I Hate This Kind of Decision

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We've got two old and falling-apart minivans, and we're buying a newer one pretty soon. Both the old ones really are on their way out. We're going to have to get rid of one of them now, and the other might hang on for a little while, but I'm not fully sure which one to get rid of first. Here are the issues:

1998 Windstar:

1. exhaust system rotting through (several holes)
2. oil pan rusted through and leaking
3. transmission probably won't last too much longer (some resistance to shifting)
4. brake lines rusty but not leaking when last checked (but that was a while ago)
5. almost 135,000 miles
6. a lot less comfortable to drive for a number of reasons
7. registration expires mid-July and is probably not worth renewing
8. inspection is due in November and will certainly not pass without significant expense
9. lots of minor issues, but most are really inconveniences even if really annoying ones (and it looks much worse and has no CD player)

1999 Windstar:

1. We just put a good deal of money into some parts to get the check engine light off so it would pass inspection a few months ago.
2. almost 107,000 miles
3. I've been told it needs a coolant flush pretty badly, and I know it needs an oil change, but I'm not sure it's worth putting even that much money into it
4. The sub-frame under the engine has split just behind the right front tire, which affects steering, and the rest of the frame is rusting away from the central NY weather; if it breaks in another spot, the engine falls out (I've been told it would cost $600-$700 to put a new frame on). My mechanic said it's probably safe to drive it around town for now, but he declared that this is the end of the vehicle. I don't know if he intended the safety pronouncement to last as long as we've been driving it (a few weeks have passed), but maybe he did.
5. much of the engine itself is in good shape (new transmission at 82,000 miles)
6. several more minor problems that I can't remember, and somehow the reports from the dealer and mechanic have disappeared, but these were hidden problems that don't affect anything obvious in any immediate way yet

Either will probably last us until my summer teaching is over, and we'll have significantly less need for two vehicles once that ends at the end of June. So the expiration in July isn't a big problem if the 1997 van got us through that. I'd want a second vehicle by the time classes start at the end of August, though, and that van won't be legal after that. We're not putting any more money into it. But I'm guessing 1998 one may be less safe. Should we assume it will last as a relatively safe vehicle beyond mid-July anyway? We probably wouldn't use it much unless it lasted through August. It doesn't have the guaranteed expiration, though, so it might allow putting off buying another newer vehicle, and it may be safe enough to justify wanting to drive a more comfortable vehicle that looks and sounds nicer. But maybe it isn't.

I hate decisions like this. I don't even have any gut intuition one way or the other of what seems better or which I'd rather keep longer and which I'd rather get rid of sooner. We need to get rid of both, but having a second vehicle is kind of important for the moment. More often than not this summer it's been able to save us from some real headaches that we would have had otherwise, and I have to leave one school immediately after class to make it home in time to eat and make it to the next class, which means I don't want to depend on being able to have the only vehicle but also wouldn't want to rely on Sam having to come get me.

5 Comments

I had a similar frame problem as your '98 Windstar. Right on the highway, couldn't steer or anything. Can't imagine that happening with kids in the car. Do you drive both with the kids in it, or just one? I feel like that would make a difference.

Is there no one who can loan you a car for a short time?

Both are drivable, and there hasn't been a reason to be concerned about safety yet. It's just loud when I turn right, and I try to take turns very slowly, especially if there's a hill involved where it might scrape. The mechanic told me it's safe for local driving for the moment. I've taken it on the highway but not with the kids. Sam might have done so with the kids. I usually drive the other one.

I just realized I had the dates wrong, though. The one I said was 1997 is 1998, and the one I said was 1998 is 1999.

I'd go with the '99. Colorful chart.

You know, I thought of something else. You have enough parts in the 99 which might be able to be used in the 98 (or vice versa). I'd check with your mechanic on that.

I don't think there would be enough compatible parts. They really changed the Windstar with the 1999 model. The engine isn't even organized in the same way. It would also have been a lot of money to get someone who knows what they're doing to do that work, and we wouldn't want to keep either if we had to put any money into them.

We discovered that we couldn't trade in the '99 because of the frame problem, but the dealer was willing to give us $200 to scrap the '98 for us. So the Stealth Van is now gone. No more driving a tractor to work. The '99 is getting much worse, so I don't think it will last much longer. I'm going to try to convince a scrapyard to buy it for more than the usual amount, since it's got a transmission that's only 20,000 miles old. Several parts are fairly new, but unfortunately I can't prove when the work was done for a lot of it. I can for the transmission, and that's an expensive part. The guy at the dealership thought we might be able to get $500 for it if we try to haggle.

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