Repair Beater Car or Finally Be Free?

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Spartan_Warrior
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Repair Beater Car or Finally Be Free?

Post by Spartan_Warrior » Wed Dec 14, 2016 11:35 pm

My 98 Infiniti is currently with the "family mechanic" who does a lot of our car work at discounted labor and wholesale prices for parts. The car needs new front brakes, shocks, and exhaust. Seems like rust is what's generally responsible. I'm supposed to get the final estimate tomorrow when he checks the part costs but I'm guessing it'll be around $1200. The car has 210,000+ miles and is worth about $1,000 to $1,500 per Kelly Blue Book private party (a whopping $250 trade-in).

Since I work from home, I haven't driven the car (except to the mechanic) all year, partly because it started driving so poorly after last winter--I suppose the blizzard(s) accelerated the rust. Anyway, the car basically just sits in the driveway. My fiance has a newer car for her daily commute; for the most part, I haven't really needed to go anywhere from 8-6 M-F when her car is unavailable, so I've just been using hers.

I'm wondering if I even need my car anymore.

Technically, I may be asked to commute to the office for certain occasions, though I haven't had to at all this year. It's possible my work from home status could change, but at the moment it doesn't seem imminent. There is an Enterprise car rental about two blocks down the road that's easy to get to. It appears to cost about $50 for a one-day rental of a small vehicle, which is about the same as the cost of an Uber ride back and forth to my office. Seems exorbitant, but considering I could rent a car once a month for two years before spending more than the repair costs, perhaps it's not that bad. Again, I haven't been called to work, or had any other need for a car from 8-6, in the last year.

On the one hand, it makes me worried to have no transportation in an emergency during the day. I live in a suburban/semi-rural area that's not easily walkable. I am actually in walking distance to many things, including my doctor, dentists, grocery stores, etc, but the roads aren't the safest for pedestrians (the town is basically a juncture of two multi-lane state highways) so I don't enjoy walking if I don't have to. It's do-able, though. (However, I don't feel confident enough to ride a bike here at all due to my own lack of skills.)

On the other hand, one-commuter families used to survive with one car just fine a few decades ago, and if I didn't use it all year, why would I miss it next year?

What would you do? Cough up the money to fix it? Try to ditch it for $500 or whatever I can get (possibly nothing) in its current state, and go without? Something else...?

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Chris
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Re: Repair Beater Car or Finally Be Free?

Post by Chris » Thu Dec 15, 2016 12:05 am

I'd vote for ditching it.

How much is your carrying cost (insurance, registration, etc.)? I was surprised to find that for my carrying cost, I could get a rental 1 weekend per month, plus a couple hours of ZipCar for the same costs I pay to maintain my car. And remember, Enterprise will pick you up! So you don't need to walk if it's treacherous.

As for emergencies, do you have ambulance service in your area?

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vexed87
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Re: Repair Beater Car or Finally Be Free?

Post by vexed87 » Thu Dec 15, 2016 5:15 am

DW and I have one car between us now. I only drive it if she needs chauffeuring somewhere, rarely for my own work. My employer doesn't often expect me to drive places, but it does happen, sometimes I'll have meetings in another city where public transport isn't practical. Being able to borrow or rent a car in those rare circumstances makes more sense than having a car sit on your drive and depreciate.

Getting rid of my own car was one of the better decisions I ever made. Take the leap.

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Sclass
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Re: Repair Beater Car or Finally Be Free?

Post by Sclass » Thu Dec 15, 2016 7:05 am

Is keeping the car without repairing it an option? Shocks are a safety issue if it bounces all over the road. But, even worn out pads with 10% on them will stop a car that is driven once a month...for years.

Hole in the mufffler or broken hanger? A car with your duty cycle can be fixed with metal from a soupcan, some hanger wire and a tube of muffler cement.

I vote for doing a ghetto fix and keeping it. Chewing gum and tape will go a long way on a car that isn't used daily.

Back in grad school I had a classmate who rented a car one weekend a month. He would win the dollar for dollar game every time against anyone who owned a car. Uber is a huge convenience over that. If you just want to save money that is unbeatable.

There's the $1200 which is spread out over a few years (new parts will last forever with your use model) and the fixed costs like insurance and reg that will get you.


Hard to say.

Spartan_Warrior
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Re: Repair Beater Car or Finally Be Free?

Post by Spartan_Warrior » Thu Dec 15, 2016 8:38 am

There is ambulance service. We're not that remote. Twenty minutes in one direction takes me to the heart of Baltimore. Twenty minutes in the other direction takes me to corn fields.

Insurance costs me about $500/yr. Registration about $60/yr IIRC. Emissions checks another $14 every 2-3 years (don't remember). So, yeah, that would cover the cost of renting a car almost once a month over the year.

The question is, can I go without insurance and still drive my fiance's car? After some very brief googling, I'm under the impression that I would need a non-owner policy--or at least, if it's not legally required, it seems at least advisable as I would apparently be liable for certain damages in the event of an accident. To rent cars, I believe I would need to either have an existing (non-owner?) insurance policy or pay ~$10 extra for temporary coverage from the rental company. So, I'm not sure I can actually deduct the (full) cost of insurance. My coverage is already pretty minimal, I believe, so the non-owner policy might not even be that much better. Not sure how to look into this (quickly enough to influence my current decision), which is why I didn't even really consider any savings from cutting insurance.

I could keep the car without having it professionally fixed, sure. I question whether I have the knowledge to safely fix any of it myself, though. I don't really know (or like) cars. For instance, I'm not totally sure what you mean by "broken hanger", although there was some metal grate thing hanging from underneath that I long since ripped off, lol.

The main issue I noticed with it is that it drives with a heavy grind in the wheels from what I assume to be rusted/locked brakes. I was able to reduce that grinding noise by taking the tires off and spraying WD-40 around the rotor(?), but it didn't fully do the trick. The brakes are definitely deteriorated, but still stop the car, especially with my silly and probably infuriating level of hyper-miling. My fiance said the car was spewing black smoke from the exhaust when I drove it to the mechanic the other day, and it kind of smelled like burnt metal inside the cabin, like a range coil heating up, without my even using the heat--I guess this is indicative of the exhaust issue. As for the shocks, I'm not totally sure what I'm supposed to be looking for, didn't notice the car driving especially poorly or bouncing in any way. I feel like that's the lowest priority, but again, I don't really know.

Whether I fix it or don't fix it, I kinda suspect it's just going to continue sitting and rusting and depreciating in the driveway. By the time I went to drive it again, I feel like it would probably have something new wrong with it. I can put a cover over it for this winter if I do keep it and maybe save it from some of the worst effects.

At this point I'm thinking I might just fix the brakes--which seem to be the most noticeable problem--and then decide where to go from there. Hopefully I'd be able to recoup some of the costs of that repair if I do go to resell it. If I tried to sell it in its current condition, I feel like I wouldn't even get the KBB fair value, but I don't know.

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Gilberto de Piento
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Re: Repair Beater Car or Finally Be Free?

Post by Gilberto de Piento » Thu Dec 15, 2016 11:17 am

I was able to reduce that grinding noise by taking the tires off and spraying WD-40 around the rotor(?)
Never spray anything on your brakes except water (if washing the car) or brake cleaner (in the process of working on the brakes). If something like WD40 gets in the pads and makes them less effective it will be very dangerous because your stopping distance will increase or the car won't stop at all.

If it is the brakes making the grinding noise it is either:
1. Rust has built up on the rotor from not driving. This can happen in a matter of days. Drive until the grinding stops. If it doesn't go away in a few applications of the brakes that is not the issue.
2. The brake pad material is gone and the metal part of the pad is now rubbing on the rotor. You need to at least replace the pads. Note that grinding is not a reliable indicator of needing news pads. I've had the pad material completely gone and the car made no unusual noises.

If one or more brakes is locked up so it isn't disengaging that may explain the smell and smoke.

If you aren't driving the car regularly it is good to occasionally start it up and drive it around. Drive long enough for it to get up to operating temperature. This wouldn't have helped the issues you mention though.

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cmonkey
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Re: Repair Beater Car or Finally Be Free?

Post by cmonkey » Thu Dec 15, 2016 2:06 pm

Spartan_Warrior wrote:I live in a suburban/semi-rural area that's not easily walkable. I am actually in walking distance to many things, including my doctor, dentists, grocery stores, etc, but the roads aren't the safest for pedestrians (the town is basically a juncture of two multi-lane state highways) so I don't enjoy walking if I don't have to. It's do-able, though. (However, I don't feel confident enough to ride a bike here at all due to my own lack of skills.)

This is almost exactly my situation and I am car free. We have a truck that DW drives ~every 5 days, but I walk to the bus stop which is 1/8 mile down a 4 lane divided highway. It's not bad if you walk on the widest shoulder of the side of the road where people are coming at you. You can see them and they usually move over.

I also vote for ditching the car. I had a 98 grand prix I sold for $260 bucks last July. It's a great weight off my mind along with no more insurance/registration payments.

George the original one
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Re: Repair Beater Car or Finally Be Free?

Post by George the original one » Thu Dec 15, 2016 2:07 pm

Ditch the car. Your household has one car available for the routine uses. You can buy a replacement car in the future if your situation changes, so no reason to be attached to the one you currently own.

tommytebco
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Re: Repair Beater Car or Finally Be Free?

Post by tommytebco » Thu Dec 15, 2016 2:37 pm

Beater cars and real mechanics do not mix. either jury rig the repairs yourself (if you can safely do so) or change beater car. repairs in the 1000s equals the price of a beater car.

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Sclass
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Re: Repair Beater Car or Finally Be Free?

Post by Sclass » Thu Dec 15, 2016 9:58 pm

Good advice here.

$500 sounds like a lot for insurance for a beater.

Hanger means use an old coat hanger to hold a patch made out of a soup can over a hole in the muffler or pipe. Or use a hanger wire to hold the pipe up so it won't drag along over the road. I'm not quite sure your exhaust is messed up. Actually as Gilberto said you may have a stuck brake piston. Driving the car may "cure" or not. After a drive carefully touch your wheels and see if one is getting hot from a dragging brake.

Push the car up and down at the bumper. If the car keeps bouncing like a mass on a spring your shocks are dead. The oscillation should damp out fast.

Maybe it's better to give up on cars. Uber is a great service for people who don't need a personal car often. I recall driving myself to the ER in my personal car in grad school which was probably a mistake. I should have called 911 and waited for an ambulance.

Hard to say. I like the idea of ghetto Repairing a ghetto car. I don't think there is any sense in trying to get your money out of it or worrying about depreciation. You're close to rock bottom now.

Ayo
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Re: Repair Beater Car or Finally Be Free?

Post by Ayo » Thu Dec 22, 2016 3:47 pm

And here I just bought a beater car. Audi 80 1995 break, 1.9 tdi, I'm ashamed to say: 377000 km. Nice car & many more kms to go but... Wish I saw this thread earlier. The inspection certificate is still valid, I will sell the car.

In a real emergency I think you wouldn't walk (or drive) anywhere: ambulance will have to come to you & your wife will want to come back to help you. If you have to go to a relative's emergency: use below option & the ones mentioned in this thread. You can always send somebody else if you're stuck.

Do you have any friends/neighbors nearby that can lend a car? I often borrow cars. Trust needed though. Might be a good backup plan. You wont ask for their car 3x/year.

I would do the calculations over a longer period of time.
Doing all the repairs + yearly costs & the sorrow of having the car rust away (after repairing it, you still wont drive it a lot) + having to eventually deal with it compared to all the backup plans out there

EDIT: And how about cycling to work? As dangerous as walking?

Treading27
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Re: Repair Beater Car or Finally Be Free?

Post by Treading27 » Tue Jul 18, 2017 11:05 am

Spartan_Warrior wrote:
Thu Dec 15, 2016 8:38 am
To rent cars, I believe I would need to either have an existing (non-owner?) insurance policy or pay ~$10 extra for temporary coverage from the rental company.
According to the Enterprise FAQ, in order to rent a car from them you only need to meet age requirements, have a license and a valid form of payment; a damage waiver (or car rental insurance) isn't necessary. Just ignore those sales-pitches for add-ons as they're very profitable for rental companies.

However, since it's a good idea to have some sort of protection, you can save money by just using car rental insurance from a credit card. I've opted to use my Citi Cashback card's rental insurance with no extra cost to me when I used Enterprise a year ago. You're covered for damages and theft but not for accidents that places you at fault. You just have to use the credit card to pay for the rental and drive safe.

Also, if you sold your beater, you could put the money that'd go into insurance/registration and emissions checks into a higher quality used vehicle. That's, of course, if you feel you really need one. If it were me, I'd like to be able to get around with a personal vehicle.

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Dragline
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Re: Repair Beater Car or Finally Be Free?

Post by Dragline » Tue Jul 18, 2017 1:15 pm

That car sounds dead to me. I think I would look for something else before putting more money in it.

I can't say if you really need it or not in your situation, but it sounds like the best solution would be to use your girlfriend's car when you need one and pay her something for the privilege to be fair. In those very rare situations where you both need one at the same time, uber and rentals can fill in.

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stayhigh
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Re: Repair Beater Car or Finally Be Free?

Post by stayhigh » Wed Jul 26, 2017 11:01 am

Give it a good clean in&out, take nice pictures and put in on CL.

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SavingWithBabies
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Re: Repair Beater Car or Finally Be Free?

Post by SavingWithBabies » Wed Aug 02, 2017 12:06 pm

Is GetAround in your area? If so, it's handy and can be cheap. Just take a walk around video before and after each time (else you might be on the hook for $700 damage deductible if you can't prove it wasn't you).

Can you Uber to closer transit?

I'd ditch the vehicle. I'm in similar situation. I have a big SUV in great condition though. I use it for towing a light boat and road trips. I'm keeping it for now but it is wasteful with extra $1k/year insurance (Michigan no fault combined with high insurance fraud in state). We could switch to one vehicle that could do it all but our other vehicle is a relatively new hybrid. That and some other concerns have us staying as is.

Spartan_Warrior
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Re: Repair Beater Car or Finally Be Free?

Post by Spartan_Warrior » Tue Aug 08, 2017 8:51 am

I ended up getting the brakes fixed for about $240, slashing my insurance so it's only about $350/yr, and keeping the car. Registration is about $60/yr. Still (barely) chugging along. It's come in handy a few times since, and those expenses are minor to me, so no regrets. I value it at $0 in my budget now and will probably plan to donate it or junk it when the situation changes.

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