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It’s time to repair the Toyota Celica. Before I get into the numbers, let me catch you up on how we ended up with a large car repair estimate.

Air Conditioning Out and It's a Heatwave

In case you've been missing it, it has been extremely hot where we live, with temperatures reaching 100 and the heat index much higher. Well, my husband car had the air conditioner just stop working. Great timing, right?

He's been busy at work and my schedule was bit hectic as I'm trying to get everything ready before the baby.

Last week we dropped off the car in the evening so the mechanic could look at it first thing the next morning. He was going to call my husband with an estimate about why the A/C was broken and how much it would cost to fix it.

Looks to Be More Complicated Than We Thought

My husband called me during lunch to let me know that the car needed more repairs than we anticipated. Here's a rundown of the mechanic's diagnostic:

  • New A/C Compressor and Clutch Need
  • Replace Serpentine Belt
  • Replace Radiator
  • Replace Head Gasket

Total estimated cost for parts is about $2,000 and then there's labor. So we're looking at $3,500 to repair a car that cost less than that. It definitely soured my husband's mood. He didn't think that his car needed that much repair and having it so close the baby's due date is a bit stressful.

However, we're not going to just accept this estimate, we're going to see if we can get a second opinion.

Hunting for a 2nd Opinion

First thing I thought was we needed a second opinion from someone familiar with his car's make and model. We also wanted to check out the itemized bill a little bit more.

We also started digging around to see if we could find parts at much more reasonable prices. Using Advnaced Auto's site with my husband's car information we found part for approximately 30-40% cheaper than the estimate. For example, we were looking for an A/C compressor and clutch, the repair shop quoted us $560 and Advanced Auto said it would be about $250-$350.

I then went on Facebook and asked friends if they could recommend mechanics. I called and found a shop that could check it out this week. Hopefully we'll get some good news with that.

Thoughts on Big Car Repairs

For now, we're going to share my VW Jetta as much as possible, especially with this horrible heat. Since the baby is due any day now, I'm not really driving around town as much anyways. Hopefully we'll find a solution this week and get my husband's car fixed.

What has been the biggets car repair you've made? How much would you put into your car before you decide to look for a new one?

Photo Credit: RJL20

About Elle Martinez

Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..

20 comments add your comment

  1. I feel your pain! You’re lucky that you own a Toyota. I’ve owned many different brands of cars and Toyota’s have generally been one of the least expensive brands to maintain (Honda is good as well). American model cars are less expensive to repair (in my experience), but they seem to require repairs more often.

    • I have a VW and while it’s a great car, when parts break, I find it so expensive. Toyotas are much cheaper!

  2. The most I have spent was $2000 to rebuild the transmission on my mini-van. I did that at about 103,000 miles. It now has 157,000 miles and is paid off. The amount that I would spend would depend upon how much life I thought might be left in the car. If the car were paid off and $3000 on repairs might help it last another 12 months, that is only $250 per month. Could I replace it for that? Then I do the math. It really depends on a host of factors. You are wise to get a second opinion, though.

    • That’s where we’re at- looking at the numbers. I’m hoping that the second mechanic can lower it to $2k and inform us that the repairs would be the biggest it needs for the next year or so. We’ll see….

  3. I’ve never had a repair cost over $500-600, but I’m sure that I just jinxed myself by stating that 🙂 I actually have been bolstering our car repair and maintenance fund because I know that my luck will run out one of these days!

  4. I once had a car have some major engine trouble at 120,000 miles or so. It was going to cost about $3500 to repair, and since the car wasn’t even worth that much – and it was already starting to have other issues, I decided to throw in the towel. Luckily the car was paid for, and we had been saving cash for another car in the meantime so we were able to pay cash for my new car. As mentioned above, though – it helps to do a cost analysis to see if it makes sense to repair vs. moving on. And be sure to get a second opinion from a trusted mechanic!

  5. Elle, I make a similar repair evaluation for my old saab every couple months. Saab repairs are ridiculously expensive and with it’s current low trade-in value, something like replacing the AC system can cost half as much as the car is worth! So I end up driving my wife’s car as much as possible, because I hate to sink more money into the car….but I love it too much to get rid of it 🙂 !

  6. That stinks about your car repair right before the baby comes! It sounds like a 2nd opinion on this would be good, as sometimes mechanics tell you that things need to be fixed when they really dont. The most money i’ve ever spent on 1 car repair was about 1200, and that was to replace the axles on the car. It was old, so it didnt cost that much.

  7. I once replaced the transmission and the car was only 5 years old! Thankfully the was my only big auto expense.

  8. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and feedback – it gives us some things to think about. The good news is that we do have money set aside in the car replacement fund, but we were hoping not to tap into it until year.

  9. That is a sizable number of repairs to have all at once. The serpentine belt is likely something you can do on your own with the help of the fine folks at Auto Zone. As for the other three, it really depends on how long you plan to keep the vehicle. If it’s a situation where you’d like to keep the car for several more years, try looking at after-market parts that can save you a considerable sum. As for A/C repairs, I’m not familiar with the Celica, but many of these kinds of repairs involve a massive amount of labor including taking out the dash to get to the system.

    Also, you might be able to apply some of this methodology in making your decision:

  10. My husband had an old Honda that failed the emissions test. Bringing it to the emissions standard would have cost more than the car was worth, so we traded it in and bought a new little car (years ago now), but we had to have a loan, and for a while it was a struggle making the payments.

  11. That’s some big bucks! I say repair it if you think the rest of the car will last 5 years and that’s how long you plan to hold it.

    • It doesn’t look like we can get a reasonable estimate of 5 more years with the car. 🙁 As my husband is looking at his options, I’m starting to hunt around to see what cars are on sale.

      • Gotcha. Welp, if that’s the case, then might as well get a new one then. $3,500 is definitely painful, but then if you buy like a 2nd hand car for $8,000, it will have it’s own problems too.

        I just wrote an update on my site regarding Moose. Keep on shopping around for a 2nd opinion!

  12. That is a huge number. My Honda Fit’s AC has stopped working, I am dreading the amount the shop is going to quote me, I might just skip it if it doesn’t affect anything else in the car.

  13. Depends on the overall shape of the rest of the car, and how much longer you plan on keeping it. A $2,000 repair might be worth it, if you can get 3-4 more years out of it with just normal maintenance.

  14. On more than one occasion we been facing repairs that were more than the car was worth. That’s why we’re saving up for the next one so that we don’t need to get into that position again!