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Old Car Blues


My car (really a Ford Explorer SUV) isn’t that old. It’s only a 2011. Considering most of my life I’ve driven cars at least a decade+ old, it’s practically new! 😉

The problem is, it’s been driven hard! Every year I’ve taken it on at least two cross-country trips (once in summer, once in winter) during harsh/extreme temperatures (below freezing with snow/ice and over 100 degrees of sweltering heat). Our kids have grown from infants to 6-year-olds and have treated the vehicle exactly how you would expect of young children. Think: lots of crumbs, melted crayons, etc. It’s now nearing 150,000 miles and although the plan has been (and remains!!!) to drive it until the wheels fall off…..it’s definitively taken a beating.

So when it started to do something I thought was a brake-related issue, I took the car to the local brake place. You guys – they had the car for nearly an hour trying to diagnose it! They hooked it up to machines, looked up recall notices, drove it around the backroads and up the highway to check for issues at both low and high speeds. They looked under the hood. They got it up on the lift and looked underneath, took off the tires and checked out the brakes + rotors +  shocks + struts.  I mean, they left no stone unturned. And…..nothing. They can’t figure out what I’ve been feeling.

And so they joked…..perhaps it’s just time for a new car? har har har

Don’t get me wrong – I would love NOTHING more than to have a slightly smaller, more compact SUV. My mother-in-law came to visit a couple weeks ago (she helped watch the girls while I was moving) and she was driving a BEAUTIFUL brand spanking new car. The exact type that I’d like – a small SUV category vehicle.

Note, this is NOT MIL’s car – just a picture from the internet. But just look at that beauty! Ha! I’d never buy a BMW SUV due to the extreme cost to buy and for servicing it. But a girl can look! 🙂

In the end, I guess it’s good news. I really thought I was going to be spending $1000+ for brakes or struts or something along those lines. In the end, I walked out only spending $35 for a high mileage oil change. Not too shabby. I’d much prefer the lower cost given that my budget can’t necessarily accommodate a $1,000 vehicle repair right now (though, if there’s one thing you guys have taught me – it’s to take care of my vehicle so it’s safe and reliable).

I am a looooooooooong way off from buying a new-to-me car. I still remember the elation I felt when I finally paid off my car a couple years ago. I am in no place to be taking out MORE debt for another vehicle. I swore up and down that in the future I’d save up the money and pay CASH for any future vehicle purchases. I still intend to keep that promise to myself.

But it did make me chuckle with this mystery car issue that has suddenly disappeared and the suggestion that the “fix” is to get a new car. groan. Maybe for my 40th birthday (I’m 35 now, for comparison). I’ll have to start saving at some point in order to make it a reality!

Do you have family/friends/co-workers/car repair people joke that your car is such a piece of junk that you should just buy a new one??? I guess I should take it as a source of pride that I continue to hang onto my FULLY PAID-FOR car rather than rushing out and giving into consumerism. It also kind-of blows my mind because my car was nearly $30,000 brand new. So the fact that it’s viewed now as this POS is kind of nuts. Like, this was a very expensive top-of-the-line SUV when it first came out. And that was literally only 7 years ago!!!! How warped is the American consumerism world now?!


  • Reply Cheryl |

    Unfortunately there will come a time when it just makes sense to get a new to you car instead of pouring money into a money pit.

    • Reply Ashley |

      I agree, but I don’t think we’re there yet. Aside from routine stuff (tires, brakes, oil change) the car really hasn’t given me much trouble. It looks “rough” but it runs well (current mystery issue notwithstanding…)

  • Reply Angela L. |

    One of the reasons I absolutely LOVE my mechanic is that I took my car into him a while ago for a routine issue and mentioned that my plan was to drive the car into the ground before replacing it. He was completely behind my reasoning. And it’s not like he’s making a ton of money off of me and my decision. I drive a Prius and haven’t had anything unusual happen with it. Just standard replacement of parts as they age. I send everyone I know to him now.

  • Reply Christine Caruso |

    I am driving a 2007 toyotal Corolla . It’s one $1,000 emergency repair away from becoming scrap metal, but luckily has been wildly reliable. Some days I dream of just buying a brand new one, but Ive only been debt free since July & am still working on creating a 6 month emergency fund & saving for a down payment in a home, I’ll keep servicing the Corolla!

  • Reply Steveark |

    Your are so smart! Keep that car. My wife have more money than we need but her daily driver is a 2006 Exterra and mine is a 2008 little Infiniti sports coupe. One of the primary reasons we could retire early and never need another paycheck is that we were car frugal. Now we could easily buy a couple of Beamer’s with cash (like the one in your picture) but who needs a $300 oil change? The fact is that anything built after 2000 is probably good for 250,000 miles. And if an older model eventually falls completely apart you haven’t really lost much. I kind of thought once I had more money than I needed I might loosen up and buy expensive new cars but now, I really don’t see the point. My 2008 will still outrun almost anything on the highway, looks very new and it is almost disposable since it cost me so little. You are going to be rich someday if you don’t watch out!

  • Reply Heather |

    I drive an 11 year old car, and my husband’s car is 18 years old. His still has very little mileage because he basically only drives it 3 miles to work and back. My car has just over 100,000 miles on it. It is driven hard though. I start and stop it at least 5 times per day driving kids all over creation. Lately, I am having fantasies of getting a new car, but we will likely drive them until the wheels fall off. I think a lot of people think nothing of having a car payment. Many never even keep a car long enough to pay it off, so they just have a perpetual payment that never ends. I have family like that. I know they wonder why we don’t drive nicer, newer cars. But as long as it still gets us where we need to go, and isn’t costing a fortune in repairs, we will keep on driving them. And we’ll have saved up the money to buy another one for cash when the time comes.

  • Reply Miranda |

    I feel how you feel. I have a 2014 that is almost paid off. I cant wait for no payments but new vehicle is tempting too. I agree that i am going to drive it till it dies or the repairs are more than its worth. Its easy to get caught up in the desire to always want new things.

  • Reply Louise |

    I suggest googling for your make + model + year and the words “brake issues” or other combinations of words to describe the problem you are having. I went to the mechanic three times with a recurring issue with my car and they could not reproduce it. In the end my Dad worked it out by googling. Turns out it was a known problem with the car, a faulty sensor that needed to be replaced. Definitely worth a try in case you find others who describe your problem.

  • Reply Louise Henderson Mann |

    I don’t really understand expensive cars. Every five to eight years I buy a used car for $5000. I have bought Suzuki’s, Honda’s, and Hyndai’s. I buy low mileage cars in good condition. I get them serviced on a logbook schedule. I spend less than $3000 on fixing problems over the years of ownership (these are in addition to the logbook services). (Honda’s are a lot more expensive to fix and mine had a known problem with coils but still have not topped $3000 in repairs.) I drive a lot. Cross country trips at least once a year (4000k), hundreds of kilometres every week as I drive nearby 100k every day round trip to my clients, and go camping a few times a year too. The mileage I get is excellent. The seats in my hatch fold flat and I can fit more camping gear than my friends 4WD even with my kid in the car. With my kid not in the car I can transport furniture. I don’t really get why big cars and big costs are necessary for average families.

  • Reply Megan |

    I second Louise’s suggestion to do some googling. Also, I’d try to find an independent shop that specializes in working on Fords. Nothing against the brake shop guys, but they do brakes. You seemed to have ruled that out, so it’s time for help from someone with more general knowledge.

  • Reply Christopher |

    Think of your car as a means of transportation. If it can get you from point A to B, than its great.

    Think of all the stress, outside of money that you avoid by keeping this vehicle. If your children spill,or,you get a scratch, it won’t bother you. With a new car, you’ll always be worried about these things.

  • Reply JayP |

    We bought a 2004 Explorer new and just sold it last month. I never really died, we just didnt need it any more. It was frustrating as over the years we had to replace wheel bearings, misc repairs – but I think those costs were far less than any upgrades. My current car is a 2003 Pilot with a busted up front bumper. I love it. I don’t worry about my cars as much as if I had a new one, and the kids trash them anyway!

So, what do you think ?