What to do with dysfuctional forester?

Hi, folks.

I have a car situation that I am not sure how to handle, and am curious to hear other opinions. I own a 1998 Subaru Forester. The head gaskets in the car blew in mid-November, and I have not yet had them fixed. (The repair will cost at least $1500, according to my mechanic.) Also, the airbag light is currently on in the car, and the cruise control does not work, and I think that will also be an expensive fix. I can get by without a car for my day-to-day for the time being.

I’ve procrastinated on fixing the car because I am currently unemployed. I live in North Carolina, but just accepted a job offer in Seattle. I am still working out the details of my move, but I will probably end up driving across the country in aerly January. I don’t think that this Forester is a car that is worth moving across the U.S. in.

So - what do I do with my Forester? I’m afraid that spending the money to fix it will be unwise, even if I tried to sell it. I doubt I could recoup the money I would spend on the repairs. I considered donating it to NPR, but I do not need the tax write-off this year since I have not been earning much money. I have not yet approached any dealerships to see if I could trade it in. I would like to get some $ for it, but have no idea how to get rid of it… and the car has been so expensive to maintain lately that I think it’s time I just get rid of it.

Thoughts? I have about a month to figure things out and get rid of the car. Would you invest any $ in fixing this vehicle? How would I go about selling it for parts? Would it be worth anything as a trade-in in its current state?

Thanks in advance for the input.

What kind of condition is the car in? How many miles?

If the car is in generally good condition, I think $1,500 is worth keeping it running-- you couldn’t buy a running '98 Forester for that much. The cruise control and (arguably) airbag issues do not need to get fixed at this time.

Otherwise, just put it on craigslist under the auto parts category and you MIGHT get a thousand bucks for it or so, but non-running cars can be slow sellers so you’ll probably have to price it low if you want it gone in a month.

One other thing to mention is that it probably will be worth a little more in Seattle (Subarus are very popular there) so if the alternative ends up being essentially giving it away, it might make sense to fix it, drive it there and sell it. You should be able to recoup the repair cost pretty easily-- the difference in value between a non-running Subaru in NC and a running Subaru in Seattle is almost certainly much more than $1,500.

Actually I think it’s worth the $1500 to fix it and drive it to Washington. You don’t need the cruise, and the airbag light is questionable. For your money you get a car to cross the country and get settled in Seattle without going into big debt. Better to limp along for now, get into your new job and figure out what to do. GreasyJack is right on all counts.

I agree with guys above. Unless I’m reading you wrong, you would not be here if the head gasket had not blown. Look at it this way. Your maintenance, repair and replacement history is an asset, because you know the car. “Worth a little more in Seattle” would be an understatement. Not uncommon to be surrounded by Subarus in Seattle or anyplace in Northwest. Used ones sell fast at prices well above book. Unless someone here can come up with an alternative that’s better for your current finances, I’d do the repair…long time Subaru owner living in NW.

It’s probably worth fixing, but you still don’t have to do it. Advertise it and state the condition. If nobody buys it, a salvage yard may even give you some money for it, because there are a lot of them around. The cruise control may work again if the connections get cleaned up. Check the fuses.

Seattle probably has good public transportation. I don’t know what the parking situation is. Twelve year old cars aren’t worth much on a trade-in, but there is always money in a private sale. You are running out of time to get it fixed.

Thanks for the thoughts. I guess I hadn’t considered keeping the Subaru because it’s been pretty unreliable for the last 6 months or so. I had to replace the mass airflow meter over the summer, and now it’s the head gaskets, and I’m worried that I won’t be able to sell it with the airbag light on (which has now been on for 3+ months). Even though the all wheel drive might be practical for a winter trip across the U.S., my track record as of late with the car has me worried that I’ll have another expensive fix halfway across the U.S. in a place where I have no trusted mechanics. The car has 137,000 miles on it right now. The body is in great shape, but I’m just not sure I trust things under the hood. I think I’ve done a decent job of maintaining the car for the last 5 years that I’ve owned it, but that doesn’t change the fact that the car is 12 years old and showing its age. But, maybe it’s better to put the miles on this car and cross my fingers and hope that it makes it without any mishaps…

You could fix it up and it may cost you a few thousand dollars to do that. You should still have a lot of miles left with the car as the mileage isn’t real high yet. If it were me though I would think about selling the car as-is, get what you can for it and use that money to help either buy a new car or a newer used one. Since the body is good shape you should be able to get at least some money for it. The '03 and newer Foresters are nicer than the one you curently have. So if you want to get another Forester get a '03 or newer model. Subaru made improvements in the heads and headgaskets in the later models so the headgasket trouble isn’t as bad as it was back when yours was made. I have an Outback myself and love it. I really like the new Forester design.

The trouble with airbag and cruise control may be due to a bad clock spring in the steering wheel. That would cost a few hundred dollars to fix I think, if that is the trouble.

In accounting this might be considered an “extraordinary repair” and increases the life of the asset, thus your Subaru should have another 135k left in it. I have a 99 Honda with pretty much the same mileage and I plan to keep it until 250, 300k.

It looks like your choices are 1. Fix the forester 2. Greyhound it to WA.

Your car is worthless as a trade in in its current state. You will get a paltry amount but the dealer will make it up in the sale price. A scrap yard may give you salvage for it call around.

This car is baggage why drag it all the way over to Seattle? Leave it behind.