Cost/benefits of storing a car vs. driving

Dear Tom and Ray,

I have a 1997 Toyota Corolla that I was planning to bequeath to my children. My oldest is 18 but has not learned how to drive. She is currently away from home attending college and will not return until June. My youngest is 15 1/2 and was preparing to apply for his learner?s permit. Unfortunately, last week, I (or to be precise my dog) found a controlled substance in his bedroom and as a result I have decided not to let him get his permit until he is 16 1/2. For the past six months, I have been insuring the Corolla and driving it once a week so that it would be operational for my son. I am wondering whether it is more cost effective to continue doing this or if I should store it and save the expense of insurance and registration? In other words, approximately how much will it cost to get the car running again after it sits in my drive way for six or seven months? The mileage on the Corolla is about 188,000. Aside from regular ally scheduled maintenance, it has only required two repairs: a new starter and a new catalytic converter. It runs well, although it seems to rattle a little more each year. Thanks for your help.

Technically if you add some gas stabilizer to the tank, put the car on blocks, and add a trickle charger to the battery, it’ll store fine for 6-7 months. Cars sit that long on the dealers’ lots.

But I like to run a car occasionally, like you’re doing. That keeps everything wet that should be wet, keeps seals operational, and just gives me a much more comfortable feeling than letting a car sit.

Here’s a thought: tell your son that under the circumstances, if he wants to have a car a year from now he not only has to “clean up his act”, but he also has to pay for the insurance and registration for the car while he’s waiting. Point out that if he hadn’t messed up he’d be paying these costs, so that’s part of the cost of messing up. He is, after all, getting a free car out of the deal.

You could park the car without doing anything and it would probably be OK for six or seven months. Some fuel stabilizer in the gas tank wouldn’t hurt, but you could probably get away without it. Disconnecting the battery would keep it from going dead. If the radio has a security code make sure you have it before you disconnect the battery.

On the other hand, I’m a believer that cars keep better if they are driven periodically. Once every three to four weeks, for at least a half hour, would be enough. You don’t have to drive it every week, but when you do drive it you have to drive it long enough for everything to get fully warmed up.

You could cancel the insurance for a few months, but the savings won’t be much. I don’t recommend allowing the registration to expire.

Since you rarely drive it the insurance should be very low. Contact your insurer and let them know that you want to temporarily drop the car and then re-insure it in June. If they can see a way to drop the price dramatically, then maybe you could keep it insured. One problem might be having to turn in the license plates if the car is uninsured. That is the case in MD.

I don’t agree that a car needs to be driven periodically. Our oldest car is well over 20 years old and is parked every winter for all of those years from November to April and is not periodically driven during that time. The engine runs well and needs no added oil between changes.

Cars do not need exercise if stored properly. I have said here, park the car correctly and deterioration stops until you run it again.

Be sure to park the car under cover; preferably indoors in a dry, ventilated place. A fresh or recent oil change is good as is a full tank of gas. I do not use Stabil; never have. With fuel injection, the system is sealed and my engine will start immediately in the spring. Disconnect the battery or else put a maintainer on it. If you disconnect, give it a charge now and then to minimize battery sulphation.

Some report rodent damage to wiring but I have never seen that.

You might ask northern state motorcycle owners if their bikes need periodic running during the winter layover. I highly doubt it and I don’t run mine over the winter; no problem is evident from that too.

A fuel stabilizer to the gas as per directions on the label of the product. You need to run the motor for a few minutes to move the stabilized gas from the tank into the fuel lines and up into the motor itself.

Then park the car. If you park where debris falls on the car (under trees with pollen and leaves) it might be a good idea to use a cover when the junk is falling from the trees. The car will be fine for 6 to 12 months so cancel the insurance to save some money.

The issue of a young driver and “substances” is tough. You might want to consider selling the car and letting your son figure out the car thing on his own. Cars, insurance, repairs, and fuel are very expensive. If he’d rather spend money on “substances” then he won’t have money to keep a car going. Time for a another serious talk. Raising kids is tough, best wishes to you.

The car has little value now…After the 16 year old doper gets his hands on it, it will have zero value in short order…So why all the hand wringing now??? Park it and cancel the insurance and let this little drama play out…Or sell it and a year from now reevaluate the situation…