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1999 Corolla: Make ~ $5000 repairs or buy used car?

My 1999 Toyota Corolla has been a reliable performer since I bought it in 2002. I has 118,000 miles on it and for the last three years has mostly been driven around the city (I live in DC) with maybe two or three highway trips of an hour or more each year. I’ve been a full-time student these last few years so I have not had the income to keep up with a repair schedule beyond oil changes and tune-ups. My dilemma is this: do I repair the car (see list below) or take that money and buy something else? If the answer is buy something else, what would you recommend? I prefer a vehicle that’s standard shift, low gas consumption, and Toyotas or Nissans. Before this Toyota, I owned a Nissan that gave me zero problems. I was rear-ended and the insurance company declared that car a total loss.

Repair list:
front/rear struts and mounts
front/rear sway bar links
front lower ball joints (L&R)
front lower control arms
front pads & rotors
clutch assembly
tires

Oh, though I finally mapped out new driving routes from my home to most destinations, until I did, I drove through a construction zone almost everyday for the last two years.

looking forward to your thoughts and guidance.

Without having car in hand or knowing how bad any of these items are I would suggest that you proceed carefully before authorizing any work. Do not tell anyone else providing an estimate about the repairs that have been recommended to you. See if it all lines up the same.
Brakes and tires are routine wear items. The rest is debateable depending on the severity; if any.

Who gave you this estimate; dealer, independent shop, chain store? Even for all of that the price seems very high even for the D.C. area.

Take it to another mechanic, not a tire or muffler shop for another estimate as to what you really need. If that comes out the same, sell the car and buy something better. If you can find a good 2003 Mazda Protege, buy it; they are tough little cars and sell for a lot less than Hondas and Toyotas.

A 3 year old Hyundai Accent in good condition will also cost you very little. Many of these were sold with stick shifts.

Half that price would be reasonable . You need another mechanic .

For general knowledge all the items you list are normal wear items for a 13 year old car. Take elsewhere for evaluation and esimates.

You might find additional repair shops by checking the “mechanics files” at the top of this page, these are businesses recommended by users of this website. The items on your list can be done by most competent professional mechanics, it’s not essential to take this vehicle to the Toyota dealership. That alone may save you significantly. Generally, local independent shops are preferred over national tire and repair companies. Hopefully you’ll find a shop where you feel comfortable and do business with them regularly-if you do, you’ll find you are treated better than finding a new shop every time you need a repair.

Also, whoever you select to repair your car, ask for a priority ranked list. Some of these items may be more urgent than others. Your mechanic may say that one or two items are not immediately necessary, though most of what you listed does affect safety. If you are not sure about any recommendations you get, post back here for assistance and clarification.

Whatever you decide to do, try to get in a routine of checking fluid levels (oil, transmission fluid, brake fluid, power steering fluid, coolant (when the engine is completely COLD), and replenishing if necessary. Check tire pressure also. Once or twice a month is good. You can do all that yourself and save money by catching problems before they do serious damage. While driving, keep an eye on the gauges or warning lights on your instrument panel. Check occasionally for anything dripping from under the car, or leaving spots where you park regularly. Hopefully you’ll make this car last long enough to get you through school. Good luck!
–Roadtripper

@4450: I met this independent mechanic when they offered an oil change through Groupon. At that time, they suggested I have the clutch looked at. I started hearing rattling when driving over even little bumps so I returned to this mechanic because of their good reviews on one website and a reasonably cautious review on another site.

@docnick (and genex/raj): My car had been serviced by another independent mechanic (never a chain) so I will return to that shop for a second opinion.

@WesternRoadtripper: In addition to the one other mechanic I’ve had reasonable experience with, I’ll review the recommendations suggested in the “mechanics files.” So far, nothing leaks (and I do check the ground every now and then) - and I haven’t seen the check engine light since the warranty expired (fortunately).

And my hope was to have this car until I finish school and beyond - but I was taken aback by this estimate when I compared that to the current resale value of my car.

Thank you all for your comments.

I would definitely get other opinions. A rattle while traveling over a bump doesn’t necessarily mean the parts shotgun has to be fully loaded followed up by blasting everything in sight.

You should also take reviews with a grain of salt. Even a handful of positive reviews may not mean a whole lot when weighed against the sum total of repairs. It wouldn’t be unheard of for a shop to post good reviews about themselves or have a ringer do it for them.

You really need to get a second and a third opinion on this. I would not invest $5000 in a 99’ Corolla.