Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

When to decide to cut your losses on a used lemon

I can’t decide whether to ditch my 5-speed 2000 VW Golf 1.8L Turbo, bought used a couple years ago at 75,000 miles. I thought I negotiated a sweet deal but have had nothing but high-ticket items to fix since: timing belt, air compressor and fan, speed sensor, and now, TAH DAH, the a/c compressor has gone out ALONG with the comfort control sensor meaning I can neither have air conditioning NOR open my windows OR sun roof OR keyless entry. Shall I:

1) not go broke repairing the latest items yet suffocate to death

2) fix a/c compressor and comfort control sensor and go broke

3) ditch this lemon for a better used car and lose everything I’ve put into it so far??

Logic eludes at the moment, my jaw is too clenched.

One thing that you need to bear in mind is that the timing belt replacement was maintenance, NOT a repair in the true sense. Whether you get rid of this car or not, the only way to avoid this expense every 90k-105k miles is to buy a car with a timing chain, rather than a timing belt. A few minutes of research before buying your next car can help you to avoid buying another car with a timing belt.

But, to return to the theme of your question–in view of the fact that this car is now at least 10 years old and its ongoing repair expenses are only going to keep increasing, I would suggest that you get rid of it. Your expenses have already been high, and will only get worse as the miles build up.

Is it paid off? If you owe on it, I would not get rid of it yet. No matter how bad the vehicle was, I have never sold one on which I was still making payments. If it is paid off, dump it.

Yeah, I paid cash for it. It’s paid off. I just can’t figure out if I’d lose more money by dumping it and buying another used car (I don’t want to buy new). Every used car is going to have some deferred maintenance you’re going to have to get to; but VW work is hella expensive and the parts are ridiculously expensive.

I should have said I replaced the water pump and fan, not air compressor and fan. Along with the timing belt. But other stuff, like speed sensor, and now comfort control sensor have gone out, along with the a/c compressor. All high-ticket items.

Thanks for your advice . . . my 1991 Nissan I got rid of for this would still be running w/out a hitch now . . .

“I should have said I replaced the water pump”

Once again, this is maintenance–in this case preventive maintenance.
When considering your options, you have to separate maintenance expenses from actual repairs if you are going to make a decision based on valid factors.

All cars need maintenance if you want them to last more than a few years.

At this point, I’d do the math. Figure out how much you’ve spent on it so far including the purchase price, add the repair estimates for the new repairs and then measure the total against what you might get for it if you bailed out now and subtract the estimated fixes from your offered purchase price. AC compressors are pricey, no doubt. But the electrical items might have a common cause that may not be too bad. How bad are the estimates?

Whatever you decide to do, the next time around, if you go with another used one, I’ve been told that when you go that route, during the first year or so expect to spend 15-20% of the used purchase price on miscellaneous repairs. I’m sure there are others around here with better estimates.

After that, I suppose anything can happen which is why some used car sales outfits or dealers sell a separate repair warranty on more recent models. That can cover the same or similar items as the original warranty that may not be covered after the first 30 or 60 days beyond the “tailight guarantee”. There are some reputable outfits that offer used car extended warranties. Your insurance agent can probably recommend some. Read the policy carefully BEFORE you buy one however or add it to the financing, cause they can all be pretty slippery.

Well, if the maintenance costs more than with other makes, that should also be a factor researched when considering your options. I didn’t take that into consideration and made a bad decision. It’s just a high maintenance vehicle and I’m also reading the turbo will likely need to be rebuilt, along with high sludge problems in the engine. Again, bad choice on my part.

As you found out the hard way, buying a car with a turbocharger but without maintenance records is a really good way to wind up with lots of headaches and high repair expenses.

In addition to avoiding cars with timing belts, you should also avoid buying a used car with a turbocharger unless you can verify with documentation that the oil has been changed at least as often as the car mfr specifies, and that the correct spec motor oil was used.

It sounds like your car was not properly maintained by its previous owner, a common problem for those who buy used cars but who don’t insist on maintenance records.

Owing a car is expensive. All cars are expensive. In your case you bought a car when maintenance was due. All cars have expensive maintenance, it is a cost of driving like gasoline.

Over the next 10,000 miles that the new timing belt should last, even a small increase in fuel prices would be more expensive than the maintenance during that time.

Don’t leave the cost of a car loan out of your consideration. They are generally far more than any timing belt. Keeping what you have and paying off any loan, and doing the scheduled maintenance, is almost sure to be less expensive than buying a new or used car.

You have a 10 year car not a lemon. Cars get old and repair and maintenance items come up including expensive ones.

The AC personally would likely have me trading it off (in the winter when they don’t notice at dealership as easily).

VW’s do not age gracefully. They need repairs more frequently than average, and the expense of the repairs is higher than average. I sense you’ve had it with this car.

The timing belt, and water pump are part of normal maintenance. Not fair to call the car a lemon for those issues. Otherwise you aren’t listing a lot of repairs, but you are concerned with a turbo that is ageing, sludge, etc. It is clear you don’t want to put any more money into repairs for the car.

To sell it the AC should be fixed. Shop the repair around for estimates. If they are too high sell it “as is” but be aware most buyers won’t want it with out these things working. I think to sell it for any kind of decent price you have to fix it.

Once you off load this car, do you really want to buy another 8 year old car to replace it? All older cars will have issues; AC compressors, bad radiators, bad heater cores, whacko electronics, etc. Buy a simple car, not AWD, not loaded with luxury gizmos, and either figure to replace the timing belt water pump into the deal or find a car with a timing chain. Any used car with about 90K miles that has a timing belt will need it replaced soon, fact of life.

You seem to be a candidate for a new car, or a 2-3 year old off lease car with about 30K miles. That will cost you a lot more, but perhaps you’ll be happier in the long run.

I have the maintenance records. They are on accord. These are problems I’ve researched lately in my that tend to happen with this model.

“I have the maintenance records. They are on accord.”

I need some help figuring this out.
You drive a VW Golf, but the maintenance records that you have are for an Accord?

How would those Accord maintenance records help you to figure out what maintenance was done by the previous owner of the VW?

Huh? They are on ACCORD. Meaning they are as they s/b with oil changes at the recommended intervals.

DEF: To be in agreement, unity, or harmony.

“VW’s do not age gracefully.”

I think this sums it up. It’s back to Japanese for me.

Thanks for everyone’s comments and opinions. It is of great help to mentally sort it out :wink:

You mean that they are IN accord with the VW maintenance schedule.

I am fully aware of the meaning of “accord”.
However, when the word is used in that context, it makes the statement extremely confusing.
Thank you for the clarification.

Good for you.

Not being able to open the windows is a major safety item. This really needs to be fixed soon.

Yeah, and there’s no way I can sell it w/out fixing both the a/c AND the windows. Imagine showing it to someone and the windows won’t even roll down!