I’ve talked a fair amount in the past about my old car. It was a 2005 Pontiac Vibe. I bought the car for $8,000 cash in 2011 after a deer killed the Neon I was driving. Honestly, it was the best thing to happen to me.
I had the Vibe for 6 years and put just about 100,000 miles on it. In that time, I replaced a few tires, the serpentine belt, countless oil changes, swapped out the OEM radio, and countless other small tweaks and repairs.
Lately, though, the car has had some issues. It wasn’t accelerating quickly like it used to. Using the brakes was like trying to stop the car with fleece in between the rotors and brake pads. The tail light went out and just swapping out the bulb didn’t help. I was worried it was a wiring issue, which would be $$$$ to fix. My license plate didn’t want to stay in the designated spot on the back of the car because the screws were rusty. Oh, and now that I was driving 10+ hours a weekend to see my boyfriend, the lower mileage was causing me to pay more for gas and I needed oil changes more often.
It was time to reevaluate the car situation.
So what to do?
I didn’t have much cash on hand thanks to all the work I’ve been doing on the house. That meant buying a decent car outright was off the table this time. I’d need to finance the vehicle. I haven’t had a car payment in 7 years, and didn’t want one. I love knowing the money I’d be spending on a car payment stays in my pocket instead. Could I handle owing money to someone for a depreciating ‘asset’?
I could buy used. It’d be cheaper and I’d be buying the vehicle after most of the initial depreciation was done. With the trade in of the Vibe, and a bit of cash I wouldn’t be financing too much.
I could get a brand new car. They’re pretty cheap these days since my good credit (I mean, my good credit before someone hacked Equifax) would get me a low interest rate. I could get a new car financed for 0% interest! That would let my money continue to grow in the markets and I’d have a new car. This would also mean I wouldn’t roll the dice with a used car and pray I got one someone took good care of while they owned it. Not to mention, I could get exactly what I want with the features and really enjoy it as I drove into the ground.
Ultimately, though, I went with none of those.
I just couldn’t stand the thought of throwing $12,000–25,000 after a new(er) vehicle. I spent $200 on parts and 8 hours of time to get a brand new car- my 2005 Pontiac Vibe.
“Wait- keeping your old car and calling it new isn’t how the world works, Gwen.”
Well, this is my world and I say it does. After I replaced a laundry list of parts, my old car performs like a new car again! Or at least, it drives like it did when I first got it 100,000 miles ago.
I don’t have the tools, the space, or the know-how to work on cars.….. but my friend’s dad does. They consider me part of the family, so he was happy to devote most of a Saturday to work on my car. I usually bring something for them in exchange for working on it, so this time I brought a ton of apples over. The apples I got when my boyfriend and I picked off my work wife’s trees! He loves working on cars, and his wife likes him working on cars that won’t hang out in their driveway or garage for years at a time.
I got most of the parts ahead of time, so we’d have as much time to work on the car as possible. I bought spark plugs, a new tail light, and rotors to start.
The tail light turned out to be an easy fix. I was replacing the wrong bulb. I spent a grand total of $10 and 10 minutes to fix that one.
The spark plugs were a little bit more complicated but we got them swapped out as well. It turns out you’re supposed to replace them every 70,000 miles or so.… meaning I was in desperate need of new ones. You know it’s bad when the car guy pulls them out and goes wow.…. Whoops! Who knew replacing spark plugs was a thing. Time spent on those was about 45 minutes and cost $5 for 4 of them (as I have a 4 cylinder engine).
Then we moved onto the tires and this was where it got tricky. The first wheel came off fine, but when we pulled it off, he found a frozen caliper. This meant my brake was only grabbing the inside of the rotor to stop. The inside brake pad was considerably more worn down than the outside brake pad. He pounded the stuck caliper, put some brake cleaner on it and then had to let it sit for a bit while we moved to the other side. Besides an incredibly rusted rotor, everything went fine with that removal and replacement scenario.
We went back to the first tire and ended up having to go back to the store for a new caliper kit. While we were there, we also got a fuel injector cleaner kit since I don’t think my car has ever seen that done. My car resisted as best it could, but eventually we prevailed and got everything reassembled correctly. The total time and money commitment to that is as follows:
-2 people @ 3 hours ea: 6 hours of labor
‑2 rotors @ $35 ea: $77
‑1 brake pad kit @ $54 ea: $54
‑1 caliper kit @ $17 ea: $17
I also feel obligated to mention the $1 in screws we bought to replace the rusty screws for my license plate and the 5 minutes and $8 dollars spent on the fuel injection kit.
So, the grand total for the day:
8 hours of work
New brakes and rotors: $141
New spark plugs: $5
New tail light: $10
Fuel injection kit: $8
Now, I didn’t take it into a shop for an estimation beforehand, but I can safely say it would’ve been a LOT more than $172 and 4 hours on a Saturday to get all that done. If I’d brought it into a shop, the chances are high I would’ve also paid some sort of unofficial “lady tax”. Every time I go to get my oil changed, people think I don’t know anything and try to pull one over on me. And that’s just for an oil change! Imagine what they would’ve tried to convince me needed to be done on top of everything else. I’m happy I don’t have to deal with that headache now, I’m absolutely thrilled my car isn’t breaking any laws anymore, and I’m over the moon at how well my car runs now!
What cars do you have? What will you do when yours gets older? Sound off in the comments below!