When to throw in the towel, 2000 Saturn LW2 Wagon, 100,000

Hello all,

As listed in the title I have a 2000 Saturn LW2 wagon that just crested 100,000 miles. Previously I had a 1997 saturn wagon that ran to 170,000 like a dream. The current car, well not so much. This car is a different model than the old Saturn and was not a joint venture production with GM (as the 2000 is). My dilemna is this, I am moving across the country and I am trying to decide if I should invest more money in this car or sell it and cut my losses. Over the last year or so I have put a significant amount of money into the car (about $1000 more than the $3000 it is now worth according to KBB).

In the last year I have:

Had the transmission redone

Had the entire Air Conditioning system redone

Had the belt tensioner replaced

Had the Alternator replaced

In the last 3 months:

4 new tires

New Tire end rods

Had the front shocks replaced

I took the car to my mechanic who said that currently the car needs a little over 1000 dollars of repairs. Now needed:

Sway bar links ($240)

Timing belt replaced (no problems just 100,000 recommended maintenence) (About $700)

Oxygen sensor codes are on (they have been on for a while, I have no idea how much to fix)

New windshield ($150)

New spark plugs and wires

(no problems again just mileage)

I think the recommendations are also for the water pump and fuel filter to be replaced

Other wise the car runs really well (it loses maybe a half a quart of oil per 3000 miles). The steering is a little loose, but I think that is the sway bar links. I will be able to ride my bike to work (as I do now) once I get to my job, BUT I need this car to get me there in the first place.

I know this is a hard thing to give advice on without seeing the car and the whole situation, but any advice would be greatly appreciated. Money is a definite issue, and if I get rid of this car, I will most likely be buying another used car for around $5-6000

Most of what you have listed is considered normal wear and tear, maintenance type items and are not indicative of a bad car.

This is a difficult call but I’m tempted to say do the fixes needed. The O2 codes could be caused by aging plugs and wires, the prices quoted are very fair, and the one issue is the windshield.
The windshield could possibly be delayed to whenever if it’s not busted up too badly.
(And 150 for glass is a good deal anyway.)
That timing belt would be a must because it’s way past due if it has never been changed.

The loose steering should be checked a bit closer as it’s unlikely sway bar links would be behind this problem. Since the tie rod ends were replaced I would examine the tie rods, as opposed to the tie rod ends, to find out if those are worn. It’s also easy to misdiagnose a worn tie rod and blame it on the end if one is not careful.

I would not worry about the Kelly Blue Book value; it’s what the car is worth to you. Agree that most of the items are normal wear; if this was a Honda Civic, for instance you might be doing these as well, although the KBB would be a lot more.

If your car needs to have an inspection to be licensed at the next destination, you may well have to repalce the windshield as well. But I would wait till you get there!

If the engine and transmission are sound I would go ahead and fix things; at least you will have a dependable car then. A $6000 used car is really a crap shoot unless you luck out.

Starting at last three month list and going forward, you are really only doing normal maintenance itesm (less windshield). you also probably need to go at least another year to get your money out of the transmission repair.

Also consider that a new used car can also have similar issues, and if this car is in decent shape, it would be more economical just to get it fixed rather than purchasing a different car.

I’m inclined to agree that having the work done may be worth it.

What is NOT on your list is anything that indicates problems developing internal to the engine or drivetrain.
Also not on your list are safety concerns such as brake system problems or serious rot. The sway bar links are minor.
Also missing from your list are wiring or electrical problems.

You have here a known commodity that’s paid for, has lots of the normal wear items already replaced, and can be brought into shape for $1000. If you get another used car for $5000-$6000 you risk buying something and suddenly finding out it needs to have $4000 spent for a new tranny.

As you already know, this expendature is a gamble. But in this case I think it may be a good bet.

About the only repairs beyond normal wear and tear is the redone AC and transmission repairs. Even those kind of repairs in a 10 year old car aren’t unusual at all.

What you are dealing with is simply a 10 year old car. If you don’t want to spend more money on it that is understandable. You are in the grey zone where something is likely to go wrong just due to age. Yet, you’ve replaced much of the normal stuff that wears so you could be good for another 30 to 40K miles with just regular maintenance.

If you can afford a new car perhaps you’d do better with something with a warranty and a breather from repair bills. Of course, that means coming up with monthly payments. Your car should last for quite a while longer, but it will need to visit mr. mechanic again if you keep it. When and how much it will costs is just part of the unpredictable fun of owning an old car with character.

The money you have already spent is immaterial except that you now have a lot of parts that won’t have to be replaced for a long time. The money you have to spend to make this car right is less than the car is worth and you will have a car in better shape than most cars you can buy for $5000.