When Driving a Lemon is Easier Than Getting Rid of It

Dear Mary: We have an aging car that is a lemon. We are keeping it going with bailing wire until we can afford a different car. When that time comes, besides our temptation to shove it over a cliff, what should we do with our lemon? In good conscience I cannot even donate it to a charity. Sue Ellen

Dear Sue Ellen: If you feel it is not drivable when that time comes, about your only option would be to sell it for salvage. Check with a local auto dismantling yard. Depending on the make and model, they may decide to “part it out,” which might make the car slightly more valuable to them than it is to you. In that case, they will probably accept the complete car. If you sell it for only the scrap metal, you will likely have to remove the engine, tires, radiator and other vital parts ahead of time, delivering just the metal. Just don’t expect to get much money from the deal. You may discover that it’s easier to drive a lemon than to get rid of one!

In the meantime as you wait out this car’s useful life, you might enjoy knowing how another reader lives happily with an old car.

Dear Mary: Recently, I observed my adult son do something that my husband and I had practiced when he was growing up: own your cheap, old car and rent when you need something more.

Over the years when scouting trips, family vacations, and special events required a larger, more comfortable vehicle, we rented a minivan. Our everyday used cars were paid for in cash and maintained until they died.

The cost of our minivan rentals were frequently shared, so this made our strategy even more cost effective. We compared car costs with another family that had purchased a minivan and used it for family transportation. Our overall costs compared to theirs were significantly lower. We took into consideration fuel, insurance, and license fees.

We still rent cars for long trips or when we need to haul a group. The strategy is valid for just the two of us. My current car is almost 30 years old. We have long had the cash on hand to replace it with something younger. Judy

Dear Judy: I love your strategy, not only for the practicality but that it forces you to plan ahead, which is also a good thing. Now for that 30-year old car—I’m sure I am not the only one wondering its make, model and mileage.

Dear Mary: When I saw a recent news report showing an “ethical” hacker breaking A 7-digit password in 37 seconds, I decided it was time to update all my passwords. What better reminder to keep spending in check than to use your password as a personal goal reminder? For example: debtkillsdreams or theborrowerisslavetothelender. Or how about keepspendingincheck..Add in your personal choice of numbers or special characters, and you have a built-in reminder system every time you log into your account. The longer your password, the safer it is, too. Kimberly

Dear Kiberly: Brilliant, simply brilliant. I love this so much, I’m going to change some passwords right now.

More from Mary's Everyday Cheapskate

A bag of luggage sitting on top of a car
lady pumping gas
A baby sitting in a car
A close up of a computer123rf.com
Car and Sales
Question and Family
cleaning head light

We want to hear from you and encourage a lively discussion among our EC users. Keep your comments positive, encouraging, supportive, and on-topic. Please no lectures or personal promotions.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
10 replies
  1. Linnea Priest says:

    I had an 8 year old minivan that was not salvageable after an accident. I donated it to the trade school section of my local high school for the automotive students to use for the body shop and for the mechanics to work on it if they wanted to.

  2. Gehugh says:

    My daughter just this weekend suggested that we donate the ‘projects’ (the cars the family members have not yet gotten around to selling–true lemons at this point) to the upcoming monster truck show. Win-win-win as a portion of the show’s proceeds go to a well deserving local charity, the vehicles are gone for good off of our property (yes!) and after the show the vehicles will be further crushed and the metal will be baled and eventually sold for scrap. I suppose the demolition derbies could use the cars for buffers, too.

  3. Melanee says:

    As far as passwords are concerned, please remember that most password hacking programs (and hackers) will use algorithms to look for known words, so your idea of a sentence like debtkillsdreams even adding numbers or special symbols to the beginning or end will not make it unhackable! You should add those numbers and/or symbols to the interior of the phrase like d3b7ki!!$dr3am$ or something like that. Same idea, but less easily figured out!

  4. Jeanne says:

    I am 66 years old and drive a 10 year old car. I paid cash for it, replaced the transmission and have replaced tires, brakes, etc as well as routine maintenance. It gets 30 mpg and is pretty comfortable.I too have rented cars for special trips or longer distances…it’s a great idea!

    Recently my older daughter’s seven year old car needed over $2000 of work-about the value of her car. She did not have the cash and was not willing to drive her car without A/C and save the money to pay for repairs. Within two hours of the mechanic giving her the news, she was driving a brand new 2014 car–which she financed for SIX years. I’m still getting my jaw off the sidewalk.

  5. CMT says:

    In the big city where we live there are lots of non-profit organizations that will take old cars for salvage in any condition. The non-profit gets the money that is earned. They make it easy for you in terms of the logistics of contacting the salvage company for you. One thing to keep in mind when deciding how long to keep a car is that all car parts have a lifespan. The older the car, the greater the likelihood something will break. You don’t want that to happen at high speeds, or in the middle of an intersection. Newer cars also have better safety features—except those lousy airbags!!!

  6. Betty Thomas says:

    Mary, maybe it isn’t this way in every town but in mine you do not have to remove engine, tires etc to “junk” your car. The salvage yard does it for you and depending on metal prices they weigh it and pay you out right there. They take off money for tire weight etc… On a side note we bought our 1995 Toyota 4 Runner new. We used it for work and personal use and had 300,000 miles on it when we passed it down to our Grandson. It has had very little in the realm of repairs, mainly timing belt change and things you do because of mileage. We serviced it every 3000 miles and except for a little wear on the drivers side upholstery it looks great still. We reserched and saved and bought out right another new vehicle we hope takes us through the next 20-30 years. Thanks for your great guidance Mary!

  7. crabbyoldlady says:

    The strategy on using the ‘s old car until it dies is good unless you need a reliable car to get to work. My husband’s job requires that he absolutely must be there and if his car fails at 5:30 AM when he leaves for work, he must take my newer, reliable car. He is not anywhere near a bus line.

    • Betty Thomas says:

      @crabbyoldlady:disqus I don’t think having and using an old car means that it isn’t reliable. As I said in my story bove our well mintained old car never let us down. The lady in the original question had a “lemon” which suggests it gave them problems from the get go! It’s a defect in the car not the fact tht it is old.

      • Cheryl Designs says:

        I drive a 1996 Mazda Miata. She has 115,500 miles on her. I EXPECT her to go for MINIMUM 300 K miles 🙂 Purchased from a friend. She had 21K miles in May 2001. Yes, I rarely drive 🙂 BUT, I MAINTAIN her with PERFECTION 🙂 She has had brakes, tires, a timing belt, etc at the listed intervals for maintenance. I am a TRUE BELIEVER in SYNTHETIC oil which gets you at LEAST 5,000 miles per oil change. That is just once a year for US… but you get my point. The GENERAL public tends to WEAR THE CRAP out of their BRAKES these days because they DON’T WATCH THE ROAD 🙁 ANYTIME you SLAM on your brakes, you are WEARING THEM DOWN 🙁 Stay OFF your freakin’ PHONE, don’t EAT, don’t apply make-up, etc etc etc=DRIVE…JUST DRIVE. That is what you should be doing when you are DRIVING YOUR VEHICLE……………….CHANGE YOUR Oil, top off your fluids. Treat your vehicle with the SAME respect as you treat your home….. well….give it a shot..:( CARS ARE EXPENSIVE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • crabbyoldlady says:

        The thing is, with an old car, you never know what could fall apart next. My husband had a Dodge that ran and ran and ran until the entire tailpipe fell off (when I was driving it!) on the way to the mechanic. Ya just never know….

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *