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How risky am I being if I take a road trip with one of my cars?

Hello, I have a trip planned in February from Massachusetts to New Orleans. This is about a 1500 mile trip (one way). We are planning on taking 2 days to get there and 2 days to get back, sleeping over one night each way to cut the driving into chunks. I was initially planning to fly, but one of our cars needed $700 of work so I am considering driving. We have 2 cars a 1999 Buick Century and a 2005 Pontiac Grand Am. The Grand Am is just being repaired as I speak. It needs a new thermostat and intake valves. We thought it was the transmission, but apparently it was actually engine related. My wife uses this car a lot for work and we have mediocre tires and brakes have not been done in a year. The Pontiac has 180,000 miles on it. Because my Buick has a display that is not working I am guessing it has 200,000 miles but I am not certain. I have only had the Buick for 9 months but so far it seems like a sturdy car. It passed inspection in April, and I have fairly new tires. My only concern is some creaking noise in the right front area when I hit a bump. Taking age, mileage, and repair status into account, which would be less risky to take on a road trip? I understand that with so many issues, you may laugh at the thought of taking either one. You may be thinking that I should spend money on repairs rather than a trip, but I am determined to make it to N.O. in February to see my mother, so any advice you could give me would be greatly appreciated.

I recommend renting a car.

Really hard to say. The Buick’s noise might or might not be a problem. Ask a mechanic that you trust. The Grand Am might be fine, assuming this is the only repair it needs.

What do you mean by mediocre tires, and why is it a big deal that the brakes haven’t been done in a year? It’s very rare (and indicative of either mechanical problems or bad driving habits) for a car to need brake work once a year.

As for the tires, if they really are only mediocre, it would be a good idea to replace them. I used to travel to New Orleans from the north quite a bit in February, and every once in awhile they get an ice storm at that time in the Alabama/Mississippi area, and the roads are ungodly slick, especially since they don’t have the equipment or the pavement grooving needed to mitigate the bad conditions. I wouldn’t want to drive through that on questionable tires.

I agree with TSMB, rental would be better, there are some surprisingly cheap deals out there. Just make sure it covers all the miles you need, and that it includes travel to New Orleans. A buddy tried to trick Avis by getting a cheap in-state unlimited-miles rental, then traveled across country. OOPS, he got an out-of-state ticket that was reported back to Avis, had to pay $0.50/mile extra.

I think it’s more than coincidence that the people who try to play tricks like that on companies are the same ones who drive like nobody else matters and rack up the most tickets. Just sayin’…

I also agree with TSMB. Back in the 60’s I would likely not given it a though. Today I am a little less tolerant of getting stuck on the middle of nowhere.

That said, if you could take it to a local mechanic you trust and verify there is no safety problems, maybe it would not be too much of a risk.

I just looked up Amtrak from Boston, MA to New Orleans. This is a 2 day trip. Check the fare–it may be cheaper than driving and you save an overnight hotel bill.

And you can relax and enjoy the trip. Almost like haveing a limo!

I’m with the rental idea. If you get stuck, where are you going to get it fixed and not get hosed?
Edit:That Amtrak idea is perhaps even better.

You can get a flight from Logan to New Orleans for $220 round trip (each) if you travel on Southwest. Look at the low fare calendar. You can expect to spend $400 or more in gas alone, plus $100 in a hotel for each night. And that gives you more time with Mom. If there are more than 3 travelling, the price is less attractive, but it still might make sense.

You have more balls than I do for even planning on taking either one of those cars. If it was me, I rather rent a car for the piece of mind. If you are short on cash and renting, flying or taking the train is out of the plan than I would take the Grand AM. Just have the mechanic look over everything. Also, passing the emission does not mean your car can handle a 1500m road trip.

Good Luck and be safe.

Tires and things of that nature are not the concern. It’s the unknowns which no one on Earth can detect prior to failing that can do you in. That includes things like fuel pumps, crank sensors, and so on.

My vote would be fly, ride Amtrak, or rent a car. A year or two ago my oldest son drove back to OK from UT in a rental Ford Focus as no one where he lived had tires he needed for his car and they had to be special ordered.
He said that Focus cost him about 140 for the week and got almost 40 MPG. Doing a mileage of a Focus to the MPG of your cars could make something like that very feasible if you want to drive.

Personally, I’d rather hitchhike than ride coach on a passenger plane… :frowning:

Personally, I’d rather hitchhike than ride coach on a passenger plane…
Me too!

I’d rather fly first class, but I’ve noticed that the front of the plane gets there at the same time as the back.

I’d vote for flying too, unless there are more than two you going.

There’s only been 2 commerical flights that I can say that I even halfway enjoyed. One was on a DeHavilland Dash 8 (fantastic aircraft) where there was a seating problem with a non-English speaking lady and they asked if I minded riding in the jump seat rather than drag in the air marshals. No problem there; first one out the door. :slight_smile:
The other was on a near empy flight from Chicago when an attractive flight attendant at the brief layover in Kansas City wanted me to bypass my OK City stop and spend the weekend in Dallas with her offering to cover me both ways on the seating. Deciding the wife would balk a bit, I had to decline the offer. I did get a couple of free beers on the KC to OKC hop though. Go figure.

Other than that, flying commercial is equivalent to getting wisdom teeth pulled sans anesthetic…

I really don’t know what to tell you. I’d rather drive the newer car especially if it has been regularly driven but the tires would bother me a little, and question why it needs intake valves and what that implies about the rest of the car. I used to drive 3000 miles a month in high mileage cars, and we’d go from Minnesota to Florida every year with no problems if the car is maintained. So really 3000 miles is not that big a deal. I always had several thousand extra dollars though to cover any major repair but never needed it. The front end creak in the other one needs to be taken care of though. Could be ball joint or just struts.

Really though if you can fly for $220, gas would cost $300+ and motels are $80+, so you’re already higher than flying. And 1500 in two days is heavy duty. I used to do it but would drive all night the first day.

I would go for the cheapest airfare and rent a very basic car in New Orleans. We often travel cross country, and aside from going by car being more expensive for 2, it wears you out sufficiently to not make it a holiday.

Next summer we will take another trip to the East, and will travel by the least expensive airfare and rent a subcompact at our destination. Hotels, food and gasoline make cross-country travel by car quite expensive. You need 4 passengers to come out ahead over flying.

Well, if flying is an option, I’d rather fly. If the flight is short, I don’t really care about the accommodations.

I was in Munich on business in May and wanted to go to Amsterdam to visit my mom before flying back to the US. A train ticket was 120 EU and would take a good 7 hours. A one way car rental would be close to 200 EU plus gas and take at least 10 hours. A plane ticket was 60 EU and took less than 2 hours.
A no brainer.

The mileage on these two cars does not seem unduly high for the their age but if I had to choose which one to make the trip (the Devil or the Deep Blue Sea in this case) it would be the one that has been subjected to the most sustained highway driving during its life without requiring any more than the usual maintenance and upkeep. I would definitely not make the trip with a vehicle that has spent most of the time in short trips around town or one whose mileage and history of use I could not verify. When was the last time either of these cars was driven 500 miles in two consecutive days let alone 3000 in four? Unless you are an inveterate thrill seeker relax and take the train.

Thanks so much for the time you have all taken to answer my question. I am getting that the bottom line is to take the Grand Am over the Buick as long as the mechanic “clears” it. As for flying and Amtrak, I have not found the prices that some of you have. On Southwest I have found that it would cost the two of us $1200 to fly. We are going during February vacation, which may be why the prices are so high. Amtrak is even more than flying! The rental car is a possibility, but because we have to spend money on hotels, we were hoping to save that $200. Thanks again for all of your help. I will find a way even if it isn’t until the last minute.