Should I get rid of my car or repair it?

My car is a 2001 Ford Windstar. Almost every time I take my car to the garage it cost me $700 + dollars. I was told I needed a tuneup, the coil was leaking, and a few other things yesterday. A few months ago it was $1500. to repair my air-conditioning. My locks are messing up on the doors, heaven knows how much that would cost to fix. The sliding doors are dragging, need grease. I don’t know whether to keep putting money into it or buy another car. It would probably help to say I am an older woman, know very little about the mechanics of a car. I can’t repair them myself and have no one that can. When I go to a garage I am at their mercy and they know it hence they can sell me most anything. New car prices are scary, but I wonder if I should get a new one because of warranty. I need some honest advice.

An aging minivan will continue to need repairs and advanced maintenance to keep it running. You are also approaching the age where electronic control modules and sensors become iffy. I’m the type of person that keeps a car/truck until the wheels fall off. But, I do my own maintenance and repairs. I also do by-passes and work-arounds to avoid expensive repairs. Unless you have that ability, trading it in for a much more reliable vehicle is a better option. Future repairs and maintenance will continue to cost you more.

I also wish for you to consider a slightly used car with a top-notch Consumer Reports score. Unless you drive 15,000 or more miles a year, a 2-3 yr old car with good reliablity ranking can serve your needs well and save you a lot in lost depreciation.

How many miles are on the vehicle?. How long have you had it? Have you done all the needed maintenance as outlined in the owner’s manual. Particularly, has the transimssion nfluid and filter been changed at least twice? Please tell us what you actually HAVE done since you got the van. What is the current condition (body and general)?

When not regularly maintained, these models have been subject to transmission failures and head gasket problems as a result of overheating.

Your answers to these questions will determine what the experts on this forum will recommend.

Many non-technical owners are very frusted when an older car starts acting up. You need to find a trusty and competent mechanic; get advice from friends who know cars.

If you decide to get another car, you don’t need to buy a new one. For half the price of a new one you can get a very good used one.

Your current Windsar is not that old, but these vehicles were not sterling examples of quality and reliability.

A friend of my wife is a widow and her Dodge van is starting to show its age. She is 74 years old and will soon trade it for a 4 year old car with low mileage. I will help her buy it.

I have heard that GIECO now has car repair insurance for a monthly fee. I don’t know anything about it but it might be worth looking into for someone in your situation.

I think you ned to shop around for a new shop. Check with your friends to see who they use and how much they spend at their mechanics to keep their cars running. Leaking coil? Thats an old one, modern coil on plug coils are not oil filled like the coils of old.

Thank you all for your comments. They were helpful.
I have kept up regular maintenance on my car since I got it new. I have tried to take care of everything as it came up.The body and inside of the car are in very good shape. I have taken it to the dealer and of course they always tell you when something needs done. It has a little over 136,000 miles on it.
I guess the next question is what would be a good used car to buy should I decide to go that route?
Thanks again for all your answers

I have taken it to the dealer.....

Do you go exclusively to the dealer for work on your Windstar? If that’s the case, you might be surprised by how much you’d save on repairs by going to a local independent auto repair business. For a car of that vintage, it’s not necessary to rely primarily on the dealer, and a good reason to avoid the dealer - generally higher prices. Ask people you know for recommendations on local shops who seem skilled and trustworthy. Also check the “Mechanics Files” at the top of this page for shops in your area.

Think of this as “getting a second opinion”. Before you leap into buying another vehicle, you should visit an independent shop for them to evaluate the overall condition of your car, and if that’s favorable, have them fix those locks and clean and grease the sliding doors (even if you are planning to sell it - the car will be worth more without those problems). Considering that you’ve taken good care of this car, you may be pleasantly surprised by what you learn, and decide to hold off on replacing the Windstar at this point. Or you may decide to move on. If you like it and it serves your needs, and doesn’t need anything major, keeping it may be your best choice.

@Pittipat, I suggest that you start a new thread to ask about replacement vehicles. A lot more people will be attracted to that post.

"I have taken it to the dealer and of course they always tell you when something needs done"

That is the root of your problems. The dealer has a vested interest in making it too expensive to keep your current vehicle in the hopes that you will buy a new one from them. And they are expensive as well. You need a good honest independent mechanic.

" I was told I needed a tuneup, the coil was leaking…,"
Modern cars don’t need a tune-up as we used to do years ago when we replaced the spark plugs, put in new distributor points and condenser, possibly cleaned the carburetor, etc. When a technician says a car needs a tune-up, that is a red flag. The technician should point out what parts he thinks need to be replaced. If your engine is not misfiring, the check engine light is not on, the gas mileage isn’t in the cellar, etc. then I don’t think your car needs a tune-up. I also don’t know what the technician means by “the coil was leaking”. (I don’t know what you do about a coil leak. In the old days of tube type radios, we would use a 1 meg pot to handle grid leaks).
To answer your question, give us some more information. What kind of driving do you do? If you take long family vacations, you may want to replace the Windstar. If you commute quite a distance to your job, you might want a new car. If you don’t have back-up transportation and you must have the most reliable car you can afford for your job, it may be new vehicle time.
I used to own a 2000 Ford Windstar. I had no major problems with it. I sold it to my son who ran it to 165,000 miles. He did have to have a $1700 repair to the transmission at 120,000 miles. I think an intake manifold gasket was replaced. He sold the car a year ago for about $2700. Some of the Windstars from about 2009 to 2002 were recalled because of rust on the rear axle. The repair was to epoxy metal plates to the axle. In some cases, Ford did buy back the Windstars if the rust was too severe. If your Windstar was operated in a rust belt state, this recall applies to your vehicle. I personally don’t care for Ford’s solution to this problem.
However, if your Windstar doesn’t have a rust problem, the transmission operates as it should and the engine runs smoothly, and it fits your needs, I think others have given you a good suggestion in finding a good, honeest independent shop. Have him evaluate your Windstar and then decide whether you want to buy another vehicle in the near future. Let the independent mechanic know what kind of service you need from a vehicle.
One other suggestion–you may want to find different independent shops for different automotive services. You spent $1500 on having your air conditioning repaired. An independent shop that specializes in air conditioning might have done the repair for much less. I buy my tires from an independent tire shop that also does suspension and alignment work. As soon as my cars are off warranty, I usually don’t return to the dealer.

@Triedaq trying to sell a tune up is not always a red flag on a newer car.

If the car has 100K with original plugs, and the gap is a mile wide, and the replacement interval is 100K, replacing the plugs is a prudent choice.

There have been SEVERAL instances of bad wires causing misfiring (yet not enough to set a code).
The check engine light would not be on in those situations. Yet replacing the wires made the engine run smoothly again.

It’s not always black and white.

@db4690–“Tune-up” is, in my opinion, old terminology. I don’t think of replacing spark plugs as a tune-up. If a dealer’s service area recommends a tune-up, then I think it should be spelled out which parts should be replaced. I agree that spark plugs need to be replaced at 100,000 miles or earlier. I’ve had filters and spark plugs replaced when called for by the owner’s manual. However, some dealers want to throw in fuel injection cleaning, which if the injectors are working properly, is not needed.

I’m going along with what most others have already suggested, having the Windstar checked out by a good independent mechanic for problems and costs associated with making those repairs. If the Windstar is in good condition with only minor problems getting it repaired would probably be the most economical thing to do especially since you possibly have a few thousand dollars invested in recent repairs. Nowadays a vehicle with only 136K miles on it should have many miles/years left in it if it has been properly cared for. I also do 99% of my own repairs, therefore my only costs are the parts and my time. One of my cars I bought in 1993 with 146K miles on it and it now has over 500K miles, since I replaced worn out parts on this car with lifetime warranty parts years ago and I do my own repairs/maintenance I probably spend less than $200. per year in repairs/maintenance keeping it on the road. You’re in a different classification than many on this forum, not being able to do your own work so finding a good honest/reliable mechanic and trusting his recommendation or going on your personal knowledge about the vehicle is about your only options. If it were MY vehicle I’d keep it simply because I could probably make most repairs myself at minimal cost.

Thank you all for your input, it has given me good information to use in making a decision.