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New Med Student: Keep 1997 Rav4 or Lease 2014 Mazda 3?

That deferred repair work is another reason to not lease a new vehicle. You clearly aren’t meticulous about following the maintenance schedule for your current car (for whatever reason). If you do the same with a new, leased vehicle you’ll find you’ve violated the terms of your lease. Leases only work halfway well for people who treat their vehicles well and know how much they are going to drive. Returning the car with excess mileage and in poor condition gets very expensive. It’s how these companies make most of their money. They’re betting you won’t be able to comply precisely with the terms of your lease.

Anyhow, this is just not a decision you should be making at this time. The next few years are going to be very expensive for you and taking on another big expense is a bad idea, especially since you admit that most of the time you won’t be driving. If you’re not putting on a lot of miles your Toyota could last for quite a few more years.

All this depends partly on what all this deferred maintenance consists of. If the parts due for replacement aren’t that badly worn, you may have just saved a few bucks by putting them off, but it’s a bad habit to get into. If they’ve made the car hard to control or stop or interfered with safety features, you’re a lucky fool. Get the safety issues fixed immediately before you hurt someone. Relatively inexpensive maintenance/minor repairs that can lead to very expensive repairs if not fixed should also be a high priority if you’re keeping the car. Maintenance/repairs that will be a bother if they make your SUV unavailable or uncomfortable, but won’t cause serious damage, can be deferred (potentially - you have to evaluate likelihood.) This might include audio systems, air conditioning, and many kinds of rattles and squeaks.

I think the OP has left the building. Either he’s gotten the message and headed for study hall (my hope) or he didn’t get the support for this idea that he’d hoped for. Too bad, I would have liked to know his decision.

I don’t advocate leasing, but in this case I would also recommend getting rid of your car. Do this and buy a more recent used car.

If you traded in your car to a dealer now, you’d probably get a little over $2000. Dealers don’t consider the upcoming repairs when valuing your car. However, if you wait then you will have to pay $2000 in repairs, and when you get the next car you will still only get $2000 for your trade in.

When I was in college I was in a very similar situation. A few months before I graduated I was told I was going to be looking at a $2000 transmission repair on my Maxima within the next year, so within a few weeks of graduation I went and bought a new Nissan.

Why pay the entire value of a car to repair it?

Hey everyone,

I hope you guys had a safe holiday weekend and thanks SO SO much for all of your input! Biochem is my nemesis right now, so I’m sorry for not responding sooner to your fantastic advice and useful questions. This listener community is awesome, and I’m very appreciative of everyone’s interest in my situation.

Concerning the deferred maintenance, I should have been a bit more specific, sorry. I never have or will allow worn parts to jeopardize my or any other driver’s safety. I just have a few service items that I will eventually need to replace but can safely defer not to do at the moment. When a pothole damaged my struts (thanks, Chicago Winter), I immediately replaced them. However, in the process, I found some wear in my exhaust system (including after-market replacement catalytic converter from 2008) that would need future attention. I’ve already welded my pipe flange and hanger to patch it for now, but I will eventually have to spend about $1500 (only the first quote I got but still a significant percentage of the car’s present value, I’m sure) to replace everything. I also hear my rear passenger-side wheel bearings beginning to go, but my local mechanic said I can wait a bit longer (not sure about that?)

Despite these upcoming costs, I never intended to trade the car in. Even if I leased/bought a new car, my dad would’ve just used the Rav as a winter tank anyways until the car, well, passes beyond for the white shores of Valinor. Kidding aside, I will use this car for the rest of its life, so opportunity cost for a trade-in is moot.

I’m happy to know that keeping the Rav is the best decision and look forward to more time with this loyal and reliable car!

Many thanks, everyone.

Sincere thanks for taking the time to let us know your decision. Sometimes we wonder of we’re helping.

You’ve made the right decision. Happy motoring. And good luck in med school.