Comfortable Old Chair Syndrome

Hey Guys,

First I want to thank all of the wonderful comments to my “Used Volvo S40/S60” post of November 22nd. The commentary was sobering and has swayed me from pursuing used Volvo’s further. Not that anyone dissed the Volvos, but it is apparent that my resources and situation are not a good match for what appears to be typically required from a Volvo owner.

That brings me to the genesis of what lead me to the Volvos in the first place. I have a 2001 Chevy Impala with 155,000 miles on it. I bought the car from Enterprise who had it in their fleet about a year. I am the second owner to now. The car has been wonderful and I’ve been very,very happy with it. The only major expense has been replacing the head gasket about 3 years ago. As the story goes Chevy wanted to save 50 cents on the gasket and used a cheap plasticized gasket which failed early and often. This occurrence is an urban legend among Impala owners apparently. My garage replaced it with a higher quality Felpro gasket.

Long story short a faulty thermostat appears to have compromised the gasket and now it needs to be replaced along with others to the tune of about $1350 (also includes replacing a faulty oil lvl sensor and thermostat). My fiancé says that to invest that kind of money in a car that old with those miles is ridiculous. Given our current budget status I disagree. I feel it’s simply amoritized operating cost from years of faithful virtually expense free service. I know the car well and I know how it’s been maintained. Personally I cannot see the wisdom of spending 6-7K on a car a model year or two newer with close to the same mileage on it, especially when I do not know the car. She thinks I’m crazy and I disagree, on the car issue anyway :slight_smile:

Something tells me that this is an age old argument and I would be interested to hear what you guys think of the Comfortable Old Chair syndrome. For those of you that agree with her I would love to hear your recommendations on make/model/year of a reliable “beater”. I drive 70 miles every day to and from work so reliability is key. I have no ego so style or look is secondary to me.

Again my thanks in advance for you guys helping me from shooting myself in the foot.

Old School Ninja

I disagree with both of you. My recommendation, keep the car but get a quality remanufactured engine for it. At this many miles, the rings and valves won’t be far behind and then it will cost you even more. Get a Jasper or Proformance reman and you’ll be good for another 100k+, on the engine anyway. The cost difference will be about half way between the cost of the gaskets and a newer car, but it will outlast both of those other choices.

I think I saw that Consumer’s Reports thinks quite positive on the Impala, at least the newer versions. That’s where I’d start, get the CR review of used cars, see what they say about the 2001 Impala as a used car. They’ll break down the reliability by system, including the cooling system. See if cooling systems malfunctions are a common problem with 2001 Impalas as reported by CR readers. Then at least you have something objective to go on.

If there’s nothing systematically wrong with the 2001’s cooling system, replacing the head gasket and the thermostat for $1350 seems reasonable to me. I’m assuming your 2001 has had all of its routine maintenance on schedule over its lifetime. If not, there are likely other problems looming. Have you skipped or deferred any recommended routine maintenance? If so, what? That’s important, as it gives something more of an objective nature to consider towards the decision. At 155K, you should assume you will be facing more things needing repair, but the question is, what things?

For certain though, it would take only a very few months of new car payments to total $1300. So it seems like there is little risk in moving in this direction in any event.

I will give my usual assessment. If the car is this old and the mileage is not that high, which it isn’t, I
Believe you can stay on top of it reliability wise. But, the body had better be in good shape with no rust whatsoever to start looking at that kind of investment. An investment that could vanish with one failed inspection. If the body is suspect, get a used Corolla…

I agree with Dagosa. Its not that big a repair given the number of miles you put on. When I drove 3000 miles a month, I prefered to put those miles on an older car. My wife didn’t agree either but I had the figures to show it was cheaper than buying cars every couple of years. You just have to be willing to keep it long enough to get your money out of it. I should not have gone beyond 350K or so and would have been money ahead by dumping it then. But 150K is just getting broken in on the highway.

If you like the car, it’s comfortable for you, you know the history, and have no other reason to be considering another car, keep this one a while longer and fix it. Everyone has different opinions about money and financial circumstances, but $1300 to fix a car and keep it on the road is not a lot of money. $1300 won’t even cover the sales tax on the purchase of a new car.

Of the 2 choices, even I would opt to get the car fixed, as long as no rust is showing. Take the remaining 5k difference and put it in a CD or money market account and let it accrue interest.

I’ll disagree with dagosa on the Corolla idea as 6~7k will likely get you the same year as your Impala with as many, or more miles on the odometer. Not to mention that I doubt I’d want to spend 2~3 hours a day cramped into one on my commute to and from work.

I would definitely seek a second opinion. Did the faulty thermostat cause the engine to overheat and warp the heads or blow the gasket? Really I would need more information on an exact diagnosis of the whys and therefors.

Do you really like the car? then keep it,getting another year or two out of er’ shouldnt be that hard,particulary if you get involved in some sort of an altercation,you wont be out of much if you have to walk away.I liked Volvos too,but a used Volvo,thats a horse of a different color,most mechanics understand Chevys and believe me,being repairable reasonably,amounts to a whole lot.
Toyotas are great cars,but if you get ahold of one that wasnt serviced properly and had the stuffing run out of it,you’ll end up gnashing your teeth-Kevin

Identifix gives the 2001 Impala 4 out of 5 stars for reliability based on repair reports from shops. I’d go ahead and fix it. That’s short money to get a few more years out of a car.