One of the most common question I’m face with owners of old cars is: It’s a lot of money. should I fix it?
It’s quite a dilemma, and it’s a question with no easy answer.
The scene is almost always the same. The customer is driving a 10 or 12 year old second hand car. A couple of years ago they scraped together to buy it and have done next to no maintenance. They have developed a problem that is beyond the skills of the local major tire chain and they have to come to a dealer. The car has many faults, several of which are not only terminal, but expensive. The car isn’t safe to drive. The repairs needed to make it safe will cost more than the car is worth and they likely don’t address the driveability problem that brought them in in the first place. Then comes the question.
Sometimes even the pros fall into the same trap, as we have the turbo Volvo wagon that prompted a series on Used Car Buying Tips. So how do you answer the question. When is it too much?
The way I usually answer is a bit obscure. If the body isn’t rusted, there will always be someone waiting to buy your problem. They will always spend that $1000 or whatever is needed to get the car rolling, provided that you sell it to them cheap enough. That’s why it is so hard to tell someone when they’ve spent enough money.
Recently, it looked like I was going to have to put my own car on the road again. It’s been 7 years since I’ve had to own my own car. We looked at a few options. We looked in The Garage at the 740 Turbo with the blown engine. A used engine was going to cost a grand. The car might be worth $2500 at best. so what did we do? We put an engine in the OVLOV. A grand for the engine, a few hundred in labour to one of my techs and a couple hundred in assorted bits & a battery brought the total to about $1500. We now have a nice looking, nice driving 1988 Volvo 740 Turbo wagon.
If the work was done at retail, it would have cost a consumer close to $2500. Would I have recommended a consumer spend that money? No, I wouldn’t because the car still has some problems that the average driver wouldn’t be happy with. If it would have cost me $2500, I wouldn’t have put the car back on the road. But someone would have bought it from me for $500 and put the engine in themselves. The body is good, so there will always be a next owner waiting in the wings. Just so long as I price it right.
So, how much is too much? When it feels like you’ve had enough, but the car’s body still looks good!