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Old is New - what turns most cars into 'used' cars?

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Old is New

What’s the main reason for trading in that old piece of iron with four wheels? Hands down, its repair costs. I don’t think I’ve ever had anyone come into the repair shop and tell me, “Oh, I think I’m going to sell my car this week. I’m not happy with the color.” Excluding the obvious reasons for getting rid of your iron steed, such as it was in an accident and is beyond repair, company cars, and leased vehicles or over worked rentals. That stills leaves a large number of cars simply traded in for untold reasons. Chances are it’s because something needed repaired and the previous owner didn’t want to deal with it.

So, how did most of these cars end up needing such costly repairs? Number one, lack of maintenance. Number two, lack of expertise in repairing and maintaining them, or a combination of both. Then again, you could have just forgotten to have the car checked out on a regular basis. You might be one of those people who have never read the section in the owner’s manual under “scheduled maintenance”, or assume that maintenance consists of filling the fuel tank up when it’s on empty, and you shouldn’t have to worry about your car until that little light comes on.

But, like a lot of procrastinators, when you finally get around to an oil change and the mechanic comes back with a list of repairs you need to have done, you’re taken aback and can’t imagine how the car you drove into the shop is now in need of such major surgery. Depending on the situation you could be rather calm about it and realize he’s just there to help you, or you could be like the crazed lane swapper who flew by you on the turnpike and consider it a bogus up sell scam and blow the guy off.

Let’s just suppose we’re one of those crazed lane changers who just zooms from here to there with no care as to the condition of the car and see how this scenario plays out at the repair shop. Time passes, maybe a month or two, and sure enough those motor mounts and lower control arm bushing you were warned about have now turned your car into a swimming fish on the highway. However, you’ve let it go and considered the whole thing as “it’s just an old car”. Suddenly one morning while pulling out of the garage, you hear a loud bang as you put it into reverse. Then, a cloud of vapor spews from under the hood. You shrug it off, and head on to work, already running late.

On the way to work you notice the air conditioning isn’t coming on. Now that ranks up there in importance as much as the radio. Better get it into the repair shop, because we all know the air conditioning is way more important than all that stuff the mechanic told you about.

You make an appointment at a different repair shop, (of course) because the first one was rude and tried to up sell you a bunch of things you didn’t need. This ‘new’ shop is unaware of the other issues. All you said to them was, “The air conditioning isn’t working, and I saw smoke coming from under the hood.”

The repair shop checks under the hood. “Well, there’s your problem,” one technicians says to another. The front motor mount has completely sheared off, the rear mount is hanging on by a thread, and the upper wishbone mount is completely useless. As the motor rocked back and forth it eventually snapped the aluminum lines to the air conditioning.

The shop calls the customer and asked if they kept any records from previous repairs, which of course, they do. That would be the jumbled and crumbled pile of papers stuffed into the glove box. Nice…. Eventually, the mechanic finds the invoice showing the declined work and even more news about the lower control arm bushings being bad.

Now, avoiding any regular maintenance and advice from the previous shop has just raised a dilemma. Make these costly repairs…or sell it? At this point, when I’m behind the counter, I hear things like, “If I fix this you know something else is going to wrong.” or “What’s the car going to be worth after I put all this money into it?”, or “Do only part of the repair, ‘cause I’m not going to keep the car very much longer.” And the granddaddy of them all, “I can get it done cheaper down the street.”

Think of it this way, your personal safety and the wellbeing of the people who ride in your car is at the fate of the cheapest made products that in some resemblance bears the likeness of a good quality component. Then, you’re going to have a second rate repair shop perform the repair. Instead of putting your trust into a qualified and certified repair person, who more than likely has a higher labor rate than the rocket scientist you’re planning on taking your car to, you’re willing to risk the safety of others based on your pocket book. What you should be doing is asking, “So what’s the game plan here? What do I need to do right now, and what can wait on and I save up for? I’m trusting you (the shop and the mechanic) to take care of my car.”

The question is: Is this car destined to be an old new car, or is it going to be a used car with problems? Most anything can be maintained and/or repaired back to a new driving condition. There are limitations of course. I’ve seen so many cars being tossed away by their owners due to the costs of repairs. Such as an engine swap or for as little as HID headlights that need replaced. Things do wear out and do need servicing. But, if the maintenance is done on time and every time, and any issues as serious as a new engine that do arise it’s still cheaper than a new car off the show room floor.

Aside from poor workmanship, which is usually associated with cheaper repair shops and cheap parts, a car can be kept in working condition long after the last payment is made. The problem I’ve seen over the years is not too many people are willing to keep up with the maintenance, or worse yet, waste their hard earned repair dollars at those cheaper shops with poor results.

When our friend, the crazed lane changer deems his car beyond repair, its destiny is to the used car lot or auction. Then, it picks up a few new parts and a bit of polish, and is given the new title of program car, pre-owned vehicle or like one used car lot calls them, “Experienced autos”. But, even then you can’t expect it to work like new without doing the maintenance.


All cars are used once they leave the show room. See your local professional mechanic; they can make it right. Old is new when it’s repaired correctly.


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gonzo: Never sold or got rid of car for any of the above reasons you mentioned. usually it is something that can't be fixed reasonably like my old dodge where the under body rusted out so badly it effected the steering and was not safe. The other one needed a steering rack and since it too was a Chrysler and not made that well, with rust on the under body after 15 years, not worth putting money into it. always did the maintenance and when that is not good enough , I got rid of the car while the car does not owe my anything!

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  • Have you checked out Joe's Latest Blog?

      A recent study, done by Harvard Business School, concluded that the real problem with attracting and retaining employees has more to do with the workplace environment, not pay or benefits. While the study did find that an adequate pay plan and offering an attractive benefits package did help with recruiting and retention, it’s not enough to satisfy the needs of employees, especially those of front-line workers.
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