What Would My Readers Do? The Car Edition

As I mentioned yesterday, my car is not doing well. Here are the main points:

It’s a 2003 Nissan Murano. It was a car I purchased used six years ago. My payments were about $400 a month and I just paid it off now. Not sure why it took six years when it was a five year loan but whatever that’s not the point.

It has 120k+ miles on it.

Previous owner apparently did not change the oil regularly so there is something wrong with the motor that causes it to burn oil. I have taken the car in for regular oil changes to find it almost completely empty. This has been happening for about 3 years.

There is something wrong with the transmission. It is drivable but makes a TAP TAP TAP noise and a TINY little shudder when it comes to a stop. Also when you are doing the slow backing out or pulling into something maneuver where you have your foot kind of on and off the brake, the noise is much more persistent and the shudder more obvious too.

My parents and Stallion are both of the opinion that I should not invest in the car further. Mostly their concern is the oil burning thing and that a tranny repair is likely to be costly. I haven’t gotten an estimate yet but our mechanic who does not handle trannies is concerned as well.

My parents , god bless them, have proposed two things to me. They both include the same thing– I sell my car.

They want me to either:

  • Give my dad whatever proceeds I get from my car and take over the payments he is making on HIS car– a 2010 Mazda something (I think Mazda 5). It’s a six passenger car. He has three and a half years left on it and the monthly payments are about $250.
  • Trade my car in and they will co-sign a lease/loan for a new car for me.

I don’t like any of these options. I also don’t like the option where I sell my car and get something else used. I also don’t like the option of investing into the car further if the thing’s a hot mess, and the bottom line is my parents would have to help me pay the repair bill. I’m completely stumped and everyone keeps asking me what I’m going to do about the car.

I’m tired of spending money on cars but I need a car. I use public transportation to get to work and back but to get the kids to school, I need the car. And to do almost everything else, I need the car. And now with Stallion working retail and going to school and having crazy hours all over the place, I can’t even say I’ll only use my car during the week.

So, what do you brilliant amazing readers think I should do?

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23 thoughts on “What Would My Readers Do? The Car Edition

  1. I would take your dad’s car! Even though your car is paid off, the amount you are paying to fix it adds up to more then $250/month…how many years does he have left to pay off that car?
    If you were to trade it in and get a car where the payemnts are less then $250, it might not be as nice of a car as your dad’s. My car payments are around $240 and that is a sonata, so not quite as nice!
    Good luck with your decision!

    Reply
  2. I looked up the Nissan Murano and Edmund’s seems to have nothing but good things to say about it, new or used. First you may want to get more information about the car’s issues before making a decision. Get a second opinion about the noise issue and the oil issue and an estimate on how much it will cost to fix them. (That oil has to be going somewhere! Is it leaking? Is it burning? If it’s the latter then your emissions must be awful; does Florida have emissions standards you have to meet?)

    Other than the looming mechanical issue is the car working for you? In other words, does it provide the right amount of space for your family or is it too big or too small? Nine years is not super old for a well-made car, and the longer you can keep away from adding another monthly payment to your budget the more flexibility you’ll have as the ex continues to jerk you around on child support.

    Why don’t you like the option of taking over your dad’s car payment? If you must get a different car, then it’s likely you won’t find one for such a low monthly payment. I would avoid buying a new car for that reason. It would be very difficult to buy a new family car and pay $250 or less a month.

    Again, avoiding *any* monthly car payment is your best bet since it gives you maximum flexibility in your monthly budget. Is there car sharing available in your area? Zip Car and iGo are here in Chicago and I have friends that are car-free and are happy to use their services.

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    • Some of these i do know the answer to. The oil is burning. The mechanic has told me to fix it requires an engine overhaul. Basically previous owner did not change the oil regularly and so the engine is messed up. No emissions standards in Florida, they were discontinued years ago. Right now, the car is borderline working. Three kids in the backseat, two of which are in booster seats, is kind of tight. Also, when Stallion’s daughter is here, we don’t all fit. But she’s not here year-round.
      Taking over my dad’s car payment makes me nervous because it ties me to his credit and I’m terrified of something bad happening that would have a bad effect on his credit.
      I realized I forgot to mention that I do plan on getting an estimate on the transmission issue.

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    • Kelly Blue Book has my trade in value ranging from $4869 – $6344 depending on condition. It puts the private party value between $6809 and $8409.

      I know most people suggest used. I’ve always preferred used. But after this last experience, I’m not that into it anymore. The car was looked over and no problems were found. And then the oil burning issue comes up a few years down the road. Not cool.

      Reply
  3. Ah, cars – so wonderful until they’re not. The miles on your car don’t sound bad to me, but the oil burning and shudder do. It’s so wonderful to have no car payments, but your dad’s offer of taking over the payments for his pretty-new car sounds appealing to me – you’d be getting something with a track record that you know and don’t have to just trust what a car dealer tells you.

    Reply
  4. I know you don’t know me personally, but I am of the opinion that you should only own the car you can afford. I use to drive around an $800 beater, 20 year old car (with over 300,000 miles on it). I was in an accident, and then I didn’t have a car at all for 4 years.

    I saved up, and bought a nicer car, with cash again. I spend $1000-$1500 a year keeping the car maintained, getting problems fixed, oil leaks, broken tail light, plus the usual oil changes and whatnot.

    $250 a month comes out to $3000 a year, plus inceased insuance and maitnenace.

    So, I would find out how much fixing your current car REALLY is, and if it is less than $3K, you may want to just fix it, and then make “car payments” into a savings account so that you can buy a nicer car in a year or two (if you need to once it’s fixed).

    Reply
    • Thanks. I share your sentiment as well I’m just at a loss for the amount to spend on a repair. $3000 is an interesting one. Any reason behind it or arbitrary? Just curious!

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  5. If you have a CarMax around you, you can easily go there and have them look at your car and tell you what they would pay you for it — an actual offer that you can accept or decline and have a few days (maybe a week?) to make a decision on. That may or may not be a good way to sell a car (I did a trade-in there to get my last car, and have a friend who sold a car that way, and we were both happy, but our cars were also worth a lot less than yours is, and he was moving and needed to sell quickly), but it’s an easy way to get a sense of what you can get for it “right now.”

    Though I’m a general fan of used cars, my sense when I was shopping last summer and quite likely still today is that the new car market is actually as good as or better than the used car market. This was literally my friend’s experience — he bought a new Mazda for less than people were trying (fairly earnestly) to sell used ones, no joke.

    I’m not opposed in principle to Leauxra’s perspective, but am more skeptical of its value when we’re talking about a (single) parent with kids than in general. So there’s that.

    I think it’s pretty clear that accepting your dad’s offer gives you by far the best value. That car should last you easily another 10 years if you maintain it. Of course, I get not wanting to do so …

    Reply
    • CarMax is available here and is already one possibility my father mentioned. Also my boyfriend has a good friend who is very good at selling used cars on CraigsList and would help.

      And yes, Leauxra’s perspective is one I agree with but the fact I have three kids makes it a little trickier. It’s still something to look into though.

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  6. “Taking over my dad’s car payment makes me nervous because it ties me to his credit and I’m terrified of something bad happening that would have a bad effect on his credit.” Hmm…if you have concerns that you could miss/delay enough payments that it would ding his credit then I understand now why the co-signing option makes you anxious, too. I assume you’re comfortable enough telling your parents this so they can make an informed decision about whether or not they want to keep those offers open.

    Bogart’s comment about the used car market being tight has been in the press, too, so it’s not just Bogart’s experience. That means you could get a pretty good price if you sold your current car. Leauxra has a good point about the cost. If fixing your current car costs you less than $3k, it may be worth hanging on to the car for another couple years.

    Can your folks do the chauffeuring required to get your kids to and from school? Or maybe you could find someone you trust who could do it, even if there’s a cost involved. Using Leauxra’s approach to run the math, that $250 a month car payment turns into $12.50 a day (week day/school days only) to get your kids to and from school. If you can pay someone else $10 a day to get them to and from school you’d still be ahead. Then maybe you could sell this car you don’t like, save up for a while, and buy a car that you like instead.

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    • I don’t think I’m irresponsible– I never paid my car late when I was in charge of payments. it’s just that I know life is completely out of our hands and you NEVER know what it has waiting in the shadows for you. Since it’s pretty much just me that brings in the money, if something god forbid happened to affect my income, I don’t have a backup to help pay for the car, you know? It’s more a practical concern than anything else. And even though it’s highly unlikely, it makes me nervous anyways.

      My mother in theory could take them BUT she has done this in the past and it creates a huge stress for her as she works there. It also makes getting ready in the morning a lot more difficult as she has to be there by 7. School starts at 7:50 for the kids.

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  7. Do you put oil in your car between oil changes? My last car started burning oil and I found just topping it up helped. Does the possibility exist of selling your car and buying another car out right? That way you get rid of your lemon and don’t have car payments.

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    • Yes we are.
      I don’t know honestly. I’ve looked into it a bit and the market for cars that are $6k and big enough for the family are slim.

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  8. That is generous of your dad (assuming the car is worth more than 9K). But he wants you and his grandkids to be safe and have reliable transportation. Like someone above said, does his car work for you in other ways, like gas costs, booster seats, etc? If you were making the $400/mo payments, you can probably do the $250/mo. (Take a guy with you when/if you try to sell the car so as to get the best price.)

    I don’t like the cosigning a lease on a new car idea– that has much more possibility to go wrong and to hurt your parents for a longer term, whereas your dad can probably spot you in an emergency for the monthly payment for less than 3 years to keep his credit clean. Not something you would want to do, and something you probably won’t do, but in a true emergency he could still keep his credit clean without crazy hardship.

    And yeah, get an estimate on the transmission issue.

    I’m not a big fan of used cars unless I know they’re in good shape and have been taken care of (like from a relative). I am a fan of cheap new cars that last a long time (even if it means I have to apologize to passengers for not having power locks… you get used to checking the doors). But in your situation, I think I would go with your dad’s idea if the cost of repair is too high.

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    • Yes dad’s car works. It has six seats with a third bench. It’s also way more fuel efficient than my car which is getting about 12 to 14 miles per gallon.

      I don’t like the lease thing either. Not right now. My mom is pushing hard for that option but I don’t feel comfortable with it. If I do enter a lease or a brand new loan, I want it to be on my own.

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  9. Oh car issues….how I loathe them. Even though your not crazy about the idea….my thoughts are to sell your car and use the proceeds to buy a used car in cash. That would eliminate having a payment and having to use a co-signer. But…it is a gamble trying to find a good, reliable used car that doesn’t have many problems.
    I can understand your feelings on having a co-signer or taking over your dads payment, I had the same concerns when my dad offered that up after my separation. Such a hard decision you have…..its tough being stuck between a rock and a hard spot. :/ Best of luck in your decision!

    Reply
    • Yeah I’ve been considering that first option a lot but am finding the market to be pretty crappy for what I’d get for the car.

      I have to say I’m relieved the readers are as mixed up about this as I am. I was worried that it was really obvious and I was being dense or stubborn.

      Reply
  10. HA! I’d get triple A and drive the sucker till it dies. That’s pretty much what I’m doing with my car, though I’m on the fence as to whether it’s worth getting tires again.

    My beloved car eats oil. I mean, it does *something* to it. The actual oil is nearly always a cheerful shade of not-very-brown (or I get an oil change), and nearly always low (meaning I add a quart about every 1000k miles), but does not cause bad emissions (PA does have some standards) and does not visibly leak oil. I’ve always assumed this means it’s a very slow leak in the middle of the reservoir, but I have no evidence of this. It may be wishful thinking; though I’ve had several mechanics look for a leak, nobody has found anything.

    That said, the low millage you’re getting also hints at a burning oil issue. And it would be harder for me to justify driving the sucker into the ground if I were getting 14 mpg. I’m annoyed with my 24. Still, it’s a problem you can kind of tolerate, with the added emotional comfort of it being something you can *check on anytime you want*. At least get an estimate for the transmission thing, which is more unsettling.

    Reply

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