End of life: GMC Jimmy

I heard on Car Talk that a car can always be repaired cheaper than replaced. Is this still true? My 1989 GMC Jimmy is still going, sort of, but when I went to my local mechanic because the defroster stopped working which pretty much left me blind in a snow storm driving down I-70, he said (and I quote) “Have you ever thought about end of life issues?” The car has a lot of problems. Pretty much nothing on the dash works: no gas gauge, or any gauges actually, no speedometer (TomTom tells me how fast I’m going), no heater. I don’t remember if the AC ever worked. In the past 4 years I’ve replace the brakes 4 times and the alternator ($400!!!) I’ve spent about $2000 on body work for the underside of the car. The back door rattles (loudly) and the rear windshield wiper hasn’t worked for the last 10 years. It is also pretty rusty.

So should I try to fix all of the electrical problems and related things like the heater, defroster, AC (after 16 days of 100 temps it seems like a “nice to have” feature) or is it time to try to find a new old car? If so, what? I really do need 4 wheel drive (which does work btw) because I do drive through that foot of snow on dirt roads which turns into 6" of really slippery much in the spring. Advice appreciated.

Cars can always be fixed but you have to consider whether it is practical. If you can do the work yourself, it may be worth it but if you have to get the work done, it gets really expensive very quickly. You mention body work. If it is related to rust, it is usually a losing battle.

Is it safe to drive and get you from A to B? Does it stop well? If so, run it until it can’t anymore. Get AAA so you can get it towed, should there be a need. In the mean time, put the money aside and save it for when it does need replacing.

I think you need to trade-up a little at a time. First, trade for a car with a working rear windshield wiper. On the next trade, go for one with a working gas gauge. When you trade again, get a vehicle with a working heater. Someday, you might just go whole hog and get a car with working air conditioning.

You said that your Jimmy is rusty. I agree with your mechanic that it is time to move on. Rust is the worst enemy of a vehicle.

Are you sure he wasn’t asking if you’d thought about YOUR “end-of-life” issues? This vehicle doesn’t sound safe. And IMHO, that’s time to move on to a newer vehicle.

Anything can be fixed, but since your truck is not a classic., it is not worth it. The rust issues seal the deal. If you want to discuss your next vehicle, continue the discussion. We need to know what features you want and how much you are wiling to spend.

You can pick up a vehicle like a Ford Explorer or the like in decent condition for a couple grand that’s much newer and safer. It’s time to let this one go.

I think it’s a leaner. If rust is a problem, eventually mother nature will get her way. But it’s hard to say from here if rust will doom the car in 1 year or 20 years. Of the things you mention not working, most you could live with probably, but the heater might be somewhat expensive to repair. In what way does it not work? No heat? Or does it leak? If it is just theheat control valve onthe fritz, you could probably fix that withou too much $$$. If you need to replace the whole heater, could be expensive. But you might could find a cheap one at a local junk yard.

AC? If you think you need it, then finding another car is probably the only sensible thing.

Good on you for keeping the old Jimmy on the road!

@GeorgeSanJose replacing a heater core with a junk yard unit is not a good suggestion from my point of view. Most vehicles make it to the junk yard for lack of maintenance or crash damage, both yielding low possibility of getting a good heater core. Nevermind the amount of labor to remove 2 dash boards to get both the old and bad one in his truck out and then reinstall the dash in this Jimmy.

New heater cores at local auto partts stores are not that expensive but like most vehicles and in a Jimmy, you have to basically remove the dash to replace the heater core so be prepared for that large undertaking.

The old fashioned under the dash heater box may still be available from J. C. Whitney. It would probably be easier to plumb in this heater than remove the dashboard to access the heater core. For defrosting, you can get a little fan that mounts on the dashboard and blows air onto the windshield. This is the way things were done in the old days. However, the best solution would be to abandon ship and go for a newer vehicle.

I agree that you’ve reached the end of the road from a safety and sound financial point of view. We keep our cars a very long time and find that extensive bodywork is usually a waste of money. With today’s rust protection, when the body goes, the rest of the car is not far behind. We just sold a very reliable 18 year old Nissan, but the body was starting to go.

There are many accounting formulas for when to replace a vehicle. Businesses do it “when the incremental annual ownership cost gets larger that the average annual cost to date”. The vehicle has to be safe of course. Ownership cost is gas, license, depreciation, maintenance, repairs and insurance.

Since businesses use a high rate of depreciation, they write the vehicle off faster than a private owner would. I recommend straight line depreciation for the expexted vehicle life. So, if you expect the car to last 15 years, divide the purchase price by 15 and charge that as an annual expense.

Alternately, you could use the difference between the market price from year to year as the actual depreciation. That will generate a very high expense the first 3 years, and very little in the last 5 years.

You should be looking at a good 3-4 year old used vehicle with reasonably low miles.

There’s fixing a car then there’s throwing good money after bad.
Your car is over 20 years old and is a rust bucket. Time to start looking for a new car. You’d be surprised what 20 years can do in terms of vehicle technology.