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Keep the Geo or the Passat?

We have 2 cars, no car payments. Just yesterday the dashboard lights instructed me to STOP–the coolant is leaking ($500) and we may need transmission mounts and engine mounts ($1100).

We think we might need a new car but are having a tough time deciding which to keep.

The Geo Prizm (95) is reliable and running fine, but w/out A/C. My husband uses it to get to/from work (<10 miles/day). It has ~90K miles.

The one that’s hurting is a 2003 VW Passat (4cyl) Wagon, and it has ~105Kmiles. I use it in work commuting and for family trips. We have the oil changed regularly and have replaced the timing belt. Over the years it’s needed a new waterpump, its engine light comes on frequently, new front axle shaft assemblies, boot repair ($589) misfire faulties for cylindar #2 &4, Coils replaced, fluid leak from enginge- camshaft tensioner seal and valve cover gasket ($426), front brake pads and roters ($500), new tires…the file is thick.

At what point do we give up on the VW? Which car to replace first? Any recommendations on new/used? Any car we’d get would have to have good gas mileage.

Let’s say a new car payment is $400. If the $1600 in repairs keeps the Passat going for more than 4 months, then you’re ahead, at least in terms of raw economics. Otherwise it sounds like it’s time to get rid of the Passat and buy a new family car, and leave hubby in the Geo. I’ll bet he’ll drive the new car on errands and weekends anyway, so it’s not much of a sacrifice for him to keep the Geo as a commuter car.

Dump the VW. It’s already broken, and once you fix it it’ll still be unreliable. The Geo Prizm is a re-badged Toyota Corolla and is a very reliable little beast.

If you’re worried about no AC, it is possible to have one installed. I’d go to a junkyard and find a Prizm/Corolla with an intact AC, put it in, and then bring it to an AC shop for leak testing and charging.

Look at used Acura Integras - they’re pretty cheap these days, very reliable, and were nice little cars. Got decent gas mileage too.

I’d tend to agree if any car has to go, the VW should be the first on the chopping block–it’s the one that’s causing you aggravation. Question to ask yourself: if you get rid of one, and the other bites the dust as well, can you afford two car payments?

As others will undoubtedly recommend, get a copy of Consumer Reports car buying guides for both new and used cars.

Possibilities: Hyundai Elantra Touring 26 mpg overall; Mazda5 23 mpg overall

Is this really a difficult decision? The Prizm is one of the most reliable cars on the planet. The Passat . . . not so much.

I’d take any opportunity that came along to dump the Passat. Are you paying dealer prices to repair a 7 year old car?

Thanks all. (to answer your question mcparadise, I’ve been to import garages, dealership garages, and a tire-brand name garage. the tire folks were decent-priced, but turned off the check engine light when they couldn’t figure it out. The dealer is like a leech, and the import guy is happy to have my business.)

I guess I didn’t want to believe the first new car I ever bought would go sour faster than an older car I bought used. This has almost scared me off new cars. New decision to make then…how soon do we get rid of the Passat?! Is now a good time to buy, or is there a better time? (Feb?)

as for 2 car payments…as long as one is really, really low, then yes, we could handle it.