New or Used: Common Sense or Uncommon Downsizing?

Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
by Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang

Dave writes:

Hello Sajeev and Steve,

First time writer, long time reader; I must say, TTAC and Piston Slap rocks.

My wife and I are in a bit of a quandary. We currently own outright a 1997 Chevy Monte Carlo 3.1L LS with 197k miles and counting as well as a 2003 Chevy S-10 Blazer LS with 145k on the clock. Lately, we have been sinking money into the Blazer for everything from brakes, to shift solenoids, thermostat, intake manifold gasket and crankshaft position sensor (soon to be O2 sensor). I have been driving the Monte since senior year in high school (2004) and it has also had its share of problems, namely Dex-Cool and the ensuing broken conn-rod. The engine was replaced with a rebuilt Jasper at 117k. The dash is lit up like a Christmas tree, but I change the oil religiously and watch the other liquids and wear parts.

Our dilemma is such; the Blazer does not get good mileage but we have it for my wife. She grew up in Jersey and the 4×4 is nice for these upstate NY winters. We snowboard so we routinely travel a couple of hours round trip in bad weather; we also make an annual pilgrimage to VT for the slopes. Her family is still in NJ and mine is north of Niagara Falls NY. We travel to each frequently; the Blazer has its needs. The Monte is a great car, still strong, so comfortable, so smooth, so quiet, much better mileage; especially compared to the Blazer. It even handles the snow well; FWD with good tires is all any upstate New Yorker needs. Alas, it is tiring and it is only a matter of time before the transmission goes or some other catastrophic failure.

I live close enough to work to get there in a 25 minute walk; for the summer, I have my motorcycle. Since my wife’s current commute is longer than mine, I would love for my wife to have a good, reliable vehicle which is good on gas; she grew up driving a 1996 BMW M3 sedan around suburban NJ so she would love a manual with similar handling.

Do we drive the Monte until she goes onto greener pastures? Do I inherit the Blazer when this happens and get her something newer and better? Do we sell the Blazer now and cut our losses? Do we sell both and downsize to one vehicle?

Is there anything you, Steve and the B&B would recommend for our situation? I appreciate the help…

Steve answers:

I would not downsize only because you don’t know what the future holds.

What I would do is cut down on your insurance so that your rates are more affordable. A lot of insurance companies provide discounts for limited driving. Some offer it at less than 5,000 miles a year. Others offer it for less than 2,500 miles a year.

I would drive both vehicles until they croak. The key to making GM vehicles last is taking care of their fluids and making sure you keep up with replacing the Dex-cool in particular. Some would say that I may be excessive recommending annual changes for the Dex-cool. But my experience has been that by doing so, your vehicle will last much longer.

Buy a Mityvac. Suck out the old stuff. Put in the new stuff… and repeat once a year. That may seem extreme to a lot of folks here. But its cheap insurance and that should help you guys lower your operating costs to the bare minimum.

Sajeev answers:

Even though my man Lang is, like, 100 billion percent right, agreeing with him is like shooting fish in a barrel. And I can hear TTAC’s own Zackman saying, “W bodies are perfect for your needs, keep on driving the Monte Carlo and get another one…don’t listen to Sajeev because he’ll ruin your life with Panther Love!” And they both give valid points, even if I completely made up that last part. But they are both wrong.

Sell both hoopties and get something smaller. Maybe that E36 M3 you spoke of. Sure, the fuel economy is pretty bad and the maintenance to keep it running will crush your manhood, but I will not agree with Steve Lang this time. No sir, not at all! You could embrace Panther Love and go from downsizing to “awesome sizing” your next ride, but then again, there’s no stick shift option. And that powertrain conversion isn’t for everyone. So what’s a reliable car that’s affordable and comes with a stick?

BAM SON: a Toyota Corolla in XRS trim level. Sure it’s ugly and/or boring with a lousy interior, but the XRS has a meaty engine, real brakes and a stick! Plus, it’s probably just as reliable as any other Corolla, with resale value that makes selling it a breeze.

Who could ask for anything more?

Not me and certainly not you.

Need help with a car buying conundrum? Email your particulars to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.com , and let TTAC’s collective wisdom make the decision easier… or possibly much, much harder.
Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang
Sajeev Mehta and Steve Lang

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  • Mandalorian Mandalorian on Sep 28, 2011

    Maybe, keep the Monte Carlo a little longer until it dies. Give your wife a used Toyota 4Runner. It is a great car with 4x4, both the V6 and V8 engines are powerful and the millage is surprisingly good.

  • Wstarvingteacher Wstarvingteacher on Sep 28, 2011

    I think it doesn't matter which, but dump one. Nothing spells uncertainty like an old GM product with high miles. If it were my call I would think anything 4wd and japanese or korean for the wife. Then hold on to whichever I felt more comfortable with for a winter car only. Half a year you don't need a car. The bike is a good alternative unless you know it's going to rain. I live in the south so the reality of the north lives in 40year old memories of ct. and newfoundland. My VW got me everywhere and I think a fwd is just as good. If that would be dangerous for your wifes driving conditions you know better than I . Some folks are pessimist and wear both belts and suspenders. If you think a front wheel drive is adequate you will generally save a lot on wear and tear and gas. Anyway, if you are a biker, whicheve car you choose should sit a lot.

  • The Oracle This thing got porky quick.
  • Kwi65728132 I'll grant that it's nicely kept but I'm not a fan of the bangle butt designs, and I know better than to buy a used BMW while living anywhere in the world other than in the fatherland where these are as common as any Honda or Toyota is anywhere else.
  • ChristianWimmer When these came out I thought they were hideous: now they’ve grown on me. This one looks pretty nice. Well-maintained, low mileage and some good-looking wheels that aren’t super fancy but not cheap-looking or boring either, they are just right.
  • Aja8888 Someday in the far away future, all cars will look the same, people will be the same color, dogs will be all mixed beyond recognition, and governments will own everything. That car looks like my son's Hyundai Tucson without badges.
  • Tassos Of course, what the hell did you expect? A SERIOUS, BEAUTIFUL car you can ACTUALLY USE AS YOUR DAILY DRIVER???............. NOOOOO, THIS IS TIM WE ARE TALKING ABOUT. SO HE FINDS SOME OBSOLETE POS WHICH IS 22 years old, .............AND HE PURPOSELY MISSES THE BEAUTIFUL MODEL, THE Classical Beauty E39 that ended in 2003. ...........So he uses his column as a WASTEBASKET once again, to throw the first year of BMWs BANGLED 5 series (as in the INFAMOUS CHRIS BANGLE WHO SCREWED UP THE DESIGN ROYALLY). ................................................ As Dr. Evil, Fake Doctor Jill Biden would scream at the top of her voice, so her senile idiot husband could hear her, "Good Job, (Tim)! You answered all the questions and ticked all the boxes!" ..... KEEP UP THE S---Y work, Tim!
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