still be driving this same Saturn 30 or 40 years from now?

    Cause I could see me doing that too.

  • matt

    i say don’t do the repair. just change the fluids to buy you time until you purchase or lease a new car.
    the way i see it, you’re done moving up and down and across the country for a couple years.
    if you buy or lease, you’re probably going to be able to find one of those deals for 0% down and 0% APR for 6 or 7 years. So figure you’d be putting down $0 and then paying payments of $180-$400 a month (depending on the car of course).
    i think that’s a better use of your $2k.

  • ivanbou

    Going without cluth and brakes is no good. Clutch when it goes, you are stuck the car will be paralyzed, not changing it when you know it’s about to go, is like just running the gas into empty on purpose. Since I know you are trying to save money, to buy a home, you can probably fix the car and squeeze an extra 12 months out of it, until you save some bucks. I know it’s really tempting to guy the car, but you can keep it going a little bit more, until you are settled.

  • Abulsme

    Well, in response to both of the above… I had already told them to go ahead with the brakes before I made the blog post about it. You just don’t mess with brakes. Clutch goes, the car stops and you are stranded until you get towed or whatever. Brakes go, you run head first into a wall at 80 miles an hour. So I fixed the brakes.

    For the moment, I didn’t get anything else done. So I am indeed driving knowing the clutch could go at any second. At first I thought I’d be OK with this. After all, roll to a stop, call AAA, wait for help. No big deal, just an inconvenience. But I’ve been noticing how many tunnels and bridges and one lane on or off ramps I traverse every day going to and from work, and keep thinking how much it would suck if the place the car broke down was one of THOSE.

    So… thinking about going ahead and getting it fixed and putting off the new car plans until 2007.

    But damn it, I want a new car!

    And while money is certainly no longer the issue it was while paying double, it would be nice to build back up the savings to a have a nice buffer zone again before signing up for a new monthly payment.

    But continuing to throw money at the Saturn when I know something else will go wrong sooner rather than later also rankles a little bit.

    So… we’ll see.

    If the Saturn doesn’t die first, we’ll probably make a decision within the next couple of weeks.

  • ivanbou

    At least you noticed, you don’t really have a choice of where you get stranded, which could turn into a pretty hairy situation. Now brakes, yes, you are right first priority, no runny into a wally, bad, bad!

  • randatola

    Sam, did you know that brakes are really easy to do yourself? I only do my own brakes now. No way am I trusting some stranger with my brakes. You can buy a brake kit for <<$100 and do them yourself, but you will need a jack also.

  • randatola

    …and how convenient that your company just launched an auto parts store.

  • ivanbou

    Sam doing brakes is a bad idea. Sam is good at many things, none of them involve doing mechanical things as far as I remember.

  • Abulsme

    I’ll have to go with Ivan here. I would NEVER ride in a car that I had so much as changed the light bulb in the glove compartment, let alone one where I had messed with the brakes!

  • Abulsme

    It has been almost a year and the Saturn is still going strong! Uh, well… still going.

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