By on August 11, 2012

 Courtesy of  Photograph taken  by hinterland-1


A 1995 Volvo 960. Supple leather that made long trips easy. Great safety and visibility. It represented what I thought would be the perfect family car.

I financed it quick enough. But then the troubles began.

First the engine coughed up a burnt valve. Took care of that.

Then the strut mounts started to groan a bit.  A quick Ebay purchase and a little labor solved that one.

As soon as that was cleared up, the rear hatch door handle stopped working.

Two weeks later the electrical issues began. Erratic turn signals. The rear lights vanished due to a worn out wiring harness. The front lights began to do their own dancing in the dark. That was likely either an ignition switch or a multi-function assembly.

I started to think this car would someday soon be worth far more dead than alive.

At this point I told my customer, “Take this!” which was a Subaru Forester that didn’t give them one lick of trouble. I shucked the Volvo to a nearby dealer auction and chalked the experience to the laws of averages.

You can’t polish a rolling turd and expect to come out ahead. Sometimes cheap isn’t. Which brings me to a question that can only induce shudders and flashbacks to the long-time enthusiast.

Have you ever finally said goodbye to… a money pit? A rolling Beelzebub that swallowed dollars, Euros and parts like Kobyashi swallows hot dogs?

Extra credit will be given if you ended up using a flamethrower, a cliff, or in my next door neighbor’s case,  a sledgehammer.

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89 Comments on “Have You Ever Said Goodbye To… A Money Pit?...”

  • avatar

    I once had a 1997 Saab 900 se that was a beauty on the outside but was obviously possessed. After replacing the shifter linkage, busted shock towers, an inter-cooler, replacing the ignition switch because it refused to release my key, the cooling system mysteriously started to develop too much pressure. I replaced the coolant cap and it worked for a while, and then it started to billow out white smoke out the exhaust. i decided to cut my losses and sold it to one of those we buy cars places for 400 bucks.. That car was the worst. Oddly enough after owning about 6 Saab, that was the only one that gave me any trouble at all..

  • avatar

    I never really have had a serious money pit, I tend to beat up my own wallet all the time so my opinion of what a money pit is might be a little off. When my Volvo 850 quit due to a blown head gasket, I just let it go instead of repairing it, mostly due to laziness. Now that I think of it, it ate tires like I eat grits on a Sunday morning, not due to suspension issues, it just hated keeping tread on the front tires, no matter how often I rotated them. So there, maybe I have had a money pit.

  • avatar

    My Supercharged 300c SRT8 costs me roughly $80 a week in gas, but the insurance cost is decent (less than $195/month).

    Synthetic oil changes are only about $75 every 5000 miles and I have to replace my rear tires every year and a half ($500).

    My real problem is the speeding tickets and court fees.

    Haven’t had a single speeding ticket in 15 years. Soon as I got the SRT8 – nearly blew my license away. I’m not sure whether or not I should get the 2013 SRt8 or just get a fully loaded Pentastar V6 300. I’m afraid that if I downgrade, people won’t be afraid to drag race me anymore.

  • avatar

    Mine was a 1967 MGB. I bought it as a rebuilder when I was young, naive and stupid. I sold a perfectly running TR7 to pay for it because, hey, the MGB was a convertible!

    My “restoration” was performed completely ass-backward, all of my effort and meager funds went into the mechanicals first so it would run and drive. Brakes, brake lines, SU carbs, starter, generator, wire wheels, splined hubs, tires, you name it and I either replaced it or rebuilt it. The local British parts guy knew me by my first name. Moss Motors catalogs littered my bathroom. Never mind that the sills were swiss cheese, the interior a collection of rotted leather scraps or that the front clip was bent up and three different colors.

    After several months of tinkering in my ever-so-patient friend’s driveway workspace, I finally fired it up. Yay! IT LIVES! I jumped in to take my first victory lap, only to have the stock aluminum hood fly open and fold itself over the windshield. I damn near cried… that hood was probably worth more than the rest of the car combined!

    Fast forward over several years, and you’d see me forking over more money for sill replacement at the body shop and a new top. I even took out the engine and transmission to finally get at some more body rot. It became a classic basket case in boxes all over the garage.

    Then? Divorce and a fire sale of my excess crap. I took $600 for the MGB and helped the guy load box after box of parts onto his trailer. When it was gone, I started to add up how much I’d squandered: about $5,000, all for a car I probably put less than 500 miles on altogether. And I was happy to see it go. Happy, I tell you!

    That joke about a boat being a hole in the water into which you pour money? I didn’t need no stinking boat… I had an MGB.

    • 0 avatar

      I know my reply is 3 yrs too late, but sorry to read you had so much MG trouble. They are no bigger “money pits” than anything else of that vintage. I rehabbed a 72 MGB GT properly and patiently, and it now willingly serves as my daily driver, while my “dependable” GM product sits parked with $$$ electronic failures. Enough said.

  • avatar

    Yep, 91 LX hatch – had some minor suspension items to increase traction and reduce weight (aluminum struts, aftermarket k-member, big & little convo-pros) along with a built 347 (the only stock item was the block, mainly because I didn’t have th scratch to drop on a FRPP aluminum block at the time), a TKO600 + bell housing and clutch assembly, complete areomotive fuel system and a built 8.8 rearend as well as stepped long tubes from bassani and a full 3″ exhaust system with my favorite mufflers (if you could call them that) – dynomax race bullets.

    I guess all told in that particular incarnation (after having blown up a rebuilt and modded stocker and converting from auto to stick) I had dumped an easy 12-15k in the car and never got it running due to work mostly and the car sat wrapped in a blue plastic cocoon on the side lawn.

    Also I started my new car buying so the LX was shoved even farther to the side as car payments sucked up the spare money I had for the project.

    I finally decided to sell the car as a package for 10k (its been my experience that you should always go high) and was looking for really around 6-7k (the cost to build the motor) and finally in a pinch for quick cash let it go for 3500.00

  • avatar

    1979 Ford Mustang Turbo 3-door TRX wheel package
    In’82 the turbocharger ate itself after a 30-mile flying formation at 90 mph+ with a Porsche 944 and a Mercedes. I wire tied the wastgate open with a coat hangar, capped off the oil feed line with an a/c fitting. Took 24 quartz of oil to make the 400 mile drive back home. A white-knuckled ride with an extremely nervous wife.
    Intermittent clutch sticking damaged all forward gears in the 4-speed(remember those?)
    Swivel fitting on the power steering let go in the middle of a cloverleaf
    Exhaust manifold cracked
    The turbo + carburetor(again, remember those?) setup was a constant work in motion

    Definitely not one of Ford’s better ideas…

    • 0 avatar
      Jason Lombard

      Terry, I haven’t talked to but a handful of other people who are even aware of this model, much less owned one. This was my first car (used) in 1990. My experience pretty much mirrored yours. It made it about a year and then I got tired of wrenching on it constantly and traded it for a 1976 VW Bus. It was the first of three Mustangs that I’ve owned and by far the worst (though the ’96 Cobra was a close second).

      • 0 avatar

        The issue for the early American turbos was the need to let the car run for 30 idle seconds before you turned off the motor to let the turbo cool down. Sounds simple enough, but honestly who remembers to do that everytime they drove the car? I had an ’87 Dodge Shadow ES turbo with the same problem. After 48K miles of forgetting to let the engine idle an additional half-minute at the end of whatever journey, it literally blew up in the engine bay, fortunately within the factory warranty window.

  • avatar

    Oh my, yes.

    I’ve owned a few Subarus since 1981, the last (spelled L-A-S-T) being a 1999 Outback wagon bought used with 84k on it. Here’s a summary of my problems with the ‘99, in just 30k miles:

    Bad chassis vibration at 3000RPM.
    A/C compressor fried, contaminating the whole system.
    Transmission leaks, corrosion of filter/body, and in the end, poor shifting.
    Rear wiper froze up.
    Weird, snap oversteer at a certain steering input, like you crossed a fulcrum.
    Aluminum wheels that leaked air.
    Mileage drops 20% in cold weather.
    Poor cold driveability.
    Speedometer works intermittently.
    Dash lights burned out.
    Power window switches failed.
    Seat bolster’s foam crumbled.
    AWD system is simply FWD till the fronts spin enough, offering no directional stability in snow.
    Rear liftgate handle corrodes and become inoperative.

    [Insert responses of Subaru apologists here.]

    Subaru, like VWs I’ve owned, seems to have hit-or-miss reliability. Some seem reliable or at least meet somebody’s expectation of reliability, some don’t. If the overall fleet-score is better than average, then that means there’s a lot of lemons being suffered out there.

    • 0 avatar
      Carl in NH

      What, all that and no head gasket failure ?

      My 2004 Outback head gasket failed at relatively low mile (60~70k if I remember correctly). Due to the estimated cost to fix ($2000 at the time) and the fact that the leak was internal, I declined and drove it anyway. Finally the leak worsened enough that I fixed it. Couple of years later now I am chasing a P0420 CEL, and dumping money into O2 sensors etc to fix it. I suspect that the head gasket leaking may have something to do with this current predicament.

      I have been told that the manual Outback will need clutch replacement after 120k, and I am now close to 140k, so that will be the next big wad dumped into this thing.

      The standard of reliability for my daily driver is my 1991 Volvo 240, which got to 230k before it was sent to the knackers. The Subaru is not going to get there, unfortunately.

      • 0 avatar

        Not with me, perhaps the first owner did that. I did change the timing belts just before I ditched this horrible money-pig though. It was more important to rid myself of it then get some use out of the cost of the new belts.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t mean for this to sound like I am apologizing for Subaru (reading their forums makes me wonder where they get their reliability reputation from), but a couple items on this list stand out to me.

      Your wheels probably had a dirty bead seal. This should be cleaned when tires are changed. Installation error.

      Mileage always drops in cold weather. Combination of winter fuel mix and the car taking much longer to warm up. I’m not sure what you mean by drivability issues, but cars in general hate the cold.

      • 0 avatar

        Subaru got their reliability reputation from buyers whose previous car was a Volvo.

      • 0 avatar

        I often wonder that myself, some of it could be as simple as Dan explains, or possibly they just have a ‘good reputation hangover’ from a previous era. There are plenty of other import cars out there with reality contrasting reputation too.

        On the wheels and cold weather items, my Outcash was much worse than my previous stable/history of vehicles, that’s why I included those.

        Quality, durability, performance, failure rate, amount of service (money/time) needed, … are all linked to the efforts and standards a company has for its product, which ultimately tell you how a company feels about their customers.

  • avatar

    Our 1992 Chrysler LeBaron:

    Bought it in May, 1999. It had a new top, which was a plus. A very comfortable car – the seats, though vinyl, we very nice. Little things started going wrong. Back windows failed. I fixed them, very easy with a bit of kit-bashing, never failed again. Good. Next: Head gasket. Twice, but by then, the damage must’ve been done. Always had heating issues. A/C worked when charged – regularly. Eventually gave up. Struts/shocks. Eventually repainted the car. Sept. 2007, engine gave up. Shot. 148,000 miles. Sold it for $500 to our mechanic, as I knew he could fix it for cost and sell it. His helper bought it and did fix it and I think it’s still around town.

    All in all, we loved that car, but after almost 8+1/2 years, time to move on – to a 1992 Jeep – another story.

  • avatar

    Never happened. My oldest car was an 87 Reliant and it was a rock until the end. The head gasket blew for the first time at 253K and I just sadly let it go. There were some oil seepage, a bit of rust under the door rockers so it did not make sense to fix it. Still, I ran that car for next to nothing…never had any car that was a money pit…

  • avatar

    See my avatar.

    1995 Alfa Romeo 164 Quadrifoglio.

    A typical beautiful Italian Mistress.

    I cried when I sold it; my wallet cried tears of joy.

    • 0 avatar

      Back in 1984, I used to work for an Alfa Romeo dealer, we used to deliver new cars to customers, in every one of them there was a warning not to pass 4k RPM for the first 1000 kilometer.
      I saw, 5k and 6k every time, I could not resist myself, the sound was so good and the smell, there was no other car that smell so good when new.
      Then, I decided to buy myself an AlfaSud, I could not afford a new one, so I got a 1979 model, I put so much money on this car that I just had to get rid of it after 2 years, it was a joy to drive but a nightmare to maintain.

  • avatar

    1985 Audi 4000S. Enough said.

  • avatar

    Young and stupid I was. I had a paid fo 1970 Camaro base model 307 auto. In the summer of 1974 we had a 2 yr old daughter,and one on the way.

    We needed something bigger. I traded the Camaro, for a 1969 Marquis 2dr, with the Maurader package “loaded”. All of the elecrical parts failed,as did the clutch fan, that buried itself into the rad. You could watch it rust. The 429 4bbl, drank gas like it was water. I got to the point, that I could do a starter change in 20 minutes.

    I had to take a loan out,to get caught up on the repair bills.

    I worked at GM and left it dead in employee parking,for days at a time. We had a house a huge morgage,and I simply couldn’t afford to fix it.

    So one cold day in November 75 it quit at shift change, in the middle of traffic. A big burly, biker looking dude, with an old Ford tow truck came to my rescue. For 10 bucks he dragged it to my house,and dropped it in the driveway. I walked,took the bus,and bummed rides for a month. The big Mercury sat there till mid Jan.

    A knock on the door,and there’s the tow truck dude. He needed a motor for the truck.

    One hundred bucks and a handshake and the Ford was history.

  • avatar

    2007 Grand Caravan. Bought it new, with a warranty, all of it useless. In 30,000 km the thing leaked water after the windshield mount disintegrated, the front suspension fell to pieces, twice, the cupholders couldn’t hold a cup of Tim’s without breaking (not covered under warranty, apparently, because it was broken through use?????), interior trim fell off with regularity, it burned more gas than my 2010 f150 v8, and finally, the whole rear brake assembly rusted off. The dealership wanted me to pay because the brake drums were a “wear” item. I couldn’t get rid of it fast enough, but had a hard time finding anyone who even remotely wanted that thing. Even our cat, who traveled everywhere with us (even on multiple 7 hour ferry trips) and never had any issues, couldn’t go 10 km in that thing without puking. My first, and last chrysler product ever……. was really sorry when the gov’t used my taxes to bail them out – they deserved to die.

  • avatar

    A 1989 Subaru RX hatchback I bought in 1998. Bought just as I was graduating from high school. It was black with gold accents, had manual tranny, 4WD, turbo and factory ground effect package and I was a teenager who couldn’t resist it despite looking at the long list of things that were done by the previous owner.

    Despite being garaged all its life it had quite a bit of rust towards the lower part. Not life-threatening but not pleasant. I the 1 year I had it I put about $420 for a new catalytic converter (it had 2!) and another $180 for timing belts when it left me stranded in Boston downtown. All this over maybe 8500 miles I got out of it. Realizing it’s not going to get any better I sold it almost exactly 1 year later with a loss of $500.

  • avatar

    I had a late 80’s Saab 9000 Red bought used from a lawyer. Loved the car but it was a problem from the start. Developed a Coolant leak in the heater core. Dealer replaced but you could always smell a faint odor of antifreeze. The allow wheels went out of round and cost high dollars to replace, etc.. It was just a problem car. Got rid of it. My 85 Volvo 750 manual lasted to almost 400K. It was hit by a drunk and totaled. Still had original engine and transmission. One of the best cars I ever owned. Automatics were real problems. Newer Volvo’s are money pits. Now I buy just Toyotas.

  • avatar

    My first car was a ’95 Chrysler Intrepid. Now, granted, I’m sure many of the problems were brought on by it being my first car, between abuse and deferred maintenance, but it was not a car that thrived on that combination. After a tranny rebuilt, several tie rod replacements, the EGR valve, and assorted other little items going in the course of a couple years, when the water pump seized (snapping the timing belt – luckily, not an interference motors), I decided to cut my losses and start driving a $100 Ford Escort (not that it was problem-free, but it was different, and didn’t require the same level of care).

    • 0 avatar

      Had a 93 Intrepid ES….oddly enough never had any suspension issues. Although reading further and further on that car at some point was going to become a nightmare. It was spotless inside and out, and had the original transmission when I sold it.

  • avatar

    2002 GTI
    3 Radiator Fans
    1 Engine Module
    Other assorted parts engine parts replaced during various “diagnostic exercises” by the dealer
    6 Window Regulators
    3 Radios
    Several rental cars while the dealer tired to figure out the no hot start problem
    Couple of pieces of interior trim
    I was lucky it VWOA tossing (Nay, shoveling) money into the pit. It was all covered under warranty before they bought the car back 18 months after I bought it.

  • avatar

    My money pit was a 1985 Honda Accord 4-door sedan. First was the water pump that shorted the electrical system, then the automatic’s torque converter froze, then the struts rusted out, then both half shafts needed replacing. When I bought it, the paint was already fading and there was a dent in the roof, but the big clue I missed was the University of Santa Barbara decal on the back window. The owner I bought it from in 1995 had just gotten the car back from his recently graduated son.

    • 0 avatar

      Wow – we had an ’86 and ’87 with just outstanding results. The ’65 went 120K without any attention except a timing belt and fluid changes. The ’87 had over 325K the last time I saw it.

      • 0 avatar

        Wow – we had an ’86 and ’87 with just outstanding results. The ’86 went 120K without any attention except a timing belt and fluid changes. The ’87 had over 325K the last time I saw it.

  • avatar

    Easiest money pit:

    04 Dodge Neon. Funny on the stories that I’m reading here that has much older cars.

    Everything was under warranty, except for the typical $100 deductible.

    -Transmission Replaced
    -Multiple solenoid packs for transmission replaced.(at least 4)
    -Coil Pack Failed
    -CD player stopped working
    -Front door speakers Failed
    -2 lower motor mounts
    -1 upper motor mount
    -Radiator Replaced when the transmission cooling line fittings rotted and blew causing ATF+4 and Coolant to mix. (Common problem, which Chrysler denies)
    -Stabilizer links and bushings
    -Lower control arm bushings
    -Rear wheel cylinders
    -LH rear wheel bearing
    -O2 sensor

    I’ll say that the extended warranty paid for itself by the time we traded that car off. Yes the car was used when we bought it (11,000 miles on it) but we sold it at 79,800….200 miles before the warranty ran out. I can only imagine what it would have been like after the warranty, a risk I wasn’t willing to take.

  • avatar
    Polar Bear

    Lang, how old was the 960 when you bought it?

    In any case, you should have bought the more reliable low-tech 940 with the 4 cylinder. But I guess it is a bit late to tell you this now.

    • 0 avatar
      Steven Lang

      I had bought dozens of classic RWD bricks (240, 740, 940) before venturing into the purchase of that vehicle.

      960’s are known to be maintenance hogs compared with the older Volvo iron… which is truly saying a lot.

      I once bought a Volvo 960 sedan that had nearly 60 separate visits to the dealership. One less than every 3,000 miles. By the time I got it for around $1000, it had a new engine and tranny that were each less than 30k miles old.

      The auction where I sold the white 960 wagon had a picture of the vehicle prominently displayed on a collage they created after their anniversary sale. Every time I would come into that place and saw that picture of the car, I would quietly mumble to myself, “Good riddance!”.

      • 0 avatar
        Polar Bear

        I had bricks of Amazon, 140, 240 and 740 series. They were all OK. They were solid and low tech and a little preventive do-it-yourself maintenance kept them on the road. I wanted a 960 but never came to buying one before quitting Volvos. Maybe I got out in time.

  • avatar

    Mine was 1992 Ford Thunderbird SC, it had a 3.8 supercharged V6. I bought it in 1996 with about 38k miles.

    Oh, how I loved that car, but after adding up the receipts, my mistake was not just buying a brand new car with a warranty. It probably ate up about $7,000 in repairs in 3 years of ownership, and I knew if I held on to it for another year I could easily see another $3k-$4k evaporate. I could have just bought something like a brand new Mustang Cobra and been a lot better off.

    That car did sour me on domestics cars in general, I just thought it was normal for cars to fall apart after about 60k miles until I started buying Japanese cars.

  • avatar

    I had a 90′ Prelude with almost 250K on the clock. One freakish engine failure (one thing went and triggered a Final Destination-esque turn of events that almost led to an engine fire) resulted in the car needing an entirely new engine.Honda Rust and an incident with a Trailblazer resulted in it being towed away, no longer worth the money to repair.

    I still miss that car, and felt about the same as I did when I put the family dog to sleep. It hurts when you gotta put something you love out of it’s misery. Both times my family stepped up and helped me out though, so I really love them even if the replacement car isn’t as good as the old one.

  • avatar

    1989 RX-7
    -4 engines/2 trans./1 rear end. in 300km. nuff said.
    car became road racer mosport/shannonville once I’d had enough.

  • avatar

    In 2003 I purchase a 1995 Audi 90 Quattro to use as a part-time autocross car and winter driver. It turned out to be so good at autocross in it’s class (it ran against the NA MINI) that I made it a full-time race car in 2004 and 2005. As a race car it was fantastic, so much so that I won the 2005 ProSolo HS championship in it. The problem was that it broke so often that the parts guy at the local Audi dealer knew my voice whenever I called. And some of the breakdowns were legendary. A/C breaks near Wendover Utah when it’s 90 degrees? Check. Heater core bursts during a ProSolo? Check. Door cable breaks getting into the car to drive to a race? What do you think? Passenger door latch breaks at a ProSolo? You bet!

    It went on and on and on to the point that I think I was spending nearly $500 a month fixing things. So on the way home from winning my ProSolo championship in Topeka in ’05 I sold it to an Audi fan in Salt Lake City and flew home. Eventually ended up with a Solstice GXP which has been perfectly reliable and cost less per month in payments than I was spending on Audi repairs.

    I’ve done well in the Solstice but haven’t yet done as well as I did in the Audi. Now and then I think about buying another but the memories of the repairs will eventually remind me of just why I sold it in the first place, kind of like a crazy ex-girlfriend that was hot and great in bed but was a wacko the rest of the time, after a while the memories of the bad times fade and you think “Hmm, maybe we could make it work?” but you know the best thing to do is to let sleeping dogs lie.

  • avatar

    That’s Volvo – durable yeah, reliable? Hell no… Durable & reliable you’d think the two go hand in hand. Not necessarily. Kind of like sex & nudity there can be a difference.

    Shades of a 73 164 E with Bendix far, far younger than yours. Followed by an odd little Volvo 343. A Renault-engined/DAF-sprout off. Dutch build quality wasn’t Swedish but strangely it gave no trouble at all.

  • avatar

    83 Toyota pickup, spent several years constantly chasing problems. It only had 170k, but someone has put in a motor with more miles on it. Driveability problems galore, but it never once left me stranded. In all reality the problem was not the truck, but the previous mechanics.

    So I gave up on it when I bought another 83 Toyota that had been in a wreck. The “new” truck is perfectly reliable, and my dad is driving the old one.

  • avatar
    Japanese Buick

    Wait. So when you finance a car, you take responsibility for repairs? Basically you warrant the car until the note is paid off? That’s the implication of your writings and if correct I did not know that.

  • avatar

    2002 Jaguar X-Type Sport 3.0L 5MT. It was an awesome car, when it was running.

  • avatar

    I’m coming at this from the other end…I just bought what I expect to be a money pit.

    1988 10th Anniversary Mazda RX-7. I’ve got some work ($$$) to do to fix up a few things on the interior but at least the engine, turbo and electrical system are alright…for now.

    I’ve budgeted to put at least twice over into this car what I paid for it. With how it drives, that’s what it’s worth to me. I mean, I’m still relatively young and don’t have any major responsibilities. Why not, right?

    So I guess ask me in a few years.

    • 0 avatar

      Have fun with that rotary engine once it starts drinking a quart of oil every other day. And good luck finding parts for those 80’s RX-7s. Can’t say I’ve seen one in a junkyard in a dog’s age.

      • 0 avatar

        mazdatrix, performance part suppliers and rx7club have me covered. :)

        For most things anyway. The windshield is the only thing I’m at all worried about because with that 10AE’s tint there’s none left in inventory and people are hoarding them.

        You don’t see many in junkyards because people obsessively buy and fix them. I know one guy who has restored 33 of them for fun and several who own 2-3 running cars + parts cars at a time. FBs (1st gen) would be a problem, but not FCs.

        I did my research and am not clueless, but thanks.

      • 0 avatar

        I wouldn’t let anything dolorean says trouble you. His agenda and reality don’t coexist. Your car will use oil, as rotaries basically operate much like 2-strokes, but oil is still available at most places one might expect it to be.

  • avatar

    2004 Malibu Maxx. Not because it was particularly unreliable, but because repairs for it were more expensive than my previous Chevies combined with absolutely breathtaking depreciation. I just couldn’t justify it’s good gas mileage in exchange for such a crappy interior and horrible build quality as well. I traded it for a used Lexus GS. Until the tsunami in Japan, parts for the Lexus were the same or cheaper than the Chevy. Combine that with a far more luxurious driving experience and better reliability and I think I made the right choice. I do think the Malibu Maxx concept was brilliant, they just couldn’t execute it properly.

  • avatar

    Never owned a massive money pit. I sell them once I see blue smoke or entire suspension rebuilds. My ’95 Mustang Cobra has taken some serious money over the years, but not because of mechanical issues, rather I like keeping her showroom ready but a beast off the line.

    A friend of mine bought a fully loaded and stunningly pretty ’95 Grand Cherokee from a private dealer in ’06. Soon however he began describing a nightmare litany of electric problems along with bizarre mechanical issues to many to list and remember. Once while under the dash replacing an electrical harness, I noticed a funky smell and dampness under the floor mats. I asked him for the title which he did not have stating that the car was financed through the dealer and they had it. AFter calling around we found the car had been flooded by Katrina and the car was totaled. Promptly told him his money be better spent lighting it on fire, at least he’d have the heat for warmth.

    • 0 avatar

      If the dealer didn’t tell him about the bad title before purchase that would be grounds to bring a major lawsuit against them. I would definitely do that. But if they did – your friend is not very clever for purchasing such a vehicle.

  • avatar

    This article contradicts all the ‘keep your car forever’ posts. LOL

    I had my share of ‘enthusiast’s choice’ cars that were truly not ‘fun to drive’ when it’s in the shop. The ‘fun’ is only the time from purchase to the first major repair, and then when the darn thing is “gone”, :+)

  • avatar

    I had $5,000 into a used ’92 Accord in less than 2 yrs,and happily sold it for $1,850. Who knew?

  • avatar

    In 2005, my parents sold a ’95 M-B E300 that they’d owned since 1999. Chronic problem areas — which they tried repeatedly to address — included warm starts (hot starts and cold starts were never a problem), power seats, power locks, cruise control, taillights, and seatbelt mounts. Eventually they saw the writing on the wall, got the car into operable condition, and sold it before the next big repair. It was an absolute lemon that managed to slide by on charm: diesel torque, outstanding visibility, blocky German styling, etc.

  • avatar

    Panther Love did me in a few years back… ’90 Townie 5.0 98K original miles on rebuilt tranny. The trouble with it was more age related than poor design on the part of Ford, but it was one of those old lady cars which didn’t get driven fast or far and as such was rarely in the shop to do all of the things I had done. So when I wanted to stretch her our 3 days a week on the real highway, she (the car) wasn’t too happy about it… it had so many different problems (such as the battery kept dying when i was less than a year old) I only ended up putting about 3K on it in 2 years before I threw in the towel.

    H-pipe: $200
    Rust removal/puddy/paint near driver’s side quarter panel (had a hole) $200
    Weld quarter sized hole in frame: $250
    Rear main seal plus plenum, tune up, and engine pull: $1000
    Thermostat, Rad leak, coolant flush: $200+
    Brakes/Inspection: $300 (the first year)
    Brake line breaks while driving it: $300 + tow
    Air ride shot after being turned off for tow: Finally dumped the car

  • avatar

    1997 Ducati 916.

    Let’s see –
    4 flaked rocker arms
    Seized front master cylinder
    Worn out clutch master
    Worn out clutch slave
    Clutch (only one so far, which is pretty good for these)
    2 oil pressure sensors (yes, I’ve had 2 fail. Scared me shitless both times)
    Fan switch
    Coolant temperature probe
    Crank position sensor
    Rebuilt front forks
    Ten-hour valve adjustments every 6k, bi-annual timing belt changes (DIY)
    Replaced just about every electrical relay on it
    Sidestand broke in half
    Fuel lines in the tank ruptured
    Fuel line connectors swelled shut (due to aftermarket fittings with Buta rubber o-rings)
    Fuel tank liner peeling due to ethanol
    Generally throwing obscene amounts of money at it on a monthly basis, just to have it conk out with a new problem after a period of sweet running

    I’m sure I forgot plenty of stuff. I’ve had it so long that I end up having the same issues twice and think to myself “oh yes, I’ve encountered this before”

    Right now I’m chasing an electrical gremlin that is causing bad misfiring. I’ve done about 400 miles the whole damn year because of that issue.

    Oh, yes, I still have it, after 6 years of constant wallet sucking. And I have no intention of selling it. Hours of tinkering in the garage are made worth it by one perfect blast through the back country at full throttle.

    • 0 avatar

      I don’t blame you for not selling. I absolutely love those 916s but they are a black hole for wallets.

    • 0 avatar

      “Oh yes, I’ve encountered that before” – that is a sign to cut your losses and run. Tells me they didn’t put enough engineering into a part to make it do it’s job. That said – I understand. I’ve had alot of those loves – two wheeled, or aircooled rear engined, or simply antique.

  • avatar

    Not exactly in the spirit of the question, but it would have been a money pit had I kept it: 2008 VW GTI.

    Bought it brand new, and at the 6 month mark things started going wrong. A lot of the blame is with a service department that really had no idea how to fix the car. I owned it for 3 years, and it went to the dealership 19 times for unscheduled maintenance. Add the scheduled maintenance, and visits where I didn’t receive a work order, and I was at the dealership 30+ times in three years. In the last 6 weeks I owned it, it was in the dealership for 3.5 weeks. I got rid of it as the warranty expired, knowing it was going to cost all the money I had. I certainly got very familiar with limp mode on the car.

    Selection of issues:
    – a sensor removed during a service wasn’t replaced when the car was returned, and required more work.
    – Throttle body wiring assembly fixed, then fixed again, then replaced. This particular problem lasted years without proper resolution
    – Cam follower failure – mis-interpreted a couple times, then finally fixed.

    When I traded it in, it was reporting a low oil pressure error that wanted the car shut down and towed (according to the manual). The dealership had it and hopefully fixed it two days before it was dropped off.

    Wasn’t sad to get rid of that, and now know I’ll never own a VW or Audi.

  • avatar

    1966 Rover 2000.

    1971 Opel 1900 Sport Coupe.

    I’ve already had my say at length on both of these POS’s. The only other real problem car I owned was the 1965 Barracuda that I bought new. It had seven visits back to the dealer for a noisy differential. (273 2-barrel, 4-speed car). Chrysler’s warranty took care of the monetary cost, but I unloaded the car just before it hit the end-of-warranty 50k miles. I found out later that some guy at the dealer that bought it was test-driving it and blew the engine. I saw it in a parking lot a year later, talked to the owner who said that it only had 23k miles when he bought it (from a different dealer than I sold it to), and he’d never had any problem with rear end noise.

  • avatar
    Seán Moloney

    I had a 1999 Subaru Outback, it was a nice car, actually it was a lovely car. I owned it for 2 years, I bought it for $13,500, spent $1,500 to insure it and then $9,000 in repairs and services over the following 2 years and sold it for $6,000. Once I sold it I bought a 1999 Saab 9-3 for $4,000 and spent $900 on insurance and $2,000 on repairs for the year that I owned it and I now have a 1999 Saab 9-5 and have spent $600 for insurance and $130 in repairs for the year that I’ve owned it.

  • avatar

    Yup. 1986 Merkur xR4Ti. Bought it used, almost 100K on the odometer (mistake number one). But it was a good price – honest. Knee deep in electrical problems, brakes were about toast when I bought it and far more expensive then I realized they would be (first car with 4-wheel discs).

    The vitals worked. Went through a period where it was running pretty good, sans the dashboard lights going out one by one. Then it happened. While driving in an extreme thunderstorm in Houston on the Southwest Freeway somehow, some way it ingested water and hydrauliced the engine.

    Game over man.

    Game over.

    Someone at the apartments I was living in at the time ratted me out as I would push the car from parking spot to parking spot every could of days to create the illusion it was still running (non-functional cars was a lease violation). I let the tow company keep the thing and bought a Chevy S-10.

    Ya, I like being a martyr.

  • avatar

    I’ve only had one real money pit, my ’77 Dodge Macho Power Wagon, like this one, except mine was yellow:

    These are just the problems I remember off the top of my head, there are more, I’m sure. Some of these were fixed under warranty, but I had over $4000 out of my pocket in repairs alone by the time dumped it. Along the way, the engine was built up and at the end was putting out at least double the claim 165HP it came with, probably more. The engine was the only trouble free part on the thing, once I got done with it.

    Leaks everywhere, from front seal to transfer case, trans, axle tubes, etc. Dash leaked water somehow, and it got into the bulkhead connector, causing many electrical issues.
    Manifold gaskets leaked from day one, oil and coolant. Finally solved after milling heads and intake manifold and using some insanely bad smelling glue that made me want to puke after I used it.
    Rear axle snapped due to improper heat treatment.
    Caught on fire TWICE due to bad wiring. I don’t know why I put it out!
    Camshaft ate a lobe up. Was judged as defective.
    Broken chain in transfer case.
    Oil pressure sender let go two or three times, spraying oil everywhere.
    Power steering pump self destructed, tossing belt. Twice. I had arms of steel after driving it like that for a while.
    Tail and brake lights went out many times.
    Ignition switch failed, got red hot.
    Ballast resistor expired several times.
    Windshield washer tank split a few times.
    One time, the wiring under the dash melted together and I had to pull the coil wire to shut off the truck.
    Master cylinder died, lost the front brakes suddenly in downtown LA.
    There’s more, but I can’t remember any more right now.

    I got fed up and dumped in ’81 it for a ’79 Trans Am. Other than hoses and an alternator, it was perfect for 2 years until the trans went. I loved that car, and I never should have let it go.

  • avatar

    Believe it or not, my money-pit-from-hell was a 1996 Honda Accord DX that I bought NEW! I was stuck with that dreadful piece of crap for a little over three years.

    I was working two jobs and going to college at the time and I put a lot of miles on a car. In the first year, I racked up almost 45k miles on it; so the 3/36 warranty ran out after 8-9 months.

    At 42k, the camshaft seal failed while I was going 80mph on I-75. I threw it into neutral and got off the road onto the shoulder as fast as possible, then I killed the engine and coasted to a stop. I raised hell at the dealersihp and they warrantied the repair.

    Then it happened again just past 70k miles. I had switched to synthetic oil as a precaution, but I know some damage was done the first time it happened. Anyway, I raised hell again at the dealership and they warrantied it again just to get rid of me. But the car wasn’t even two years old at this point, so I think my anger was justified.

    Between 70k and 85k, the A/C compressor locked up, the transmission went out along with the alternator and the fuel pump! The car was ‘using’ a quart of synthetic oil ever 1500-2000 miles by the time I hit the 90k mark! Then just shy of 100k, you guessed it, the freakin’ camshaft seal blew out again (third time)…and I paid for it that time.

    Who expects to spend almost $4000 in repairs on a NEW Honda Accord in the first 2.5yrs and 100k miles??? Just thinking about it has my blood pressure climbing….

    The final 22k miles were relatively uneventful, except for that oil consumption issue. At 124k miles, a Ford F250 ran a red light and t-boned me as a I made a left turn. Even as the paramedics were rolling me into the ambulance, I couldn’t help but smile knowing that NO ONE would ever drive that car again!!!

    • 0 avatar

      Guy, you put over 100k on a brand new car in a period of around 3 years, that’s not what anyone would call average miles to put on a car. With that kind of constant usage, I’m surprised that’s all that happened to it.

      • 0 avatar

        The ’93 Civic LX before it racked up 188k miles in less than four years and the only thing it ever needed (other than routine maintenance and 90k timing belt changes) was a radiator at around 150k. And half of those miles were delivering pizza and newspapers, very HARD miles.

        The used ’95 Acura Legend I replaced the Accord with drove like a dream with 227k miles on the clock when it was totaled in 2005! Never needed a thing that wasn’t on the maintenance schedule.

        Besides, the Accord was mostly highway miles. Camshaft seals should not disintegrate every 30-40k miles either, in any car.

        Anyway, Honda finally lost my interest with the ’06 Civic redesign and the ’08 Accord was the final nail in the coffin, so to speak. I’ve moved on to Mazda and Volvo….the Mazda3 has had a few issues in the 6.5yrs I’ve owned it, the Volvo is only a few years old, so too soon to tell….

    • 0 avatar

      A buddy had one of those Accords. He called me up and asked to use my tools. Oh and could I come tow him over to my house with my tow dolly? CR-V to the rescue!

      We changed out the camseals and Honda had two little steel cam seal retainers that would bolt on. Cost nearly nothing. Took an extra 2 mins to install with the cams. If you were repeatedly having this problem then I’d argue that one – Honda didn’t size the cam seals to have enough press fit to retain them and 2 – your dealer did you no favors by not installing these cam seal retainers. Surely a dealer would know about these???

      FWIW I have the same 16V 2.0L in that same CR-V and it has 242K miles on it now and never has the cam seals been pushed out. I changed my seals at around 160K when I was replacing the timing belt as a regular maintenance item. I typically replace all the seals at around then since they are are exposed during the cam belt replacment.

      Sometimes I think people’s car problems arise from their inept local dealers as much or more than the quality of the vehicle.

  • avatar

    ’89 Taurus – 3.8 V6 w/AOXD trans

    It had been my mother’s for the first 26k miles/5 years of it’s life. I donated it at 111k miles because I couldn’t stand the idea of passing that heap onto someone knowingly.

    During the time I owned it, I –

    Put 3 new transmissions in it
    Put 3 new power steering pumps in it
    Put a new head gasket in the engine (at about 55k miles)

    It was a comfortable car on the freeways. Rode beautifully, had a nice sized trunk and it was decent looking. But if it wasn’t leaking one engine oil, it was leaking tranny fluid…or power steering fluid……or SOMETHING.

  • avatar

    Best was a 82 k-car sold it to pizza delivery guy for $250 but, with 635k on it, mind you it did go thru a can of oil a fillup.

    worst- 70′ mgb total money pit. everything is wrong on that car even when new, still I was shy to get into a fiat prior to buying it. finally sold it to a mechanic/body guy.

    rule learned if stupid enough to ever buy old car, body work costs 5x more than mechanical.

    • 0 avatar

      To me – if a person doesn’t want to learn to do the repair work themselves or if they aren’t rich – pass on the old car. They need alot of old design related TLC and they need alot of TLC to overcome the previous owners’ collective neglect.

  • avatar

    Mine would be the very car that appears as my avatar: ’86 Omni GLH Turbo.
    Once I realized this car existed, i knew I had to have it. I eventually found one at a used car lot for $3000 (a good price at the time.) Within a month, I had a blown head gasket. That was when I should have sent that car packing, but I loved that car. Replaced a total of 3 head gaskets, 3rd gear, half axle, and many other lesser troubles. Ended up letting the car sit at a relative’s house when I moved out of state. The decision to junk the car was a painful one, but needed to happen.
    Yet, even with all those headaches, I would pick up another one (assuming I could get a complete history…)

  • avatar

    1981 Camaro Z28, bought used for $5000 in 1983. Fully loaded (A/C, electric windows, T-roof, best of all – a standard transmission!). Spent lots of money on ‘upgrades’ – new cams, manifold, carb, exhaust system, suspension, 300W stereo, etc. So, kind of a voluntary money pit at first. For a year, the car was a dream, with an engine roar like the Tyranosaurus from Jurassic Park, capable of sending hardened bike couriers scurrying for the sidewalks. Ah, to be young and dumb!

    Then the issues started. Oil leaks. Gasoline leaks. Freon leaks. Water leaks through the T-roof. Windshield washer fluid leaks, for crying out loud. Brake fluid leaks – mostly from the Hurst Line Lock I installed that was not rated for -40 Calgary winters and blew out as I sailed through a red light one dark, cold (and fortunately empty of traffic) night. Every time I fixed one thing, another would pop up. The stiff Rancho suspension made the car handle superbly, but this was hard on tires and the car started shaking itself to pieces. After replacing a failed alternator, starter, and more headlight bulbs than anyone would believe, the final straw was when the timing chain ate through the timing chain cover, so that oil would shoot out the front if it was filled more than halfway up.

    Fully fixed, it was disposed of at the local Ford dealer as a trade-in for a showroom floor 1985 Ford Mustang GT. The two salesmen who took it for a test drive came back a little pale. Power AND handling – in a CAMARO? Able to make right-hand turns at 20 mph without body roll or tire noise? I got all of my initial purchase price and a little bit more in trade…which was still less than half of what I’d spent in total over two years. And yet, that’s still my favorite car after all this time. I have to keep telling myself that the car was a pit in 1983, how could owning one now and ‘restoring’ it be any better?

  • avatar
    Ashy Larry

    In March of 2006 I purchased a clean, 15k mile, manual transmission CPO Volkswagen Golf TDI. In the next 3 months it required:

    — AC recharge
    — brake rotor replacement (way out of round)
    — two (not one, two) transmissions
    — replacement door seals because the driver and passenger side seals fell off
    — replacement skid plate underneath
    — trim piece replacement

    A true Monday morning car. Desperate to get rid of it (my daughter had just been norn and I was getting some nasty stinkeye from my wife for all the time I had to spend ferrying the car to the dealer, nevermind that I had lost trust that it would ever function well enough to carry my daughter anywhere), I sold it in June of 2006 at a $3k loss. I will likely never buy a VW again.

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