what “driving it until it dies” really looks like

Two summers ago, I shared about our sturdy Toyota Camry that we’d been driving for more than seven years. Much in keeping with the recommendations of financial gurus like Dave Ramsey, we kept driving the Camry long after we would have preferred a newer or different vehicle. It’s hard to let go of something that runs that well in favor of taking on a new car payment!

Last November, after eight years of loyal service as our main vehicle, the Camry had an oil cog split in half. This destroyed the oil pump, timing belt, and quite likely the engine. While it is still possibly that a small part and two days’ work may reveal that the engine is salvageable (and Keith intends to give that a try sometime), it is essentially a ruined vehicle and it is likely that we will not be able to do anything more with it than sell it for scrap.

In retrospect, this has raised some discussions for us. It was at about this time last year, well in advance of the part breaking, that we began to seriously consider looking around for a different vehicle. There was no obvious reason not to trust the Camry any longer, but for some reason, and it’s probably just that it was at 210,000+ miles, I was beginning to doubt that it would last for much longer without a significant issue arising. We considered purchasing a newer vehicle, something that would better fit our growing family. Our thought was that it would be worth it to sell the Camry before it hit any major issues, thus getting as much as we could for it while it was still worth something.

Having just come off a long season of unemployment, though, we weren’t really in a position to spend much more cash than the car was worth, and it seemed irrational to let go of something that was working well in favor of buying something different which might have it’s own set of problems.

So we chose to keep the car. But it was a decision point. We said things like “We’ll drive it until it dies.” And then it did actually die, and we did actually run it into the ground like we had always said that we would, and in retrospect I kind of wish that we hadn’t. I kind of wish that we had sold it before it was too worthless to do anything but sell as junk.

Had we sold the Camry last summer or used it as a trade-in, we would have easily had $1500 to $2000 more to put toward a newer vehicle. We couldn’t have known that it would die so tragically and all at once, rather than nickel-and-diming us, but selling it while it was still an asset was not a bad idea. If we are faced with a similar choice in the future, I think it likely that we will make a different decision than we made this time.

Published in: on June 5, 2012 at 7:35 pm  Leave a Comment