To keep or dump a car while Peace Corp-ing.

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 1991

Dear Tom and Ray:

I am going into the Peace Corps, and will be overseas for two years. I have a 1985 Toyota Tercel with 70,000 miles on it. It's paid for, and is in good shape. I have two choices, I think. I can sell the car, and save the money to buy a replacement car when I get back. Or I can store the car in a relative's garage (I trust the relative). I've had this car since it was new and I know its repair history. Also, I doubt I could buy another new car when I return. Any advice?

RAY: I'd definitely get rid of it, Molly. Unlike most houses, cars go down in value over time. It's seven years old now and might be worth $1,000. It's going to be nine years old when you get back, and you'll be lucky if it's worth half of that then (especially if it won't start!).

TOM: Gee, Molly, I have to dis?agree with my unfeeling, cold-hearted brother. Sure it will lose some resale value while you're away. But who cares? What you want is a car, right? It's a good car for you now, and it'll be the same good car for you when you come back. Besides, after being away for so long, do you really want to come home to someone else's used car? I'd say keep it.

RAY: Yeah, I guess my brother has a point. After two years in a developing country, getting into that friendly old Tercel will be like having your cat greet you when you come home from work. I guess you shouldn't worry about it losing its value or about its engine rusting away while it's sitting in a damp garage for two years. I'd hang onto it, Molly.

TOM: Engine rusting away? I guess I hadn't thought of that. While it's sitting in that garage for two years, those piston rings could corrode right into the sides of the cylinder walls. If you don't prepare it properly for storage, you might have to rebuild the whole engine when you get back. I changed my mind, Molly. I think you should dump it.

RAY: Don't listen to him, Molly. He has no compassion whatsoever. I understand that this car has emotional value to you. If you love it, you should keep it. You can have your neighborhood mechanic help you prepare it for storage. It will involve things like disconnecting the battery, putting a gasoline stabilizer in the tank, squirting a little oil into each of the cylinders, and covering up the exhaust pipe and air intake. Have that stuff done and everything will be fine. Can you believe my brother would even suggest that you get rid of it? Geesh!

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