How much will this car continue to cost me? Should I trade it in?

I bought a used 2005 Chevy Malibu “new model” 2 1/2 years ago, on a 5 year plan which I paid off in 2 years (it wasn’t easy, not sure I want to do that again). It had 50,000 miles when I bought it and now has 80,000 miles. It has had minor electrical problems, needed a new exhaust part, work on all 4 brakes including hardware, and recently needed a fuel pump to the tune of $800 including labor (yes, I made sure that was the cheapest price.) Now it needs a front stabilizer link, both front quick struts, a front outer tie rod, a rear trailing arm and both rear axle control arms, and then of course an alignment, all to the tune of $1133. It won’t pass inspection in July without this stuff. It passed inspection last July with no repairs needed, and I wasn’t in a bad accident since that time. The mechanic says the problem isn’t rust, it’s just that Malibus have bad suspensions. I assume that more of the suspension system will need to be replaced later on. Does this mean my car is falling apart?

I’m a careful driver but I deliver pizza, which is hard on my car. It looks beat up from a couple of minor fender benders, so its sale price won’t be good. I was hoping to get some discount body work done on it, but now I guess I have to forget that idea.

I was really hoping this was going to be my first decent used car. I’ve heard that most cars on the road are over 10 years old, so I thought I’d have it til at least 2015. But do I even want this car any more, if it’s going to cost me thousands of dollars a year to repair? I’m tempted to trade it in for a new car with a repair warranty, unless I can somehow, some way, actually find a decent used car without doing hours and hours of research and/or traveling. I spent $12,500 including interest on this car, hoping that it might last me 6 years, which is about like buying a $2000 car each year, which is more or less what I was doing before (I would buy maybe a $3000 car that would last a year and a half), but I was worried about safety and air conditioning, and tired of looking for new used cars all the time, which is why I decided to shell out the “big bucks” for this car. So, how many years are you supposed to throw thousands of dollars away on one lousy car?

A) I think you did the right thing
B) my advise is simple, learn to fix it yourself. Most of the stuff you listed is not that hard to do yourself.
C) fixing this car even at 2000 a year will be less then a car payment, keep it, buy a tool kit and a repair manual, run it till it dies.

This is a lot of suspension repairs on a car with 80K miles. Something is out of whack. Do you drive on the worst roads in the US? Take it to another shop and get another set of eyes on this car to see if these repairs are really needed.

I’m not real convinced the car is the problem based on the complaints. The suspension problems could be due to environkmental conditions and/or rough road surfaces but your location and the type of road surfaces are unknown to me.

The county highway leading from my home has gotten horrible over the last half dozen years and it’s not uncommon anymore to replace a ball joint, tie rod, or what have you and then have to replace it again in 30k miles.

I’m also assuming the diagnosis for all of this is correct and you’re simply not being sold a bill of goods for everything on the parts shelf.

Brakes are a normal wear item and if the fuel filter was not changed regularly that could be a contributing factor in the fuel pump failure.

It can be hard to avoid the potholes around here.

Keep the car. Your car loan is a sunk and unretrievable cost. Trading can buy you mostly more problems with a car with an unknown history, not to mention a possible new car payment. Remember $2K cars generally require additional money to pass most state inspections. Get an additional opinion from an independent shop on the recommended work. I owned GM cars in the 1980-1990’s that required suspension work at 60K miles, so requiring the work at 80K miles is not too far out of whack, based on my experiences.

Make sure the mechanic uses lifetime guaranteed parts to do the work. That way, if a repeat repair is needed, you pay only for labor. Keep up your maintenance and budget for it. That way you can afford any “surprises” along the way.

Get a second opinion on the suspension repairs and stop delivering pizza…

If you MUST deliver pizza, then a 4 cylinder stick-shift pick-up truck will operate at lower maintenance costs…

There are cars available with 10 year, 100K mile warranty’s …You might look into one of those…

You need Quick Struts to pass an inspection? I take it you have at least one broken coil spring? Broken springs are not unheard of, but this shopping list seems a bit odd for this car unless it has been driven over horrendous roads and/or wrecked in some way. The only reason I have replaced rear trailing arms and rear control arms was due to physical damage from an accident. With this list, I also find it odd for this shop to suggest only one sway bar link. I would suggest that, if one is broken, replace them both because the other one is close behind and has not broken yet because there is no longer any stress on it. I suggest getting a second opinion on what needs to be replaced to pass inspection. Take it to a different shop and ask them to check what would need to be replaced to pass inspection. Do NOT say anything about the other shop or even hint at what they said needs replaced. If the second shop agrees with the first shop, the work definitely needs done.

As far as trading this car in for something else, the only reason you should do that is if you really dislike this car, are sick of looking at it and driving it, and are itching to get something else. While I do question the need for some of these repair items to pass inspection, if they do all need to be done, having it fixed is way cheaper than a car payment and does not necessarily make this an unreliable car or mean it is falling apart. My advice is to keep the car unless you can’t stand to look at it another day, get a second opinion, and get it fixed based on the most credible explanation as to what is wrong. Tip: ask the mechanic to take you into the shop and show you what he/she found wrong and explain what is wrong and why it needs to be fixed. When I did this for a living, I always took every customer into the shop and showed them exactly what I had found wrong, unless they refused or declined to go look at their car. I feel like it helps them trust what I am telling them if they can see and touch as I can, although every once in a while I got a customer who declined to look at the car, me, or the estimate, would barely listen to the price and would basically mumble into the magazine they were reading, “$1,000? Whatever, that’s fine, just fix it.”