QOTD: Torn Between Two Terrible Options?

Steph Willems
by Steph Willems
qotd torn between two terrible options

It’s a situation a good many of us have found ourselves in — and one we’d all like to avoid going forward, if at all possible. Alas, fate isn’t known for its even-handed distribution of fairness.

Sometimes we’re forced to make a painful choice concerning something we love, with neither outcome a good one. In the case of aging vehicles, that choice is one repair bill away.

Speaking to a friend last night, I heard a familiar story. (I’ll have to keep things vague out of respect for their privacy.)

This friend owns a workhorse of a pickup. It’s a loyal, noble vehicle that soaks up everything thrown at it, and make no mistake, it gets a lot thrown at it. But time and wear has taken its toll, and, while still functional, it needs considerable work.

Seems the jurisdiction where said friend lives requires safety inspections every two years to keep a vehicle plated and on the road, something yours truly finds horrifying. Nevertheless, that’s the situation. And in these fraught financial times, money’s tight. Fixing the laundry list of defects (steering, suspension, brakes, tires) on this vehicle would probably cost what the vehicle could fetch as a safetied used vehicle, even with a “friend’s coworker’s brother” kind of mechanic on the job.

Thing is, my friend uses this vehicle for truck things. Its absence will be felt, and getting into something new? That’s a laugh. Meanwhile, offloading it for a song as an as-is parts vehicle/fixer-upper prevents my friend from recouping (or retaining) its true value. Yet sadly, financial considerations mean the repairs that could keep the relationship alive for another two years (or more) just isn’t a viable option.

You have to feel for someone in such a situation. This writer harbors fond memories of that vehicle — a plucky pickup that never shrugged off an assignment, even if we sometimes asked it to bite off more than it could chew.

Have you ever found yourself in possession of a good vehicle, with basic bones and drivetrain still in good shape, but with a financial situation and a repair bill that forced you into a choice? What was the outcome — offload it for whatever (still useful) peanuts you could get, or keep it around, collecting dust and rust under a tarp, until happier days returned?

[Image: Murilee Martin]

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2 of 37 comments
  • BigKoppa BigKoppa on May 07, 2020

    It is damn near always more cost effective to maintain/repair a car that it is to buy a new one.

  • Spookiness Spookiness on May 07, 2020

    I take care of the things I have, but ultimately there is a point when you just have to let it go. All material things are replaceable. Car-wise, I've been good about unloading cars when they are devoid of much value, but still cosmetically presentable, yet suspect for possible expensive hassles.

  • 3SpeedAutomatic Auto insurance renewal every six months. Ten year old car, good driving record, own my own home, excellent credit score, no teenagers on the policy, etc, etc, etc.Yet, I pay thru the nose!!!!!Adds on the morning news brag about $500k settlements.I paid less when I lived in New York State.
  • Jim Bonham Full EVs are not for everyone, they cannot meet all needs. Hybrids do a much better job of providing the benefits of EVs without most of the drawbacks. I have a hybrid sedan with plenty of room, plus all the bells and whistles. It has 360 hp, AWD, does 0-60 in just over 5 sec.(the instant torque is a real benefit), and I get 29 mpg, average. NOT driven lightly. I bought it used for $25k.Sure, it's a little heavier because of the battery, motor, etc., but not nearly as much as a full EV. The battery is smaller/lighter/cheaper and both the alternator and starter motor are eliminated since the motor assumes those functions. It's cool to watch the charge guage show I'm getting energy back when coasting and/or braking. It's even cooler to drive around part of the time on battery only. It really comes in handy in traffic since the engine turns off and you don't waste fuel idling. With the adaptive cruise control you just let the car slowly inch along by itself.I only wish it were a Plug-in Hybrid (PHEV). Then, I'd have A LOT more EV-only range, along with even more of that instant torque. The battery would be bigger, but still a fraction of the size of a full EV. I could easily go weeks without using much, if any gas (depending upon my commute) IF I plug it in every night. But I don't have to. The gas engine will charge the battery whenever it's needed.It's just not as efficient a way to do it.Electric companies offer special rates for both EVs and PHEVs which lower your operating cost compared to gasoline. They'll even give you a rebate to offset the cost of installing a home charger. You can still get federal (up to $7,500, plus some state) tax credits for PHEVs.What's not to like? My next daily driver will be a PHEV of some kind. Probably a performance-oriented one like the new Dodge Hornet or one of the German Hybrid SUVs. All the benefits, sound, feel, etc., of a gas vehicle along with some electric assist to improve fuel economy, performance, and drivability. None of the inherent EV issues of cost, range anxiety, long charging times, poor charger availability, grid capacity issues, etc. I think most people will eventually catch on to this and go PHEV instead of going full EV. Synthetic, carbon-neutral eFuels, hydrogen engines, and other things will also prevent full EVs from being 100% of the fleet, regardless of what the politicians say. PHEVs can be as "clean" (overall) as full EVs with the right fuels. They're also cheaper, and far more practical, for most people. They can do it all, EVs can't.
  • Ron rufo there is in WaSHINGTON STATE
  • ToolGuy @Chris, your photography rocks.
  • ToolGuy No War for Oli.If you have not ever held a piece of structural honeycomb (composite sandwich) in your own hands, try it.