Why on earth should Alison let her husband sink $3,000 into a car with 300,000 miles?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Nov 01, 2006

Dear Tom and Ray:

My husband has a 1992 Nissan Maxima with almost 300,000 miles on it. He has taken rather good care of it and kept up all the regular maintenance. However, it now needs a new transmission. He wants to spend the $2,000-$3,000 that it will take. I would rather invest it in our next used car. He argues that it's still cheaper to go with the new transmission. This has become a real bone of contention between us, and he resents that I have asked the opinion of other men I know, who have suggested that he let the car go to its final resting place. He is not threatened by you, though, and claims he would respect your answer. -- Alison

TOM: Will he still respect our answer if we call him a bonehead, Alison?

RAY: I guess there's only one way to find out!

TOM: Actually, I'm going to take his side. Not because I agree with him, but because I feel for the guy.

RAY: Yeah. Me, too. I mean, Alison, you and your other male friends are absolutely right. With 300,000 miles on the odometer, this vehicle has already gone at least 100 percent farther than the manufacturer ever expected it to go.

TOM: So all of the statistics suggest that the engine will not last much longer. And that means, if he fixes the transmission, within six months or a year he'll be saying he needs to spend another three grand to rebuild the engine.

RAY: Only then he'll have the additional argument that "I just spent two grand on the transmission. I can't junk the car now."

TOM: But I'd still let him do it, Alison. He's not making a rational decision here. He's doing what he considers to be his "life's work." Some people decide that they were born to feed the hungry, or to end the use of land mines in warfare. Your husband feels that his purpose in life is to keep this car going. Stopping him from pursuing his life's work could create resentment that your marriage might not be able to withstand. Trust me. I have experience with marriages not withstanding things.

RAY: You might try looking at these expensive car repairs as part of his "hobby," Alison, rather than another in his series of dumb, stubborn, uninformed decisions (which is how you look at them now, right?).

TOM: Yeah, seeing this car-retention thing as a hobby puts it in a different light. Would someone who collects hand-carved Red Billed Zoots consider money first when it comes to acquiring a wonderful, rare new Zoot? No.

RAY: So let your husband pursue his "life's work," and forget about who's right and who's wrong. And look on the bright side, Alison. He could have decided that his life's work was to become a cameraman for "Girls Gone Wild," right?

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