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Older car: to fix or not to fix?
Old 11-04-2016, 09:17 AM   #1
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Older car: to fix or not to fix?

I've been driving a trusty little luxury coupe for the past 17 years (when I bought it new), and it's been fairly maintenance free for the most part over the years. As luck would have it, though, now it's developed a serious problem that I just found out will cost around $1,100 to fix (broken shifter mechanism). If I were planning to keep the car another year or two, this would be a no-brainer. But I'd recently starting thinking seriously about selling or trading in this car for a much newer one of some variety. I had begun the process of researching the various makes and models I'd be interested in and had looked into the blue book value of the 17-year old car to see what I might be able to get for it. My plan was to shop around over the next few months and have the whole project done by January or February.

Now, with this expensive fix needed on the old car, I'm not sure what the best strategy should be. Do I go ahead with the fix and then try to sell it to a 3rd party for the highest dollar amount possible... maybe even somehow incorporating part of the $1,100 repair cost into the asking price? The trade-in market value is only about $1,500, so sinking $1,100 into the car just to be able to trade it for a few hundred bucks more doesn't seem to make much sense.

I am leaning towards going ahead with the repair and then doing a private-party sale. Kelley BB says I could get $2,300 for it, and I feel there's a decent chance I could get a few hundred more considering how it will have a brand new shifter and all new spark plugs and ignition coils (an unrelated repair from earlier this year).

What would you do in my position? I'm open to any outside-the-box ideas. Is there any circumstance, given the facts and figures I've laid out, where you wouldn't get the car fixed? I don't think it would be possible to trade in the car to a dealership or to sell it in the broken condition it's in.
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Old 11-04-2016, 09:24 AM   #2
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I would suggest you go onto Car-Parts.com and look for the shifter mechanism--filtering by your zip code. It's a website that all the really good auto salvage yards subscribe to, and we all know older cars get older with the availability of low cost parts.

Then find an independent auto repair shop to install it. $1100 sounds ridiculous for a simple little job like replacing a shifter.

With your car repaired, then you will be in a better position to retail your car yourself. Old luxury cars are often worth little to a new car dealer as they're going to wholesale them out to little tote the note used car lots.
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Old 11-04-2016, 10:53 AM   #3
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You can do anything, but you can't do everything.

Here's what I would do: spend the money to get it in trade-in condition and trade it in on the new one. It is unlikely to sell if it doesn't run. Eat the loss of a few hundred bucks, and know that over the past 17 years you got every bit of your money's worth from that loyal vehicle. This is not the route of minimum cost, but it is the route of minimum hassle.

Before I get tarred and feathered for being a bad example of LBYM, consider the principle of Opportunity Cost. There was a time when I would have replaced the shifter myself. But today I have a bunch of other projects underway, and this sort of unforecast task would either sit at the bottom of the priority list or it would have to displace something I wanted more.

I keep cars for similar durations, so once a decade when I buy a car it's like doing it for the first time. It's always an ordeal. I can't wait to get it over with.

If you have lots of free time and don't mind skinning your knuckles trying to loosen the odd recalcitrant bolt, then do the repair yourself and sell it to a private buyer. There's probably a how-to video online to guide you. That is certain to be the maximum value solution.

But it would probably also be the maximum difficulty, maximum time solution. If you rely on this vehicle being roadworthy soon, then pay a professional to do the repair. The sooner you get that done, the sooner you'll be in the replacement ride and the ordeal will be in the rearview mirror.

Good luck!
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Old 11-04-2016, 10:57 AM   #4
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One of the best reasons to purchase a newer car is to get the improved safety features like skid control, more airbags, collision detection system, etc. LBYM is great for some things, but one's life and health have a value that goes beyond mere money.
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Old 11-04-2016, 11:03 AM   #5
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We just this week replaced the tires and the brakes on our 12-year-old, 118K miles, big car. We have been trying to buy a replacement but we really don't like any new big car more than we like this one so we'll keep going with it for at least another model year. It was easier to decide on having the work done on the existing car than it would be to decide on its replacement.
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Old 11-04-2016, 11:06 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Chuckanut View Post
One of the best reasons to purchase a newer car is to get the improved safety features like skid control, more airbags, collision detection system, etc. LBYM is great for some things, but one's life and health have a value that goes beyond mere money.
+1. We have tons of airbags in the 12-year-old car we plan to replace next year (we are OMY in our car buying ), but we really want the new models' help with our future driving problems, to protect the other drivers from us.
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Old 11-04-2016, 11:29 AM   #7
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The problem with deciding to sell an old and failing car, is that usually we don't think to do it until there is a repair bill that is more than the value of the car.

Sojourner, at least you would be getting a few hundred more out of the car than you paid for the repair. So, you have not quite run it into the ground, just nearly so. I think this is perfect.

If you are collecting votes, then my vote is to fix it and sell it now before it needs a $3,000 repair of some kind. Since you were already planning to replace it, well, now's the time. I doubt you can sell it without fixing it first. I suppose you could sell it to a junkyard but that probably wouldn't yield much $$$.
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Old 11-04-2016, 11:30 AM   #8
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Thanks for the replies so far. I'm really torn on this. If I could get the repair done for $700 or so, I'd almost certainly do it, because that would allow me to net close to $1,000 on a trade in deal. But if I spend $1,100 on the repair, then I'd certainly want to do a private-party sale, which opens up a whole other set of hassles and complexities. I guess I need to figure out if I really want to deal with all that.

Would it be worthwhile to call some local dealerships and see what they'd be willing to give me for the car as a trade-in, in its current condition? If I could get some idea of the trade-in value both with and without the repair, that could help with the decision. But since I don't have a clear idea of what kind of new car I want yet, how would I go about this? I don't want to tip my hand to a dealership that I might end up actually buying my new car from. (You can probably tell I'm not very practiced at this sort of thing, having only bought 3 cars over the past 25 years.)
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Old 11-04-2016, 11:33 AM   #9
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I would suggest you go onto Car-Parts.com and look for the shifter mechanism--filtering by your zip code. It's a website that all the really good auto salvage yards subscribe to, and we all know older cars get older with the availability of low cost parts.

Then find an independent auto repair shop to install it. $1100 sounds ridiculous for a simple little job like replacing a shifter.

With your car repaired, then you will be in a better position to retail your car yourself. Old luxury cars are often worth little to a new car dealer as they're going to wholesale them out to little tote the note used car lots.
+1 This is what I'd do. That $1100 quote is probably from a dealer with overpriced parts and overpriced labor.
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Old 11-04-2016, 11:43 AM   #10
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I see a few different courses of action here with marginal differences between them.
1) Trade in as-is. I have not experienced any trade-in being worth less than $1000 as long as it is driveable. So this would depend on how broken your shifter is.
Result: $1000 applied to new car.
2) Make the $1100 repair and trade it in for $1500. Result: $400 applied to new car.
3) Make repair for $1100 and sell privately for $2300. Result: $1200 applied to new car plus the hassle of the repair and selling the car.

Just my $0.02 YMMV
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Old 11-04-2016, 03:00 PM   #11
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I was within about a week of donating my 15 year old car to the local NPR station. It was drivable, but needed needed enough repairs that it wasn't going to be worth the hassle of a private sale. And it was our third car, around for the kids use, but they're all out of the house now. Then I was rear-ended in my usual car and now I'm stuck driving the beater until Tesla becomes too much of a temptation.

Donation might be a good option if you can get some value from the deduction.
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Old 11-04-2016, 03:15 PM   #12
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Find the part you need online. Find a mobile or lower cost independent mechanic to install the part on Craigslist.

You should be able to slash quite a bit off the $1,100 quote. I don't do this that often, but retired mechanics will work for $35/hour compared to the $100+/hour where I live.

I would fix the car but do it in a thrifty way.
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Old 11-04-2016, 03:37 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Sojourner View Post
I've been driving a trusty little luxury coupe for the past 17 years (when I bought it new), and it's been fairly maintenance free for the most part over the years. As luck would have it, though, now it's developed a serious problem that I just found out will cost around $1,100 to fix (broken shifter mechanism). If I were planning to keep the car another year or two, this would be a no-brainer. But I'd recently starting thinking seriously about selling or trading in this car for a much newer one of some variety. I had begun the process of researching the various makes and models I'd be interested in and had looked into the blue book value of the 17-year old car to see what I might be able to get for it. My plan was to shop around over the next few months and have the whole project done by January or February.

Now, with this expensive fix needed on the old car, I'm not sure what the best strategy should be. Do I go ahead with the fix and then try to sell it to a 3rd party for the highest dollar amount possible... maybe even somehow incorporating part of the $1,100 repair cost into the asking price? The trade-in market value is only about $1,500, so sinking $1,100 into the car just to be able to trade it for a few hundred bucks more doesn't seem to make much sense.

I am leaning towards going ahead with the repair and then doing a private-party sale. Kelley BB says I could get $2,300 for it, and I feel there's a decent chance I could get a few hundred more considering how it will have a brand new shifter and all new spark plugs and ignition coils (an unrelated repair from earlier this year).

What would you do in my position? I'm open to any outside-the-box ideas. Is there any circumstance, given the facts and figures I've laid out, where you wouldn't get the car fixed? I don't think it would be possible to trade in the car to a dealership or to sell it in the broken condition it's in.

I don't think anyone is going to pay "an extra few hundered" because you have a brand new shifter. Maybe if you had new tires or a new engine, but there is no premium for new shifters IMHO
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Old 11-04-2016, 03:38 PM   #14
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I see a few different courses of action here with marginal differences between them.
1) Trade in as-is. I have not experienced any trade-in being worth less than $1000 as long as it is driveable. So this would depend on how broken your shifter is.
Result: $1000 applied to new car.
2) Make the $1100 repair and trade it in for $1500. Result: $400 applied to new car.
3) Make repair for $1100 and sell privately for $2300. Result: $1200 applied to new car plus the hassle of the repair and selling the car.

Just my $0.02 YMMV
That is how i was looking at this. The question that I have not seem directly answered by OP: Is the car drivable now? So the shifter is loose, but is it functional enough? If so unload it to either private party or as trade-in. Even lower price private party is likely to net more in OP's pocket than trade-in.

Second question, is OP doing the repair yourself out of the question? Because if you find the part used or cheaper online, then install yourself, it may be fixable for considerably less than $1100.
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Old 11-04-2016, 03:41 PM   #15
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Put me in the " get a used shifter and have an independent shop fix it" camp. Then do a private sale. If you trade you will most likely get nothing for your car, in real terms.

Good luck
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Old 11-04-2016, 06:00 PM   #16
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+1 This is what I'd do. That $1100 quote is probably from a dealer with overpriced parts and overpriced labor.
Actually, the $1,100 quote is from an independent body shop that I've used for many years. I'm inclined to think the mechanic (who is the owner's son and basically runs the place) is pretty trustworthy, but there's no way to really know without doing a lot of price-shopping among other independent repair shops around town. The biggest problem I'm having with the $1,100 is that it's primarily the cost of a new shift assembly that (according to the mechanic) must be purchased "factory new" due to some anti-theft electronics inside that have to be matched to the VIN of my car. But when I've looked around online for this exact same part to fix a very similar problem, many people are saying they've replaced the damaged part with a used one for far less than $1,000. So I'm pretty confused at this point.

Bottom line (I think): Unless I get the repair done somehow, there's no way I could even drive the car around to various dealerships to get any sort of appraisal of its trade in value, etc. The car is essentially undriveable as it stands now.
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Old 11-04-2016, 06:08 PM   #17
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If what the mechanic is telling you does not jive with what you see on the internet, this may be telling you something in and of itself.

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Old 11-04-2016, 06:10 PM   #18
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Is the car drivable now?
Not really. Technically, yes, but it will not shift beyond 2nd gear due to a safety feature in the car's computer that has detected a fault in the shift control mechanism. So I could drive it very slowly around town with my hazard lights on (which is how I got it to the repair shop).

Quote:
Originally Posted by 38Chevy454 View Post
Second question, is OP doing the repair yourself out of the question? Because if you find the part used or cheaper online, then install yourself, it may be fixable for considerably less than $1100.
I have no experience with do-it-yourself car repairs, but I've watched a few YouTube videos of people removing and replacing the shift assembly, and it looks like I might be able to do it with some effort. Might actually be an interesting challenge. It's definitely something I'm considering right now, since I think I could get a used replacement part for $200 or less. The big question still is, how do I get it reprogrammed to match my car's VIN? I might have to take it to a local dealership for that. I'll need to do some more research to be sure about that before ordering the part.
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Old 11-04-2016, 06:16 PM   #19
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Fix it. Perhaps get another quote. Try to seperate the part from the labor. Install a used or third party perhaps?

Then take your time and make the decision that is right for you. Time to shop for another car, time to sell yours if that is your decison.

We had the same issue at one point. Dealer wanted $3300. Had it all done for $1600 using manufacturer parts but a private shop. Not all the work or parts listed by the dealer were necessary. Kept the car for three more years and passed it on to our son. Still going five years after that outlay.
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Old 11-04-2016, 07:05 PM   #20
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Man, 2001 cars aren't usually that loaded with computer BS. What kind of car is it?

If that is really the case, I'd try to sell it "as is" on C-list first.

The dealer will tell you he is giving you $ for the car but if you walked in without a trade, I'd bet you could get the same price.

You might check and see if A1 auto sells an aftermarket replacement. If they do they will probably have a video of the install.

Good luck,
Murf
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