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Worst luck with used cars...now what?
Old 07-08-2020, 09:08 PM   #1
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Worst luck with used cars...now what?

Hi ER,

I've always believed in purchasing used vehicles but the last few have been a bust.

BMW 525 wagon: 140K miles, bad oil divertor valve, engine flush. $1200 repair. Sold.

Nissan quest van: 60K miles, replaced motor mounts, failing transmission, got side swiped and thankfully received a replacement check. In car heaven.

Current car inventory:

1. 2007 Toyota 4 runner, bought at $8.7K, currently 165K miles, failing rear diff. Repair estimate $1200. Local market value $7K+. Car fully paid for.

2. 2008 Lexus LX570, bought at $26K, 83K miles, chased and poured $4K diagnosing and repairing a persistent transmission issue (intermittent reverse gear not engaging). Got 2nd opinion from another shop and it turned out original repair shop was incompetent and filled 1.5-2.0 qts low on tranny oil. We used trans-x oil as an interim fix but local transmission shop advised us that we will be seeing eventual transmission failure and should expect a rebuilt tranny repair bill north of $3K. Local market value $23K. Car loan balance $13K.

I've read on other threads on ER.org the conventional wisdom is repair bills are better than car payments and if repair bills are less than 50% of car value, then go ahead with repair and keep.

Should we repair and keep or move onto another vehicle?

Thoughts?

Thanks!
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Old 07-08-2020, 09:11 PM   #2
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Fix the rear diff on the 4 Runner. I'd probably dump the lexus and buy a non-luxury brand for cash.
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Old 07-08-2020, 09:25 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brewer12345 View Post
I'd probably dump the lexus and buy a non-luxury brand for cash.
^ This. Since you are apparently snake bit when it comes to used vehicles, maybe replace the Lexus with either a new or certified used Camry or the like.
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Old 07-08-2020, 10:02 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by REWahoo View Post
^ This. Since you are apparently snake bit when it comes to used vehicles, maybe replace the Lexus with either a new or certified used Camry or the like.
+1

Higher mileage vehicles need some care. I'd agree with Brewer12345 that Toyota will last a long time. The Lexus I'd dump and get the Camry certificated used lower mileage thing.
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Old 07-08-2020, 10:47 PM   #5
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Dump Lexus even if value of repair is less than 50% of market value?

Also note that most 200 series (LX570/Land Cruisers) hold their value well. Cosmetically other than some wear in the 2nd row seats, it's pretty pristine.

The local transmission shop performs most repairs on behalf of the local Toyota/Lexus dealer that farms off such repairs so we have confidence in the shop.

Thanks again everyone!
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Old 07-08-2020, 10:52 PM   #6
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I'd sell the lexus simply because cost of ownership of luxury brands is higher. Clean up the car loan and take the resulting cash and whatever else you would like to add and buy something suitable for cash. Lower debt/overhead and lower cost of ownership.
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Old 07-08-2020, 11:11 PM   #7
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OP - I'm wondering do you have a special way of buying your used cars ?

I keep thinking something like: All off ebay, or a local trusted used car dealer, etc...
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Old 07-08-2020, 11:11 PM   #8
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+1

Higher mileage vehicles need some care. I'd agree with Brewer12345 that Toyota will last a long time. The Lexus I'd dump and get the Camry certificated used lower mileage thing.
go camry
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Old 07-09-2020, 03:36 AM   #9
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DD has our hand-me-down Lexus RX330 with 180k miles, which is a rock solid drive. I like Lexus brand because it uses all inexpensive and reliable Toyota parts for engine, transmission, drivetrain and electronics. However, the transverse mounted engine for this FWD is shoehorned in and a PITA to work on.

The 3 cars for DW and I are all used Mercedes - a decades long habit for me. Twenty years ago I became serious about DIY wrenching - and saved many thousands with this hobby. Bought a shop grade scanner that has paid for itself several times. My metric for ownership is to figure total cost of ownership on a monthly basis - best car was a used MB E420 at just over $100/month including price, interest cost of loan, tires, battery and parts. 60k miles when bought, 198k miles when traded in. Parts online with FCPEuro, Pelican or Parks Geek are reasonable - never buy parts at a MB stealership unless it is some oddball piece.
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Old 07-09-2020, 04:15 AM   #10
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Find a used rear axle chunk for the 4 Runner--Car-Parts.com

Have the tranny on the LX rebuilt. That vehicle will last 400K+ miles if kept up. Very, very high quality bodywork.

Last LX I was in was $85K, and I had to sit in the third seat sideways as there was no knee room. But the doors shut like they were out of Ft. Knox.
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Old 07-09-2020, 04:28 AM   #11
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I basically drove my last car (VW) until it fell apart, spent $2k over 7 years, mostly on a bad water pump. Had 174k when I gave away. At the end my list of problems:
Oil leak
No heat, no A/C
Radio worked by display didn’t
Plastic was breaking, glove compartment fell out
2 windows broken
Driver seat leather was badly torn
Computer display didn’t work
Exterior was bad shape
All tires nearly bald, finally 1 split...the final straw.

If I tried to maintain it and fix all the above problems, it would have cost me $15k+.

I only used it for city driving or short trips. Trying to maintain old cars gets expensive, I think it’s best to have a nice new car, and then a beater car. You can keep the new car nice for a longer time. When beater finally dies, demote the former new car, then buy another new car.
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Old 07-09-2020, 05:46 AM   #12
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I get slight satisfaction knowing I saved labor hours fixing mechanical issues myself. I realize this is easier said than done and would require tools for that rear diff, but you can rent tools or buy tools cheap many times.

As for the HOW..youtube. That's how I learn to fix all of my mechanical issues, before that I used forums like ER to get the help I needed along with Chilton car manuals.

Everytime I have to buy a tool or part for a repair I remind myself its cheaper than a car payment, and cheaper than paying interest.
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Old 07-09-2020, 05:47 AM   #13
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Originally Posted by Sunset View Post
OP - I'm wondering do you have a special way of buying your used cars ?

I keep thinking something like: All off ebay, or a local trusted used car dealer, etc...
Lol Sunset, yeah my choices have not been good, haven't they?

The BMW was bought from a fellow BMW enthusiast in OH but partially my fault for not maintaining the DV.

The subsequent vehicles were purchased here in the Asia Pacific and mostly found by on FB and craigslist. Let's just say the used car inventory is limited and used car dealer prices are inflated compared to the mainland.

We thought moving into Japanese makes would inoculate us from major repairs but I would attribute it to just plain bad luck.
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Old 07-09-2020, 06:01 AM   #14
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Cars are machines; they have to be maintained. If there was a systemic problem with a certain car model, the all of that car model would have that problem. For the most part, cars don't they just have component failure, or like the Lexus, human failure. I'd fix them both and carry on.
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Old 07-09-2020, 07:22 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by teejayevans View Post
I basically drove my last car (VW) until it fell apart, spent $2k over 7 years, mostly on a bad water pump. Had 174k when I gave away. At the end my list of problems:
Oil leak
No heat, no A/C
Radio worked by display didnít
Plastic was breaking, glove compartment fell out
2 windows broken
Driver seat leather was badly torn
Computer display didnít work
Exterior was bad shape
All tires nearly bald, finally 1 split...the final straw.

If I tried to maintain it and fix all the above problems, it would have cost me $15k+.

I only used it for city driving or short trips. Trying to maintain old cars gets expensive, I think itís best to have a nice new car, and then a beater car. You can keep the new car nice for a longer time. When beater finally dies, demote the former new car, then buy another new car.
There is frugal and then there is cheap...this list wasn't too awful until the tire comment..Good way to kill yourself or some other innocent soul.
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Old 07-09-2020, 07:44 AM   #16
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Maybe revisit your belief in used cars? They'd don't seem to be returning the favor.

You can get a lot of nice in a new car for around $30k, and then have a warranty for a few years. If you have sworn off new-new, look for an almost new CPO or early lease return with few miles?
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Old 07-09-2020, 08:36 AM   #17
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There are a lot of reliable used vehicles but when you're talking about cars made in 2007 and 2008 then they're probably nearing the end of their useful life.

My general rule is to buy something 3 or 4 years old with low mileage and keep it for 5 to 7 years. For me, that's the sweet spot of ownership...someone else takes the depreciation hit, I get a technologically updated car with lots of life left, and I get rid of it before major things start going wrong.
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Old 07-09-2020, 09:07 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by airforce1 View Post
... I've always believed in purchasing used vehicles but the last few have been a bust. ... I've read on other threads on ER.org the conventional wisdom is repair bills are better than car payments and if repair bills are less than 50% of car value, then go ahead with repair and keep. ... Thoughts?
Well, unless you are buying in an unusual way (salvage cars maybe) there is no "snake-bit" Just as "streaks" in basketball free throws do not statistically exist, "snake bit" does not exist. Sometimes randomness gives us three tails in a row, but the odds of the next flip are still 50/50.

Re keep and repair, this is really a classic sunk cost problem. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sunk_cost) Forget what you have paid to buy and maintain it, your Toyota 4 runner $1200 repair decision is as follows: "Knowing what I know about this car and knowing what I know about my options, is buying this car for $1200 something I want to do?" (I'm ignoring salvage value here but I think you get the point.)

Re "conventional wisdom" I think it's conventional because it is economically sound. Non-economic factors (wanting a new car, etc.) often override the economic ones but that doesn't make the wisdom incorrect.

Personally, my most common non-economic reason for ditching a vehicle has been when the rust gets ugly. Last year we ditched DW's Mini when we discovered that the incompetently designed engine was shedding cracked and brittle internal plastic pieces that had the potential to block the oil pump. Big reliability risk, IOW, but not strictly economic.
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Old 07-09-2020, 09:18 AM   #19
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Not sure exactly where you are but once you get stateside, that 4Runner will be worth a decent amount of change if it's in decent shape. There is a cult like following with these vehicles and the prices reflect that. Back in my mil days, most folks overseas bought beaters while in that assignment...guess that's not the case anymore?
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Old 07-09-2020, 09:28 AM   #20
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We always buy new, pay cash, and keep the car until it breaks down. A car can last for decades in Southern California if maintained properly. I would be weary of any used car purchase here as there is little incentive to sell a car after a few years of ownership. Many are salvage or just lemons.

We have a Honda Accord EXL now with 92K miles and no major issues so far and we have been doing all the scheduled maintenance. My wife drives a Nissan 370z now with 72K miles and have had no issues with that car either. We are doing so little driving, replacing these cars just makes no sense. I do the minor maintenance and repairs on my own such as air filter changes, wiper blade replacement, battery replacement, and even engine sensor replacement. I leave the oil changes, brake pad replacement, and tires to the garage.
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