Tightwad advice needed--time to replace a vehicle?

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I was driving our toyota vehicle (small truck, 212,000 miles, 1993, purchased new) today and (I think) the muffler let loose, though I cannot see it hanging down in any obvious way. The loud sound is coming from under the cab. And the check engine light went on. I was able to get it home, the engine temp stayed normal. I want my husband to look at it first before we decide what to do. But we both know we're approaching a critical time..eventually a car will have to be replaced (the other toyota has 171000 miles). At what point does it stop making sense to fix an old car and to buy a new or new used car?

I dread the thought of possible car payments again. We've had none for so long. We have enough saved to buy a used car/possibly a truck, but not a new car. I know new cars are a rotten investment and that their value plummets. But sometimes the idea of buying something new, and hanging onto it forever, seems more attractive than purchasing someone else's (hidden?) problems in a used vehicle.


thank you.

-- Cat (catcrazy@somewhere.com), January 31, 2002


Cat, my sister judges whether or not to replace in this manner: if you are spending more (or close) on repairs than you would on a payment, replace it! It sounds like this one may not be to bad, though, and if you can keep it another year, I sure would! 1993 is really not that old!

-- Christine in OK (cljford@mmcable.com), January 31, 2002.

Exhaust problems are not too expensive, it migh just be a hole in the muffler which you can patch with a piece of sheet metal and long radiator hose clamps. Toyotas are known for toughtness and if every thing else is working ok. why become a slave to a piece of metal? My 1987 Ford E-150 van has 316,000 on it and dosen't smoke so why change?

-- mitch hearn (moopups@citlink.net), January 31, 2002.

I am betting that its not the muffler but a header or pre converter pipe. The check engine light came on because the back pressure changed. As for getting a new car. I would confirm whats wrong with this one and determine if its not worth fixing.

-- Gary (gws@columbus.rr.com), January 31, 2002.

Year is not necessarily as important as mileage, and 212,000 is a lot of miles. Also, are they around town miles or all freeway miles (less wear and tear)?

You probably would not get much as a trade-in (may do better private sale). We have had good luck with used Hondas with high mileage, provided the previous owner was incredibly regular with maintenance (we would insist on seeing ALL the records, and didn't accept "we changed our own oil"). Wish they made trucks.

This is probably a good time to buy used, as a lot of people took advantage of the 0% financing last year and there are lots of used vehicles around. If the vehicle is new enough, it is still covered under the normal 3 year warranty, and usually if purchased at the dealer with of same make of car, you can add the extended warranty for not too much money.

Good luck!

-- GT (nospam@nospam.com), January 31, 2002.

I think Gary's correct. If it is at the converter, I don't think Mitch's sheet metal and clamp can't be put into place.

If the clamp makes a good seal between the converter, and the pipe or exhaust clamp (whatever meets the converter on it's outward path, ), and therefore lessens the noise, and "erases" the warning light, I'd be thrilled.

I picked up some muffler tape, but haven't used it. If you can find some, and can get it to seal the hole, or pipe separation if that's the case, you might get some more time out of that exhaust system.

Overall about the truck: as previously mentioned, if it's always had the lubrication systems cared for, it could be worth runnung it 50 or more thousand miles. I like the car payment analogy.

-- Rick (WV) (Rick_122@hotmail.com), January 31, 2002.

Cat, First let me say that I have the utmost confidence in the Toyota pick up, 300,000 miles is possible. Now that said here is my tightwad suggestion.

Fix the truck if you can do it for say $200 or less. Should run another year. You will have then bought new car payments for one year, for $200. Pretty good return on a $200 investment. Now take the amount of the new car payments for the next year, and apply it to short term debt, like credit cards. If you do not have a credit card balance then you are ahead of the game already. Just put the money back for future use. If you can put it back and avoid the new car payments for a year this can truly be looked at like "found money".

If you show up at the new car dealership with the $200 that you could be using for repairs, and the truck that needs some repairs, I doubt that you can accomplish very much without a bouch of "found money" (you will need to find some more money, or they will not be talking to you).

-- Ed Copp (OH) (edcopp@yahoo.com), January 31, 2002.

I am with Gary on this one. The reason the dummy light came on is because the back pressure changed.

I wouldn't think that this part would be too expensive...shop around. I would consider the junkyard route for a used pipe, maybe off a wrecked car. Make sure you take the old part with you if you DIY, the jap manufacturers have a way of changing parts in production within the same model.

I dont believe that a quick fix using tape or a pop can will do the trick.

Just my two cents.

-- clovis (clovis97@Yahoo.com), January 31, 2002.

All parts are expensive to me. I consider twenty dollars expensive. Any pipe, or the mufler for this truck will be near or over one hundred bucks. A converter even more.

If the truck had less miles on the odom, I'd spend for parts, witjout trying alternatives. But at this stage in the game, I'd try to repair it if I could, and then invest in parts, if I were sure I'd be trying to keep it for a couple of years.

How many miles do you drive per year?

-- Rick (WV) (Rick_122@hotmail.com), January 31, 2002.

Here's our car philosophy for what it is worth: We do not ever buy new cars. Currently we have a 1993 Blazer (purchased in 1996) and a 1970 Chevy pick up (purchased last year).Cars, to us, simply are not worth what they sell for anymore. We researched the consumer guides for the best all around vehicles, looking at things such as transmission age, electrical problems, the big ticket repair items..., then we went hunting for a bargain. Found the Blazer through folks in church..they had new babies and wanted a four door truck..we had kids gone and wanted two door (cheaper)..we have had zero problems with this vehicle, partly because it is a good truck, we do not run it into the ground, and we religiously change the oil and filter, etc. every 3000 miles.It has about 90K miles on it. The old Chevy was $600 cash and needed a $200 windshield, 4 new tires at $80 each and new brakes (we do our own) at $28 each. So for an outlay of under $1200, we have a nice pick up which does it's job..getting us where we want to go. We keep full liability insurance on the vehicles just in case I rear-end a Corvette in my old age, and just enough of collision to pay for another used vehicle. We also keep a minimum of $1000 in the bank for a "bad car day"..this is for quick repairs or to purchase a vehicle outright if we need to. When to decide on another vehicle is determined by the outlay of cash for repairs. Transmissions, major electrical work..anything we cannot do ourselves and begins to cost over $200 a year is the killer. Best thing I ever did was to take a car repair course at the Junior college many, many years ago. Lastly, whenever we have looked at a used vehicle, before $ exchanges hands, our local mechanic is paid $25 to look over the car or truck. Once we were going to buy a Jeep Wagoneer for a "great price" only to discover that the gas tank had been previously ruptured and still had a significant crack in it..YIKES! We have not had a car payment in at least 22 years...keeps us happy! God bless!

-- lesley (martchas@bellsouth.net), February 01, 2002.

My philosophy with cars: Never borrow money to 'invest' in a car because they are not investments! I buy new whenever I can and enjoy the pride of ownership thing. I take real good care of the vehicle and keep it for years and years, we kept a Suzuki Fronte for about 22 years and that was just a little (350cc 2-stroke) Japanese 'micro' car. Any money spent of a car is 'spent money', what little I get from an eventual sale is a bonus. I have a Ford now that has lost half it's value and is still under warranty but I don't care as I expect to be driving it for another 10 years at least.

-- john hill (john@cnd.co.nz), February 01, 2002.

Toyotas run forever. My 1991 Previa has 288,000 miles on it. Original muffler, original transmission, no work on either. Original motor, no work on it. The AC has been replaced, and regular maintenance.

Fix what is wrong and keep going. Ask around. You can't beat Toyota, and you almost can't kill them.

-- Rose (open_rose@hotmail.com), February 01, 2002.

If it turns out to be the converter and depending on your state, I might opt to eliminate the converter from the mix.

-- Gary in Ohio (gws@columbus.rr.com), February 01, 2002.

Cat-believe it or not I happen to know that Toyotas, and especially trucks, have problems with check engine lights-I would be doubtful that the light coming on means anything at all. I suspect your problem is the exhaust-having left a chunk of my exhaust system on I- 75 on a trip I'd like to forget, I've learned a thing or two about exhaust systems. If that were my situation, I'd take it in for a tune up-unless you can do that yourself and just have someone good with cars have a look at it -I think Mitch is right about the sheet metal patch. !993 is practically brand-new! I'm driving a twenty- year old Volvo staton wagon and fully expect to have it around for another ten. Toyotas are great! In the Dominican Republic, Toyota Tercels are THE car becuase they are easy to fix and they last practically forever.

-- Kelly (KY) (homearts@yahoo.com), February 01, 2002.

Hi all:

Many thanks for taking the time to respond. Lots of good ideas. I'm printing them out. We have some good sunlight today so I crawled under the truck and looked around. Its a clean break through the muffler pipe, above where the pipe turns up and starts to go to the engine. I'm tempted to do the sheet metal and radiator clamp trick and see what happens...I wonder if it will hold, since the break is at a vertical point in the pipe (does that make sense?)?

-- Cat (catcrazy@somewhere.com), February 01, 2002.

Yes Cat, that will work for 2 or 3 years, just make sure that the clamps are the kind that have six sided points to tighten not just screw driver slots. Make sure the pipe is as close to each other as possible before tighting the patch coil of sheet metal. Gain the sheet metal at a hardware or roofing supply house, you only need enough to circle the pipe more than once, there must be an overlap. Tighten the clamps with a wrench or socket until you feel a tight resistance and go no more thatn a 1/4 turn additional. Place the clamps about 1 inch distance inboard from the ends of a suggested 6 inch width sheet metal. Happy Toytoaing!

-- mitch hearn (moopups@citlink.net), February 01, 2002.

There's a cool radio program on NPR (Nat'l Public Radio) called "the Car Guys", Click and Clack. They're brothers and often have hysterical responses to car problems that people call in with. However, they are dead-on with their knowledge of vehicles, and they would echo what most everyone has said on this forum - DON'T BUY NEW!!! Unless you manage to buy a complete piece of junk, the repairs on a decent used car will never equal the $$$$$$$$ you'd put out on a new set of wheels (never mind that not all dealers will offer you 0%). If it comes down to buying another truck, just be certain to have a trusted car mechanic/gearhead buddy check it over thoroughly. If your Toyota is anything like my husband's old Nissan, you might just get another hundred thousand miles out of it!

-- Judi (ddecaro@snet.net), February 01, 2002.

I love Click and Clack and yes they are dead on about car repairs. They are hysterical but unanamious in not buying new if the old can be repaired.

I thought I wanted a new truck when I got a raise two years ago. We went looking at new Ford trucks. For $550 a month for five years, I could get an F150 with all the bells and whistles. Plus I would have to put down 2000 and trade in the old ford. NAW - we just left and I keep remembering that $550 a month for five years...I have been really happy with the old truck and so just keep fixing it. It is a 1981 Ford F100 with almost 200,000 miles on it. I hope it will keep running another 100,000 before I have to buy a new "Used" one.

-- Cindy (colawson@mindspring.com), February 02, 2002.

Also figure into the equation whether you could buy that new car all cash if you saved just a little bit longer.

When you're figuring in financing and mandatory full-coverage insurance until the car is paid off (when you might carry only liability otherwise) a new car is ALWAYS a worse deal than keeping up the old one or buying used.

However, if you can switch to a more fuel-efficient vehicle (and you put a lot of miles on it), which in some states because it is new is also exempt from smog tests (in places that have them) for a few years, you can recoup some of your investment back, and you don't have the repair headaches (at least ones that aren't covered under warranty) if you buy that new vehicle with cash.

I had an airbag problem in my vehicle (light would come on periodically, and stay on, which meant the airbag would not deploy in an accident). It also happened to be one of those "can't make it do that for the dealer" things. Had to take it in twice, and they couldn't find it the 2nd time either, I had just started the engine to resignedly drive it home again, when the light came on. I was afraid to turn it off for fear it wouldn't come on again, and managed to snag a dealer mechanic going on his break. "See, see, I wasn't making it up!" I said excitedly, and they took it back in.

Turned out to be a bad sensor, and then the airbag they replaced it with had something wrong with it while it was there, so I was provided with a rental car at their expense over Labor Day weekend (5 days when all was said and done) while they waited for a new one. I put 500+ miles on that car instead of mine! :) A used car not under warranty, you would have been SOL (sadly out of luck, for this is a family forum). Just a thought.

-- GT (nospam@nospam.com), February 02, 2002.

I'm late responding to this as I've had PC time tied up elsewhere. Here's my disclaimer, first; I sell trucks for a living. I've been in the business for about a quarter of a century now. That having been said, I'll do exactly the opposite of what you might expect. I'll advise you to keep what you have and spend a few dollars on it to make the repairs it needs. The cheapest truck you'll ever have is the one you're driving now.

If you want to get used to a truck payment, start making one to yourself in a separate account. Put your $250/mo. into that account and only take from it to make repairs on your truck. You'll be amazed how much you'll have left in there in a year or two. I hope this helps.

-- Gary in Indiana (gk6854@aol.com), February 05, 2002.

I've relieved to hear so many of you say what I suspected intuitively, that the cheapest car you'll ever have is the one you drive now (or something like that). It's funny because I think a lot of people still don't get that--they'll give me funny looks as I continue to repair an old old car (like they're thinking, "Why don't you just get a new one?") But I can still remember the bondage of car payments!

Click and Clack are great--we listen to them on the weekend.

-- Cat (catcrazy@somewhere.com), February 05, 2002.

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