When to let an old car go?

Ready for story time? :smiley:

I have a 2005 Audi A4 quattro 3.0 ultrasport that I’ve been throwing money at ever since I bought it. I really love the car, it’s super fun to drive (especially in the snow), but it seems like the previous owner sold it right before everything started to break. Paid $13k (too much) for the car 2 years ago at a buy-here place because my credit report was pretty much a blank sheet at the time.

I’ve replaced the entire A/C system (~$1200), timing belt (~$1500), various suspension parts (~$500), both front window regulators and trunk actuator (~$600), brakes, and of course the $100 each oil changes regularly. It also burns about a quart per month, which is supposedly normal but that adds up too.

Since it’s all wheel drive, tires need to be bought as a set. Last set came out to nearly $800 for 4, after mount/balance/alignment. These were Goodyear Eagle GT 235/40ZR18s, which I guess they stopped making in 2013.

This week I walk outside and there’s a giant knot on the sidewall of the front tire. I’ve put less than 15k on these tires, and since they aren’t manufactured anymore, I’m faced with buying another whole set. Another $800.

Adding it all up, it looks like I’m about to break $20k spent on a 11 year old car with (now) 140,000 miles on it. Not to mention it’s throwing a check engine again, something about evap system. I also read that the catalytic converters start to go bad around 120k miles on this car. That will be a fun adventure too.

Wifey is about to quit her job in a couple months to do her nursing program full-time. Clinicals I guess. I made a little less than 30k last year and expect to be supporting both of us with about the same amount for the next year or more. I want to get my real estate license and break into that this year as well, which is gonna be another giant expense, at least at first.

I’ve been considering the idea of just driving this thing up to dealership to trade in, and let them deal with the knot on the tire or auction it for whatever. I hate the idea of having another car payment, though. It was so refreshing when I paid off the car and dropped to liability insurance, cutting out a total of $440/month in expenses. But with all the maintenance, it feels like I still have a car payment.

Is it time to cut my losses and go buy a Mazda6?

Or should I buy another set of tires and try to suck some more life out of this money pit? It’s tough to stomach putting another thousand in when I know I could be driving a decade newer car.

Any of you have similar car-trouble-during-precarious-financial-times stories to tell ?

A used Mazda 6.

German cars are money pits. Before you buy one you should take $200 cash out of an ATM and set it on fire. If that doesn’t bother you, buy a German car. If it does bother you, buy a non-German car and consider the $200 as money well spent.

Mercedes once said in an advertisement that it’s cars were “Engineered like no other car in the world”. This is true. But it’s not a good thing.

Only buy a Audi, BMW, or Mercedes if you’re rich enough to take it to the shop regularly or you’re skilled at working on your own cars. The reason they’re fun to drive is because they are lightweight and have lots of widgets and sensors, all of which means there’s plenty of things to break.

If you can’t afford the car, cut your losses. There is no end to the maintenance costs in an Audi.

My rule of thumb with my old van was when repairs started to match what monthly payments on a new car would be, the old one had to go. Sounds to me like you’re way past that point with this vehicle. Cut your losses.

The next repair will be THE ONE THAT FIXES EVERYTHING, never, always be another one after that.
By the way, check for a warranty or a recall on your tire, never know.

When it doesn’t pass inspection and the cost to repair is more than the car is worth.

Or, when a tree falls on it.

I replaced my 2001 Chevy Prizm when it got to the point where I was going to have to have the air conditioning fixed for the third time in five years. I didn’t trade it in when I bought my new car, I was planning to donate it, once I got around to cleaning it out.

Then a tree fell on it.

$800 on Goodyear tires with $15K on them? I agree with checking for a warranty. I haven’t bought any Goodyears yet that didn’t have one.

Paula, There is your problem. You got that out of order!:smack: First the tree falls, then replace the car. Not the other way around.:slight_smile: BTW, You can still donate it. The charity just gets less $$ for it is all.

/dev/goat, I will say, X2 on the tire warranty. Just because Goodyear does not make these tires does not mean that the tires are out of warranty. Goodyear may have discontinued these tires because of warranty issues. Goodyear should supply you with a new set of tires. They will be different, but they will be new. You may have to pay a token amount, but not $800.00.

You might want to look hard at driving this one & only fix what is needed to drive it safely. At least until such time as you can afford to fix the little stuff. IE: both you & your wife are firmly established in your new careers.

You could take the Audi into a reputable shop that specialized in Audi cars, & have them give it a good looking over. Tell them your predicament before they look at it & you will have a much better understanding as to what will need addressed soon & what you can put off.

All of the things that you have replaced should last for at least another 80,000 miles. At that time it will need a new timing belt. You can not count regular maintenance, (timing belt & oil changes), against this rig as you would have done that with any rig you would replace it with.

Unless you are talking about buying a 2016 rig? As I see it, you have already fixed a lot of the minor stuff. If you trade the Audi off now, you will loose that investment. There is no guarantee that the new-to-you car will not need all of these things fixed on it as well. Besides which, it IS fun to drive!

If you do decide to replace this car, check into a new-to-you one that you will have paid off quickly.

YMMV as always.

I drove one car till the engine supports rusted out and the engine fell onto the road. Literally. Oddly enough, it was still connected to the drive train and I was able to pull over to the curb, leaving gouge marks in the street. I should have junked it the previous day, obviously. It was about 16 years old and still drove well.

My last car I drove for 17 years and it was just rusting out. I sold it for $500 to some guy who wanted to work on it himself. Better him than me. My current car is getting close to nine years old and the only thing it has needed was a new battery two months ago. But it has only about 26,000 km on it.

Keep in mind you’ll be giving up many luxury features if you go with a newer Mazda6. Your Audi likely has many standard features like leather power seats, mirrors, maybe heated mirrors and seats, rain-sensitive wipers, 6-position sunroof, automatic climate control, etc. etc. Lots of those little luxury features add up. The Mazda6 is a nice car, but it might be more common to find cloth, manual seats and not as many of the nice things that an Audi has.

Also consider the cost difference to get a newer car. What is that Mazda6 going to cost? $10k? If you keep the Audi, that $10k will pay for a lot of repairs and you’ll have a nicer car to drive than the Mazda6.

I haven’t had Audi’s, but I’ve had many BMWs. What I’ve found is that around 100-120,000 miles, a lot of stuff breaks. Once you repair the part, it lasts for a while. So I’m guessing the mean-time-between-failure for many parts is around 100,000 miles.

One thing that should get replaced proactively is the cooling system (thermostat, water pump, hoses, and expansion tank). I think that’s recommended around 60-80k miles.

The next killer expense is probably the transmission. Lookup your year/model car on the kbb.com site and read the consumer reviews. See if you can get a feel of when people start to have to replace them. I’m guessing that you’ll have issues with it before 200k miles.

My daily driver is a '99 BMW with 220k miles. I’ve had all those maintenance headaches you describe, but I can’t seem to switch. Every other car I get into feels like a generic rental car with a plastic-y interior.

While I agree with the guideline of if the repairs start to be as much as a payment, it’s time to switch, I prefer to keep pouring money into my old BMW since it still drives and looks great. What the equivalent car payment would get me would be just some regular car. Instead, I get to drive a luxury car even if it’s in the shop more often and I have to get my hands dirty sometimes. To me it’s worth it (but only barely :))

Well, I hadn’t dropped the comprehensive/collision insurance on it, so the insurance company towed it away and sent me a check - it was worth more than I thought. :smiley:

I was just glad the tree didn’t fall the other direction and take out my new car.

/dev/goat, you asked

It’s more like a pit that’s sucking ever more money out of your life. Besides the money, think of all the time you couldn’t enjoy this car while it was in the shop, chewing on your wallet.

If you buy a new or near-new car, it will be safer than the car Audi built 11 years ago.

yeah, this. it’s a 10-year-old German car. it’s not going to get better from here, and when the really expensive stuff starts breaking you’ll be up a creek.

I (almost) never get rid of old cars. Sold a running '63 Mercedes and hauled a '90 Toyota to the junkyard, leaving me with an even dozen, including five German cars. All run just fine! The newest is 19 years old. The one I drive the most is 45 years old.

One of the BMWs broke two rocker arms. I had it back on the road for just under $100. Used head, $65, gaskets, belt and coolant, $35.

I’m kind of on the side of fixing the Audi. I was vacillating on fixing my older BMW or buying a cheap econo-box when a Bimmer pal pointed out that I could pour a big chunk o’money in a car I love driving and have it for another 100k or settle for something that was utilitarian.

I also like knowing what repairs I’ve done and when.

YMMV (literally!) but I’m a driving fanatic and opted to open the BMW hood and pour money into it :smiley: I also have the good fortune to have two other cars to rely on if (when) the Bimmer takes a dive, which is a privilege that it sounds as if you may not have at the moment.

Ask the guy who sold it to you. He seems to know exactly when to let an old car go. :stuck_out_tongue:

Yeah, typically tires (esp. from reputable makers like Goodyear) almost always come with a mileage warranty- i.e. 50,000 miles or some such number. They’re also almost always prorated based on warranty- so if the tire makes it 15k out of the 45k warranty period, they’ll pay you back for about 2/3 of the price you paid for that individual tire. I think those tires in particular are warrantied for 50k, actually. I also can’t imagine that 15k of wear on a 50k tire would warrant getting a whole new set of tires. Maybe some stupendously wealthy people do that, but nobody else does- they just get the bad tire replaced and go on.

As to the larger question in the OP, I’ve never really had a good actual rule for determining the repair vs. buy another point for any given vehicle, but it usually seems to become pretty clear anyway, and it sounds like you’re either just past that point (you did spend something like $4500 in repairs in the last couple of years), or very near that point.

That said, the cheapest overall option is still probably to keep it and repair it; a handful of monthly payments would still cost more than a fairly serious repair job.

If you’re going to try and have 2 people live on 30k a year, and are bent on getting a new car, you should probably get something gas efficient and reliable, like a relatively recent model Honda Civic or Ford Focus or something along those lines, so that it’s unlikely that you’ll need much repair work done, and what you will need done will be relatively inexpensive. (e.g. the tires cost $75 each installed, or oil changes are $25 bucks).

Mazda 6 are pretty reliable, but they’re not overly gas efficient, or at least my wife’s old one wasn’t. It wasn’t a gas guzzler, but it wasn’t winning any efficiency awards with that v6 either.

Z-rated tires usually don’t have a milage rating. They’re performance tires rated up to 125mph. I have this same problem on my much less fancy Hyundai Tiburon. My eventual solution was to downgrade to X (hah) rated tires that were only rated to 115mph, but much cheaper. I suggest playing around somewhere like tirerack.com to see if you can find something more reasonable.

Also, from what I remember from my Subaru ownership days, the matching tire thing was most important on a per axel basis. So maybe just replace the two on that axel. Or just get a used tire for that wheel before you trade it in.

I’ve been hearing about window regulator issues from friends with German cars from VWs to BMWs for close to 20 years now - why can’t they get the damn things right?