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car-savvy advice, please

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  • Avatar Crockett’sRiver 
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    This is not about “should I buy a new tesla?”.  I am firmly in the drive-a-beater camp.  But I am only medium knowledgeable about actual engines and would like some advice.

    I drive a toyota sienna with 200k miles.  My plan had been to get a new (used) vehicle in a few years when the kids are driving, and turn the van into the kid car: safe, decent mileage, don’t care if they hit the mailbox with it.

    Now the rear differential is going and needs replacing for $1,700.  I was going to replace it because everything else on the car is in good shape and I figure I can’t get another car for that amount.  But the guy at the shop really put the fear of God into me: you can’t drive it anywhere until we get this replaced, if the differential goes out at high speed the wheels will freeze up and you will be lucky to survive.

    So now I am thinking: is it foolish to put a new driver behind the wheel of an old car that could break down?  Not just the risk of leaving them stranded by the side of the road, but, heaven forbid, some disaster happening?

    I’m pretty darn cheap and not a car person, but if I have to spend the money to get my kids a tank to drive, I will.

    thanks in advance.

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    #205658 Reply
    Avatar Panscan 
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    Ya I wouldn’t put my kid in a car with 200k miles. It’s likely going to have issues.

    #205661 Reply
    Avatar JBME 
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    I’d fix the problem ASAP but don’t broaden your thinking out to abandon your original plan. interestingly, this is my exact plan too, and I have a toyota sienna.

    my parents gave me a 13-year-old car when I turned 16. it had issues every now and then, but we got them fixed. you should plan to do the same. just because the car is old doesn’t mean it’ll suddenly break down all of a sudden. It’ll much more likely be a slow process of slowly dying. just be honest with yourself. yes the car will have issues but that doesn’t mean it’s unsafe to drive. fix the issues as they happen. I’m sure it’s actually quite a bit more likely your teenage driver will get into an accident (probably just a fender bender like hitting a mailbox) than the car suddenly being dangerous.

    #205663 Reply
    Avatar EM->CCM MD 
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    No. Any car can break down. My first car had 200k miles and I lived. Also, some mechanics are chicken little’s because they think you’ll be scared enough to pay whatever they say on the spot instead of getting another estimate.

    I think the bigger question is where your kid is going. If your kid is driving two states away for a ski trip, I may not let them take the beater – id probably loan them your car. If they’re driving through a bad neighborhood and you’re afraid they’ll break down, you need to think about why they’re driving there.

    Big picture, I think it’s good for a kid to drive a beater and that’s what we’re going to when our kids start driving. Yes, it will break down or blow a tire, but it will break down or blow a tire close to home where you can help out. It will also mean they learn about cars in a low risk environment – if they break down and miss first period or basketball practice, who cares?

    Don’t let the mechanic throw you into a tailspin.

    #205665 Reply
    Avatar Tim 
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    I would be more concerned about the year than the mileage. Safety and reliability features have obviously improved. How much do you trust the mechanic?
    There is a bias to overstate a safety issue for the current repair. I would suggest you pay for a car inspection just as if you were having a used car evaluated prior to purchase (most likely a different mechanic). Fix it if it’s 10 or less for sure. If the car is good to go, hold off a month or two.

    Reliability and the cost of repair should probably guide your decision, not one repair. By the way, wheels do fall off and can be fixed. Crap breaks. Don’t by a tank. They have issues too!

    #205667 Reply
    Avatar Peds 
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    you can’t drive it anywhere until we get this replaced, if the differential goes out at high speed the wheels will freeze up and you will be lucky to survive.

    Click to expand…

    same thing if you blow out a tire….or get hit by a wrong way drunk driver.

    get it fixed, move on.

    is it foolish to put a new driver behind the wheel of an old car that could break down?

    Click to expand…

    no.

    your “old car” is miles safer than anything these other generations grew up with.

    some disaster happening?

    Click to expand…

    i believe you are now more likely to die from opioid overdose than car accidents…..

    #205678 Reply
    Craigy Craigy 
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    A very large, reliable older car is a great first car.  I plan on my kids driving whatever hand-me-down large SUV we have at the time, but of course we’ll see how those plans go when the time comes.

    That said, life is too short, your kids are too valuable, you make too much money to have your family at risk of being stranded on the side of the highway, in a bad part of town, etc.

    Other than the anticipated repair, is it generally a reliable vehicle?  A Toyota Sienna should be pretty solid for hundreds of thousands of miles.  Put a new battery in, keep the fluids fresh and drive it every now and then yourself just to check on it.  Still, I’d want to put your kid in something newer when they go off to college so you don’t have to worry from across the country.

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    #205691 Reply
    Dreamgiver Dreamgiver 
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    Nah, car won’t blow up when the differential goes. And 1700 is completely outrageous. Shop around, 700/800 is more like it for that car. Good car for a teen. Change mechanic.

    Avatar jhwkr542 
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    Ya I wouldn’t put my kid in a car with 200k miles. It’s likely going to have issues.

    Click to expand…

    I put my wife and kids into a Toyota Highlander with 200k miles…

    Or are you implying the way kids drive?

    To OP, I’d fix this issue.  Yeah, it kinda stinks but it’s the reality of driving older cars.  On my wife’s Highlander, we just dumped about this much into it about a year ago to fix a bunch of minor things.  We haven’t had issues with it since.

    #205704 Reply
    CordMcNally CordMcNally 
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    The mechanic is either A.) lying or B.) an idiot. He may actually be both. A differential, more or less, is basically a bunch of metal gears that helps get the power to your axles. If your differential “goes”, you’ll basically just sheer/break many of those gears. You’ll hear a loud (likely many) loud thunks but your wheels will in no way lock up. Think of all the drag racers and street racers with crazy amounts of horsepower and torque and the amount of differentials they ruin all the time. I don’t think I’ve ever heard or seen one that completely locked the wheels up. The wheels will still keep spinning, you just want be able to get the power to the wheels.

     

    Why is he saying that the rear differential is “going out”? Did he take the cover off and look at all the components? I can almost guarantee you that he did not.

     

    PS: I’d get a second opinion and if you do decide to get it replaced, I wouldn’t have the original mechanic do it. By “replaced”, they wouldn’t replace it so to speak but just change out the components inside of the differential. $1700 is way too much.

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    #205707 Reply
    Craigy Craigy 
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    In theory your diff could lockup.  But usually something breaks and you just lose ability to put power down, ie you’ll coast to a stop.

    It really sounds like a scare-tactic to get you to pony up the money.  Did you show up in scrubs?  😉

    What sort of shop is it?  Someone you know and trust?

    At the very least you could go to a Toyota dealer and get a second opinion.

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    #205740 Reply
    Avatar jhwkr542 
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    At the very least you could go to a Toyota dealer and get a second opinion.

    Click to expand…

    At least in my experience, a Toyota dealership is the last place I want to take my car for service.

    #205783 Reply
    q-school q-school 
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    probably my wife will buy kid a new or slightly used car with some size to it.

    i don’t like the minivan because all kinds of kids will pile into it to go someplace.  your kid will be defacto driver while there’s probably a lot of screaming and loud music and distractions going on.  don’t want my kid to be placed in that situation.  also, gross but fact of life, potentially other kids humping in the back.

    the kids i see around the neighborhood are driving pretty far away to travel baseball, hockey, etc etc.  i don’t want that old a car to be the means of transportation i don’t think if my kid is going to those kind of places.  i mean, i would keep it for myself, but probably my kid would not be using it to go far away.

    ymmv

     

    #205789 Reply
    Avatar LIFO 
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    Is the Sienna AWD?  What is wrong with the rear dif?  What were your symptoms?

    The Sienna is a FWD biased car.  If the rear-dif is going out and you want to make do, you may be able to disengage/remove the drive-shaft.  You would be left with a FWD car which should work just fine.  May need to pull an AWD fuse.  I would get on google and forums and ask an expert.  This is not advice.

    I had a similar issue with the AWD in a Volvo SUV.  The car ultimately became a perfectly capable FWD car with a AWD badge.

    #205797 Reply
    Avatar adventure 
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    That said, life is too short, your kids are too valuable, you make too much money to have your family at risk of being stranded on the side of the highway, in a bad part of town, etc.

    Click to expand…

    I disagree. Life is about adventure. A young driver is also likely to run out of gas on the highway, or some other stupid thing.

    Now, if you all made it to 30 without every running out of gas, or getting stuck in a ditch, or hitting a mailbox, or getting pulled over, or having a flat tire – then we should have a thread on how do make that happen – I’d be very interested. : )

     

     

    I’m pretty darn cheap and not a car person, but if I have to spend the money to get my kids a tank to drive, I will.

    Click to expand…

    You have one – it’s a minivan. That’s about as much of a tank as you can give a high school kid. I vote to give the kid an old car, I’d even give them some gas money.

    #205951 Reply
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