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#1 of 13 Old 07-25-2012, 11:59 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Update in posts #11 & 12

I'm not expecting anyone to actually decide this for me, but I'm wondering if maybe people have some ideas that we haven't thought of yet ourselves, so here goes:

 

We bought dh a new (used) car in January. It is a 2008 Mazda with low miles that we paid about $10,000 for (cash). It is a salvage title, which we knew when we bought it. The dealer we bought it from is one that buys and repairs salvage titles. According to the dealer, it was in a collision with damage to the front right side, but no engine damage. They did body work on the car, but nothing else. Shortly after buying it, dh felt something was off with the suspension, and we had the right front strut replaced. We took it to a Mazda dealer for this. They wanted to replace all the struts, I think, but we couldn't afford that. Also, the tires were basically bald, something we somehow failed to notice when we purchased it, so we got new tires at that time, too.

 

Fast forward to about a week ago - dh was driving the car home from a business trip, and the A/C quit running cold. Then he noticed the car overheating, so he slowed down (hindsight being 20/20, we both wish he'd pulled over at that point!). Eventually, the temperature gauge dropped to zero, the car sputtered, and stopped. Couldn't be started again. It was towed to a local shop, and the coolant tank was empty. The couldn't get the car to start at all there, either. Their guess was that it had a blown head gasket and needed a new engine. My dad and brothers drove out and picked up dh and his car and towed it back home (he was about 100 miles away). We took it to a Mazda dealership, which said basically the same thing as the other shop - needs a new engine. (Not to mention some cooling repairs, but I don't think they messed with that much since the engine won't run.) I  may have some of the technical details wrong, but I know the bottom line is essentially that it PROBABLY needs a new engine, and it would be rather expensive/time-consuming to take the engine apart in order to be 100% certain that's what was needed. Not something anybody's going to do for free.

 

To get a brand-new engine installed, the quote is about $7k. A used (or rebuilt, or something) is about $5k. This does include labor, but I don't think it includes fixing the cooling system. The thing is, because it is a salvage title, we would get NO warranty on it. Nothing. So if we drive it out of the parking lot and it explodes again because the mechanic dropped his bubble gum in it, we'd STILL have to pay for repairs.

 

Options we've thought of so far:

  1. Sell the car for what we can get for it (probably very little) and buy a new (used) one
  2. Get the used engine installed by the dealership (I think dh is too daunted by the cost to even get other estimates, so there is a chance we could do this option a little cheaper elsewhere)
  3. Try fixing it ourselves, or at least figuring out if it's fixable ourselves
  4. Sell the car and live as a one-car family

 

All of these options have SERIOUS drawbacks, such as:

 

Option 1: We would basically lose the $10,000 we spent on the car - I can't imagine us getting more than $2000 for it in its current state, and I think that might be overly optimistic. We can't afford to pay cash for anything other than a complete beater, which means either taking a large risk of the 'new' car breaking down, or taking out a very sizable loan, which we don't want.

 

Option 2: We can't afford this, either - we would have to see if the dealer did financing, or try to borrow money from family. Which is probably possible, and probably (though not certainly) would not involve much drama, mostly just seriously wounded pride for us (especially dh). And we are totally out on a limb with the new engine - this could happen again. It's possible the accident it was in prior to our owning it has caused some subtle structural damage that could mess up the new engine, too.

 

Option 3: Honestly, I don't know if we can afford this. It would require a lot of tools we don't own, some of which are pretty pricey (like an engine hoist!), and a LOT of time - which dh does not have. Nor does dh have experience doing much beyond oil changes in a car. He's a smart guy, and an engineer, and knows a fair amount about engines, but I think he would be in way, way over his head on this. He could spend countless hours and dollars on this option, and end up making things worse or making no progress. It would probably mean a month or more with no second car (obviously the lack of a second car is an issue for some period of time in all scenarios). Oh, and did I mention I'm 37 weeks pregnant? So that means our already limited time to prepare for this baby would basically become nonexistent in terms of dh practicing relaxation with me, making decisions about baby stuff, etc.

 

Option 4: We were a one-car family from August of last year till January of this year, due to dh traveling so much for work. But he doesn't travel so much any more, so I would need to drive him to and from work every day (only about 15 minutes each way, so not terrible), or not have a car. This wouldn't be half so big a deal if we weren't about to have our first baby. But I don't know that the baby's schedule is going to cooperate with me being a taxi service, and I would feel nervous at home with a new baby and no way to get to the hospital, or grocery store, or anything. (And also probably bored and stir crazy, but that's another matter.) Maybe if it wasn't my first I'd be more confident about it. And my car is not exactly 100% reliable at this point, either, mostly just due to age. We don't live anywhere even mildly public-transit friendly. There is no way for dh to take a bus to work, and it would probably be extremely hazardous (not to mention time-consuming) for him to bike - and we'd have to buy him a bike.

 

For the record, we could probably scrounge about $2700 in cash from our bank account for whatever option we choose. We've been sort of doing Dave Ramsey (sort of, because dh has never been wholly on board with it, especially the emergency fund part), so we have no debts at all. We would desperately like to keep it that way. We have only one income, and not any real way to increase that, other than waiting for the end of the year, and hoping dh gets a raise. Which he probably will, but it will probably not be large, and we are adding a baby, so our expenses are about to go up, anyway. We've been working on saving money for the baby, and fortunately we should only owe a few hundred dollars to the midwife after delivery, which is money we already have saved. In fact, extra money saved for that purpose will almost certainly go to help with the car situation, along with our entire emergency fund of $1700. We don't have any assets to speak of. We rent an apartment, and next to our cars (mine is a 2001 Camry, so not exactly a gold mine), the only things of any significant value we own are our computers.

 

Things are seeming painfully bad at this point - the only think that's kept it manageable is that dh has been traveling for work this week, so we haven't needed his car. But he spends basically every free minute obsessing about it. So does anyone have any creative solutions we haven't thought of yet? Or any pros/cons to add to the options we have thought of?


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#2 of 13 Old 07-25-2012, 02:27 PM
 
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We had a similar blow-up with our Subaru a few years ago.  But the dealership was able to fix it up, to the tune of about $2700, not a new engine but a major reworking of the old one, and we were able to drive it for several more years.  So I think the first thing to do (besides taking a deep breath) is to get some other opinions and some other estimates.  Non-dealerships tend to be less expensive, and it would be good to get some mechanic recommendations from friends.

 

If the estimates are still beyond what you can pay out of the emergency fund, then I would recommend selling it and becoming a one-car family.  I would not go into debt to fix up a salvage-title car, unless it had a very solid history with me.  The baby will adapt well to your family's schedule, probably.  We are a one-car family and have three children.  We do the grocery shopping and errands on evenings and weekends.  It does suck when the one car needs repairs; DH has had to beg for rides home from work a few times.  I haven't had any emergencies where having the car would have helped much.

 

Another thing you should remember is that having a baby will reduce your income taxes, so your husband can be bringing a little more cash home.  The IRS has a withholding calculator on their website that can help you figure out how much to adjust the income tax withheld.

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#3 of 13 Old 07-25-2012, 03:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks for the input, Vaske. I guess I really hate the thought of throwing $8,000+ dollars down the drain. I did talk to dh a little while ago, and apparently the dealership found another engine possibility that would be just under $4k, which is getting more into the range of reason. But dh has pretty much decided that he wants to take the engine apart partially with some buddies and see if it is salvageable. I still have my doubts about this, but I think he is right in saying that we don't have much to lose (other than a $98 diagnostic fee from the dealer - chump change compared to everything else) by trying this first. I will definitely look in to the IRS calculator thing - that is something I thought about months ago, but have since completely forgotten. Right now, we're actually looking at dh coming home with less money since this is our first baby and he will need to be added to the insurance. Maybe changing our withholding will help with that, at least.

 

On the bright side... maybe dh will be more enthusiastic about building the emergency fund after this...


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#4 of 13 Old 07-25-2012, 03:29 PM
 
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I too would go to one car and save up to be able to get something that's under warranty. Sinking more money into this car doesn't seem wise to me. Bear in mind it is not an all-or-nothing choice between driving your husband to work every day (pain in the neck) or being stuck home (isolating). You could drive him some days and have him drive himself on other days. Would carpooling sometimes be an option for him? The baby's schedule probably seems like a big scary variable at this point, but I think you will adjust... you do what you have to do. Also, if you can find some local mom friends (the Internet is great for this, and join any support groups you can), that'll help with the isolation, and with one parent and a baby in a bucket seat, tagging along with somebody else on an outing sometimes probably won't be too much of a pain. I've made a lot of friends through a breastfeeding support group I joined right after DD was born and it's really made a big difference between feeling isolated/stuck in the house and having stuff to do.


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#5 of 13 Old 07-27-2012, 04:51 PM
 
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Hmmm because I live in an area where 2 cars are basically a necessity, I would vote for an option that somehow allows you both some kind of transportation. Being stuck home without a car around my neighborhood feels kind of like a prison sentence!

15mins to drop DH off isn't too bad, especially if he works normal 9-5 type shifts, and I'm sure the baby would adjust. But if he works odd hours or frequently would need the car for work, I wouldn't seriously consider this option. Have you actually looked into bus schedules? I thought there was absolutely NO public transportation in my area but it turns out there is some limited busing (that might work if my DH worked more normal hours). So I'd double check on buses just to be sure, and also find out if anyone from DH's company lives nearby & could drive him in exchange for gas money or something. If there is some way for him to get to work without the car, then being a one-car family would be my first choice, but only if it wouldn't leave you stranded at home with no car.

Second choice would be buy a new (used) car, even if you can only afford to spend $2K on it.

If DH is comfortable tackling the engine & can do so without racking up more expenses, I guess it can't hurt... but I absolutely would not sink $5K into repairing it, especially with no warranty or assurance that it will run reliably. It does really stink to lose that $10K you spent on it but no point in losing even more money in an attempt to salvage it.

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#6 of 13 Old 07-29-2012, 11:56 PM
 
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If your dh has some car savvy buddies, then I would look at it and see if it actually needs a new engine. Maybe it just needs a head gasket, which is a pain and $$ but NOT 8K! Also, it does sound like he could have damaged the cooling system; again, fixable but not a fun job and can be pricey with the labor. If you can find someone who is good with cars, your best bet if you need an engine is to go to a pick-a-part and find one and install it. Most of those places do give 90day warranties on their engines, doesn't matter if your car is salvaged, they are guaranteeing the the engine they are selling will work. Of course, this will only work if you know someone who can do this, I would ask around. Many mechanics are out of work and do jobs like this to get by right now, maybe you can find someone. It will still be pricey, but more in the 2k range, depending on exactly what you need. HTH


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#7 of 13 Old 07-30-2012, 06:33 AM
 
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For future reference - do not EVER buy a used car without taking it to a trusted mechanic first! It will cost ~$100 (at least where I live), but they will tell you things like "the tires are bald", or that the engine looks like it's about to fail. You might still want to buy the vehicle, but you can negotiate a better price based on the mechanic's report - or you might walk away.

 

I replaced the engine on an old Jeep many years ago with a rebuilt short block, and drove it for a long, long time after that. If there is nothing else seriously wrong with the vehicle, and you can drive it for many years, fixing it might be the most economocal option. Do you have a place it can sit, in case you don't fix it right away?


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#8 of 13 Old 07-30-2012, 10:18 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Just an update - dh and his friends have started pulling the engine apart. Apparently, we need an engine hoist to get it out so they can get down to the next level, which is where they should be able to tell if we need a new engine or not. Supposedly one of these friends has helped another friend put two new engines in his car (apparently he races it and overheats it frequently), which is somewhat comforting. dh is planning to take off work Wednesday to do this... so I guess we will see where it all goes. We are into it about ~$500 at this point, which I am okay with, though not thrilled. (A fair amount of this is tools of various kinds, so we will still have those for the future even if this repair doesn't work out.)

 

Thanks for the ideas so far. Just waiting to see what happens. Oh, and as far as taking it to a mechanic before buying it - we thought about that, but since we didn't have a mechanic we trusted, we didn't do it. And since dh has driven the car for 6 months without incident, I don't think the engine/cooling issues were necessarily foreseeable at the time of purchase. (Though they might have been.)


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#9 of 13 Old 09-19-2012, 08:42 AM
 
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I just skimmed but i'd NEVER buy a used car without having a mechanic go over it, and i'd NEVER EVER buy a car over say 4-5k without a warranty from the dealer. I wouldn't buy a used car over 3 from a private owner....but then I got into a lemon situation too.

I had a 6yr old 8K toyota corolla (sp?) that is supposed to be #1 most dependable in US and in the 24m I owned it I sunk in over 5K to keep it running. evidently that ONE year they made a lot of changes and caused major issues.

 

one of which was my engine blowing and throwing a rod right through my radiator.

8K is REALLY high (I assume its from mazda dealer?) for engine. I had the luck that my sister who also had a 91 had a dumb boyfriend who ran off the road to one side, then the other, then the first side and broke front axle in half and mauled both sides of car and it was TOTALED, but engine was OK. I towed her car to my mechanic and he swapped engines and replaced the rad, and it cost me about 3K. this was of course in 98/99....but still.

unfortunately sis engine started going less than a year later too :S

 

Since that point i've only bought brand new cars, just because i'm not getting stuck in that mess again. The car was purchased 1m before my 18th bday so my mom's name was on the car and she refused to let me get rid of it so I kept pouring money into the sucker until she relented and let me get rid of it. I had to do exaust overhaul, engine trouble twice, breaks and struts, fuel pump, alternator etc.

 

I traded in on 99 kia sephia which ran almost problem free for 11 years, and got 40+ MPG which was a huge boon when gas prices went skyrocketing 8ish years ago and everyone was unprepared and getting 20 on a good day. I had to replace the brakes twice I believe, and had 3 tuneups, changed the oil probably every 8k miles like you shouldn't do, replaced the battery ONCE, and my fuel pump went out when it was like 6-7yrs old. oh, and in 99 they only had 3yr warrantys...they went up to 5 in 00 or 01 before going to 10 like now.

compared to my ex's car, a 2000 dodge neon bought same year (purchased mine 4/30/99, he purchased his 7/11/99 several years before we'd met) mine looked like brand new and ran great. his was always falling apart and looks like total CRUD now.

 

when I had issues it was probably 1-2K fix, but car's blue book was like 200-400 bucks. LOL. I swapped it for a 2010 kia soul which was fab, and then because my payments would be 60 bucks lower a month swapped it on a 2012 soul. my only issue is that after I drove it off the lot I realized that they removed cruise control from the 2012 stick models (i'd never had cruise on a car before the 2010) which since I don't drive a lot and been driving 14yrs without cruise wasn't a huge deal, but CC made for a much nicer drive from DFW to chicago when I go about once a year.

 

So i'm looking to trade in again in the next year or so. thinking VW this time, despite having GREAT luck with my kias.

 

Hopefully your DH and friends can fix, but a GOOD mechanic and possibly salvaged engine should run you FAR less than 8K. thats insane!

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#10 of 13 Old 09-19-2012, 04:31 PM
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check carfax.com if you are going to buy a used car.


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#11 of 13 Old 10-04-2012, 01:00 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Just thought I would update... we did go the dh-fixes-the-car route. And it was incredible, insanely time-consuming and stressful for him. Which in turn stressed me. Which has been horribly sucky to have him spend most of his supposed vacation for the birth working on the car instead. But after about 2 months... it does run now! We probably ended up dropping about $2.5K on the whole project, a few hundred dollars of which are tools that we can keep and use in the future. Somehow, we scrounged this money out of our budget without touching our emergency fund - neither of us is sure how. God is good, that I can say. The car is still not 100% reliable. We think there may still be a very small coolant leak, and dh is not sure the timing is quite right with the engine, so we may still be taking it to a mechanic. He has driven it to work several times now without problems, though we have no plans to drive it much further any time soon.

 

If I had it to do all over again, I'm not sure I would take this route. It ended up being far more complicated than dh anticipated, and dh darn near killed himself a few times working in the heat. But what's done is done, and at least dh has a very large sense of accomplishment for what he has achieved.

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#12 of 13 Old 05-31-2013, 12:37 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Just a final update - we sold the car (with full disclosure to the buyers about its history, of course) a couple of months ago, for close to what we bought it for (not including tax & title). We lost about $4k in the end, all told. But at least we have one point of agreement for our next car... it will not be a salvage title!


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#13 of 13 Old 06-01-2013, 07:02 AM
 
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Thanks for the update. I was curious how it turned out. Cars are so necessary yet can be a pain.
 

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