New Or Used? : Darwin Riding Shotgun Edition
I bought my first car six months ago, a dark green 2002 Subaru Impreza 2.5 TS. I purchased it from a local dealership for $5,800 with 97,100 miles on the odometer. Stick-shift, Subaru AWD, and sticky studded snows made this a solid candidate for the harsh Vermont winters. And while this past snowy season didn’t turn out to be too frightening, the car did.
About a month after purchase, my mechanic threw it up on the lift and showed me that my rear subframe was laced with rust and together by a thread. He said that the car was becoming more dangerous to drive and that resolving the situation (new frame, struts, cables) would set me back $1,500 at least. A month later the Subie got involved in a late night tussle with a deer, and the deer won. This repair needed to be made as the deer left the scene with my headlight for a necklace. I got a buddy to reconstruct the face of my car for $500 — headlight, new bumper, etc. I kept driving the heap despite my mechanic’s earlier warnings that soon the frame would fall out and I’d be propelling the thing like my name was Flintstone.
But the final blow came last month when coolant and oil began leaking out onto the engine. By this point the car has only 110,000 on it but Subaru’s are notorious for needing head gasket repairs around this mileage. It was time for me to think about my options. This new diagnosis would set me back another $2,000.
So the sum total of what I would need to put into this car — between frame and engine — would be near-as-makes-no-difference $3,500-4,000 to keep it going. By this point I think it’s a no-brainer. Ditch the Subie and pick up a late nineties Corolla with few miles. I just hate giving up on something I’ve driven a sinful 16,000 miles.
The only help I can give you is prayer.
“Heavenly father. I pray that you will give this young lad the wisdom of Darwin and the fear of the most conservative of Camry drivers.”
A frame hanging by a thread represents death on the road. At the salvage auctions you will sometimes see these rustbuckets totaled to the point where the survival of the prior occupant was between doubtful and impossible. You will also see the word ‘Biohazard’ scrawled on the windshield to reflect the residue left from the rotting corpse that once occupied the driver seat.
Cars that have severe rust issues end up with failing brake lines, broke axles, defective sub frames, and all sorts of steering nastiness when you are traveling at rates of speed that endanger you and every other human being in your domain.
You can kill people. You can kill yourself. If you want funny on the open road, go ride a lawnmower.
This is what you do. Sell the vehicle at a public auction that is frequented by dealers. Sell it with the following announcement, “AS/IS, Frame Damage, Parts Only, Dealer Bid Only, No Individuals”.
The auction should have a specific bill of sale for “parts only” vehicles. Sell it. Sign it. Consider your cost a cheap education compared to what could have been.
I hope you learned your lesson, don’t buy an older car without a Pre-Purchase Inspection. A PPI woulda spotted the subframe rot rather quickly, and been worth every penny spent.
That’s for next time. Now you dump this machine with all kinds of warnings (and a Bill of Sale stating it’s sold AS-IS with frame damage) for the next owner. Should you buy a Corolla? Maybe. But any FWD machine with snow tires will be adequate, and some of them have decent suspensions too. Sure, it ain’t a Subie, but that’s also a good thing in some respects.
Go test drive some sporty FWD machines (Focus, Civic, any Mazda, etc) in your price range and, for the love of all that’s right in this world, get a PPI this time!!!
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