Friday, May 16, 2008

A Dilemma of Ethics

My car has been afflicted with the automotive equivalent of gout.

But it still goes.

No warning lights appear on the instrument panel that would make anyone suspect anything is wrong.

It still runs reasonably smoothly--not so rough that one would suspect a problem.  (The occasional cloud of white smoke on startup is a bit alarming, though.)

My dad planted the bug in my ear yesterday that I might just trade it in for something newer.

How much trouble (if any) can I get into for trading it to a dealer and not saying anything?  Despite the title of my post today, the real quandary is not "is this right?" (it isn't, not really, not in the way we teach little kids about right and wrong--although I can find lots and lots of justification for pulling one over on a used-car dealership) but "can I be punished for this?"  Because I'm ethically opposed to being sued, or fined, or whatever may happen.  After all, there is proof out there that I knew the car needed a new engine in it.  All it would take is a phone call to the Toyota dealership to find that out.

On the other hand, I do have a mechanic who is interested in working on it, and can probably get a new engine, or all the necessary parts, at least, dropped in for half what the dealership wants, and then there are only about 10 payments left to make on it.



Michael said...


And car dealers?


Elaine said...

A paid off car is a blessing.

We replaced our engine... or rather Toyota did... we qualified for that class action new engine you mentioned. Even without the free engine, a paid off car is a blessing.

I have not had a car payment in 18 years. Looking back, I just don't know HOW I made ends meet with a car payment. Granted, I didn't have kids...

Inflation is unbelievable! When I did have a car payment, it was under $300, for a new car. Now when I look at new cars half the size of what had I then, I am looking at a $700 payment. My salary has NOT increased at that rate. I can't afford a new car.

Go for the mechanic and engine.

DBB said...

A dealer is a sophisticated entity when it comes to cars - you take it in, they inspect it and make an offer for trade-in value. You don't really have to say anything and any good dealer would do their own inspection anyway - it would be rather hard for a dealer to claim it got duped by someone who is no expert on cars - that's their business. That said, I'm sure they'd figure out what the car was really worth and you probalby would not get offered much.

DBB said...

But I'm with Elaine - it is good to have a paid-off car. My car is ten years old next month - and I intend to keep on driving it another 10-15 years if I can.

Erin said...

Besides a few minor gripes--it rides a little low: I've already had to replace a beat-to-hell oil pan as a result of too much off-roading; the plastic spoiler six inches from the ground is dumb, for the same reason; after a long day of driving, the thought of putting in a second long day is not really all that appealing--I really, really love this car. I love that I can fold down the seats and sleep on a mattress in the back when I go camping by myself. I love the gas mileage it gets, and the fact that I can put three kayaks on top. I don't know what I ever did without an a/c plug in the dash.

What I really want to do is spring for a rebuilt, certified, warranted engine with low miles (probably just under 2K), get it put in there, and drive that thing forever. I'll even buy into that whole "oil changes every 3000 miles" fairy tale if I can get 100,000 more miles out of my car.

Tammy said...

The fact that you can put three kayaks on top, alone, is more than enough justification for keeping the car. :-)

Seriously though. I think you're smart to go with the rebuilt engine.

J and I plan accordingly so that we never have more than one vehicle payment at a time. J is currently driving the newer vehicle with the payment -- a Honda Element (AKA: "The Toaster"). I am currently driving the older vehicle that is blissfully paid for -- a Chrysler PT Cruiser (AKA: "The Speed Buggy"). Like DBB, I will drive my paid-for car until the tires fall off and the engine disintegrates. Then it's MY turn to get/drive the newest car -- and I will be purchasing a Jeep.

Erin said...

I don't know how we'd manage two car payments; if we get rid of the Matrix in favor of something else, we'll be a one-car one-motorcycle family. My commute is something like 2.5 miles, so I can take the bike most of the time, and Nick can always ride his bicycle or the bus to school. It's warped logic, I know, but I can't see us ever having NO car payment--our budget would suck up that money like a sponge, and then what would we do when we eventually NEEDED another car?

The plan I'll campaign for is this: We sell the van (needs new a/c and other work; gas mileage way to high; I HATE driving it; there's no way Nick will be driving it as a first car) and use that to pay for the new engine, a tune-up for the bike, and, if there's any left over, pay down the balance on the Matrix. When that's paid for in another 10 months or so, we find Tyson the compact truck or small SUV he's been wanting, a GMC Sierra or Honda Pilot or Kia Sorrento that we can drive all over WITHOUT worrying about the low-slung oil pan (and maybe tow something to play with when we get there). Meanwhile, I will change my oil and have scheduled maintenance RELIGIOUSLY, I swear to God, and my Matrix and I will never fight again. I will even buy myself a AAA membership and keep full coverage insurance on it if that's what keeps it going.

Tammy said...

Sell Bango Skank?


I guess it was inevitable at some point... but it still feels like the end of an era or something.

Elaine said...

The oil thingy is funny. I bought a regal... my former husband bought a truck. I don't think we ever changed the oil. Lost both engines. Traded the Regal in for a Ford Bronco II in 1986. I might have changed the oil 3 times. In 1992 the engine sighed its last goodbye. Put in a new engine, because I loved that car. Still, I didn't do oil changes, not really, maybe a few. In 1996, engine and rear main seal, kaput.

I got a Toyota Rav in 1997, changed the oil religiously. Traded it in on the mini-van in 2001. I change the oil regularly, etc. The engine messed up, but at least I got a new one for free. I expect though, since the Toyota engine is "flawed" and well that is what they replaced it with, that this one too will mess up. Oh well, 20 years on car -- not bad.

I would love a new car. I would hate the new car payment more.

Erin said...

DBB, I think your first comment was spot-on. I had an acquaintance of mine take a look at it and offer me a labor estimate to replace the engine, and all he had to do was take off the oil cap and he was like, "Shit, what happened in there?"

I think if we try to trade it in or sell it, we're looking at getting barely enough for dinner at Burger King. And there's just nothing out there that I like as much as a Matrix for under $20K.

DBB said...

That's a bummer - Well, if you can afford a new car, you can always bite the bullet and get one - eventually you come out ok - after it is paid off, if you keep it up on its regular maintenance schedule (and it is a decent car to begin with) you can drive it for many many years. I really ought to get at least 20 years out of my car (which turns 10 officially in one month).