Friday, April 07, 2006

Time to Car Hunt?

My 1991 Toyota Camry has an elusive electrical problem. My first clue was when the horn and idiot alarm (the thing that beeps when you leave your keys in the ignition or leave the lights on) quit working. Not having a horn bothered me so I asked both my mechanic and the Toyota dealer what to do about this problem. Both told me it would be expensive to diagnose and repair because it requires essentially dismantling the car. Both told me it wasn't worth it for a 15-year-old car with 200,000+ miles on it.

I really like this car. It's in good shape for its age and still gets good gas mileage. I decided to put up with the elusive electrical problem. Before long the dome light quit, but I didn't really think about it. It could just be the bulb, after all. Then the dashboard lights for the heat/AC quit. They still come back on sometimes, when I hit a bump.

This week the elusive electrical problem added some new, weird manifestations. First, I noticed the "door ajar" light on the dashboard was flickering. It didn't go away even after I slammed all the doors. Then I pulled into McDonald's and, to my horror, realized the windows no longer work. The only time I really need to put them down is in a drive-through -- or when it's warm and rainy and the windows fog over (for which the defrost is totally useless), and that's pretty much all summer. That's when I got scared. If the windows don't work, could the same thing happen to the electric locks? I never lock the doors when I'm in the car now for fear of getting trapped inside. (I'm claustrophobic and just thinking about that makes me uneasy.)

SIGH. I guess it's time to start looking for a newer car. I dread it. I know nothing about cars. My brother tells me to buy a new Saturn using his GM Option 1 because I drive too much to lease. My father-in-law tells me I'm crazy to buy because leasing is cheaper, even if you put a lot of miles on the car. Leasing a car that's a couple of years old is even better. Do I want a Saturn or another Camry? New or used? Can I even afford a new/newer car? Is my old Camry worth any trade-in value? How low can I get the payments? Do I need a down payment? I'm so busy with grading right now that thinking about these about these things, let alone the idea of looking at new or used cars, puts my stress level through the roof.

Maybe I'll just buy a lottery ticket.


truhart said...

To find out how much your Camry is worth, try - that's for Kelly Blue Book.

Also, buying is worth it - especially with the miles that you drive. Leasing means you can only drive a certain number of miles per year - usually a relatively low number - going over means a lot more cost.

If your brother works for GM, you could potentially get another GM product other than Saturn if you don't find a Saturn that you like. The main thing is to do your research before hand. Check out for more info on their vehicles - then when you find one you like, google it to see what others say. Personally, I'm very happy with my Pontiac Vibe that I bought last year. I would definitely get another one.

Mermaldad said...

For someone who drives a car into the ground (and anyone who drives a car over 200,000 miles would fit this category), buying is definitely the way to go. Leasing makes sense only if you are the kind of person who gets a new car every 3-4 years (or less). After your lease is up, you don't own the car, so you walk away with nothing.