CarTalk.com Best of Deals Car Reviews Repair Shops Cars A-Z Radio Show

Should I love it, or list it?

I have a 2000 Ford Windstar, with 147,000 miles. Car has been regularly maintained (synthetic oil since purchased with 19,000 miles). I now drive only about 6,000 miles per year. Will retire in another year, possibly will drive a bit more for a few years, then back to 6,000 or less. Here is my dilemma. My mom is now 88 and still lives alone, drives everywhere. Her mom lasted to age 98. So I figure (hope) I have at least 20 more years. Due to the economy, my income is decent enough but not great, so not a lot left over every year. I do not want to have to buy a new car in 10 years. I need a car that will last as long as I do. Should I do a bunch of preventative maintenance repairs on the car I have (estimate $2000- $3000?) like replacing all the hoses, replacing the fuel pump, alternator, etc. and figure this car will last (I like the car, mileage is 16 city 21 highway, I average roughly 18 mpg per tank). I like the fact that it is BIG because the freeways here (San Francisco Bay Area) are hellish and I feel like I need the extra bulk for safety (I am a safe driver, no tickets, was rear ended 16 years ago…no accidents since then). I could buy a newer (2009 or 2010) crossover SUV (Like a Kia Sportage or Ford Escape) with around 40,000-50,000 miles on it instead. That would run around $17-$18000. Plus increase my insurance costs. My car would only sell for around $2500. So I would have a big bill to pay off before I retire. But interest rates are low right now. So what should I do? Will my car last another 100,000 miles with the fixes? What do you think? (I could put $6000 down on a new car, plus whatever I sell this one for, and would have to finance the rest)

I’ll be fairly surprised if your Windstar lasts another 10 years without costing you a lot of money in repairs, but it’s certainly possible. What isn’t possible is for us to see that far into the future with any accuracy. Even perfectly maintained cars break, and we don’t even know if your car is perfectly maintained.

Also, the “I need the big bulk for safety” thing is pretty much a myth. Smaller cars are safe too. It’s about the crumple zones, not the size.

I don’t see the point of replacing things before they break unless breaking would damage something. If the alternator breaks, the worst that can happen is that you get stranded and have to have it towed. Same with the fuel pump. You probably have AAA, so the tow will be free anyway. “Preventative maintenance” like that makes sense on mission-critical vehicles like ambulances or military trucks, but not so much on normal cars.

I don’t think the odds are good for the Windstar to go another 20 years, which would mean 267K miles total. But, it will go awhile longer and give you some time to save up for the next car. You can replace a lot of stuff on the car and still have no guarantee against a breakdown on the road. Low miles seems to mean you stay close to home most of the time. A policy with AAA will get your car towed when and if it needs it.

Replacing belts and hoses on a 2000 car makes sense. Not sure why you need to replace the fuel pump and alternator. Yes, and alternator 10+ years old and 147K miles use can go bad in tomorrow or a few years down the road, but this isn’t a biggie. Same with the fuel pump. You’ll be retired, so if the car needs work you’ll be at home for a day or so, or you can rent a car is you must be somewhere.

I’d look to keep the Windstar another 5 years, and that’s another 30K miles. Start making car payments to yourself now. You’d be making them anyway, but to a bank. $400 a month for 60 months is $24,000 that you can buy your next car likely for cash. In 5 years you might want a completely different car than your Windstar as your needs and lifestyle will be changing. You seem OK with the Windstar now, so drive it for a few more years while you save up for a new car.

Trading the Windstar for a used car with 40-50K miles won’t mean zero repair bills. That 40K newer car could need work too. When you get your next car I’d suggest a new one, or a used one at about 25K miles coming off a lease.

if you like the Kia Sportage and the ones you’ve found already are 17~18k, know that a brand new one starts out at $18,500

Since your Windstar still runs and you like it, I would keep driving it. I owned a 2000 Windstar before I sold it to my son. He had owned a 1999 Windstar that was used for parcel delivery before he bought it. I think both Windstars had at least 175,000 miles before he sold them Neither Windstar required a fuel pump or an alternator replacement. The 2000 Windstars had a problem in the rust belt states with rear axle rust and were under a recall, but that shouldn’t affect a California car.
My experience with the Windstar was good. Ford had discontinued the minivans when I was ready to replace it, so I bought a Chevrolet Uplander. I have since sold the Uplander to my son and purchased a Toyota Sienna. I need a minivan, but my opinion is that when you have driven one minivan, you’ve driven them all.
I would change the hoses and certainly keep up maintenance such as changing the transmission fluid, but the interest you will save by running this car for a few more years will probably outweigh the advantage of trading it. As you say, it’s only worth $2500. You can’t lose too much by continuing to drive it.
By the way, I’ve seen and ridden in Windstars used commercially as taxicabs. They can’t be that bad if they can take cab service.

You will certainly need a new car sometime, and now is a good time to start looking. Used cars are expensive these days relative to new cars. With the end of the model year upon us, dealers will discount and manufacturers will put rebates or dealer incentives on them. A Kia Sportage LX with auto transmission will cost at least $21,000 MSRP with destination fees. There is a $500 rebate for the Sportage. It also gets 21 MPG city and 29 MPG highway - even city mileage is better than your Windstar. Postpone any preventative maintenance until you explore new car options. If you have any questions, let us know.

Actually I clipped out an article by the guy who writes a column call UNDER THE HOOD. He recommended doing proactive replacement of fuel pump (which they said normally has a lifespan of 100 to 150,000 miles) as well as hoses and belts and possibly the starter. He was responding to someone with a car that has 231,000 miles on it, but was giving the information out as general advice for cars with 6-figure mileage. This was just a month ago, so he is talking about cars of this century. He also felt most cars with good care can probably go as high as 300,000 miles. I have AAA plus, so am covered there. My fear is the car stalling due to a failure while driving on one of our horrific SF Bay Area California freeways, with semi’s, 5 to 6 lanes of very crowded 70 mph traffic, no place to pull off the road. If it fails in my driveway or on a local street, no big deal. Yes, used cars seem to be holding WAY TOO MUCH of their value right now. In the past I always bought a one-year-old car with around 20,000 miles or less on it. And was able to save substantially off the original price of the car. Plus take really good care of the car. Now you have to wait until a used car is 4 or 5 years old to get the same sort of savings vs. new car price. I like the idea of pretending I am paying off a loan for a $20,000 car…maybe keeping it in a separate savings account, and then once the economy finally turns around, and more people are feeling comfortable about changing out their cars more often, instead of holding on to them forever, and used cars have a better value versus the new cars, then I can jump in. The selection would be better as well. Right now, any decent used crossover that hits the market gets snapped up in a week.

“Preventative maintenance” like that makes sense on mission-critical vehicles like ambulances or military trucks, but not so much on normal cars.

There are exceptions to most simple rules. I bring my 2002 Sienna with 185,000 miles, to the heart of Mexico, and the closest repair place is at least two hours away, which sort of makes my needs mission critical in its own way. I imagine parts here are very high priced; some might need to be air freighted in (they didn’t start making them here till 2003) so far what you call PM has limited repairs here to a battery and a light bulb. If you have a dealer or Auto Zone 2 miles away, things are different.

Nope, If I were you, this would be a good time to dump it and get into something new. I definately would look at new right now while things are still a little slow. Interest rates are anywhere from zero to about 3% so why would you worry about paying it off. Get something you like at a low rate, with a warranty, and enjoy yourself.

I vote for just basic stuff for the Van until it has its next major failure, then buy something new. I also agree that you should be saving and looking from now on.

Airplanes get rebuilt after so many “hours” of use because a failure means you are falling out of the sky. Cars when they fail have the ability to roll to a stop. Sometimes that rolling to a stop is fine, but other times like in a long tunnel it can be dangerous.

The answer to the OP depends on how much he/she wants to spend to gain more confidence about the risk of a car failure at just the wrong time. Most of my driving involves good shoulders to move off the road and good cell phone coverage. I make sure my belts, hoses, and tires are in good shape. Other types of failures on the road happen, but are too rare to take pre-emptive actions.

I have another love it or list it question that I’d like help with. My father has a 1992 Honda Accord with only 71,000 miles. It’s got body rust and needs almost $2000 worth of repairs to pass inspection. I have been offered $500 for it. Should I get the car fixed or sell it? And is $500 a reasonable offer?

Sell it. $500 is an offer for a parts car, and that is reasonable.

$500 sounds reasonable for a car with rust issues and that needs repairs. Can’t really tell you more without hearing about the needed repairs and the location and extent of the rust.

Surface rust on some fender parts isn’t bad. Rust that affects the frame and structural support members of the car can make the car dangerous and not worth any repairs.

The rust is only around the wheels on the fenders but a body shop told me it would cost 1700 to properly fix. It needs a new muffler and tail pipe, front coil springs, strut assembly, shift cable and timing belt. The engine mounts cause vibration but they said that’s not worth fixing. The fan belts are cracking, the water pump is leaking and there’s an oil leak too. Sometimes it has trouble starting, especially after sitting a few days. I did fix the brakes recently, though since I felt that was a non-negotiable safety issue in order to drive it at all. I am taking it this week to another garage to see what they think it’s worth, but I appreciate the assurances from those of you who feel that $500 isn’t unreasonable. I want to be sure to get what it’s worth.

My advice is get rid of it ,I really love Fords -but if the coolant hasnt been maintained,I wouldnt trust it because all of the mini vans sitting on blocks around here have basically have the same problems- Kevin