By on November 5, 2015

matrixint

Welcome back for another installment of “Ask Jack”, the place for you, the man on the street, to ask me, the man on the Internet, any question you like on any topic that makes its way into your mind.

Today’s question seems like a simple one: do you stay in the Matrix or not? In this case, the Matrix is a Toyota Matrix, with the all-too-common manual-transmission failure. But to properly answer the question, we’ll need to consider everything from solo ocean journeys to bad seeds in a magic bus.

My friend Chris lives in the Toronto area where he works in a variety of creative fields and plays the occasional gig on guitar or bass. He’s not afraid to spend real money on top-end musical instruments or home-stereo equipment, but when it comes to cars he prefers economy to excitement. After driving a last-generation Mercury Tracer into the ground, he switched to a five-speed Toyota Matrix a few years back. His general experience with the car has been positive; he likes the little wagon’s proportions, utility, and light weight. He particularly likes shifting for himself, which is something he hadn’t done in a long time prior to buying the Tracer.

Unfortunately for Chris, however, that manual transmission has a problem. Last week, his gearbox stopped working. In fact, pretty much all of the Corolla/Matrix five-speeds from that era eventually fail. It’s apparently a case of too much load on a bearing. The same transmission, fortified with a sixth speed and a heavier-duty bearing, is bulletproof, so a lot of devoted Matrix five-speed owners search out a six-speed box and swap it out.

There are problems with that course of action. The first is that the six-speed box was never that common, even north of the border. The second is that even at the $1,000-1,500 that you’d pay for what you hope is a sound example of the “C60” transmission, the total cost to swap and do a new clutch at the same time can come pretty close to $3,000. A decent used Matrix XRS with the transmission already installed can be had for between five and six grand. So does it make sense to simply abandon the current car and move up to the XRS, which in addition to the better transmission also has a bit more poke from the engine room?

Which brings me, naturally, to one of my favorite books ever: “Deep Survival” by Laurence Gonzales. The idea behind “Deep Survival” is to understand the choices that make some people natural “survivors” and others natural victims of circumstance. It’s one of the few books that I recommend to pretty much everybody I know, although if you’re already of a cautious or retiring nature it won’t help you to read multiple stories about people who died in the woods just an hour’s walk away from a major freeway.

The most important lesson I took away from Deep Survival is this: Don’t ever let the momentum of one decision carry on into the next. Again and again in the book you’ll meet people who died because they did not turn around when they realized they’d made a wrong turn. It sounds ridiculous, right? You are hiking in the woods. You go left where you should go right. Six hours later, you realize that your decision was wrong. What do you do?

If you are a strictly rational human being, you will retrace your steps to the wrong turn and then make the right turn. And you will survive. Most people, however, will not do that. They will continue on in the wrong direction, hoping that this direction will also end up taking them out of danger, and that their incorrect decision will end up being validated after all. That desire is strong enough to kill people, and it does so all the time. Gil Scott-Heron has some advice about this:

No matter how far wrong you’ve gone / You can always turn around. If you want the same lesson with a little more guitar technique, Lucky Peterson has you covered.

It stands to reason that if this human characteristic is strong enough to force people to literally walk to their deaths, it has the potential to also cause other bad decisions. Those bad decisions can range from having a Cavalier tattooed on your leg to not kicking a woman out of your house when it’s plain that the whole enterprise has long since fallen apart. Very few people are willing to just turn around and walk away from their existing decisions.

So let’s look at this issue of the Matrix with the busted transmission. It’s got close to 200k miles on it, which means that it will need all sorts of maintenance and repair items in the future. None of those costs will be in the slightest fashion ameliorated by putting a new transmission in the car. So the first thing to do, in my opinion, is to thoroughly check over the car and get a sense of how much it would cost to bring it up to new-showroom spec. At that point, Chris should compare that number to what it would cost him to buy a six-speed Matrix in excellent condition, minus the junk value of his current car. If the second number is lower, I think the only sane thing to do is to buy a six-speed Matrix.

If the second number is higher, then it becomes a question of how much Chris’s time and aggravation is worth. If the difference in favor of the old car is $100, then who among us would actually go through the hassle of getting the swap done? But what if it’s a grand? What if it’s two grand? Three? That’s when the emotional involvement with the current choice of car gets involved.

Obviously, the cost numbers — and the choices — change a bit if Chris has the time, space, and equipment to make the swap himself. He’s a pretty bright guy and he’s rebuilt a Fender Rhodes piano, so I can’t imagine that swapping a transmission would be a deal-breaker for him. On the other hand, he might be able to make more money working in his actual field of expertise for the same amount of time he would spend under his car. Incidentally, this is why I have a low opinion of the professional ability of the few lawyers I know who also restore cars as a paying hobby. A top-rank attorney’s time is worth as much as it would take to engage four mechanics in the Ferrari Classiche department.

My feeling on the matter is this. A good XRS Matrix with less mileage than Chris’s current car can be had for $5,500. I’d buy that and I’d either part out or junk the old car. The alternative is to spend nearly three grand on the current vehicle, knowing full well that it won’t ever be as fast or as interesting or as valuable in the resale market as the XRS would be. Getting a car with lower miles in better condition will also help with some of those other unpredictable costs. In the long run, I think it would be a wash.

So my advice is: Matrix XRS, as new and as low-mileage as he’s willing to get. What about you, readers? Am I right or wrong about this? The last thing that Chris said to me was, “You know, I could just get a Focus ST, too.” Now there’s an option. But it won’t be a cheap one.

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63 Comments on “Ask Jack: Should This Matrix Owner Take The Blue Pill Instead?...”


  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I agree 100%. Most cars have a “Scrap for Haier Tabletop Dishwasher Material” date, and your buddy’s Matrix has long past that. I love cars, but my life took a positive turn when I stopped letting them goad me into making bad decisions. A 200K + Toyota Corolla is just not worth saving if it ain’t an AE86.

  • avatar
    Chris Tonn

    Dammit, Jack, now I have to go to the library on my lunch hour.

  • avatar
    DeadWeight

    Spending $3,000 to swap into a C60 gearbox and do a new clutch, which is 1/2 the value of an entire replacement vehicle, just to increase the odds (how to calculate the odds?) that one will prevent a POTENTIAL FUTURE issue, is pure insanity.

  • avatar
    frozenman

    What is with the angst of moving on to the next cheap beater? The mileage is stupid high as it is, replace it or take the bus.

  • avatar
    redliner

    What about a Pontiac Vibe? He could get the same car, but even newer without paying the used Toyota markup.

  • avatar
    Arthur Dailey

    Jack,
    As Chris lives in Toronto, his car’s odometer will read in kilometres, not in miles.

    So is the actual distance traveled in miles (did he make the conversion) or did you assume that it was miles?

    And if so, would a Matrix with 120,000 miles (200,000) be worth the switch?

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Yep, throwing transmissions and money at something non-collectible/rare at this stage and using up lots of your time in the process isn’t a win.

    Hunt yourself the tidy 6-speed of your dreams, then junk ye olde broken Matrix.

    Could consider more rare Vibe option, likely lower price.

    EDIT: Corrections RE: Vibe rarity in CAN and busted trans.

  • avatar
    65corvair

    I had a Matrix with the five speed. It made it just over 100,000 miles before it failed. The transmission wasn’t anything special to shift either. 2nd to 3rd wasn’t very nice. I liked the styling, but the car had no soul. It was like driving a wash machine. Lots of squeaks and rattles especially when it got cold out side. The dash was too bright at night and hard to read in daylight. It’s the car Toyota forgot about. We need a Civic wagon!

  • avatar
    seth1065

    well if it is at 120,000 miles that is a different story, what is the cost for another 5 speed ? or a rebuild? I doubt he wants to start with a tranny swap himself, he is wo a car now and I think that is a fairly involved affair swapping a tranny. If a 5 speed is 50% less than a 6 speed that is an option. At 120,000 miles the car should have a lot of life left in it, at 200,000 miles not so much.

  • avatar
    gearhead77

    I was just discussing a similar scenario with someone at work. Same thing, older Corolla stick but nothing wrong with it. He’s not a big car person, and he’s fine with driving a 10 year old Corolla with 200k. He was talking about putting money into it and getting 10 more years maybe (or at least a few more). I said that many cars don’t really live (or are designed to live) past 250k. Things just wear out and it gets to be weird or complicated things at that mileage.

    The car guy in me enjoys the Mazda 5 I have for its practical nature, emjoyable driving traits and uncomplicated nature (mostly). No TCS or Stability control on my car. At only 48k miles, it’s got a lot of life in it until the rust gets it. I drive it to the airport, where it sits for days at a time, so there’s no real reason to get rid of it. It’s been paid for. And it’s “rare” in the sense that it’s not a Camcord, etc. My initial thought was to be like the people I saw in the 90’s driving mid 80’s Civic Wagovans or Colt Vista because there was nothing to replace it.

    But I’m bored with it.I can’t imagine another 10 years with it, let alone two. The life of a pilot who doesn’t live in their base means I can use it as an airport car, leaving it to live out its days in the relatively rust free land of northern VA. And then get something interesting for home. Or vice versa. Buying something else as an airport car means I could get a manual transmission.

    I can’t imagine keeping the Matrix in question. Ditch it for another one, a Vibe or something else. I like variety, life’s too short to drive the same thing forever( classics and toys are different)

  • avatar
    ClutchCarGo

    This is a slam dunk in favor of replacing the old Matrix with a newer one as long as one more question can be answered yes: Can he afford the higher cost of the newer Matrix? If so, it’s a certainty that the extra $2-3K is a good investment, but for someone without the extra cash, the cheaper option of repair would be the best choice.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      this is 100% right. The best long term answer is only the best answer if it include short term survival. Even at 120k miles, the 3k cost to repair vs. 5.5k cost to replace with better faster stronger younger should be an easy decision, but only if the extra 3K are available.

  • avatar
    jhefner

    Oh wow; your timing on this is uncanny. I have a similiar, but different dilemma on my hands this morning.

    Last week, we were able to buy a new car for my wife. That means that at last, the “Blue Goose”, our 1995 Ford Taurus wagon, has achieved the status of what my mechanic calls “pet car”; others may call backup/project/hobby car.

    I went ahead and washed it up, and had all four new tires installed on it. Here, it is required to pass emissions, so I took it to have it tested — and it failed for the third year in a row.

    My mechanic is on the back side of the same block as the inspection station that can handle pre-OBDII cars; so both years he tweaked it to pass inspection. The first year, it was under $100, but last year it was $200. I have an appointment on Tuesday for him to take a look at it, he thinks he can get it pass again.

    My wife is tired of paying $200 a year to get it to pass emissions, and thinks it is time for it to go. Myself and other family members think that if it around that amount, it is not a bad price to pay to keep it in the family another year; in four years, it will no longer have to pass emissions.

    If it is more than that, that may be the end of it. It has 200K and the original suspension components front and rear; so like new it is not. (Dad could get 30 MPG in it when it was new; I was able to achieve 27 when it was rebuilt roughly 4 years ago; but it can only make 25 now.) But it still mostly looks good (the rear bumper cover is shot, and one rear corner has a some collision damage), and it still runs quiet. Was having a ball taking it on a twisty back road enjoying the fall colors when I realized I was doing 50+ on a 35 MPH road….

    Waiting to see what the mechanic quotes Tuesday before making the final decision. Even if we decide not to have it repaired; I will keep around long enough to pick up the Christmas tree one more year (yes, with no inspection sticker) before doing anything else with it.

    Always knew this day may come one day; but twenty years worth of memories of our family and my late Mom and Dad are wrapped up in that old car. It feels almost like when Dad had to take Lady, our 17 year old dog that we grew up with, to the vet to be put to sleep; one of the few times I saw Dad cry.

  • avatar
    Driver8

    Mazda 5. Room for more axes *and* groupies.
    Winning.

  • avatar
    vvk

    I thought Toyotas are super reliable and durable. Turns out ALL of them fail!

    I am just kidding, of course. But good to know.

  • avatar
    gtemnykh

    Jack, I truly doubt your Canadian friend will be able to find a clean, rust free Matrix XRS with under 120k miles for anything near $5k. The devil you know is better than the one you don’t IMO. Now, if he’s willing to spend more like $7500, then yes if you search around and set your standards high and take your time, a clean low mile XRS might be a possibility.

    This is one of those times when it might simply be time to consider a new vehicle. For your friend, perhaps a Scion xD, or second gen xB? 5spds were available, and I get the impression that they’re actually decent values used, “Toyota Tax” seems to have missed them.

    Versa Hatchback with a stick shift is another very affordable new or lightly used option, unless Canucks don’t get the Versa hatch as they get the Micra instead?

  • avatar
    ajla

    I have to say I’m a bit disappointed in the quality of my mother’s 2009 Matrix with about 120k miles.

    It hasn’t left her stranded or anything, but the durability of the interior is very poor, paint quality is poor, NVH is bad, two of the power windows failed, the radio failed, it eats tires like crazy, it has had two oil external oil leaks, and now it is starting have some blue smoke on startup.

    I can’t really say getting a HHR, Elantra Touring, or Patriot would have been any worse.

  • avatar
    Zykotec

    I’m the kind of guy that turns around, eventually, after going just a little bit further down the ‘wrong’ path. Partially out of stubbornness, but also because of the sense of adventure.(like going outside the beaten path etc. )
    In a case like this, which is not unheard of for someone who despise the premium for getting into a brand new cars, (since they are never that much better than used cars anyway), I would buy another beater, while trying my best to figure out the cheapest way to get the 6 speed box, and sometime after replacing that beater with another, (because something would eventually fail on the beater)I would finally find a complete 6 speed car that had been rear-ended, and buy that for parts, and then 5 years down the line I would sell both the still untouched old Toyotas for scrap, while continuing to enjoy the 3rd now daily driven beater.

    • 0 avatar
      Zykotec

      I should add, that off course, 2 years after I scrap my potential project, old Matrixes modified with newer XRS drivetrains will suddenly have a huge fanboy following and demand ridiculous prices…
      There are still old paths that I didn’t fully go down a decade or two ago, because they were ‘wrong’ that I now wish I had followed to the end…
      Sometimes I’m the kind of guy who ends up dead 2 hundred meters from the highway, but when they go to fetch the body they find I had died right on top of a hidden goldmine…

  • avatar
    AdventureSteve

    Too bad about Toyota not giving a rat’s ass about the quality of their vehicles anymore. If it were me, I don’t think I’d be looking to replace it with another Toyota. I’d say they’re the new Volkswagen, but VW has really doubled down as of late.

  • avatar
    dal20402

    Yeah, my answer depends entirely on whether that is really 200k miles or 200k km (125k miles). At 200k miles you are in the zone where any system on the car could be expected to fail catastrophically at any time. 125k miles, not so much. Replacing a transmission on a well-maintained car with 125k is probably worth it, provided that you’re the type (like Chris, it seems) who keeps cars as long as possible.

  • avatar
    slap

    I’d go with replacing the car with a newer one – it’s Canada, so the current one will start showing signs of rust if it hasn’t already.

  • avatar
    rudiger

    So much for Toyota’s much touted, anvil-like reliability.

  • avatar
    Der_Kommissar

    Jack- in the academic world, that behavior is called “honoring sunk costs”, and its one of the major violations of rational choice theory that both makes us easy to exploit and better parents at the same time.

    • 0 avatar
      Nick_515

      Whoa. I admire the quality of this sentence.

    • 0 avatar
      05lgt

      One of my lottery fantasies is to go to school and study behavioral economics. So much insight is there for the finding.

      • 0 avatar
        VolandoBajo

        @05lgt – until you hit the lottery, here are a couple of things that will help to fulfill your intellectual longing regarding behavioral econ. The first is a couple of books plus a column/blog (weekly, I believe) under the name/brand of Freakonomics, or something like that.

        They address various things that happen in the real world, from a behavioral econ perspective.

        The other is a Scandinavian economist named Hans(?) Rosling, who designed, and his son developed, graphical programs to display what happens over time when trends persist. It can group time series by country, region, level of economic development, etc., and can step through time to show how various scenarios are likely to play out.

        He can be found online doing a TED talk that is a great introduction to his work, and what he has learned about the real world, much of it counter-intuitive to “received wisdom”.

        A fascinating gentleman with a fascinating intellectual dog and pony show. Not to be missed by anyone who wants to see what is likely to happen globally and economically in the next few decades, as well as what has already happened, often unnoticed right under our noses.

        I can’t speak too highly about how impressed I was with his TED talk. Check it out, you will be glad you did. It is well worth the time and effort.

  • avatar
    ant

    I have a friend who used to work for Xerox, running around keeping copy machines in good working condition. They leased a Vibe, and gave him 24/7 access to it.

    Anyways, he grew up/learned how to drive in Chicago, and his aggressive driving habits were reflected in how he drove that thing. It only had 4 speeds, and it was ALWAYS downshifting trying to keep up with the demands of its lead footed pilot. He beat that car like a concrete pinata.

    How Xerox was able to pencil out a 40k-mile/year lease is beyond my understanding, but under that policy, absolutely NO money was allotted for transmission services. The company wouldn’t pay for it, and neither did my friend. It wasn’t his car.

    At the end, the car had 150k miles on it, and the transmission still worked fine as it always had.

    My point that I’m trying to get here, is that Toyota knows damn well how to make a durable transmission. These failing units nothing but a massive eff yoo to manual trans people. Toyota doesn’t care.

    From the link in the OP: [Q]But Toyota does not see that there is a problem with the transmission. It points out the warranty on Stanley’s transmission, five years or 100,000 kilometers, had expired. In an email to CBC News, Toyota Canada said it has not identified any trends that suggest the differential bearing on Corolla and Matrix vehicles were experiencing unusual failure rates.[/Q]

    pfft. f u Toyota.

  • avatar
    VolandoBajo

    Definitely going to have to read that. Always interested in that kind of extreme survival stuff, and what it can teach us about life decisions in general.

    I would say though, that whether or not to turn around might also be influenced by whether or not you have prior knowledge that if you continue for another hour or mile or whatever, you will run into a large, easy to hit edge of civilization, such as a highway or major river with population spread out on it.

    But absent such knowledge, I would agree completely…whatever the cost, if you are equipped to be able to pay it and it will guarantee your survival, do it and don’t gamble on saving a few hours by risking your life.

    Re: your attorney/amateur car restorers…I would argue that they might in fact be able to earn much more money lawyering, but still want to spend a portion of their time restoring things. Such an endeavor might have a high non-monetary value to them, perhaps enabling them to maintain their sanity by not being surrounded by legal documents and legal struggles all the time.

    So I don’t think you can conclude that they are not very good lawyers, or are under-employed, either. Just that their economic calculus includes a fairly high value for doing something just for the joy of seeing a concrete and clean end result.

    Another good book you might like, though more with practical applications of survival techniques, rather than as much philosophy of survival as your book sounds like it has, would be the British SAS Survival Manual…chock full of lots of MacGyver-like survival tricks when stranded without the usual tools and supplies.

    Apropos of your advice, I read recently that the guy who was the subject of the book and movie called, I believe, Into the Wild, by Jon Krakauer, turned out to have died because he ate some plants that were slowly poisoning him. Adding to the tragedy was that although he could not get across the now-raging river in the direction he came in, apparently he could have gone out a back way and been safe in a matter of a few hours. Apparently he either didn’t have the right maps, or he was too debilitated by his toxic diet, to be able to figure that out.

    For an exciting true adventure of survival, there were two fairly famous climbers who were climbing Aconcagua, the tallest mountain in South America. It had a very long, treacherous winter walkin and walkout.

    On the way back, one of them fell into a crevasse, and was knocked unconscious. His partner held him on belay for hours and hours, but when he never received any sign of life, and being unable to pull his partner out of the crevasse, he finally cut the rope.

    Only problem was that the other guy was alive but in a coma. After he fell, and lay at the bottom for some time, he came to. He then engineered a way to do an ice climb out of the crevasse. He had a broken leg and several other injuries.

    He knew he was miles from the nearest way station in some small village. He improvised a splint and/or a crutch, and slowly forced himself to walk those miles with the broken leg.

    Literally several days later, he made it to safety, and was ultimately put back together again. He says he has forgiven his belaying partner, as given the apparent situation, the decision he made was the logically correct one.

    If you want to read more about that and can’t hit it from Google, hit me back and I will look it up for you. I am certain I will recognize their names if I see them again.

    The story is so hair-raising though, that you might want to wait until your leg is healed before you read it. Or maybe not. Might take your mind off of your leg for a while. Your call. But it is the hairiest survival story I have ever heard of.

  • avatar
    djsyndrome

    Former 2ZZ/6MT XRS owner here.

    I beat the snot out of that car for nearly 250k miles and only went through one clutch and a couple of starters. They are absolutely bulletproof. Buy one that’s been babied.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Wait – Toyota has manual transmission problems?

    BLASPHEMER!!!

    Rabble! Rabble! Rabble! Rabble!

  • avatar
    Conslaw

    If you are a Matrix/Vibe owner mourning on the need to replace your fallen steed, and you don’t know what to buy, consider a Ford C-Max new or used. With the C-Max you should feel right at home, just transplanted to a new century. The C-Max is at heart a tall Focus, like the Matrix was a tall Corolla. It has roughly the same luggage capacity as the Matrix but much more interior room. It doesn’t have a manual transmission, but its CVT gives you linear acceleration with 0-60 in just over 8 seconds – significantly faster than the Matrix. Whereas most drivers struggle to get 25 MPG in the Matrix, most drivers of the C-Max will average high 30s to low 40s. With the C-Max you have all the modern conveniences: heated seats (cloth even), bluetooth, navigation, etc. Because of low gas prices and the overblown controversy over the C-Max’s MPG, there are good values on used models. Whereas used Prius prices fully reflect the fact that 2 miles on a hybrid’s odometer is like 1 mile on a nonhybrid (due to less stress on the engine), C-Max depreciation seems to be closer to the norm – not so good for sellers but good for buyers.

  • avatar
    threeer

    Facing a similar problem in a few months…my 2004 Mitsubishi Lancer Sportback Ralliart (could they have come up with a longer name??) has 165k on it, runs well, but the A/C gave out. While not the end of the world, the car would sell for around $2500-$3000 if everything were 100% on it. Problem is, the A/C is likely due to a wiring short that was caused by some cross-member damage that pushed some of the engine bits around, so in order to get the A/C fixed, I likely have to take the car to a body shop first. So, repair bill is very likely into four-bill range. I could sell the car as-is to some high school kid who thinks it’s a true ‘Art without the A/C working for maybe $1500. So, a loss of $1000, either way. I can go without A/C until late spring here, but that’s about it. As I haul rescue pups, no A/C is no option. What I’d like to (ultimately) do is get rid of the wife’s 2011 tC, get her a decent SUV or minivan that we can travel in and safely haul pups and get me a small(er) truck as my family will have three houses in the area soon, and having a truck is always handy for trash/mulch/furniture runs.

    • 0 avatar
      CoreyDL

      Okay, I’m gonna put an idea to you as replacement for your irreplaceable Sportback…

      Transit Connect!

      Dogs + AC + storage + van. Find one that’s been used for passengers with the rear seats!

  • avatar
    bludragon

    Swapping in a good 6 speed and replacing all the clutch parts does not sound like it is worth the cost or effort.

    How about option 3: Swap in a used 5 speed on the cheap to get it running. Trade it in or otherwise sell it and buy a newer car.

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    Just found an 03 Pontiac Vibe GT with 134K miles, 6-speed manual for sale on Craig’s List for $1995.

    I remember driving one of these in 2004 – it wasn’t by any definition a canyon carver but it was shockingly fun to drive.

    • 0 avatar
      gtemnykh

      Post a link, I highly suspect it is thoroughly trashed.

      • 0 avatar
        APaGttH

        http://seattle.craigslist.org/sno/ctd/5271398406.html

        Link above – it is at a dealer – alas looks like one of those we’ll tote the note no job no problem no credit no problem no cash problem lots.

        • 0 avatar
          VolandoBajo

          Or in other words, a BHPH lot, where the down payment is the wholesale cost plus 20%, and the monthly payments go towards covering the cost of the lot, the cost of repos, and the remainder goes to profit.

          One of the first things I taught my son about buying cars.

          One of the other early ones was the CL seller who picks up a cosmetically decent vehicle with an almost blown manual trans full of sawdust, and/or other similar dirty tricks. If you watch CL closely you see certain phone numbers in certain parts of the city are selling their ill aunt’s “creampuff” cars several times a year. Even with a large family, it stretches one’s ability to believe.

          And he understands why I pay attention to what people say here about what vehicles are prone to what failures, and he understands about looking up tech bulletins and NHTSA recall items on the Internet.

          This won’t be enough to make him a “bulletproof” used car buyer, but it should be enough to keep him from falling into the category of a fool and his money…

          Though I suppose if you go to a BHPH with enough cash or an approved bank loan, you might be able to wheel and deal into a decent vehicle, provided you don’t get one that has been out and back a half dozen times. But for that, you have to know the lot’s inventory almost as well as they do.

          We are still looking for the right used pickup for him. The fact that we are not in a hurry will probably help him in the long run.

  • avatar
    rentonben

    In the pilot world “bullheaded stupid decisions making” is known as “SLOJ”

    https://books.google.com/books?id=qnVtljLAyr4C&pg=PA56&lpg=PA56&dq=pilot+sloj&source=bl&ots=hBncvkKQ4J&sig=dMlyRKGAeJbbmb032XF_sF7mVy8&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0CCMQ6AEwAGoVChMIt5TfnP35yAIVSEqICh2WhgqX#v=onepage&q=pilot%20sloj&f=false

    Of all the people in the world, I’d love to have JB’s recommended reading list.

  • avatar
    Sigivald

    “Incidentally, this is why I have a low opinion of the professional ability of the few lawyers I know who also restore cars as a paying hobby. A top-rank attorney’s time is worth as much as it would take to engage four mechanics in the Ferrari Classiche department.”

    Ah, but you forget that if it’s a “paying hobby” they presumably *really enjoy doing it as a break from lawyering*.

    If it was about the money, you’d be absolutely right …

    But I’m betting they’re deriving substantial recreational enjoyment from the activity.

    (After all, if said lawyer could work another 2 hours a day, but chooses not to, they’re throwing away the value of 10 hours a week at ridiculously high salary to “not work”.

    Which nobody considers ridiculous, because we *recognize that* as consumption of leisure.)

  • avatar
    wmba

    Has Chris even checked with Toyota dealer to see if they have a price to fix the transmission? (I have no idea if the failure of a bearing completely trashes the transmission – it did not in my old Volvo).

    Case in point. My pal has a 2007 Civic. The muffler failed after 7 years. Believing dealers are shysters, he got a Midas muffler for $360 with Lifetime Guarantee. 18 months later (last month), it began to fail, then dragged on the ground. Midas said, sure, free muffler, but now you need all these pipes – cost $390. Usual BS Midas line.

    So grudgingly, he goes to the Honda dealer. No pipes needed, cost $479 for the proper muffler and lifetime warranty on that as well. So he basically wasted money on Midas.

    Most people seem conditioned to get junkyard transmissions as a first step. Why not check with the dealer first? They have no doubt seen dozens of this failure.

  • avatar
    Maymar

    The interest in the Focus ST suggests otherwise, but should Chris really seek out a relatively rare variant with a slightly peaky powerband, and the desire for premium fuel? Might he not be better served by a Honda Fit, or a second gen Matrix, or a number of other small wagony hatches? Also being from Toronto, I’m reluctant to throw a Mazda3 out there unless he finds a clean 2nd gen.

  • avatar

    You’re right.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Does “Chris” have a backup car? While the analysis is interesting and gives people food for thought in similar situations, dumping the broken Matrix and moving to something else looks like an obvious choice here.

    That said, I think having a non-running car without a backup makes looking for a rare replacement a non-starter. As someone in the market for a hard-to-find car, it is depressing. Finding a car that was rare to begin with with the right color and options at a sane price is exhausting.

    I have time on my side and it is still exhausting. Everything tempting on craigslist has an asking price about $2-4k over where I value the car. The market often agrees with me, as I’ve seen these cars listed for months. Yet the sellers sit on them waiting for buyers to lose patience. Even if Chris were to find an XRS to his liking, I’m sure the seller will think the car is solid gold and price it accordingly.

    Anything priced reasonably is probably not as advertised. Looking for that rare care, you will drive for hours to check out something advertised as a 9/10 only to find it has one foot in the automotive grave.

    If Chris can nonchalantly throw out a Focus ST as an option, it sounds like it’s time to try the new car strategy. If new cars similar to what I’m looking for existed in my price range, I certainly would.

  • avatar
    ummagumma

    Save for the Limo!

  • avatar
    don1967

    “Don’t ever let the momentum of one decision carry on into the next”

    Excellent advice. Why then limit Chris to buying another Matrix?

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