Lemons Aren't So Sweet

Friday, April 07, 2006 | 0 Comments

I have the worst luck with cars. The best car I have ever had was a ten year old Dodge Aspen that I bought from my dad. Since then I have bought one lemon after another.

The first was a Honda. I was told that Hondas were supposed to be good, so I bought one. Several months later SSB slammed into a deer while delivering pizzas. He called me from a nearby house to ask me what he should do. I told him that when the cops got there, he should get a tag for the deer so that we could get it butchered. He called me back twenty minutes later to tell me that the cops had found "part" of the deer. "Never mind" I said.

The car was officially totalled, and we got about half what we paid for it from our insurance company. BUT the car was still drivable and the repairs only cost 2/3 what they gave us, so that was OK.

Except several months later we were replacing the alternator. While on a road trip. You know that is the best time to do major car repair. We were just lucky there was a place in the town that had the part. Then less than two years later replacing it again. And the engine. And the brakes. And the CV joint (or some nonsense) and when SSB was driving it back from the repair shop the axle nearly fell off the car because they had put on the wrong part. And not too long after that it started blowing dark exhaust. So it was time to get a different car.

We were laughed out of a couple of dealerships, but we soon found one that was interested in our trade-in. The mechanics looked it over and the salesman came in to give us their "best" offer. SSB and I looked at each other, prepared for another ridiculous amount. He told us, "$1,600. I'm sorry. That is the best that we can do." I told him that we would need to talk it over. He left the office. I sat there calmly and whispered to SSB, "Holy shit. We're taking that." That was the same amount that the insurance company had given us less than two years before.

And we ended up with a Dodge Spirit. I LOVED the seats in that car. But over the 5 years that we owned that car we had to have the engine replaced at least twice and rebuilt once. We had the air conditioner replaced a couple of times. The windshield and back window both had to be replaced. We had to have the power booster for the brakes replaced three times. And twice the car got into an accident because it refused to brake. For about 6 months we struglled with a mysterious problem where the car seemed to have a mind of its own on the road. It would speed up and slow down on its own. I'm talking from 65 to 25 or vice versa, abruptly! It was a death trap, but no one could figure it out. When we brought it in, it would never do it for the mechanic. OF COURSE. Finally, $3000 of engine repairs later, they figured out that it was a $100 computer part that was causing the problem.

I vowed after that fiasco that our next car would be a brand new one so we wouldn't have to worry about second hand crap. If those cars are so great, why didn't the people keep them? Right? So 4 years ago we bought a Dodge Caravan. It was downhill from there. Within the week we were bringing it back for repairs. And we have had to bring it in for repairs more often than should be necessary for such a new car. It wasn't so bad when it was still under the bumper to bumper, but now we are on our own. For the last 6 months or so the only way that the fan would work is if we would put it on full blast. And the other day when SSB was going to bring me to work, it just wouldn't start. All the electronics worked, but the engine just would not turn over. And it took our mechanics (these guys are GOOD, not like heads-up-butts that we used to bring our car to!) several days to figure it out. It was a tiny wire buried under the engine. It had a hole coroded in it. The guy was saying how it was frustrating because when he tried to start it, it wouldn't start, but his coworker got it started no problem. SSB and I giggled, "Yeah. That's how you know it's our car." You also know it's our car when the mechanic can't figure out how to fix it or says, "Well, yeah, it could happen, but it is REALLY RARE", and then it happens, twice.

Our saving grace is that this shop does such a great job, they get our car in FAST, and they don't charge much - this repair for both the wire and the fan was $300. I can assure you that we have paid 5 times that for 5 times less work when we dealt with other repair shops - AND those other shops wouldn't really repair it! Those shops would just get it running long enough to call it fixed.

I am thinking about getting a different car, but I really don't know what to do. We can only afford a used car, and I really can't take any more emotional and fiscal damage from another lemon.

To be fair, we put over 100,000 miles on the Honda, over 250,000 miles on the Dodge Spirit, and we have put over 80,000 miles on the van that we own now.


"AG" said...

I love my Honda!

Heather said...

My first car was a Honda and it was cuter than hell but ran like crap! If I had to start out from a green light on a hill, it would go no faster than 20. And on cold days I HAD to warm it up for at least 30min or it would die in the middle of the road!

I have a Saturn now and it's wonderful!! My whole family has a Saturn...maybe a Saturn would be good for you? :-)

sands of time said...

Ive been looking at new cars myself.I don't mine has much more juice left in its legs.


DrMax said...

I thought we were all suppose to have flying cars by now, every book I read as a kid in the 60's said we'd be jetting back and forth to work in the next century. Yet here we are still having to go to fricking used car lots to buy crappy cars with wheels. I blame Bush.

Shannon said...

I'm all about the Japanese. I had a used Toyota with 132,000 miles and everything I replaced (alternator, power steering pump) was the original part that came with the car. I bought a new corolla a little over a year ago. Toyotas are peppier than Hondas and have great gas mileage too!

Also, although I was very, very doubtful, I've heard excellent things from Hyundai owners. Plus, there's a 10 year warantee...

If you're going to buy a car, though, do research at edmunds.com before going to the dealership.

Sylvana said...

AG, my brother is a mechanic and he recommended a Honda. But the one that he recommended was out of my price range.

Heather, we test drove a Saturn, but there was something about it that we didn't like and right now I can't remember what it was. Not a lot of pick up is what I'm thinking. We really need that around here for when we get on the county highways that are just two lanes and we need to pass farm vehicles quickly.

PinkLady, well, if you get a new car, let me know what it is and what you think of it.

DrMax, yeah, Shamus was talking about the flying car. We have enough trouble trying to figure out a flat plane, I can't even imagine the retarded driving we would see with a multi-dimensional driving plane.

Shannon, I don't mind buying a used car and replacing parts as long as I know that they had a good life. It's when I am suspicious due to an untimely demise that gets me all pissed off.

Our neighbor has a Toyota truck that has to be AT LEAST 15 years old and it drives beautifully and never needs repairs, so I am leaning toward Toyotas.

OldRoses said...

Yeah! Toyota! I had a Corolla and now a Camry. Both great, great cars.