By on September 25, 2013

James writes:


My question is – when should I sell my current car? Our family runs a 2004 Pontiac Vibe with 109k miles. It is our only car and it seems to run better since it broke the 100k mark. It has been exceptionally reliable, cheap to own, and gets excellent mileage – I get 29mpg average! We like being a one car family and intent to keep it that way unless we suddenly become independently wealthy.

I gave up my ’06 civic coupe for the Vibe in a purely pragmatic move to accommodate our newborn child and high energy dog in the back. I didn’t expect to like it, but it has turned out to be a really good car and I seem to like it incrementally a little more each day. Although we’ve grown to really like the car (to our surprise), it is basically an appliance to us. We use it to commute, get groceries and the occasional road trip.

I read in the Fiesta ST Review that engines are often engineered to last 150k miles, and I’m often pondering when is the typical right moment, miles-wise to let go of the Vibe and replace it with some other reliable used car.

The way I see it, there are the first three years or so of car ownership where the cash expended in depreciation is way higher than the utility returned. Then there is a sweet spot of value which lasts about 10 years where the car is actually giving back the most for the money spent. After that, there is a mystery period I have yet to experience where, while the car is cheap as dirt to run, a great deal of time is spent with it out of service getting growing maintenance repairs.

Is this an accurate evaluation of the car value timeline? And if so, can you give some insight into when (in miles) is a good time to let go of the car in a one-vehicle house hold.

Sajeev answers:

Your general timeline (second to last paragraph) is fair, can’t say the same for the 150k miles reference: there is far too much variance in engine design, driving conditions and ownership maintenance schedules to draw that line in the sand. So to speak.

A car’s “value timeline” is a good resource for accountants planning a company/government vehicle depreciation schedule. For everyone else, I think it’s a crock. A pot-hole beaten suspension may cost $3000 to restore in 10-15 years, but will the owner even notice enough to care?  Will one vehicle need the same repairs as another?  An extreme example is comparing an AMG Benz driven on brutal NYC roads versus a Honda Accord in a far tamer rural/suburban setting. One size fits all is simply a notion that cannot exist.

Another issue: some body/trim levels need less repair than others. Compare your heavier Vibe to the light Corolla from whence it came. Or take my 2011 Ranger regular cab to any other truck:  with the same brakes (4-whl discs) and suspension as an Explorer from the Clinton Era but with about 800lbs less weight on its shoulders, my need for brake/tire/suspension reconditioning shall be far less frequent.  In two years and almost 20,000 miles, my truck’s tires and brakes look new: they are completely overbuilt for the tiny truck in which they reside. I don’t expect my truck to need repairs like an Explorer, or even a super cab Ranger with a big V6, longer wheelbase and rear drum brakes.

But will the anomaly of an Overbuilt Economy Variant of a common platform be represented on someone’s spreadsheet? Not likely.

Back to the point: there is no “one size fits all” timeline.  The schedule is different for everyone, and everything they may choose to drive.  And where they drive it. And, most importantly, one’s irrational/unexpected need to want something new for reasons yet to be explained. You ain’t never gonna find that on a timeline, but it happens all the time: marinate on that.


Send your queries to [email protected]com. Spare no details and ask for a speedy resolution if you’re in a hurry…but be realistic, and use your make/model specific forums instead of TTAC for more timely advice.


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88 Comments on “Piston Slap: Bad Vibes from The “Value” Timeline...”

  • avatar

    “I read in the Fiesta ST Review that engines are often engineered to last 150k miles, and I’m often pondering when is the typical right moment, miles-wise to let go of the Vibe and replace it with some other reliable used car.”

    engines (and other components) are tested under conditions which simulate 150,000 miles, which means they should last *at least* that long. It doesn’t mean they’ll go bang at 150,001 miles.

    • 0 avatar

      Nor will the turbos on these engines. :)

      A decade newer car should have more safety features along with more conviences. Plus it should be allot more quieter than economy cars of yore.

    • 0 avatar

      It is my understanding that the 150k standard is more of a testing thing for the entire engine. eg water pump, alternator, etc not the internal engine. Its a factory policy that requires the engineers to determine why one of those parts failed during that period and then fix it. In the real world they may last longer, or even fail sooner.

      As for your Vibe, I would drive it until you want/need something better or a major component fails.

      • 0 avatar

        +1. It would’ve been nice if you said how MUCH you drive per year, but regardless – if it doesn’t have problems and you’re not irritated with it (pleasant/boring isn’t an issue), keep it! You’re not spending much on it, it’s actually a Corolla underneath, and it’s depreciated fully by now. Use it til something big breaks (which I suspect will be a while as long as you maintain it with oil/transmission stuff) and when it goes bang get something else.

        • 0 avatar

          It got 10650 miles on it in 2012. Is driven on main suburban roads

          • 0 avatar

            So at your current rate of driving, you have ~13 years until your engine blows up at 150k. You do like to plan ahead!

          • 0 avatar

            GiddyHitch – Bahahahaha! I guess I do like to plan ahead, and it would be awesome to set up a savings account now so when time comes to buy the replacement it is bought entirely in cash whatever it might be. Paying cash for things creates the requirement to plan ahead and evaluate doesn’t it?

  • avatar

    I’ve always suspected the “Overbuilt Economy Variant of a common platform” was the key to Japanese durability. Since the segments are generally shifted up a size here, you can take an executive saloon or family car that is poshly outfitted in foreign markets, decontent it for a more value oriented segment, and you have a car that is somewhat overbuilt compared to home-grown cars.

    It seems that some of the luster came off of Toyota and Honda’s silver dollars when they started building large NA-only versions of their Accords and Camrys, and larger minivans such as the NA-Odyssey, and concurrently the Detroit started using the same tactic with their overseas arms and affiliates (Mazda, Volvo, Euro-Ford, Opel, Daewoo)

    • 0 avatar

      The sort of bizarre flip side of that equation, is I find Acuras (you know, Hondas loaded to the gills with options) to need jump starting more frequently than most cars I deal with for work (loaded Hondas along with, to a lesser extent, loaded Toyotas and Toyota-based Lexii are similar). I have to assume the electrical systems are optimized for the mass market models, and suffer under the load of too many accessories.

      • 0 avatar

        Honda and Toyota also like use the smallest battery possible, to save weight, and have them built with the minimum cranking amps to get the job done when they are new, to save money. So the OE batteries don’t last that long particularly in an environment that is not mild year round. Even in a mild climate they rarely last more than 3 years. The aftermarket battery will usually last a fair amount longer since they start out with more CCA.

        • 0 avatar

          I don’t know if that only applies to only Toyota cars and CUV’s or not, but I can say that the original Panasonic battery installed in my 4Runner just finally gave up the ghost 2 months ago, after 10 years and 135K on it.

          • 0 avatar

            That Panasonic battery did really well1 I have a Panasonic in my hybrid Altima for starting and regular (non hybrid) use. 4 years and all is well. My Ford Probe GT went 8 years on the original Motorcraft, 8 more years on the Motorcraft replacement, and batt #3 is a Sears. I always thought anything over 7 was great in an environment that has winter.

          • 0 avatar

            Wow that battery lige seems kind of crazy to me. The longest I’ve gone on a battery was the original one on our Rnault Logan. It went 4 yrs and a half before being substituted. That’s the longest I remember. The fact is I’ve changed cars much too frequently in the past, so I really don’t know what’s to be expected. The longevity in the Renault’s battery called my attention especially since the car before it, a Fiat Palio needed a new battery every 3 yrs or so. I thought that was pretty bad, even by Brazilian standards.

          • 0 avatar

            9.5 years and 80k miles on my OE Panasonic, with no signs of deterioration.

            This year, I finally had to replace the Exide I put in my mother’s Sunfire 9 years and 150k miles ago.

            A Canadian prairie climate is easy on batteries. Heat is hard on batteries, and complete discharge is very, very hard on batteries.

          • 0 avatar

            OEM battery lasted 6 years in my 2005 Scion tC (it was a Panasonic) and 6 years in the Celica before it… buddy went 7 years in his CR-V before his battery died. Conversely my 2008 Saturn Sky needed a new battery when I traded it in 2012.

  • avatar

    I think a key variable here is your particular car. It runs well and has had few problems. You know what those problems are. If you replace it, and buy a “new” used car or even a new car, what problems are you potentially buying? Specific cars matter.

    Our 2007 Lexus RX 350 should be a reliable car. Instead it has required 3 wheel bearing replacements, new battery, both struts on the right side, and other more minor issues in our 4 years of ownership. It eats brakes and tires rapidly as well (brakes and suspension are under-built in my opinion, the opposite of Sajeev’s Ranger). My 07 328xi supposedly will cost me money and has been solid as a rock.

    It’s the grass is always greener scenario. You got a good Vibe. When it ceases to meet your needs, has insufficient safety equipment or starts to break down, then you move on. Our Lexus will be gone soon.

    • 0 avatar
      Chicago Dude

      It could be that Vibes are just good.

      My brother in law has one; I think it’s slightly older than 2004. It’s got around 175,000 miles on it and is perfectly reliable. Far more reliable than their other car, a Toyota Sienna.

      • 0 avatar

        I have nearly 275,000 miles on my ’06. Nothing but fluid & rubber changes. James must put his foot in it, as I consistently get 33 mpg. Disclaimer: 95% highway use factors into longevity and mileage.

      • 0 avatar

        My boss has a manual Vibe beater (with leather!) and it has something like 165K, he’s never had a problem with it. His son drives it regularly and is hard on it too. He has some bad pixels in the stereo display, that’s all.

    • 0 avatar

      Egad, are you sure that yours wasn’t in an accident? The wife’s 07 RX350 needed a climate control module and roof rack latch replaced under the CPO warranty, otherwise it has been rock solid over more than 3 years and 43k miles with no accelerated consumables wear.

    • 0 avatar

      The RX 350 is the opposite of the Overbuilt Economy Variant: it is the Underbuilt Luxury Variant, in that the Camry underpinnings aren’t as durable, when weighed down by the heavier, SUV chassis (similar to when VW took the adequate Beetle motor and put it into the larger Kombi). As for the Vibe: I drove the Toyota version (Matrix) and was underwhelmed by the cheap interior and poor gas mileage (20mpg in mixed driving). Needless to say, I bought a Subaru.

      • 0 avatar

        I’m apparently turning into an RX350 defender, but it definitely isn’t an Underbuilt Luxury Variant. It looks and feels the part, and 270hp from the modern 3.5L V6 have no trouble motivating the relatively svelte 4000lbs of soccer mom SUV. You must have been thinking of Lincoln, Acura, etc.

  • avatar

    I’m one of the minority of folks who thought the late model Buicks should have gone exclusively to China, and Pontiac should have been retained in the States. So, no surprise that I applaud this owners decision to buy the Vibe in the first place. I liked Sajeev’s advice. And, when this owner chooses to unload the Vibe when it no longer meets his family’s needs, I trust him to make another informed choice.

  • avatar

    I’m still driving my 01 Focus every day (although not my only car) and my plan is to keep it well maintained, but when major repairs loom I will pull the plug.

    Obviously having the Vibe as your only vehicle skews your value calculation somewhat, because if it lets you down it’s quite inconvenient. But since the Vibe is nearly worthless now keep on going, but keep running the value calculation in the back of your head and have some idea of what you’d like to replace it with.
    That way when the time comes you can make the decision and follow through quickly.

    Good luck, and kudos to you for resisting societal pressure to have new new new.

    • 0 avatar
      Aleister Crowley

      I don’t think his Vibe is nearly worthless. They hold their value surprisingly well due to their well known reliability. They are extremely practical cars with fold flat front passenger seats and opening hatch glass. Features that are uncommon in many of today’s econo-hatches.

  • avatar

    How useful is a used oil analysis in determining the health of the engine (and transmission for that matter)?

    • 0 avatar

      IF you find a quality place it can be somewhat useful but doesn’t tell the entire story. I’ve seen some places that people have checked their work by sending in more than one sample drawn at the same time and got back significantly different results. Check out Bobisthoilguy and see who they recommend. One thing is that you need to do it semi regularly so you can see a trend and it isn’t cheap, last I looked it was $25+ per sample.

  • avatar

    James, you are in a great position to ramp up your savings and build up some asset value. You should set up a special purpose savings account, and every month put an amount equal to your expected car payment into the account. You can dip into the fund for maintenance on the Vibe, but other than that keep building up the account until you have a big enough downpayment for your next car to never be “upside down” on the loan.

    By the way, when you do look at new cars, I suggest that you look at the Ford C-Max, the Toyota Prius and the Toyota Prius V. The C-Max has just as much cargo room as your Vibe, is faster 0-60, has more safety and convenience features, and gets half again as much gas mileage. Trade some space, quickness and quietness for even more MPG and you can get a Prius. Trade quickness for more cargo room and get a Prius V.

    • 0 avatar

      Thank you Conslaw! I’ve mentally bookmarked the C-max for used purchase along with the Prii – and am right with you on those suggestions. The thought of setting up a fund for next car savings had occurred to me, but also using it as “back up” for maintenance purchases for some reason hadn’t. Very helpful.

      • 0 avatar

        You have a reliable car with barely 100k on the clock. Unless you just get sick of it, by the time you NEED a new car the cars for sale will be pretty different.

        Relax and enjoy your Vibe for years to come.

        • 0 avatar

          Yup. Plus, repairing an otherwise reliable car when a big repair or maintenance item comes up is almost always a better value proposition than getting into a different car. Even if you need a $3k engine or tranny replacement, what kind of used car does $3k buy you and what sort of repairs will THAT car need?

          • 0 avatar

            I agree, the Vibe/Matrix twins were great cars with utility to spare. Give it a good detail, clean up some nicks in the paint and drive it till something close to the value of the car itself starts to break and trade it right before it does. If you drive like I do, probably around 175-200k should be a good trading point. Hopefully you will have a new car fund to go along with the still admirable resale of this last of breed NUMMI.

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    They key to your analysis is not some mythical time line. Rather, it is your tolerance for the inconvenience of having your only car in the shop, and the availability of inexpensive, competent repair capabilities. For ordinary folks like you and me (as opposed to businesses that depreciate cars as a tax deduction), the relevant cost of the car you are driving is NOT what you could sell it for; it’s what it would cost you to replace it — typically a much higher number. The current family cars in my household are an ’01 Z3, an ’02 Saab 9-5 aero wagon and an ’08 Pilot. I’ve owned the BMW since ’03 and the others since new. The Saab is the most likely candidate for the scrap pile. It has about 100k, both main oil seals are leaking and the automatic transmission misbehaves. Replacing the oil seals is a $4000 job, even at an independent shop in the country which is cheap, mostly because the engine has to be removed from the car to do it. The autobox you don’t fix; you just replace it. An equal number of dollars as the oil seal job. My daughter, who’s been driving the car for the past 3 years, has banged up the body here and there. So, it really doesn’t seem to make sense to have either of those repairs done. When my daughter leaves the country next year for her Peace Corps assignment, the car gets sold.

    The Honda has been — true to reputation — stone reliable with about 80K miles.

    The BMW has not been bad — I replaced all of the parts in the vulnerable cooling system myself, about 18 months ago. That cost about $1,000 plus an afternoon of my time. At this point, certain parts of the BMW — like the drivers' seat and the plastic rear window in the convertible top — are showing age-related wear. Still, it makes no sense not to replace those items (or buy a set of seat covers) and continue to maintain the car, which has only 71k miles.

    The key fact is that your car, and my two older cars, have essentially stopped depreciating. So, if we replaced any of those cars with a 3-year old car, even one that needed no repairs in the first two years of our ownership, we'd still be paying the hidden cost of depreciation, which is several thousand dollars annually.

    My theory: if you like a car, then keep it. The new ones aren't that much better.

  • avatar
    30-mile fetch

    You have a Toyota Corolla wagon with only 110K on it and a known maintenance/ownership experience. And you like the car. It would be ridiculous to trade it in on another used car with an unknown ownership history, particularly if running costs and reliability are your top concerns.

    Keep it, keep up on maintenance, and the statistical odds are in your favor that you will have a reliable and cheap ride for a number of years to come.

    • 0 avatar

      +1 on the fact that a Vibe is basically a Corolla wagon.

      The maintenance on an old car will always be cheaper than buying a new/used car and making payments. My rule of thumb on replacing cars is to wait until the cost of repairs exceeds what I’d pay in car payments for a year–or $300 to $400/month.

  • avatar


    A Vibe is a Toyota Matrix twin, and should share Toyota reliability. It was made at the NUMMI factory.
    If a fifth door isn’t a must, try the new Corolla, it sure represents the new Toyota design and will be a very reliable car.

  • avatar

    The key to your timeline is time–that sweet spot has an end as well. Most cars (regardless of miles) start to experience failures with systems and components that are not related to driving. These include things like power-seat motors, wiper motors, radios, window mechanisms and switches, interior and exterior trim, and so on. Typically these problems start at around 10-12 years and start becoming a serious cash headache at about 12-14 years. If you’re handy and your vehicle has good forum support, you can deal with these on weekends with used parts for a while, but . . . .

    Looking back I’ve always regretted keeping a car beyond its 13th birthday. The worst was a Volvo 850 that I could easily have sold at 12 years for $3,500 but spent $4,000 over the next two years and sold for $600. That may have seemed cheaper than a monthly car payment, but the car felt unreliable and the love was gone.

    Identify recent models that check all the boxes for you and have a plan (cash/finance) in place to acquire one coming off a 2- or 3-year lease. That way you can minimize the downtime while buying the replacement and start your ownership at the beginning of the sweet spot.

  • avatar
    Nicholas Weaver

    A +1 to “keep it until it breaks” since you like it.

    At this point, most of the depreciation has already happened, so the amount of additional depreciation that will occur is minor even if it does just fall apart into a thousand pieces.

    Basically, car ownership has three life/cost stages:

    Stage 1: Depreciation.

    Stage 3: Bleed you with mantinence.

    And in between, you MAY have “stage 2”: happy ownership, where the car isn’t depreciating but isn’t costing your repairs. Some cars (*cough* german *cough*) have a short/nonexistent stage 2, others have a long stage 2.

    Since you like the car, and are in stage 2, keep the car until either you want something new and shiny OR it enters stage 3.

  • avatar
    Felix Hoenikker


    I don’t recall you stating the type of tranny in your Vibe. I always believed that AT’s are the limiting factor in the life of a car. The cost of replacing an automatic in a 10+ yer old car is often more than book value of the car. A manual transmission repair consisiting of replacing the clutch is much cheaper than installing a rebuilt tranny at 150K+ miles.
    If you have an automatic transmission, I would base my decision to keept or sell the car on the health of the tranny coupled with it’s maitenance history.

    • 0 avatar

      It’s a 5 speed manual! :)

      • 0 avatar

        Win! Honestly, that drivetrain should be good for far more than 150K if you take care of it. I’d plan on keeping it until it starts making too many trips to the shop, or you get sick of it. Or look at getting something new at about 180K and keeping the Vibe as a second car, if you’re only putting a few thou a year on it at that point, it would last about forever.

      • 0 avatar
        Aleister Crowley

        I’d keep it. BTW Toyota Camry Hybrid taxis in New York City routinely have 300,000 miles on the ODO. So I think your Vibe has a long way to go.

        • 0 avatar

          Wow… good info.

          My ‘lil Toyota is already leading a high-mileage life – 2.5 years, 49,000 miles. I’m hoping that the combo of a Toyota 4-banger and a stick shift proves as reliable as the Vibe in this blog post, and the Toyota taxis in NYC.

  • avatar

    I will chime in and agree with the general sentiment. I am currently riding my 02 Alero 2.2L 5 speed (281kms/174k miles) for all its worth (which is very little to anyone else but yours truly) until it wont go any more. But with routine maintenance, it just keeps going and I know it is saving me money every km I put on it.

    So, ride it till it quits, but that’s likely a ways off. The Vibe is a decent automobile.

  • avatar

    Thank you Sajeev for your thoughtful reply to my question! + all the truly constructive comments and suggestions. These are diamonds!

  • avatar

    One other consideration is insurance – on my 2000 Corolla we are paying $96 every six months, but we do not have comprehensive. Also, my wife does drive the kids around in a two year old minivan, so they do not run the risk of a breakdown like a 14 year old car.

    At 176,000 miles, the engine burns oil and is clattery in the morning (typical for this engine and model year), but it starts and runs without an issue. The driver’s door is rusting, and my goal is to keep it long enough to see the day when I can replace the door with a completely different colored junkyard door. That will give the neighbors something to talk about out here in upscale suburbia.

    I have a ballpark figure of how much I’d be willing to spend on a major repair, but suffice to say a new engine or tranny (and maybe the A/C too) would probably put it over that limit.

    I’d be looking for cheap to buy and own, and pay cash. Maybe a two year old Mitsubishi Mirage come 2016 or so.

  • avatar

    My current vehicle “fleet” is:
    2008 Prius (53mpg lifetime average FE…. 4.4L/100km)
    2008 Matrix (33mpg lifetime average FE…. 7.0L/100km…. yea, the 4 speed auto does JUST FINE)

    I have to tell you, the Matrix/Vibe are great cars. They seem super durable, return excellent FE, and are easy to sell. You can’t go wrong keeping it and I am pretty sure you will always be able to sell it rather easily.

    And as I always like to do, I have to give a shout out to the Prius. THE BEST car I have ever owned (I have owned many).
    – roomy
    – quiet
    – reliable
    – great cash-flow booster if you drive alot

    Can’t wait for the next-gen Prius with a further developed HSD system…. BUT, the Accord Hybrid returning 50mpg city has me very intrigued…. Can’t wait to go test one out….

    • 0 avatar

      Yeah, but you have to live with the embarrassment and cultural ridicule associated with being a Prius owner!

      • 0 avatar

        I see what you did there but I’ll say this, I’m intrigued by the HSD system and rumored high build quality of Prius, but I will never own one for the social stigma, the sheer egg like “styling”, and a center placed dash cluster (yes I’m that much of a nit-picker). I’ve always found it odd the HSD just didn’t become a standard drive-train on other models (or even available, such as Corolla and Matrix). I’d envision a brand offering of HSD on every mainstream model and an “up” trim with a kick-ass V6, but again I realize there are many variables in play.

        • 0 avatar

          I’ve not heard any social stigma against Priuses aside from the mouth breather, Michelob-case-in-the-back, bail-bondsman-on-speed-dial 3rd-Gen-F-body crowd, or the “Jesus Wants me to drive this Hummer” types.
          (stigmas are fun!)

          Most people seem generally intrigued by Priuses, but wish they had a 7-pax model… and I’m a military member living in South Texas!

        • 0 avatar

          Which is why I love my Altima. It looks like a regular Altima, and it has a traditional looking interior. I really like the info center in the Prii that I have driven, but the materials in the model years I have experience in (2007 thru 2009) were rather cheap. The split dash is lame. The stereo sucks, too. The Altima’s cheap materials are all down low and it has a Maxima-grade stereo. The “image” problem is not an problem at all, at least around here. The ability to use the HOV lanes in rush hour has put a number of openly hostile, anti-environment closed minded types that I know behind the wheel of the Prius. Yeah, rush hour is that bad….

          • 0 avatar

            I’m 6’2, 220 and blare All Eyez On Me as I pull up in silence to intersections. The last thing I feel is ridicule.

            The joy of hammering out 2pac while driving in HSD silence is actually more fun then banging off 3rd to 4th redline shifts in a Honda J series screamer…..

            And now some words from our dearly departed 2pac:

            Strapped and angry, with no hope and heartbroke
            Fightin first my trained brain until it’s not so
            It’s hostile, ni**az lick shots to watch the glocks glow
            Cadres of coppers patrol us like we some animals
            And it ain’t no peace, my peace a piece on my streets
            to people beefin and things, squeakin on they beefs for weeks
            Mr. President, it’s evident, nobody really care
            for a struggle out the gutter, twenty-two with gray hair
            I was raised to raise hell, frail and my heart stale
            So I’ma bring hell to earth until my heart fail
            But y’all play fair, give me and mine, I’ll share
            Til y’all show us you care, it’s gon’ be mayhem out here
            Me and these 223’sll freeze the biggest with ease
            I’m still a ni**a you fear, bring the beast to his knees
            and I’ve been born to represent, for that I’ve been heaven sent
            And I meant, every word, in my letter, to the President

          • 0 avatar

            It ain’t nothing but a party when we thug…

            And don’t forget, the Prius is the best choice for your next drive-by. But don’t take my word for it:

      • 0 avatar

        I feel sorry for you that you feel this way. Only the size of ones ego would result in feeling any embarrassment.

        It’s funny. I pump in 20 litres and know full well I will see 300 miles of range out of that fuel. That satisfaction can’t be replaced by 13.5 second 1/4 mile times, 19 inch rims, or “good steering feedback”

        The Prius is a fantastic car.

        What’s really crazy? The cash it saves me will make that C6 Z06 or Gen II Viper GTS a reality for me in the future.

        Beautiful isn’t it?
        Big displacement American pushrod Sports car on the weekend, Toyota HSD bliss on the weekday. Match made in heaven.

        In all seriousness; the Prius is a great family car.

  • avatar

    Drive it until something major breaks.

    After 150k miles, you probably are getting closer to a major repair if you haven’t had it already, but the car is worth next to nothing if you sell it now.

    I’m guessing a 10 year old Pontiac Vibe with 150k miles is worth $3k-$4k? If you go another year without a major repair, it’s already paid for itself, that’s close to the sales tax for a new car.

    Looking through a purely financial lens, the cheapest car is almost always the one you already have, even if it has a lot of miles. People greatly overestimate the cost of repairs and ignore the much bigger cost of depreciation when you buy a new(er) car.

  • avatar

    The Pontiac Vibe was built at NUMMI side-by-side to the Corolla, the Matrix was built in Ontario, Canada – NUMMI could not support right hand drive assembly for export.

    The 1.8L 4-banger is as reliable as the sunrise, and the Vibe. in non-GT form has proven to be very reliable. 109K miles is basically just broken in. If it’s still running and the accessories work, you could easily have another 6 to 8 years. As noted by many above – YMMV based on conditions. My sister has a ’97 Camry LE with 250K miles – but it is in a temperate climate, garage kept at home and work, never had kids or pets, is driven mostly open highway miles during non-rush hour periods, and goes to the dealer for service. If she lived in say downtown Seattle, this car would likely be circling the drain now.

  • avatar

    this part of my comment is more to Sajeev – the Ranger may have overbuilt brakes and suspension, but wait until you have to start replacing the “little bits” (cooling system components, door handles, heater core and fan) before overpraising the little truck too much.

    A lot of the Ranger represents the “built to low price point” spec. Parts that you can’t see without removing stuff are the low end of the quality spectrum.

    The Vibe (and Matrix step-sibling) seem to be built from the top quality end of the parts bin.

    James – keep it until repairs start costing as much as a new vehicle. That’s my dad’s advice, and it has stood me in great stead for several years, and has cost me a small fortune the times I ignored it. The Vibe is a great little hauler, and should be good for another 100K miles. YMMV of course.

  • avatar
    Christian Gulliksen

    I owned a 2004 Vibe GT with a six-speed manual for eight years. The only major repairs it required in 175,000 miles were a new clutch and a new radiator. Incredibly reliable and inexpensive to own. It looked great and was running perfectly when I sold it.

    Since the standard drivetrain is an even safer long-term bet, I’d hold on to your Vibe until you hit a repair that costs more than you can justify spending — at 109,000 miles, I imagine that’s a long way off.

  • avatar

    My wife has a 2005 Pontiac Vibe which is creeping up on 90,000 miles. She is the first owner and even had to order the car and await delivery because of the orange metallic paint and 5-speed manual she insisted on. The 100,000 mile service is fast approaching and it will be done but it is the first real maintenance shot other than 3rd gear in the trans going bad at 40,000 miles – something which is frighteningly common on these cars. I anticipate that if she wishes to keep it to well over 100,000 miles I anticipate that 3rd gear might need replacement again.

    She’ll buy another car at some point sooner rather than later but I know she is Pontiac obsessed and will want to hold on to it as a 2nd or 3rd car just because she is emotionally attached.

    If you want to keep it keep it. Every day driving it is a day without payments. You’ll want to start saving money so if something big does happen you can decide whether to fix it or use the saved money as a nice fat down payment on something new.

  • avatar

    I too, am with the drive it until it dies club. I have an 03 Matrix with 150k miles on it.

    Major repairs have been a couple of clutches (1. being a stupid mistake on my part, 2. teaching both of my daughters how to drive a stick), Shocks and struts, and an emission repair requiring everything from the cat converter on back to be replaced. It has been a rock solid car overall.

    It will now serve out its life as a lightly used second car

    Your only concern should be is that this is your only car

    • 0 avatar

      Your only concern should be is that this is your only car.

      Which is why they should save money now, keep the Vibe – current KBB trade in value is less than $4000. Buy another car with down payment money saved and then they’re not at the mercy of the Vibe.

      • 0 avatar

        Hey PD,

        Can you clarify your advice a touch? Are you suggesting saving up and buying a second vehicle prior to the Vibe tanking, or saving up until the Vibe tanks and then being ready to immediately buy a replacement vehicle?

        The reason I asked is that James stated they are happy being a single car family, and many of us singles are single car families as well. I currently subscribe to the “put money not being used as a car payment away for when old reliable (previously noted 280k kms Alero) finally dies” plan.

        • 0 avatar

          When the old used vehicle finally dies, or undergoes some temporary breakdown and spends a day in the shop, it’s nice to have some secondary vehicle to take you to work.

          It can be something fun and impractical, like a motorcycle or a Miata or whatever, but it should be street-legal and roadworthy.

        • 0 avatar

          @dave, So right now they have a 2003 Pontiac Vibe that they know the complete service history of and it’s value as a used car is less than $4000.

          Keep the Vibe but start saving for a new car. When a decent chunk of change is saved up buy something new – enough that the down payment makes the monthly payment very manageable under whatever the OPs budget is. Keep the new car and the Vibe. If it helps reduce the insurance on the Vibe to liability and bodily injury.

          Boom, now you are a two car family and it really didn’t cost much of anything. Trading in the Vibe would bring almost nothing and after buying the new vehicle they would still be a ONE car family.

          Use the Vibe as a “run about” and keep the mileage down on the new vehicle.

      • 0 avatar

        @ “Your only concern should be is that this is your only car… at mercy of the Vibe”

        Cheaper to rent a car for a day if “only’ car is in the shop. Had two cars a few times, and while “fun”, it costs $, better spent on savings accounts and living expenses.

        Only if one can afford it, should spend on a 2nd car.

  • avatar
    Volt 230

    These Toyota 1.8 all aluminum engines lose/burn oil b4 they reach 200k miles and then break down, it’s happened twice to me, same car, replaced engine after 250k miles and now it’s happening to the “new” engine as well, something to consider when you buy this gen of Toyota engines, this was not an issue with the previous iron block 1.6 and 1.8’s

  • avatar

    The time to give up on a utilitarian vehicle is when keeping it begins to cost more than replacing it. Ask your mechanic to guess at the timing and cost of predictable repairs. Include insurance and taxes in your calculations. You will find that you can fix a lot of stuff before exceeding the cost of monthly car payments plus higher insurance and taxes on a newer vehicle. FYI, we have no plans to replace our 15 year old Subaru Legacy which is approaching 240k miles.

  • avatar

    Nothing to say that hasn’t been said, but I’d reiterate that you’ve already absorbed the bulk of the depreciation so you might as well keep driving it. This car can see 200k+ no problem.

    I actually don’t think I’ve owned a car with less than 200k miles on it. It’s affordable to do so if you are willing to work on your car, and able to chance getting stranded occasionally.

  • avatar

    According to my research the marketplace data strongly suggest you should keep the car. I checked the Kelley Blue Book trade-in value of your car versus the competition given comparable age, mileage and condition.

    1. KBB of your Vibe – $2629.
    KBB of a Toyota Matrix – $3370.
    Since your Vibe is identical to the Matrix, it is worth $3370, but you can’t get it.

    2. KBB of Subaru Impreza wagon – $3266
    KBB of Mazda6 sportwagon – $3147
    Conclusion – your car’s prospects are as good as the best on the market.

    3. KBB of Ford Focus wagon – $2855
    KBB of Kia Rio Cinco – $1252
    KBB of PT Cruiser – $1799
    Conclusion – I used to own a PT Cruiser. It was based on the wretched Dodge Neon platform, and mine was worn out at 110,000 miles. The Ford Focus, OK. The Kia, a real POS.

    It looks like your vehicle should be good for 150k miles or more on average. You won’t get what it is worth as a trade in.

  • avatar

    Keep it, 100K is the ‘new normal’ for an average car on the road. And it will last til 200K+. It’s a Corolla, and even though it’s not an ‘enthusiast machine’, it will run and run.

    Save the ‘fun cars’ that need constant fixing for the rich “Car guys”.

  • avatar

    109k? It’s barely broken in if you take care of it.

  • avatar

    I’d get a new car when repair money starts to approach payments or when you get tired of it. There is also the hassle factor of old cars, when that takes too much time then replace. Lastly when you get tired of the old car (related to the hassle factor) but resist the desire to get something new and shiny as much as possible.

  • avatar

    “A pot-hole beaten suspension may cost $3000 to restore in 10-15 years, but will the owner even notice enough to care?”

    As a bouncy, jouncy suspension is a detriment to yourself and others, one would hope that a responsible car owner who plans on going to the moon and back in it, will fork over the cash for such a significant safety issue.

    • 0 avatar

      They don’t. Getting people to change struts and bushings unless they fall off the car usually does not happen. More than half the cars in the boneyard are on orginal struts. And the funny thing is how many people think they are “just fine. Incredible. I wouldn’t care except they are a hazard to those around them. Cheapskates. Only the joke is on them as the accelerated tire wear pretty much wipes out the “savings”.

      • 0 avatar

        “More than half the cars in the boneyard are on original struts. And the funny thing is how many people think they are ‘just fine’.”

        In some cases they might be correct.

        When I replaced all four of the struts on my 20yo Bonneville, two of them were still fine and cleaned up you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference from new. The other two were completely gone. Rubber isolators were good on three, no cracking or anything. Both front strut bearings and ball joints were done. End links were still good.

    • 0 avatar

      I’ve driven 200k mile vehicles on original struts that were less floaty than the new Camry I test drove in 2006.

  • avatar

    Hey, James:

    Now that you have an inexpensive paid for car, I recommend you do what my wife and I did. Run it till the wheels fall off, and do all the work you can yourself. We kept a Mazda 626 and a Toyota Camry for 175,000 mi/17 years and 150,000 mi/15 years respectively during our late 20s/early 40s. The money we saved on car payments during that time formed the basis of our (now quite nicely accumulated) savings. Furthermore, we are now able to follow a rule:

    Buy brand new cars or one-two years old, only.
    Buy quality cars.
    Pay cash for them; NEVER AGAIN TAKE A CAR LOAN
    And run ’em till the wheels fall off.

    Do the math. You will see that the biggest ripoff in America is the ongoing car loan (those people who buy a new car, with loan, just as soon as they get the one before it paid off) – the second biggest ripoff is the car lease. Pay cash, don’t ever buy a car for which you can’t write a check, and drive them till they are truly worn out.

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