Keep it or cliff it?


#1

have a question about my 1997 Dodge Neon (166K miles on it).



In the past year or so, it’s gotten a new radiator, timing belt, water pump, alternator belt, power steering belt, tires, and starter. Now the suspension system is in need of repair. It’s been well maintained and never missed an oil change.



My question:



Do I pay basically the car’s Blue Book value to replace the front (and possibly rear as well) struts, bearings, etc., or is now the time to cut my losses and get a new car? I’m trying to determine if it’s worth continuing to put money into to keep it running, or if this is just one more sign that my car has one foot in the grave.



I want to get honest opinions, because I’ve been ripped off my mechanics before (for instance when I got the new radiator).


#2

Everything you mention is normal wear and tear stuff and the front suspension is no different.

Questions.
Exactly what kind of money is being quoted to replace the struts and what I assume are wheel bearings?
How did you get ripped off on a radiator?


#3

I agree with OK4450 (as usual) that everything you’ve described is normal wear on a car this age and mileage.

However a lot depends on the overall condition of the rest of the car, how well you like the car, your overall ability to readily afford a replacement, and your reliability needs. Face it, the car is an 11 year old Neon with 166K on it. Its best days are past.

It’s always cheaper to repair a car than replace it, at least until the tranny or engine internals start to fail or body rot starts to affect the car’s structural integrity, but if you’re transporting your family in this and you can safely afford it you may want to start thinking about a replacement. Especially if you live where a breakdown could jeopardize their safety.

You are at a watershed moment. The decision is tough. Nobody can fault you for going either way. Try to make the decision that feels right to you.


#4

Depending on the shop, they’re quoting between $650-$800 for parts and labor. Before I’d commit, though, I’d want them to take a good look at the car and tell me if there are any other repairs they see coming.

How I got ripped off on a radiator: Radiator cracked. Not knowing where to go when I saw my engine overheating, I took it to my usual place, where they charged me $600. Then they mentioned I’d need the water pump and timing belt. So I started looking around since that repair wasn’t immediately necessary, and when I was buying my own parts at NAPA, the salesperson told me the shop I’d gone to buys all their parts there. I officially got hosed…but learned a valuable lesson.


#5

I drive a 1996 Neon with 130k miles. Did yours have the typical head gasket leak? If so, was it caught early before serious engine damage occured?

If the engine, transmission, and body are all sound, I’d spend the money to get the struts replaced. In the last 10k miles, I’ve replaced the front and rear struts with used parts from salvage yards. That’s a possibility for you too - if you order them online, try to pick a location that’s not in the rust belt and the struts should be in decent condition. I’ve had good luck with UNeedAPart.com when I couldn’t find parts locally. If you’re hoping to keep the car for years more, the investment for new parts may be worth it.


#6

Well I like the car, I’ve had it a long time, I passed my driver’s test in it–sentimental value, etc. I’m single with no children, so I’m not in need of a family sedan, thankfully. I have about a 16-mile round-trip commute everyday, so I’m maybe putting 800 miles on it each month. I live in a large city and have a AAA membership, so if my car were to suddenly break down I know I’d be able to take a bus home or call AAA.

You bring up some valid factors to consider. Thanks!


#7

The price sounds about right for all of that. If the car runs and drives well with no apparent major problems I would fix it and continue to drive it.
If you buy a new car you’re going to lose 650-800 dollars in interest in the first few months of payments because just about all of that payment is interest. Interest is money flushed; a car in hand with no payments is money in the bank.
Repairing the car and driving it for only another 6 months or year before throwing in the towel will put you way ahead financially based against the loss of money due to interest charges.

I’m still not convinced you got hosed if you’re basing this on the shop’s markup of parts. All shops, including dealers, should markup the parts. Unless they do, they cease to exist.
Wal Mart’s (and many other companies also) markup on imported Chinese junk is greater than what many shops markup their parts. JMHO anyway.


#8

Here at the Ford dealer wher I am a 29 year parts man, “cheaper to keep her ?” is an every day question. Follow the other’s advice and consider the condition of the rest of the car. Then assume the potetial future repair maximum for about three years versus the payments on a new one. It may very well be “cheaper to keep her”. Just today, here at the Ford dealer, my customer is asking the price of a rebuilt engine ($3000.00) for his 97 f150 4x4 with 325,000.00 miles on it. He’s 87 years old and didn’t think he’d be buying another truck at all. For him ( a veteran marine Navajo code talker ) it is indeed “cheaper to keep her”.


#9

I hadn’t heard that about the head gasket. I’ll have it looked at when I bring my car in. Thanks for the tip!


#10

All of the stuff that you mention, I can do in my garage at home with no special tools except I don’t have a spring compressor for the strut change. These are available, however, or can be rented.

There is always a way to sneak under the tent, so to speak. When, long ago, my car needed ball joints, a work friend happened to be taking a car repair course at a local community college and did it for cheap. He and his friends got a lesson and I got new ball joints.

These days I’d be tempted to find someone on Craig’s list to do a repair job that I couldn’t do and didn’t want to afford full boat. Maybe there is a moonlighter mechanic somewhere who needs extra cash and can do this on a Saturday. Beat the bushes a little before you take a ripping from the system. I’d be hesitant to farm the work out to some car crazy kids as front strut springs are dangerous.

You might want to post what you have been told about your suspension needing work and the symptoms that the car displays regarding handling. Maybe your car doesn’t need suspension work or needs work on the front or rear only. Front and rear suspensions don’t normally fail at the same time in my limited experience.


#11

you are at the point where regular repairs are going to start equaling what you would pay (if you save up all the cash you would have paid for repairs) for a new (er) used car.

the trick is knowing when to make the decision to STOP paying on a loosing deal for your car.

the biggest factor is YOUR finances. if you are comfortable to spend the extra $$ to get a newer car, then you should get a breather on repairs. (however, you really never know what you may have to do on a new unknown car)

my level is around 200,000 miles, depending on the type of car (brand, reputation etc) makes the number go up or down, as affected by the name and general condition of the car.

not to be personal about it, but if it were me, on your car i would have called it quits about 40K ago!


#12

Hmmmm, while I would normally agree to fix it, for an 87 year old code talker, he deserves a new truck. He’ll probably never have to worry about paying for it all. (D-Day, June 6, 1944)


#13

Since your engine or transmission can go at any time, there isn’t the need to keep a Neon running. There are many other things getting ready to surprise you. On the other hand; those new cars cost a lot.