Sell it and buy something else, or keep on fixing it?

I have a 2002 Chevy S10 ZR-2 4X4 pickup with 116,000 miles.

I am the third owner, I bought it 3.5 years ago with 58,000 miles on it. The truck is fully paid off.

I take care of my vehicles. I am an avid weekend mechanic, but I’m never too proud to admit when a problem is too big for me to handle.

After an extended hiatus, I have decided to return to graduate school… I can no longer claim to be rich in time nor money.

Once this truck hit 100,000 miles (about 1 year ago), a number of issues started to pop up:

1- encoder motor needed to be replaced ($1,200)

2- transmission was replaced (almost $2,000)

3- plastic housing of radiator cracked… replaced radiator ($250 in parts )

4- sway bar/suspension/alignment issue, resulting in destroyed tire ($800)

5- starter motor replaced ($285 in parts/towing/parking ticket)

6- headlight leaked & burned out bulb wiring harness ($110 in parts)

… needless to say, I have spent OVER $4500 and A LOT of time this year in keeping this truck running…

Alas, I am once again having transmission and/or transfer case issues. The transmission is still under warranty, so my level of concern isn’t through the roof for this round, but my confidence in this truck is definitely waning.

I don’t have the money to keep fixing this truck. I feel that either:

1- the quality of this truck is deplorable


2- one of the previous owners beat the tar out of it

SO… my question is:

1- Should I trade the truck in (I don’t have the heart to sell it privately) (trade in value is around $5000), buy a cheap beater, and set the balance aside for the inevitable problems that will arise with the new vehicle


2- Should I keep the truck, pray that nothing else will go wrong and beg/borrow/cheat/ebay random household objects to pay for it when things do go wrong.

I am flat broke thanks to this truck. I am grateful that I have a motorcycle for my daily commute, but it rains here… frequently. My confidence in this vehicle has been shattered.

As for the “beater”, I have been eyeing a 1979 Ford F100, single owner, 91,000 miles on original engine (V-8), GREAT shape… I’m confident that the guy will take $2000 for it… giving me around a $2500 cushion for repairs…

Will I just be swapping one headache for another? I know very little about this vintage of Fords, but I had a '79 Dodge Power Wagon that I LOVED (10 years ago)…

  1. Forget pickups for beaters. Buy $300-$600 NEON and throw it away when something breaks. Keep current vehicle intact and owned until you finish grad school. It is, after all, paid for. You’ve expressed no dire need for the utility of a pickup truck. The cost in fuel for any commute would, or so I would reason, make them prohibitive for a starving student.

The worst you would encounter is title and tag transfers.

Side note: That’s some expensive suspension and tire you had there.

The sway bar/suspension/tire issue WAS a bit crazy… I priced the parts out when I got home… got a LITTLE taken, but not by much… I think I got the “stranded out of town on a weekend discount”

Oh… and perhaps I should elaborate… I DO need the utility of a truck/large SUV… I’m a forester by trade… I usually carry quite a load (couple of saws, smelly clothes and a bunch of wood samples) when driving… gas mileage of my trucks haven’t been of much concern… hence the motorcycle for most daily commutes…

Thanks for the thoughts!

You are the third owner of a vehicle that was not all that great when it was new; with one of the worst repair records. If it was human, it would have “bad genes”. Everyone I know who had one of these, had significant problems with it.

To spare yourself further agony and distraction from your studies, get rid of it by advertising “as is” or donating it for a tax break.

Any further problems with this vehicle will be expensive.

As mentioned, the best beater is a dead simple car nobody wants, like a basic Neon or Chevy Cavalier. Dump it when the first major problem occurs.

Older 4WD vehicles can become money pits…Buy a used Crown Vic and just drive it, like the cops and taxi companies do…

You could take a different attitude about the problems. These issues will not recur since they were just fixed. If your transmission is under warranty, get it fixed and wait to see if anything else pops up. We had a transmission problem on one of our cars at 58,000 miles - but it was still in warranty! The car has about 90,000 miles on it, but the transmission only has 30,000 miles! If the transmission repair does not cost anything, get it done and keep driving.