About a third of the questions I get from readers center around one issue: euthanasia in the car world, or what I like to call “automotive decrapitation”.
In other words, when is it the right time to recycle an old car and transform it into a cheap Chinese washer and dryer?
The logical answer I give these folks is shockingly simple. You should get rid of a car when it’s worth more dead than alive.
When a car costs more to repair than replace with another one just like it in better condition, it’s time to put it on Craigslist and pray for a real customer – one that hopefully isn’t some hideous combination of scam and spam.
Once I tell a non-enthusiast this, the conversation too often changes direction and they usually blurt out something along the lines of, “Oh! Well…let me tell you about this problem that my mechanic can’t figure out,” as if I have some paranormal E.T.-like power to figure out which of the 10,000+ parts of a given car are going wonky at a given moment. After a few minutes of whistling old Bruce Springsteen tunes inside my head, I start to feel like Tony Soprano when one of his drugged up underlings starts spouting off on how he should run his business.
“Look. I do this for a living and let me tell you, your car is not special. Really. Toyota produced over 400,000 of them that year and they were all boring as hell. Go get a Miata and live a little bit!”
Of course, I only say this to the people who can withstand a Jersey verbal barrage without going psycho, which in Georgia means absolutely nobody at all. So my response is usually a tame version of this.
“Oh. Um… well…. let me ask you, why do you want to keep the son-of-a-bitch?”