In last week’s column, I asked readers for advice on whether to repair or replace my 2003 Ford Explorer, which has 199,600 miles on it.
I baby it, and it’s been a very good vehicle with few major problems. But then about two weeks ago, a check engine light blinked into my life and a computer scan showed the transmission was on its way out.
The estimated cost of a new one ran a little more than $3,000 flavored by the feeling that sooner or later something else was bound to give out.
I started looking at newer Explorers and liked what I saw (the newer technology and improved gas mileage is remarkable), but did I want to go back into five-figured debt after years of no car payments?
So I asked readers for their sage advice, and my, oh my, did you respond. It turns out many of you are in, or have been in, the same situation.
Interestingly enough, the advice ran almost 50-50 on whether to repair or replace.
Here’s what a few of you had to say:
“At this point, I would buy a new one. You got 10 good years out of your current Explorer and, as you noted, you don’t know what other expenses you may have by keeping it. The advancements in safety and reliability that have occurred since 2003 model year are significant ... plus you get to go car shopping — something I always enjoy — and you’ll help keep our economy rolling in 2014!” — Jim Ross, Southgate
“Fix the transmission. Look at the cost advantage. Newer Explorer, $30,000 plus interest over five years, $6,300, plus increased insurance cost per year, $300 x 6 ($1,800 ) = $38,100. The value of your old one will probably equal the sales tax. To pay off the $38,100, (after tax income), you will have to earn about $47,000. Now you take the money you saved and buy Ford stock.” — David Schroeder, Sterling Heights
“Tom, bite the bullet and pull your wallet’s trigger ... go ahead and spoil yourself, you only live once! Better to spend money on yourself than having someone in your family spend your money to the undertaker.” — Rick Prusak, Dearborn
“I would replace the 2003 Explorer with either new or used (2012, 2011) ... it’s time to thank your faithful steed for good service and move on.” — Willie Munro, Rochester
“In my opinion, this is the perfect time to trade in your old car on a new one while the old one is still worth something ... Sadly the best deals are around Christmas ... you might have missed them already. Don’t be so cheap!” — Mike Western, Troy
“Keep it!” — Al Trombley, Sterling Heights
“If you are having frequent problems ... I would trade and buy a new vehicle. However, if the car has been dependable ... fix the transmission. If you keep the car another year that is slightly more than $200 per month compared to $30,000 in car payments. Buy a bottle of cheap champagne and pour it over the hood as it passes 200,000 miles.” — Sharkey Mingela, Northville
“If the condition of your Explorer is as good as you claim and you still really like it, I would suggest getting it fixed and keep it going. If you are lucky you might get another 50,000 miles out of it for a per-mile cost that is pretty low compared to new car depreciation.” — Bob Girkin, New Hudson
“I have a 1999 F-250 diesel that I used to tow a 38’ fifth wheel, blew the trans while on vacation. Had it rebuilt with 262K on it. I have 365,000 miles on it now with no problems. Repair old faithful. If it does fail you will be payment free again in a few months.” — Doug Daniel, Brighton
“I have a 1993 Explorer with 280,000 miles and it’s still going strong ... and my check engine light has been on for years! I would keep it another couple of years and put the car payment savings in the bank for a newer one.” — Chuck Davis Sr., Adrian
So, what’s my decision?
I’ve decided to have the transmission repaired and keep the 2003 ... at least for now. If another major mechanical problem pops up soon, then I’ll be looking for a new vehicle.
Wish me luck and thanks to everyone for responding.