What should I do with my mostly defunct 2010 Subaru Legacy?
January 25, 2020 5:34 PM   Subscribe

My Subaru Legacy has slowly but surely been deteriorating, and I think it has finally kicked the bucket. I have been repairing it myself, as well as passing the difficult problems to my mechanics, but the repairs I need now are overwhelmingly expensive and not reasonable for me. It still runs but barely. Details below the fold.

I bought this car used a few years ago, and from the jump, there have been issues. My engine overheated back in March and I had the radiator replaced, flushed out the coolant and replaced that + burped air bubbles, replaced the upper and lower radiator hoses + clamps, replaced the downstream oxygen sensor, replaced all the lightbulbs (mostly because I had a few out and dismantling the front bumper and de-oxidizing the light coverings to provide brighter light was such a project that I would rather never do that again), replaced the front left axle, and some other less significant repairs. I know that my head gaskets are bad, and the repairs will run at least 2,700 USD. I applied a head gasket sealant back in October, which seems to have bought me three months, which, not bad for $70 and a few hours work, shrug. My upstream oxygen sensor needs replacing, and I am pretttttty sure that my water pump has severe problems. Replacing the engine, which is another option, is an estimated 1,800 USD. My mechanics (the family I never had!) have basically recommended that I stop attempting to resuscitate the car and cut my losses.

Well, since I use my car for my job, I've been doing the maintenance work on my car as usual and hoping that this head gasket issue wouldn't come to a, er, head until like, March. But, the other day I noticed a disturbing vibration and a strange, squeaky rattle coming from somewhere behind the front passenger side seat. Well, shit, I thought. That'd be the water pump. I've had my eye on a car since December and it's still on the lot so today I drove 35 minutes to the dealership and prayed my car wouldn't break down on 95 North. I made it just in time, as steam was billowing from my tailpipe and my car was jumping when I accelerated after idling at red lights.

The dealership's owner has offered to let me keep the Subaru on his lot until I can get it towed by Subaru Roadside Assistance.
But I'm like, where should I get it towed? Back to my place in South Philadelphia? Directly to a junkyard where I can sell it for a few hundred bucks? If I get it towed back home, can I reasonably get this thing sold on Craigslist for more than the junkyard would pay for it? Should I part it out? The body of the car is in good shape aside from very minor scrapes. Parting out like, rearview mirrors alone would bring in $80 if I found buyers (which sounds like a lot of work + time). I don't have a garage and the car would likely sit in front of my house at the curb until I either sold it or parted it out or whatever. If I can, I'd like to recoup some money from this thing, but I don't know what is reasonable and if I should just scrap it for $300 and dust my hands of the whole situation.

TLDR; my car is officially a piece of junk, but a handsome and potentially useful piece of junk to the right buyer/shade-tree mechanic, and I'm not sure how much it's worth stressing over or if it's salvageable or worthwhile to anyone at all.
posted by erattacorrige to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
You've put in a ton of work, so you feel a strong sense of the car's value. But it needs head gasket and water pump. Take the 300 and let a junkyard part it out; that's what they're for. You learned a lot and will be able to take good care of the next car.
posted by theora55 at 5:46 PM on January 25 [6 favorites]


I donated a similarly aged car to NPR - didn't have to be driveable - signed over title and got a tax break so that's another option.
posted by leslies at 6:11 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]


If the body is in decent shape and it doesn't have a million miles on it, I'd be shocked if you couldn't get over a grand for it as it stands. However, that means paying for a tow, having a place to store it, and dealing with craigslist flakes. At the end of the day, it matters how much you value your time. You might try listing it on the Ultimate Subaru Message board or one of the other Subaru forums...
posted by Larry David Syndrome at 8:27 PM on January 25


Do you have an auto auction place in your town? Take it to the same place that your local NPR/SPCA/veterans charity takes their donations and pay the $60 or whatever to sell it through them. If it's structurally sound and potentially fixable with time and skill it will probably sell to a local shade tree or hobbiest.
We had an old BMW that needed $2000 in repairs but had a great interior and body. We donated it to the PBS station and they got $3000 for it. After that experience I've come to believe that any car in half-running condition can sell for more at auction than the car picking places will pay.

I like to believe that the old BMW has been turned into someone's rally car.
posted by fiercekitten at 10:58 PM on January 25


Replacing the engine, which is another option, is an estimated 1,800 USD.

So for $1800 you can get a 2010 Subaru Legacy with a known good engine? Sounds like good value to me.
posted by flabdablet at 6:08 AM on January 26


So for $1800 you can get a 2010 Subaru Legacy with a known good engine? Sounds like good value to me

Sort of but not quite this simple. The water pump needs replacing as well and there's another part of the undercarriage that needs welding (has a hole, is leaky), plus it has nearly 140k miles on it already. But yeah sure if throwing another few grand into it and getting another 40-50k miles out of it makes sense. My mechanics advised against this simply because they suspect due to the engine's design that with these problems plus the age of the car, more repairs would crop up in a few months anyway, although of course, nobody knows that with 100% certainty.
posted by erattacorrige at 7:35 AM on January 26


The water pump would come with the new engine. All engine issues would cease with the $1800. The welding obviously would be still needed, but 140k on driveline isn't enormous.

The question is - how much budget do you have to spend on a new car? If it's not >$5000 you will just be swapping out known issues for unknown issues. The entire of the right hand side of this equation is what money you have to replace this car with, because that directly decides whether changing to a different car is worthwhile.

If the body is in decent shape and it doesn't have a million miles on it, I'd be shocked if you couldn't get over a grand for it as it stands. However, that means paying for a tow, having a place to store it, and dealing with craigslist flakes. At the end of the day, it matters how much you value your time.
Truth. By the time you tow it, store it, meet people, advertise, dick around, you won't see much change out of the difference between this and scrapping it, sadly.
posted by Brockles at 9:45 AM on January 26 [1 favorite]


I don't have to pay for tows due to my roadside assistance with Subaru. I also can store it on the curb of my block; it still drives the point where I can periodically shift it a few spaces if needed.
My budget for a new car is greater than 5k.
posted by erattacorrige at 10:10 AM on January 26


Well if you can afford to buy a new one for that kind of money then it probably makes sense to upgrade.

The tax break/donate option seems to be your best one, to me, for minimum hassle versus recovered money.
posted by Brockles at 10:32 AM on January 26


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