When to fix an old car

My husband and I are having a disagreement about whether or not to fix one of our cars. The car is a 2000 VW Jetta with just over 200,000 miles and needs about $4,500 of maintenance and repairs in the coming year if we are going to keep it. The car is maybe worth $1,000-2,000. Should we fix the car?

That’s a pretty large amount of money and offhand I’d say don’t fix it.
However, I’d want to see that 4,500 dollars worth of stuff broken down a bit first to so as to be able to see what’s really going on with this car.

You know the history of this car. If you sell it and spend $4,500 on another car you don’t know what you’re getting, plus you will probably have to put more into maintenance in that year. You don’t say how far you have to travel in it. Is it daily commute within 25 miles or are you on the road for many long trips?

If you buy new you are most likely going to have monthly payments that will match or exceed the $4,500. But you won’t have repair costs for 2-3 years, while it’s under warranty.

I would think about how long I was going to keep the Jetta and how much I was willing to put into it during that time. $4,500 seems like a lot, you may never recover that when you do sell / trade. If you can postpone a new car purchase for 3-4 years, however, I think it would be worth it, providing you have only routine maintenance in that time period.

Make 2 columns of figures to see how much repair vs. replace is going to be for the next 4 years. Include maintenance, insurance, tax (personal property, school etc.) fuel costs and car payments (or total car cost). Total them up and divide each column to figure your annual average cost, then make a decision.


The repairs that need to be done are Radiator (it is leaking), steering fluid pressure hose (also leaking), sway bar bushings, starter (I think maybe just cleaned, but it is making a funny noise when I start the car), rear springs.

Maintenance: Timing belt, Spark plugs

There are a few other small things (around $100 each) that I can’t remember offhand and I can’t find my list. The stuff above adds up to a little over $3,000. What I think will break this year is the clutch which has never been replaced which is why I put the cost at around $4,500.

I already put in about $2,000 this past year on an alternator, power steering pump, and other random things.

I am using the car to commute to work and school. I tend to put nearly 20,000 miles on it each year.

To me, frugal that I am, it sounds like this car is not very reliable and should be replaced. You put in $2,000 last year, looking at $4,500 this year and regular maintenance on top of that. I think this car is a hole in the ground you’re throwing money into.

If you have a friend with a decent car who is looking to buy new, you can offer them a fair price (Edmund’s average retail) for their car. Donate the VW to Amvets, Car Talk or other charity and take the tax deduction.

That is where I am right now. I just can’t see spending the money. Up until this past year the car has been very reliable. I have never spent more than $1,500 on it in a year for repairs and maintenance, even in the years that I had to do the timing belt, or replace the tires. Starting about a year ago it just seems like every time I look the other way, something else breaks, so I am afraid that if we spend the money to fix the car, something else will break and we will have to spend even more.

A 2000 VW Jetta is going to need repairs frequently and I’d vote to sell it and put the money elsewhere. The good point for this car is that it is a stick, the Jetta’s auto transmissions are expensive and trouble prone.

If the body is in very good shape and you don’t mind spending $1,000 to 3,000 a year for repairs you can keep it going for a few more years. With the miles you are clocking up you will have more repairs down the road than you have on hand now.

I’d say it’s time to cut it loose. You got 200,000 miles out of it, which is good for a Jetta. It’s not going to get any cheaper to maintain, and Jettas weren’t all that reliable to begin with. With the $4500 you don’t spend on maintenance, and the $1500 you get for selling it, you can buy something more reliable like a Honda or Toyota with 100,000 miles or less on it. That’s what I’d do.

Yes, at that age and mileage, and the distance you drive, a VW Jetta is going to cost you about $3000 EVERY YEAR! The $4500 is not going to give you a reliable car from that point on. It will need many other things on the way to virtually building a new car. Many dedicated VW owners do just that, but that does not mean it makes economic sense.

In business they track the total ownership cost; if the incremental (this year) annual cost starts EXCEEDING the AVERAGE ANNUAL COST todate, it’s time to trade. I believe you are just past that point.

You can by a new Jetta for $15000 l0aded new, and the average depreciation for the first 4 years will be about $7500, say $8000 or $2000 per year. I predict your maintenance and repair costs will exceed that if you keep the old one in good enough condition to drive to your job. However, I suggest you not look at another VW.

We have owned a number of high mileage cars, but a typical American car or Japanese vehicle with that many miles will not need nearly as many replacements. Also, a typical US or high volume production Japanese car has a wealth of used parts and cheap aftermarket replacement parts.

If I was in your shoes, I would say goodbye very soon. This from a driver who sold his Chevy Caprice at 19 years with about the same mileage, and still in completely reliable condition. Nearly all parts on that car were both more durable as well much cheaper than those on a Jetta. In other words you have an expensive to maintain car with poor genes, medically speaking.

give this car to your local charity, dont sell it unless you want to make a new enemy, and dont fix it unless you are made of money. But first, shop around for a quality used car (not a vw) go with Ford or Nissan, Toyota or Hyundai, all mid priced mostly reliable, and go for one with the least number of features, so there are fewer things to break. Look for the 2 to 4 year old, under 100k miles with a great carfax and a maintenance record that can be verified. Also, once you narrow it down, have the car checked out by a good mechanic you trust. good luck, and tell hubby we said so.

I’m not one to just get rid of cars-my last one had over 500,000 miles on it, but there comes a time. I think its time to make the move into either a new car with a warrenty or a slightly used one. Its still a great time to buy.

What about doing neither? Stop doing any maintenance and just drive it into the ground.

I had absolutely no idea you could get a loaded Jetta for $15,000.

Figure out what is absolutely necessary. (radiator likely, possibly bushings) and keep motoring and looking for a new car. The car is not worth much at that many miles/years.

Forget the spark plugs/timing belt run on “borrowed” time with that.

The Jetta is now the VW price leader, and the Golf is the model ABOVE it! These Jettas are older engineering and built in Mexico or Brazil to compete head on with Focus, Corllaa, Civic, Mazda 3 and the Elantra.

Just visit you VW dealer and you’ll be told this is German engineering (true) at a bargain basement price. I do believe, however that this is a price leader and still has all the old weaknesses and gremlins.

Don’t fix that car. It has been much more reliable than I would have believed, but cars at 200,000 miles sometimes need the entire brake system replaced soon. I have seen maintenance records on older cars and just about everything that moves was replaced.

Your Jette is worth about $2000 in average to good condition AFTER all the repairs are made.Either swap it now or throw in a can of stop leak and drive until it dies.

This was a tough one for me but I’m inclined to say that it may be time to say goodbye to it since you put an above number of miles on it each year.

I’d also say that you could just keep the fluids topped off, ignore the timing belt if that job was done not too many miles or years ago, put a new starter motor on it, and then just drive it until it dies.

It sounds like it’s been a good car and just about everything you mention is normal wear and tear related to an aged, high miles car, but I could not see sinking 3 or 4 grand, or more, into it.