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My Crappy Car

What to do with a lemon car! Is your car a lemon? Mine definitely is. This lady has a solution to her car troubles and figured out how to use the BBB and Consumer Affairs to fix her crappy car problems. I'm loving these life hacks that save the budget and make things work again.

About a month ago, I mentioned car problems.  Here’s the whole story of my crappy car so far.

The Car

I own a 2005 Chevy Aveo that I bought brand new for $11,200 on a 5 year loan.  I ended up paying a total of about $12,800 by the time I paid it off 2 years later.  It’s currently 5 years old and has driven about 42,000 miles.  I bought it because I needed an inexpensive car, I was young enough to think that used cars sucked, and I only needed a commuter vehicle.  This was 3 years before I figured out how to buy a car properly or how to sell a car on Craigslist.

For 4 years, my Aveo did its job with only a few minor problems.  It slowly leaks about an inch of brake fluid every 4-6 months which I refill on my own now for $2 a shot.  It also wears down good tires every 2 1/2 years or 20,000 miles.

I’ve stuck to the maintenance schedule in the owner manual since I first bought it, so I thought I would be okay until at least 2012.

The First Situation

Last November (2009), my check engine light popped on while I was heading to work.  I was worried, so I stopped by my mechanic who was 5 miles away.  It took him 10 minutes to find out that my 02 sensor was broken and my serpentine belt was cracked.  My car had less than 39,000 miles at this point.

Luckily, my husband had the day off and drove me into work.  My supervisor lives in my direction and was able to drop me off on his way home.  Since my mechanic could get the parts from a dealer nearby, I was able to pick up my car that afternoon but had to fork over $540 total with tax.  But it worked, so I swallowed my annoyance and hoped for the best.

The Second Situation

This April I was driving home from work and my A/C started blowing hot air that smelled a little.  It took me 2 miles of feeder road before I noticed that my car’s thermostat gauge was reading a big fat H for hot.  After pulling over and calling my husband, I opened the hood and it looked like some icky liquid had exploded all over the place.

I called my mechanic and asked what I should do.  Obviously he suggested having it towed in so they could take a look.  I wrote down his address.  I then called our car insurance company to see if I had towing on my policy.  I did and she sent out a tow truck to my location.  By that time my husband was waiting with me and I was so proud of not freaking out.  Let’s just say I don’t usually handle stress very well.

My mechanic called me the next morning with the happy news that my thermostat housing had cracked in half.  I knew this was coming since I had googled “Chevy Aveo Overheating” the night before and the first page of results all mentioned broken thermostat housings for the 2004-2006 models.  Why?  Because they used cruddy plastic housings instead of metal ones like everybody else.

My mechanic quoted $375 plus tax, which was similar to mentioned prices online, so I gave him the go ahead.  It was ready that afternoon and cost $343 total.  My crappy plastic thermostat housing was replaced with a much better metal one and now the car is driving fine again.

The Official Complaint

Call me crazy, but I do not think I should have to spend $900 on major parts in less than 6 months on a car with less than 42,000 miles!

I emailed an official complaint to GM’s customer service department detailing everything.  I received a phone call a few days later, went over the specifics, and was told that Paul would get back to me the next day.  Paul did not call.  I left a voicemail a week later and received a call back the next morning.  Since none of the parts that were replaced were part of a recall or replaced by a Chevrolet dealership, there’s nothing they can do.

He was nice enough to tell me that there was a recall for part of the electronics system though – they need to reprogram my Engine Control Module.  Fantastic. *heavy sarcasm*

I have filed complaints with the Better Business Bureau and Consumer Affairs.  I also see a Hyundai Accent or Toyota Yaris in my future.  Maybe a used Prius since my husband’s has worked out so well…hmmm…choices, choices.

Any car horror stories out there?  Any suggestions for my next car?



FYI:  I worked at a dead end cubicle job from 2005-2011 for about $30,000 a year.  I went self-employed in July 2011 and make between $80,000-$100,000 through blogging, a rental home, and professional pet sitting.  If you’d like to start your own site (link to my free step-by-step guide), I highly suggest checking out Bluehost (my referral link with a nice discount for you).  I even have all of my favorite tools on a resource page - I hope they help you too. This all gives me the time to be with my aging family members, the flexibility to stay close with my friends and family, and it should help if we finally get pregnant too!  Please contact me any time at budgetingfunstuff*at*gmail*dot*com with questions or just to brainstorm! I’d love to help!
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16 thoughts on “My Crappy Car

  1. Car problems? Oh let me count the ways!

    My worst car was…Plymouth Voyager minivan! Bought it for the Drivers Side door since I had a couple kids and it was going to be so much easier. Little did I know I was driving my babies around in an oddly-shaped, green deathtrap. The serpentine belt snapped within one week of ownership (it was a new car). It snapped 2 more times while I owned it. It fogged up something awful as soon as humidity exceeded 50 percent.

    Chevy Grand Prix – worst brakes on a car I have ever seen. Hated that car

    Chevy Beretta – ECM had problems in the rain. Had to be replaced 4 times

    Here are my favorites:
    Ford Taurus X/Freestyle. Love this vehicle. Sure it isn’t the prettiest, but roomy as heck and reliable.

    Our little Pontiac Sunfire. (yes, Sunfire, not Sunbird). Cheapest car we ever had, but oh so reliable.

    Just a suggestion regarding your tires – try to rotate them whenever you get an oil change. Rotating as extended to life of my tires a lot.

  2. Wow…there are a lot of Chevy’s on this list, including yours, BITFS. I have a Chevy Malibu that I bought brand new 9years ago, and I have had no trouble, aside from normal wear and tear of parts.

    I hope your car situation improves because I know how costly car repairs can be. Despite having no mechanical problems from my car, a 9year old car starts to need a lot of replacement parts–and the costs add up.

  3. Hmmm… Just the sort of things that made me decide, 30-plus years ago, never to buy another American car. Have been driving Toyotas ever since, and never had another car problem.

    My father bought me a 1967 Ford Fairlane as a graduation gift, after I’d dumped the boyfriend he disliked. That thing was the worst lemon ever to roll (briefly) down a road. Whatever could go wrong with a car did go wrong with it. Luckily, the bridegroom and I moved into an apartment that was within walking distance of a Ford dealership, since the thing literally spent more time at the dealer’s repair shop than it did in our carport. After some time, I decided the Ford repair guys were deliberately breaking things on it — I’d take it in, get it fixed, and within two or three days something else would break.

    We dumped it for a Toyota Corona. What a wonderful car! It ran and ran and ran and ran, 100 percent trouble-free. I’ve had the same experience since then with two Camrys, a Land Cruiser, and a Sienna.

    At one point we bought a Chevy van, because I was carpooling a half-dozen kids several times a week. Piece of junk! The transmission gave out about a week after the warranty ended. Then-husband threw his weight around and persuaded the dealer to honor the warranty after all. Next we (stupidly) replaced that with a Chevy Suburban. Prettier piece of junk, but still a piece of junk. Transmission gave out about a week before the warranty ended. As it developed, Chevy truck transmissions habitually gave out about the time the vehicle’s warranty ended.

    We drove a Mercedes until the government phased out leaded gasoline, by which time the vehicle was very ancient but still running perfectly. We drove a Volvo–chronic electrical system and brake problems; wouldn’t buy another one of those, either.

  4. $900 in six months is “crappy”. It’s still cheaper than car payments no matter what car you buy. For me, the real tipping point is: “Do you trust your car”? No not with your life’s savings, but rather will it start in the morning? Do you feel safe in it? Are you worried it will break down and leave you stranded? If the answer is yes, new car time is upon you.
    Give the Ford Focus a look. Though a friend of mine also swears by Toyota (Camrys and Avalons).

    Also, give a look at an one to three year old car, that may still be under warranty. I know you know the rationale so I won’t repeat it here. Let us know what you get.

  5. Everyday Tips, the Pontiac Sunfire looks like a really cool car. Oh, I forgot to mention that my tires get rotated every 6000 miles…the car doesn’t seem to care…it eats tires, lol.

    Frugal Scholar, my grandparents just bought a new Camry and let me drive them to Austin in it. It was awesome!

    Thanks for passing along the good Yaris reviews…I was hoping to find an inexpensive car that was actually reliable.

    Young Mogul, a friend of mine just got a Malibu after her Cobalt was totalled…she’s so happy! It looks really nice too. Good luck with your 9 year old, lol.

    Anon, I’ll make sure to put Dodge Intrepid on my NO list. Thanks.

    Funny about Money, I’ll do the smart thing and learn from my and everybody else’s mistakes…I’m buying a Toyota or Hyundai next time!

    BillV, yep, I won’t really be in the market for another car until this one stops running or annoys me enough to push me over the line. I’m hoping it lasts for at least another 2 years since I want to be able to buy all future cars in cash and won’t have a big enough fund for at least a year, maybe two, since we’ve drained our home and auto account to a basic $1000 while we’ve been attacking his car loan.

    When I am in the market, I will definitely be looking for a nice used car (I really like my husband’s Certified Pre-Owned Prius)…my ideal would be a 2 year old low-mileage Toyota or Hyundai or maybe even a Honda (although they seem expensive). I’m really interested in the Toyota Yaris and Prius right now, but that may change… I’ll definitely give you all an update when I have one. 🙂

  6. BFS, Sorry about your car.

    I’ve had wonderful luck with my 2002 Honda Civic. I love that car and drive it all the time over my 2009 Honda Odyssey.

    I used to have a Volvo that was a complete lemon.

    My husband loves Volkswagen. He currently has an ’05 GTI.

  7. Julie, I’ve heard nothing but good things from most Honda owners. Maybe that’s why they cost more. I actually don’t know any Volkswagen owners, so thanks for the mention.

  8. I might be looking to get a new car once I find a better job. I’ve always been in to sports cars, horsepower, and the feeling you get when you’re a passenger in one is amazing. Just wondering what you all would recommend as a powerful fast car that is some what affordable, Nothing over 40,000 and preferably not over 30,000. I know Mustangs will probably be a big answer, but what else is there?

  9. Crazy men, I don’t think you should have to spend $900 on major parts in less than 6 months on a car with less than 42,000 miles! wish you best of luck!

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