How much is my car worth?

I don’t have any experience selling a car and I think its time to get rid of mine. I have a 97 Ford Countour GL with a junk yard engine with 130,000 miles on it. When the weather got cold, we started having problems with it. I took it to my mechanic and he told me it needed a new water pump. He said he couldn’t even do it there because he didn’t have the right tools to hold the cams or something. According to both him and a Ford dealer, this alone will cost $400-$500 to fix. The check engine light is also on and I have no idea what that could be and how much it will cost to fix. I think a strut needs to be replaced, and the heat/AC fan turns off when I turn it all the way up. The blue book has it listed worth $1,175 in fair condition, but I assume with the engine work that needs to be done along with the fact that it’s a junk yard engine, I won’t be able to get very much for it. The rest of it is in great condition. The interior is clean and well kept and the body is rust free. We just had new brakes put on all around. So how much is this worth? Money is kind of tight right now, but would it be worth getting things fixed? Any help with this would be much appreciated.

Do you need a car, or is this a surplus car that you won’t have to replace?

If you need a car, then you should get the codes read. You can do that for free at some auto parts stores. Write down all the codes and post them back here. You will get lots of helpful suggestions. As it is, you will be lucky to get much more than salvage value for this car, but if there are multiple expensive repairs called for then maybe you need to give it up. On the other hand, it is almost always cheaper to fix what you have than to find and buy something newer. If you spend $500 fixing the water pump, and presumably the timing belt replacement at the same time, and then you need to spend another $500 to fix whatever is causing the check engine light, you still have good transportation for $1000. Any other car you could buy for $1000, or even $2000 is going to be a crapshoot for reliability. It might be OK for a year or two, or might require a $3000 transmission rebuild next week.

You really need to spend $100 or so to have someone go over it and give you a complete list of what it needs. This may tell you it’s not worth fixing, or it may tell you it’s still cheap transport for now.

The car is worth between $600 and $1200 without any special selling effort on your part. If you can make somebody believe that it is the best contour ever, you might get more. Some people try to get it for $200 by dressing like a really poor person. It really freaks people out when you walk around the corner and get your new tow truck and pull the car away. So don’t take any less than six for it. If not for the check engine light, you would be OK. See if there is a trade school in your area. It might be called a vocational/technical school, usually it is a high school that is ran by the state, so you might find it under the government listing in the phone book. You will have to pay for parts but the labor may be a lot cheaper. Parts may be cheaper too. Hope you find one.

No we’re getting by without it. We have another car that we’re sharing and that’s working out fine. I’d like to just get rid of it and get as much money as possible out of it. My father keeps telling me to get it fixed because it still looks new and it was running perfectly until we tried starting it in the cold and found out about the water pump. I just want to get it out of the garage and off my mind. What would salvage value be? Would $500 or $600 be fair to ask?

You will get the best price by fixing whatever is wrong. You control the cost that way. Otherwise, the buyer will want the assurance of a low price to offset his risk. Of course, if you fix it you might as well keep it.

Not meaning to sound cruel here, but an 11+ year old Contour with multiple problems, including engine related, is worth a 100 bucks.
You could ask 500 and may even get it eventually from the right person at the right time but that could depend on if you want to wait it out in the hopes that right person will appear.

Also, it’s hard to say whether to spend this money or not. You mention water pump and this often means the car was overheating. If that is the case then it’s possible the engine could be some degree of fried.

From a recent sale I determined there is a fairly large demand for vehicles under $1000. The issue here is that an honest assessment will drive off even the most desperate buyers. Send this to the junk yard.

You can ask for $500 or $600. Maybe you will get it. I would not pay more than $200 without knowing what codes are set and getting a good idea of why. If you fix the leaky water pump you can fairly advertise it as having a new timing belt (that will be replaced with the water pump) and that may make it worth closer to $1000. The trouble is, you need to get those codes read before anyone can give a fair guess. Until you know that, it’s too much of a gamble.