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How much to spend on used car repair

We bought our 16 year old daughter a 1999 VW Passat sedan with 132,000 for blue book value. Car is manual transmission. We replaced the battery and had work done on the timing. The mechanic says we need a $120k service, front and rear brakes, replace timing belt and may need a new thermostat. Total bill for everything is about $2,500. Is it worth it?

Also, should we let our daughter take her road test on a manual transmission. She’s doing pretty well but may have to stop and start on a hill during the test.

Thats the trouble with buying a used car and not being a mechanic. The repairs that the previous owner is running away from makes it not worth it to the normal car buyer. I buy cars like this all the time and make a very good profit repairing them. I sell them after I perform ALL of the things the car needs and even some it doesnt actually “need”

You said that you had work done on the Timing…WHat was done to the timing? You have no adjustment for traditional timing…so I am thinking something to do with the Timing belt? If this is tru why the need for the timing belt service? YOu really need to ask about this…

The bill estimate you are getting sounds high to me, so make sure you arent re-doing anything that has already been done. Many x if a mechanic actually does the timing belt they put a sticker on the engine with the date and mileage for the T-belt service. Look for this.

Front and rear brakes cost about $60 for parts alone… The T belt kit is about $225 for the t belt, front main seal, water pump and idler bearings etc…everything that you SHOULD replace. SO be careful of these high estimates…sounds like you should go to another shop for a re-assess… If you can keep the bill under 1200 it would be well worth it…but over 2x that amount…not so much… then again it will prep your car for the next 75K miles or so I guess its value is in your eyes, not mine.

You didn’t say what engine you have. As it turns out, both the turbo 4 a nd the 6-cyl have timing belts. Timing belt replacement is extremely important, and you need to do that. If you have an itemized list of the recommended repairs, take it to at lest 2 moe shops and get their estimates. Brake work is not a mileage ting. Ask the mechanic how muc is left on the pads. Replace them is 1/16" or less remains. Also, brake work and engine work are completely different. You don’t save anything by doing them all at once. Your daughter will lose the use of her car for a day, but that is probably not a big issue.

Your daughter should take her test in a car with an automatic transmission.
As to the first question, sell the VW and buy her a Toyota. The VW is less reliable and much more expensive to repair.

It’s really worth getting an estimate some where else. Always take test on car student is most comfortable driving. If you fear starting on a hill, she isn’t ready to drive a manual, let alone take a test on it. Go with the auto.

I wouldn’t have bought her a 12 year old VW anything, personally. You’re only at the tip of the Repair Iceberg now, my friend.

Is the car a manual transmission? If so, she should be able to drive it with enough confidence during her driving test. If not, why did you get it for her?

Good luck.

The price seems rather high. I’d get another estimate, but replacing the timing belt is absolutely essential. If the belt breaks the engine will suffer significant internal damage.

Whether it’s “worth it” or not is debatable. This is not the most reliable car on the planet, and maintenance/repair costs can be high. You’ll have to decide.

I’m a believer in teaching young drivers to operate a manual transmission. When she’s fully confident in her ability to start out on a hill she should take the test. If she can’t start out on a hill she can’t drive the car.


Thanks for the good reply.

Its a 6 cylinder. Thanks for the great information. Much appreciated

Thanks for the advice. She’s doing well with the stick. As to the rest, we have some deciding to do:)

I would rather have a well maintained VW than a poorly maintained Toyota. VW’s generally are more costly to repair than Toyotas, but a well cared for VW can be a much better and more reliable car than a neglected Toyota. There’s more to reliability and repair costs than the badge on the front of the car.

When I took my driver’s test back in 1958, my parents owned a manual shift 1954 Buick. The examiner was fascinated by the fact that the Buick was a manual shift and didn’t make me do very much. Four years later, my brother took his driving test in the same car. By that time, it developed a noisy differential. The examiner for my brother had been a mechanic. He had my brother stop the car and then the examiner got in the back seat. He had my brother try different things so he could diagnose the noise. We both passed our exam in flying colors thanks to the stick shift Buick,

As a one time driving instructor I take my hat off to any young person learning to drive on a standard transmission. I believe the aversion to standard tranmissions is a reflection of parents attitudes, many of whom have never driven one. (Note I didn’t use the term stick shift). When she is comfortable with her level of competence let her make the decision of standard or automatic for a road test. Both of my daughters learned and were tested in standards. As I said to them Go- girl- go. Dazzle 'em with footwork.

Any car with a 132k miles on it will need something and could possibly be even trouble-prone.
Everything you’ve mentioned there falls under the category of normal maintenance needs and wear and tear items. There’s nothing abnormal there and it’s all things that all cars will need at one time or the other. (short of the timing belt of course)

You might price some of this stuff around and a better deal may be found.

As to the road test, I’d say let her take it with a stick if she’s comfortable with that.
Maybe a little practice on some grades beforehand might help in that area.

What a great story!

Our daughter is a pretty gutsy lady and we are proud of her for learning to drive a standard – plus its almost impossible to text while driving!

Great advice, thanks for the reply!

I would like to thank you all for good advice and give some further information on our situation and ask another question on this 99 VW Passat standard shift w/ 6 cylinder engine. Our daughter has practiced further and really enjoys the shift work. We do have to do some more practice on hill starts but I am confident she will get it and more importantly we will be comfortable with her driving the car safely.
My partner had mentioned we had done some timing work which we believed was an idling timing issue (not the timing belt) and had it worked on to do some adjustments to stop the problem. The problem was that when we were driving the car and we were slowing down to a stop and out of gear, the car would stall. It appeared to me to be a carb type or idling issue. After we got the car back and heard from the mechanic he had mentioned to keep an eye on the temperature indicator that it should be in the range of 160 on the dial. After some further driving and watching the indicator we did realize that the engine was and is barely getting out of the left edge of the dial indicating it is running cold. Hence as the mechanic suggested and we also believe at this time the thermostat is shot and needs replacing which also as he indicated would affect and be part of the problem of the car stalling.
OK, my question. Should I attempt to replace the thermostat myself? I am a carpenter by trade and have done some basic mechanic work (mostly on my willies 47 CJ2A and I did some work on a few old work vans we had, dodge and ford). I am tending to think not, but when I have done thermostats before they were fairly simple, and if I could do it, I would grab my daughter to help and learn a little about the work. If not, hear her father curse and call a flat bed to send it in.
The car is used and as you have indicated and we realize, it will also require maintenance even if it is at an advanced stage because of some neglect by the previous owner. It is a good car and with some further pricing to keep our hits on cost lower, we will probably continue and bring it within a more comfortable maintenance for us understanding now what needs to be done.

The bill estimate you are getting sounds high to me

Me too, I wonder if that is an estimate from a dealer?