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Whether to Sell or Keep A Great Subaru

Hello, everyone! I live in Portland, Oregon and have a 2000 Subaru Outback with 88,000 miles on it. It’s in great condition. I just decided to go to graduate school this Fall in Boston for a 2-year program and I doubt that I will want a car in Boston with the great public transport, not to mention the expense as a grad student.



I paid about 13,000 for this car in 2005 years ago when I bought it used and what I need advice on is whether I should store the car for 1-2 years while in school or sell it. The Kelly Blue Book estimates I could get around $8,000 for the car now but as we all know, you can rarely get for a car what it is really worth if you had to turn around and buy another car (and having paid almost 13K, I’d be losing a sum of money selling at all).



My mechanic says he’s not so worried about the damage done to the car by storing it but more the idea of having my money tied up in something that is depreciating in value when I could have that money invested somewhere. However, I’m just not sure that even if I got 8K or 9K for the car, if that would buy me another car in such great condition 2-3 years from now (also having lost 6-7K from what I paid in 2005).



Maybe even with the loss of value, I would still be better off, expense-wise, to store the car? Unfortunately, I don’t have any family that could be driving it while I’m gone and, after checking with my insurance, I can’t legally lend it to a friend if I’m not around.



I have stored this car before for a year while traveling abroad and it fared well. I only had to replace the battery and a few belts, which set me back $150.



I would really appreciate thoughts on this! I would be leaving the car in Portland in a friend’s driveway…



Thanks so much!

Has the timing belt been replaced?
If not, then it will need to be done right away, as it is overdue by about 2-3 years on the basis of elapsed time.

If you don’t want to invest the $600 or so that it would cost to replace the timing belt, water pump, and belt tensioners, then don’t even consider storing the car.

Sell the vehicle and buy another one when you get back. In two years the depreciation will be even larger and parking in a driveway is not a good option for storage.

May I ask why driveway storage is a bad idea? This is how I stored the car for a year previously but I had no issues. I also made sure to prepare the car to keep mice out as well as gasoline preservative, etc…

One other question: if I came back and used the car, I would not really be losing that much money; only if I chose to sell it after 2 more years would I be losing even more in depreciation, correct? I know storage isn’t the best thing for a car, but perhaps I’m being influenced by my dad who used to keep cars for 15 years until they conked out.

That’s a tough one. It’s always hard getting rid of a car you really like, especially when you think that you might get one later to replace it that isn’t as good and end up feeling badly because you could have kept the old one.

That said, it’s always possible to find a used Subaru in great condition for a good price; you just have to be patient when looking. Of course, you won’t know for sure on a used vehicle since you weren’t the one owning/caring for it, but you can usually tell with a Subaru if someone has taken good care of it or abused it. I’ve bought 5 used Subarus with great results on all but one. And looking back, I had my doubts about the bad one and probably knew deep down that I shouldn’t have been buying it. Just a bad choice. I bought a 1994 Subie in 2004 with about 110k miles, and it has been nothing but wonderful, and I paid only $4000 for it. So, if your main concern is that you won’t be able to find another car in a few years for $8-9000, I wouldn’t worry too much about that.

As for leaving your car in a friend’s driveway, I wouldn’t touch that one with a 10-foot pole. You have no control over what happens to it, (s)he’ll get sick of having it sit there, and if damage does occur for whatever reason, (s)he’ll not want to take responsibility or pay for it.

Your other option is just to take it with you to Boston. It can sit in Boston just as well as it can sit in Portland. No, you wouldn’t want to drive it in Boston – traffic there is mad and maddening – but at least you’d have it available if you needed it for an emergency, you could drive it just once in awhile for “exercise,” and really once you’ve been back east (if you’ve never been), you will almost certainly want to take it for a drive once in awhile to experience the scenery, especially in the fall.

Has the timing belt been replaced?

Wind, rain, snow, sun, rodents, vandals, thieves, bird droppings, other vehicles turning in the driveway, tires dryrotting and a myriad of unexpected things. There is no way to protect from mice, squirrels and other rodents 100%. Your dad kept cars for 15 years but he drove them without storing them. If you want to keep the vehicle then keep it. Storage is never a good option but it is an option.

Sell it. Oregon has a strong Subaru market and yours is low mileage. I think you can get a decent amount for it.

I don’t understand the “loss in value”? You used the car for 5 years and 6k-7k is not much money over that many years. If you bought new and were selling from 5 years ago your “loss” would be more like $10k-$15k dependent on amenities/purchase price.

You did well.

Would you really leave a pile of $8000 in your friends driveway that slowly turns to $6000 or less over two year. Too much concerns. That is what banks are for.

Sell the car and put the money in a CD. Outside storage is not storage, it’s long-term parking. I don’t think you’d be as lucky after two years as you were the last time you left it sit.

Thanks for your thoughts. When you say, “a decent amount” do you think 9K or 10K would be possible? I have been told that Kelly Blue Book is often low. Since I’m only the second owner, have all the records, and it has such low mileage, I’m hoping I could get more.

If the timing belt (that question has still not been answered) has never been replaced then it was on borrowed time years ago; much less several years into the future.

I don’t have a problem with storing it in the drive for a year or two but the fuel system could deteriorate pretty badly in that length of time.
My feeling is that you may be waiting a fair amount of time before getting the amount of money that you’re expecting to get if you sell this car.

nadaguides.com puts clean trade value at around $5400 and clean retail value at about $7650 or so. Would not plan on $9 or $10K.