A little more than a year ago I bought a 2001 Subaru Forester for my son to drive around campus. He is attending college in Idaho. We needed an economical car, that was in our limited price range and that had 4 wheel or all wheel drive.
I had done some research and was really looking for a Honda CRV but there just were none available in my price range (somewhere between penny pincher and cheapskate…I have a kid in college after all). I got desperate and found this Subaru, which met all my other demanding requirements (except it wasn’t a Honda CRV). I had ruled out Subaru’s because the ones I could afford were notorious for having head gasket problems. This is where my cleaver thinking got me into trouble. All the research I did (on the internet … because that’s the most reliable source right?) said if the head gasket was going to fail, it would do so between 90,000 and 120,000 miles. This car I bought had 148,000 miles. So, either the head gasket had been replaced, or it was not going to need to be replaced … right?
Fast-forward 16 months. My son takes the car to college (300 miles away) and it starts making a horrible noise, which is obviously an exhaust leak. I do a little more research and find a shop in this little college town that will look at it and give me a quote for an exhaust system repair. Based on the volume and location of the noise I assume it is the exhaust pipe in front of the muffler. So I am thinking maybe a grand to fix this at most if they have to replace everything from the header to the tail pipe. When the mechanic called me back, he doesn’t even mention the exhaust, he said the head gasket is shot and it will take $3,000 to fix…and I still have the exhaust issue to deal with.
Here is the dilemma:
Spend $4,000 on a car that is only worth $3,000 or donate it to the local NPR station and spend the 4 grand on another beater that may have the same problem. Of course its not that simple…because I am A CPA my glass is always half empty…so if I do spend the money to fix this car and some yahoo rends me I have a totaled car with a $3,000 engine and a $1,000 exhaust…or worse yet I spend the bucks and then the transmission goes….
As I see it, I have one of three options:
- Donate the jalopy to the local NPR station and start over (Ouch)
- Pay the shop to fix it and pray
- Buy a replacement car and drag this one back home try replacing the head gasket myself.
So, Ray, what do you recommend?
Sincerely – paralyzed by analysis.