Should I Repair My Old European Car Or Just Replace It?

This is a question directed to me and my staff at least a half-dozen times over the past 3 months. I felt it may need a full blog post to address it. The last two times the question was asked of us, I had very different responses. This prompted me to write about it.

Is My Vehicle Worth It?

Cash For Car Repairs

Bob owns a 2004 3-series BMW. This was his first BMW and he loved to drive this car. He always serviced the vehicle under the warranty from the dealership. When the warranty expired, he only maintained the vehicle with oil changes and anything that needed fixing at our shop. Bob bought a new BMW 5-series in 2011 and garaged the 3-series. Fast forward to 2016 and his son is turning sixteen. He begged Bob for the 325i in the garage! Bob said no, but as they started looking at what was available in the price range of $3000-$5000 for his son to learn to drive, there was nothing that compared to the quality and safety features on his trusted old BMW.

By now though, the car would not start. Bob had it towed into the shop and assessed the mechanical work that it needed for it to be restored to its earlier glory. During our inspection of the car, we found the normal wear and tear of a BMW with 105,000 miles on the odometer. The body and interior of the vehicle was in excellent condition considering the mileage. Mechanically the engine was purring. It was the suspension and maintenance issues which needed to be addressed to get Bob’s son on the road. The cost to renew the issues were just under $2900. His son was thrilled he did not need to spend his whole savings on a vehicle!

The car was not starting because of the battery drain and fuel being old. (The car sat for 4 years.) Some of the issues on the vehicle were oil and power steering leaks (valve cover gasket and power steering hoses). There was a clunking noise which we found were control arm bushings. Belts, coolant and brake fluids needed to be replaced along with front brakes (pads and rotors) and spark plugs. We found that the driver side window regulator was not opening the window. This was a lot of work, but in the end, the car was road ready for his son to gain experience behind the wheel all with a price tag that made both father and son smile.

On the other side…

Suzie came to us with her 2003 Land Rover Discovery. She was a new customer. She was looking for a shop to help get her vehicle back on the road for her son. The SUV had stopped running over the last week and she needed to be back on the road. She was giving it to her son who recently became a new driver.

The vehicle was dropped off by the tow company. At first glance, the body and interior looked very good. The odometer read 210,000 miles but every fault light on the dash was illuminated. We started to investigate the No Starting cause first. We found it was the vehicle’s starter and the transfer case. The price for these repairs, even using lesser quality parts, (which we don’t recommend) was $2500. My technicians continued their basic inspection on the vehicle. They listed the repairs to get the Land Rover road ready. When we started to price the list, these repairs seemed quite costly. ( There were many leaks pouring out coolant and oils). I decided to Kelley Blue Book the Land Rover’s value. The repairs exceeded the worth of her vehicle. It was time to call Suzie.

Making the call to Suzie was not an easy one. Our team could not go on any further with Suzie’s vehicle repair. The value of the vehicle was not worth it. I told Suzie we understood her attachment to the vehicle but it was a restoration project at best. Suzie was thankful for our diagnostic. We gave Suzie the print out of the Kelley’s evaluation, our finding, and some phone numbers to Restoration Shops if she wanted to pursue that route.

It is hard to turn away work but when the repair cost is more than the vehicle’s worth and the customer may still need more costly repairs, not just maintenance, we feel it is our duty to help the customer weigh options. Ethically, as shop owners, we felt Suzie’s vehicle repairs would only be taking her money for a vehicle that ultimately is not worth it.