Fix And Keep Or Trade Up?

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I really want a better safer car, but I really like my paid off, simple, reliable Prizm, and thats my dilemma. I am looking at a 2007 to 2009 Subaru impreza or Legacy sedan. More power, more comfort, more airbags, more bad weather traction, but more money...

The Prizm is long ago paid off, reliable, has great tires, brakes, paint, and glass, and still looks good from a distance... but

1. Tie rods are rust seized and cannot be alligned

2. Rack and pinion has play ($700 estimated replacement)

3. Rotational noise up front (CV's I think)

4. The engine has minor knocking or badly tapping valve

5. It burns more oil than ever

6. Compression is questionable as while idle is smooth as ever, power is lacking more every year

7. This happens....

8. Rust is really starting to get a hold of it (3 inch hole behind rear right door, soon to have matching on driver, passenger front door skin is starting to rust off at the bottom)

9. The head liner is starting to fall, the 3 door handles I have are all different colors, the door vinyl and cloth pads are coming unglued

10. It's been hit in the rear and while it was "fixed" it's not quite right and I worry about getting hit again

11. The airbags it does have are now 17 years old and my driver's seat belt is starting to fray

12. The exhaust leaks off and on somewhere near the manifold

13. It's throwing P0420 (Catalyst Efficiancy Below Threshold) every winter but any new cats will get killed by oil soot

It's 17 years old and worth less than the combined estimated cost of the repairs.




Time to let it go?

Well, I'm all for keeping and maintaining a vehicle for as long as you can. I am also one that tries to be environmentally sound (I'm not a tree hugger but do believe everyone can play there part) I hate to see oil dripping or being pushed out the tail pipe. Not to say your car does that. As far as a safety standpoint as well, it may be time to retire the ride and move on.

If you have the funds to step up to a newer / safer car - then there is no question to upgrade. I'm all for saving money, not needing much, especially for transportation - but you can't really put a price on feeling safe when you drive / having a reliable daily driver. Unless there is some sentimental value associated with the car - I'd just let it go.

IMO, what you are seeing is pretty typical for a 17+ year old car - from all that you described - especially with the oil consumption, compression issues, corrosion, and previous damage that affected driveability - none of those will not get any better and to fix it "right" will eat up a significant amount of your time and money.

If you live in the salt belt of the country, rust will kill off a car faster than anything else. Corrosion has a nasty habit of being a lot more extensive than what you can see visually. Once a panel get perforated - you have to cut out or remove that section entirely - even using something like POR-15 will not stop it completely, just slow it down.

Guzzling oil + tapping/knocking noises from the engine are also not great. Could be sitting on a powder keg - one day, it could just let go and you will be stranded or worse.

As for safety - the Corolla is decent and safe for the time, but things have advanced significantly since then. More safety equipment along with a higher cost. Still, Subarus are tanks compared to the Corolla - lots of mass for a similar sized car + AWD and Toyota like reliability.

We were looking at a Subaru Forester before we picked the Rav4 - Subaru was the better machine, but the wife like the look and ride of the Rav4 - plus being a fairly new model at the time, it was stuffed to the brim with all the safety goodies (dual front, dual side, and side curtain airbags, ABS, traction control. VSC, brake assist, EBD, etc.)

My 2002 Corolla will likely go to my son - but not for several more years. Even so, that will only be temporary, get him used to driving a car + properly maintaining it - eventually, that Corolla will be traded in for a more suitable/safer car.