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Keep it or heap it?

I have a '95 Probe (143K miles, manual trans.) that I bought about a year ago, and a pending repair has caused me to take up the old “keep it or heap it” question. Here is a brief summary of monetary costs for this thing:

$1100 - purchase price (2/09)

$1400 - initial repairs, incl. front ball joints, control rod arms (2/09)

$300 - tires (4/09)

$500 - thermostat/cooling system flush (8/09)

$500 - front struts (10/09)

Now, I am faced with a water pump/timing belt replacement job ranging from $500-$1000, which stems from a significant coolant leak. There are a few things to consider here: I am a seminary student on a low-paid internship, so money is tight (and it will stay that way even when I’m a pastor). I bought this car thinking I would keep it until the end of seminary, May 2011. Another factor is that I have another functional vehicle at my disposal ('97 Olds 88), with no issues besides replacing a cracked windshield for $200.

I love the Probe, and enjoy it far and beyond above the Olds, as well as my wife’s car, an '01 Sonata, which makes the decision difficult. I kept hoping that each fix would be the last for a good long time, but new things keep popping up. If I do have to get rid of it, the junkyard will give me about $225, or I may be able to sell it to a teenager at one of the nearby churches for perhaps $400, informing them that they would have to pay for the repairs.

So, first question is whether or not I should keep the car. If not, then the next is whether it is fair to sell it to someone, or if I should just junk it. I’m all ears.

Unless perhaps if the tires are a result of the ball joints and tie rod ends being shot, I really couldn’t consider them as a repair cost.

Honestly, you got “took” on the cooling system work.

The front struts are also normal wear items. And the price looks reasonable.

The timing belt and water pump replacement are also normal maintenance. Even if the pump is leaking, its replacement is routine anyway.

I see nothing in your list that would cause me to blieve that the car is shot. However…the vehicle is a 15 year old $1100 car and getting to the point where it’ll probably routinely need some repair or other performed. Since you like the Probe so much, before spending any more you might want to pay a shop to give it a thorough going-over and tell you what else to expect.

Sincere best.

The time to figure out what you may need to replace soon is before you pay the money. If you keep it, you now now that a number of things that could be wrong with a replacement car are OK with your car. That replacement car may have a whole new set of problems.

Your decision now shold have nothing to do with what It is what it is now. So look at what your current car may be worth and what a replacement might cost add in likely work that will be needed on any car you might buy to get it up the the same condition your car is now.

My guess is it will be cheaper to keeep your current car.

I actually already have the replacement car. It is my father-in-law’s old car, which he gave to my wife to drive while she was in college. We have been driving that Olds around for several months now, as I intended it to be a winter “beater” car that could better navigate the country areas where I work. There are several stretches of road that are prone to bad snow drifts, and the locals told me when I arrived that the Probe was almost certain to get stuck once or twice during the winter if we had any large amount of snow. The Olds is in good shape–honestly, it has had fewer problems in the last several years than the Probe has had in this one.

As for upfront costs, we are paying for the windshield since we need that anyway, but otherwise it’s just title transfer fees for her dad to sign it over to us. Her mom and dad don’t need the Olds anyway, so it would just take up space in their driveway.