Fix him up or sell and lease?

Hi. I have a 1998 SUbaru Legacy Outback. Having graduated law school in 2006 and now living in Alaska, I am poor and not in the best area to find used car deals and leasing promotions. Independent Subaru guy estimates the work my car needs (head gasket, timing belts, power steering fluid pump, etc. to be a maximum of $3600. My car has a large dent in the side and 115,000 miles on it. I JUST paid it off in February 2008. I am newly married, lots of health problems, renting an apartment, having a hard time paying student loans and my husband just purchased a used car — so, I am unsure about my future outlook. Factoring in ALL of that, do I fix up the car for $3600 (max) when it is worth about $6k…or try to sell it (undrivable as is) and then lease? Purchasing a used car could be an option, but the good deals in AK happen once or twice per year…I need a car soon. Thank you to all and anyone who has advice for me!!!

Well first off DON’T LEASE. Far better off to own.

Second…I seriously doubt your 98 Sube is worth $6k…even in mint condition. More like $3k in excellent condition.

This is a tough one…It may be worth getting it fixed…but that’s a lot of up front cash to dish out for a car that’s NOT worth the repairs. Try to find a good used vehicle for around that much.

Without knowing the maintenance history on this car it’s hard to say. Many Subarus last a VERY long time, so 115K miles is not really “high.”

I’d probably fix it if the rest of the car is sound, and drive it as long as possible. You’re unlikely to find a really good used car for $3,600.

Leasing is generally the most expensive way to obtain transportation, given the other choices. In Alaska, I also think finding favorable lease terms to you could be an issue. You are still responsible for maintenance and repair of the car during a lease, if the issue is not covered under the new car warranty.

You should get another 50K or more miles from these repairs; most are one-time repairs, so if the car is otherwise in good shape, I would get the repairs.

I’d fix it.

Never lease.

If you can’t afford to repalace it, fix it up. It’ll need an occasional repair, but you’ll probably get another 100,000 miles out of it if you maintain it.

Good deals in the Lower 48 on pickups and SUV’s, My 2004 F-150 private party blue book price is $4100,$4500. And I have seen others.

My car has a large dent in the side and 115,000 miles on it. I JUST paid it off in February 2008. I am newly married, … having a hard time paying student loans

To me that means you need to avoid taking on more payments or worse yet, an auto lease. Leasing is almost always the most expensive way of having a car, it also means you have less flexibility if changes happen.

115,000 miles is not much for a modern car, most cars are good for 300,000 with reasonable maintenance and care.

Repairs In Stages?

Since the car is not drivable, most likely because of head gaskets, what would it cost to replace the gaskets and the things that are more easily done at the same time? A timing belt done with the head gaskets, for instance, probably doesn’t add much to the gasket repair, but would be much more expensive if you wait until later.

You don’t say what’s wrong with the power steering pump. Is it leaking and requiring you to add fluid frequently, but otherwise works? This repair / replacement may cost the same later as it does done together with the head gaskets.

I’ll bet your mechanic can group repairs that need to be done now together and things that can wait a little while and still be cost effective. I would ask. You do have an “etcetera group” and so it’s difficult to say if this is feasible. This might help get you on the road and give you a chance to replenish your piggy bank before round two.

Ask which things are immediately necessary and have labor operations that relate to other items. It’s unlikely all repairs are emergencies and “overlap” each other. When your mechanic understands that you may scrap the whole thing because of cost, he/she may find ways to make the repair work more affordable.

That’s a lot of money to put into an old car that isn’t worth any more than that. On the other hand, can you get anything better for the same price?

None of the items you listed is exceptional. The timing belt is a routine maintenance item. Subarus of that vintage are known to have weak head gaskets. (We had to have ours replaced, too.) The power steering pump is unusual, but not unheard of.

Before agreeing to the repairs, you should ask your mechanic for an assessement of the car’s overall condition. If it is in good condition otherwise and you are just catching up on deferred maintenance, I would recommend fixing it and keeping it for several more years. However, if the car is on its last legs, it will be better to use the money for a down payment on something better. (Car sales are down so badly that you should be able to drive a hard bargain at the dealer.)

We have spent more than $3,600 fixing our Legacy during the past 10 years. It now has more than 180k miles. We hope to keep it for another three years before replacing it with something big enough to pull a horse trailer.

If you fixed everything, including the dent, it could be worth as much as $4000 in Anchorage.

But where else can you get a car in good condition for $3600? I agree with CSA that you should consider repairing it in stages. Get it running and then take on the other work as your paycheck allows.

$3600 will only fix a few things. What happens when something that wasn’t fixed breaks? I say ditch the car now for an older Honda. Even if you find a Honda priced at $3000, it will be more reliable than the Subaru was (assuming proper maintenance).

That is bad advice. You’re better off with a used car that you know the maintenance history of than taking a total gamble on another car of similar age and mileage.

A $3,000 Honda in Alaska is going to be a POS. I think you should repair your car like the other posters suggested, or try to purchase a car down in the lower 48, if that’s a possibility.

And I’d pit a 1998 Subaru against a 1998 Civic any day. The Subie had some known issues like the head gasket, but once that’s repaired, it’s a very reliable car. I’ve known quite a few people who literally ran their into the ground near 300,000 miles.