Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Car worth $5K, Repairs Needed $5K. Sell? Trade-In? Donate?

I’ve got a 2001 Audi Allroad with 104K miles on it. It’s a nice car, but expensive to repair. I put $4K in last year. California is requiring a smog check and my mechanics say it’ll take almost $5K to repair everything it needs to pass (engine light on b/c it needs new Torque Converter & two new Exhaust Gas Temp Sensors & New Timing Belt & Checkup)

So, what do I do. If I sell it, it has to pass smog (my responsablity). Should I trade it in to a dealer? Sell it to a private party? Donate it for a tax write off? I plan to buy a much newer car (e.g. 2009 Audi Q5, Acura RDX, Lexus, etc)

Does your mechanic work for the dealer? If so, you will likely get a much less expensive quote from an independent shop.

I’m a little confused why you might need a new torque converter to meet emission regs. A good, independent transmission shop might be better at diagnosing what is wrong with your transmission.

If indeed you need all this stuff at that price, I would sell the car “as is” to a mechanic, who may be able to get it up to scratch for his own use by working on it in his spare time. Otherwise, I would donate it to charity and get the tax receipt.

The Allroad is also famous for having very expensive problems with the complex air suspension. Spending $5k to fix it would be the last on my list. Trade it, sell it or donate it.


If you plan to buy a new car, trade it. At least you’ll have a few dollars toward your down payment.

Thanks all. The mechanic is an terrific independent shop that I trust. I think the problem is that the engine light will be on if I don’t fix the torque converter and California requires you pass a smog check (every other year or when you sell it) and mine is due now. Part of the smog check is visual and if the light is on, they fail you. Also, my mechanic just purchased his brother’s allroad for $5,200 so he already has one…

I’m afraid that my trade in value will be $0 as the car is worth $5K fixed, but with $5K of needed repairs…

Also, the donation isn’t as good as now they only credit what the car actually sells for, not the trade in value…

Oh well, looks like I’m just having a bad week. Thanks guys!