Is this car worth anything, and should I pay for repairs?

I have a 98 Pontiac Trans Sport Montana. It has about 140k miles on it. It has brand new brakes, brand new tires, and a relatively new battery. It has major damage to the body, including a smashed in left passenger door, which will not open any more, and a somewhat smashed up right headlight fixture (it still functions, just fits in the frame awkwardly), as well as a few other minor dents and problems. Due to the damage on the body, it was declared a total loss by the insurance company, and I currently have a salvage title.

Mostly it has run fine, until recently when it began overheating within minutes of driving. I am informed that the gaskets on the intake manifold of the engine need replacement. A professional shop has told me repairs would run $800-$1100. A friend of a friend told me he could do it for $400, including parts, labor and machining.

I’m thinking the 800+ is out of the question. What I’m wondering is if it’s even worth the $400.

I guess I have two questions for two situations:

1. I consider selling the car at some point. In which case, including all that I would have put into the car, I would probably not want to part with it for less than $800.

Question: Is the car, as I’ve described it, and granted I fix the coolant system, worth $800 or more?

2. The second case is if I decide I can’t sell it.

Question: Is it reasonable to expect that paying for this problem will give me a car that will last at least another year?

  1. It sounds like it isn’t worth more than the salvage value to anyone but you. When a car like this is totaled, that usually means it is worth salvage value only (hence the term “salvage title”).

  2. How long this car lasts depends on how long you want to go on fixing it. You can go on fixing it indefinitely, and financially, that may be the best decision for you since your unwillingness to part with it for less than $800 seems unrealistic to me.

I think the best thing you can do is sell it for salvage value or donate it to a charity.

Thanks for your response, Whitey.

I want to make it clear that I am not unwilling to sell the car for less than $800. $800 is how much I will have put into the car in the past year, after these repairs. What is a more realistic number? I am not set in my ways here - in fact I am quite ignorant of car values and salvage values, and I would like to learn more.

You’ve gotten your money’s worth from the car, and an insurance settlement check to boot. You won’t get much for it if you sell it. Even fixed it isn’t worth more than a few hundred dollars.

If you sell it, sell it “as is” and disclose the motor problem. It could be a fixer upper for someone with mechanical skills and they could drive it a while longer.

If you fix it, for $400, then plan to keep it and run it until you’ve got some worth from the new tires and brakes. That would be about 30K miles, then junk it.

I just checked and according to them, the value of your vehicle is “N/A.”

The sad fact is that the $800 you spent to keep this car roadworthy doesn’t add to its value. Instead of trying to recuperate that $800, you should see that $800 as your car payments for the last 12 months, which means it was money well spent.

Maybe if you call around to some salvage yards, they can give you a quote, which is usually based on the weight of the vehicle. Try doing an internet search for “we buy junk cars jacksonville fl” using your city and state.

“What I’m wondering is if it’s even worth the $400.”

No, it’s not…


'98 Pontiac Montana, runs, needs work, parts car, salvage title, $400 or best cash offer.

Thanks for the advice everyone!

I’m going to go ahead and get the $400 repairs and try to see if I can get another year out of it. I will be looking at it as auto expenses, not as an investment.