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To Keep or to Dump?

2003 Ford Focus, 156K miles. Parked outdoors in the midwest. $3K (ouch!) in transmission work in summer 2012. Exhaust system now conking out. Mechanic says it’s a good machine, and recommends staying with it. Husband recommends not putting another dime into it. Both have ulterior motive, I suspect. I’m looking for opinions/recommendations from people in the know, who have no skin in this game: is it time to take it to the shop or to the dump?

Our usual response is: “If the rest of the car is in great shape, go for it”. An exhaust system is a normal wear item. A 2003 car is not that old and your mileage is not excessive.

If, however, this car has been neglected in the past, I would “dump” it. I’m surprised you needed all that transmission work at such a low mileage.

I agree totally with Docnick. If it’s truly in good condition, then the need for an exhaust system should not be the reason to sell the car, for precisely the reason he cites.

But you seem skeptical about the motives of your mechanic, even though he says it’s a “good machine”. Perhaps you need to ask him to quantify the condition of other aspects of the car…engine compression, suspension and steering parts, and especially, the integrity of the body and frame. A car that’s rusting underneath, out of view, is probably not worth much investment due to looming safety issues. If the engine compression is down, then it may be time to move on.

Another approach would be to take the car to another quality shop for a “pre-purchase” evaluation, which might cost $75 or maybe a bit more. That way, you’ll get an unbiased report on condition of the car.

You can do part of the evaluation yourself. Does the car burn oil, or lose coolant or brake fluid? How often do you change oil? How many times have you had the coolant emptied and replaced with fresh? Is the body, paint, interior, and glass ok? Use these points to help decide.

Finally, compare the price of the new exhaust system to the cost of a replacement used vehicle. Note that any replacement, except a new one, will be totally unknown with problems you are yet to discover. At least you know that you have a transmission which should last for years.

do you park on grass/dirt? or paved surfaces? an 03 should not have a rusty undercarriage. do brake lines look good? where is exhaust issue? hole in pipe? muffler starting to go? broken weld on the cat flange inlet/outlet?

An exhaust system on an '03 (10 year old car) is really not a repair. It is just an old part that wore out. If you are not sure of the condition of the rest of the car, have a body shop inspect it for rust damage. If you drive on salted winter roads rust could be an issue. If there isn’t a rust problem, a new exhaust isn’t reason to “dump” a car IMO. That would be about the same thing as people dumping a car because it needed 4 new tires, or the brakes replaced. Some stuff just wears out, and that’s the case here.

It is a 10 year old car now so you have to figure for more repairs, more often, and need more money for repairs figured into your budget. If you can’t handle some downtime for repairs you might be ready for a new car.

Agree with @Docnick
I go with hubby. Mechanics have a vested interest in customers keeping old cars. Their interest is not yours…like having something more reliable while you’re miles from home or in a neighborhood you would sooner not break down in. Yes, everyone has an their own motive. Hubby’s just might be YOUR safety.

The Focus at high mileage isn’t a good bet to keep. Ford didn’t build it to go any farther than it has gone right now. Yes they can and do go for more miles but no car maker cares if the cheaper models go on forever. If an inexpensive car goes for longer than that it’s just because you can’t break everything based on some schedule.

Who will pay for new car? Does hubby ever drive your car? Does he have a new car picked out that you both can share? Exhaust is 700. New car is 20k? What do both of you really want?