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Toyota experts, please help! Is it time for a new car?

I love my car. I really do. It’s a 1995 red Toyota 4Runner with shift-on-the-fly 4WD, a sun roof, manual transmission, working A/C…I own it outright too, which is great. When I bought my car, I did my research and learned that my engine (V-6 3.0L) blows its head gaskets at around 200,000 miles. Fortunately, the previous owner had all of his service records and I saw that he had the head gaskets pre-emptively replaced at 120,000 miles so in my best estimation I have until at least 300,000 miles before I have to either do the same or…get a new car. Throughout the 3 years I’ve owned this car I’ve replaced a lot of minor things (pitmen arm, ignition tumbler, radiator, oil pressure sending unit) it runs like a gem and is my true sidekick.
I recently discovered that I have oil leaking from my rear main and I also need to get the clutch replaced which I can do at the same time. I have a great mechanic and everything else looks to be good with the car.
The thing is, I am going to have a baby in October, our first. My husband has been trying desperately to get me to agree to get a newer, “more reliable” car. I say no because we would have to get really creative to be able to afford it.
My questions are: Does anyone know if my estimation RE the head gaskets is correct? AND, can anyone offer me an opinion as to whether or not I’m justified in feeling that after the oil leak is fixed and the clutch replaced I’ll be good to go for a few more years? (By the way, the car has 210,000 miles on it and really does run amazingly). OR, should we bite the bullet and get a new car even if it creates a financial strain?

I’d get a reliable used later-model sedan, and consider keeping this as a second car for fun, towing, hauling, snow (if you get it), etc.

What does your husband drive, though? The 4_runner isn’t the only car in the family now, or is it?

You’ll get a much safer vehicle if you go 10 years newer. As for the head gasket, who knows? It’s not a fixed number, one could fail tomorrow or several years from now.

I think part of the decision depends of what you mean by “newer”. If you are going to get a 10+ year old car with a lot of miles, you might be better off with the “evil you know”.

So tell us what are you looking for and what kind of budget you are thinking about.

I will tell you this, having a baby is a huge financial drain (I have two kids of my own). The diapers, clothes, day care formula, etc. If a car is going to stretch you further then hold off until after the baby, this way you can better judge what your finances will be after baby. Honestly a year later we are still paying off the hospital for the birth of my daughter. Even with insurance it cost over $7,000 out if pocket between doctors and hospital etc.

As a side note, because we found this out after i paid all my bills with a credit card. If you call the hospital and work out a payment plan, it’s zero interest as long as you make your payments and they will work to make it affordable to you.

I don’t see any real issues with your 4-Runner. These things are among the most bullet proof vehicles on the road. I think your head gasket issues have been addressed. I wouldn’t do anything “pre-emptive” with the head gaskets, they could last forever at this point.

Have a baby, enjoy it. As for the 4-Runner keep up with the normal maintenance, keep it and save some money for college for the kid.

There are no guarantees of trouble free life. The only thing that would drive me away from this vehicle with kids is poor safety compared to a vehicle 10 years newer and cruddy MPG.

My father has the same vehicle and a I recall a one star crash rating which is horrid especially considering standards were a lot lower in 1993 than 2005 for example.

How does “being creative” give you more money? I have heard the term used this way but never seen a concrete example.

There’s a lot more to a car than engine, clutch, brakes and tires. Is the body and frame sound (is rust an issue where you live?)? Are the seats, carpet, interior panels and good condition? Etc…

If so, then there is no reason not to fix the clutch and oil leak. The clutch needs to be repaired no matter what. If the clutch is bad you can’t drive the car and it’s not worth anything if you can’t drive it. And the rear main seal is only a minor cost addition to the clutch job. I wouldn’t worry about head gasket failure any more than I would on any other car on the road. The head gasket replacement in years past probably included the use of updated parts and a revised torque procedure to eliminate possibility of repeat failure.

You like it, you own it, and it’s reliable. Has all the makings of a good car.

I don’t know about the car, but purchasing a new(er) car right before a baby is not prudent unless you can pay cash. People trade late model cars all the time after having their first baby as they did not anticipate the impact to their budget and are desperate to lower their payments. If getting a newer car requires creative financing now it will be desperate financing after the baby. If at all possible fix the car.

I highly doubt the previous owner had the head gaskets changed just for preventative measure. It is far more likely that they simply failed at 120k miles. So, I would not worry about this one.

Getting a new car is not the answer. IF you find a good deal on a USED car, then maybe think about that. You don’t need to drop $25,000 on a new car with a baby on the way.

With 200k, you’re NEVER good to go for a few years. Expect to spend $1000-$2000 a year to keep this thing running. And, that is a lot less than a $25,000 new car.

You can’t predict a car failing. You could get a new car and buy trouble.

If I were you, I’d use your car as long as it carries you but put money that you may have put into a new car aside. Calculate what a payment would be, along with insurance premium on a new car, ect - use whatever that comes down to a month as a target amount to sock away each month. Get AAA and add towing to your insurance so you can always get you home in a pinch.

Then, when that car finally fails and isn’t worth fixing (likely 200K from now), /then/ get a new one.

Congratulations on having a baby soon, btw.

If this 4Runner is as good as you say, then it makes sense to repair it regardless of whether or not you decide to keep it. This is a very desirable vehicle with a repairable problem, so repairing it is the right choice.

If you decide to sell it, it will be worth more with the repair completed in two ways. First of course is that the vehicle would NOT have a major problem and thus will be much more desirable (ie-salable). You’ll have more potential buyers and thus make it easier to get top dollar. On the other hand, fewer people would consider a vehicle with an oil leak and clutch problem, or at best only offer to buy for a very low price. If the clutch problem is such that the car is not drivable, it will be quite difficult to sell because it will prevent prospective buyers from giving it a road test and judging anything about how it feels. Further, having the repair done, combined with the availability of service records you describe, shows a pattern of wise maintenance which will be a major plus for a prospective buyer.

But if it were mine, I’d repair it and keep it. You like it very much…that’s important.

A “newer safer vehicle” my not be any safer for the baby, only for you. If you want the baby to be safe, then get the safest car seat for the baby that you can get. A “safer” vehicle will not protect a baby that is in an unsafe seat. This is an argument you can use.

As for reliability, anytime someone is selling a used vehicle, there is a reason. There are good used cars out there with reasons for selling other that repair issues that the seller does not want to disclose, but I think the chance of getting one of these is about the same as getting a few more trouble free years with the Toyota. Its a gamble either way with about the same odds.

This is a tough one to answer. The vehicle itself has a long reliable life ahead of it, but as someone else mentioned, you’re soon to have a baby on board and a newer vehicle would have a lot more safety features. And at 210,000 miles, something is certain to wear out every now and then.

Perhaps you could let your circumstances determine the answer. If you live in a modestly rural or suburban area without a lot of traffic but with services such as AAA and a cab always just a phone call away, you could repair this car, but if you live in an urban area where traffic and/or environment would make it potentially dangerous to break down, or a rural area where you might breakdown many miles from anything and the weather gets to -20F, you could think about a newer car.

IMHO, the biggest reason to replace an old car is rustout. If the floor pan and frame are not rusted and the body is in good shape, then the repairs you need are not, in my opinion, a good reason for replacing the vehicle. However, if the rust is starting, then maybe it is time to look for a newer vehicle.

Generally I’d agree, Triedaq, but when there’s a young woman with a baby being transported safety and reliability become paramount. At 210,000 miles, I can understand her husband’s concerns. I tip my hat to him for caring enough to be concerned for the vehicle’s safety and reliability.

@the same mountainbike-- I agree that newer cars are safer. Unit body cars, which the 4Runner is not, crumple more in an accident to absorb the impact. However, if the baby is in an approved child seat and the child seat is in the rear seat, the child should be reasonably safe. The 4Runner is quite massive and particularly in local driving, should be o.k.