Adios Forester: A Quick and Comical Sale And The Final Tally Of The Cost To Drive For 15 Years

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As you probably know, we bought a 2013 Acura TSX Sport Wagon to replace ye olde 2000 Forester. One of the reasons why we keep cars a long time is because I rather hate the process of selling them. The Subie had too many miles to be trade-in fodder, as well as numerous issues: two dents, leaking head gaskets on both sides, intermittent stuttering/hesitation, piston slap, a driveline vibration, some weird sounds…and a transmission very slow to engage Drive first time each morning. I procrastinated for about a month, and finally put an ad on craigslist. The process was rather comical; but within four hours of the ad going live, the Forester was heading out on this flatbed. So now it’s time to tally up what it’s cost us to own it for almost 15 years. Let’s just say the last two years were the most expensive.

Subaru Forester CL ad

These Foresters sell for pretty good money hereabouts, and I suppose I could have tried to be more aggressive and not disclosed its leaky head gaskets and other maladies upfront. If they were intact, and one or two other minor issues were addressed, it might have fetched $3-4k quite readily, maybe even more (used car dealers ask $5-6k for them). But I couldn’t bring myself to do that. So I made it clear in the ad that it had issues, and priced it very low. I initially planned to ask $1900, but at the last minute changed it to $1500, after one more short drive which disconcerted me with a weird sound on brisk take-offs.

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The phone started ringing the minute the ad went live. A local guy said he was heading over, and would be there in about 30 minutes or so. The next call was a slightly shrill woman with a strong Chinese accent, saying she absolutely wanted to buy it, and would give me $2000. She and her mechanic husband/BF lived in Portland (110 miles away), but they were going to the bank to get the money and drive straight down. She was adamant about wanting it and having me te other interested parties that it was sold already.

I was rather expecting to sell it to a mechanic who would then flip it, and they certainly fit the profile. But I wasn’t expecting her aggressiveness. She kept texting me: “Paul, one hour away  tell them it’s sold!”   “Paul, twenty minutes away; don’t sell it!”….

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They pulled up in a BMW X3, and the guy gave it a look over and took it for a drive. When he came back, the response should have been predictable, but I’m so out of the whole wheeler-dealer thing: “Paul, we can give you $1500”  I’m not going to repeat all the bizarre excuses, such as  “I was supposed to be salmon fishing today (him)”; “I only got out $1500 from the bank (her)”   But you said you wanted it for $2000, and that I should tell other buyers it was sold!   “Oh, Paul, I meant my budget for a new car is $2000; I need to spend the rest to fix it up”.   “The water pump is noisy” (Not). etc………..

I eventually said I would take $1900.  They offered $1600.  Then $1650, with lots more pleading and excuses.  I finally said “$1800, but that was my final offer”.  After more absurd excuses, they offered. $1700. I said no, and walked into the house. Sure enough, a few minutes later, they came to the door and said “$1750; that’s the best we can do!” I almost took it, but said “No; $1800”. And I went back in and they drove off.

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I had called off the first guy, but I had gotten another interested caller, and called him back. I told him the full story, and said that $1800 was my bottom line. He said he was interested and would hook up his trailer and head over. Meanwhile, my Portland “buyers” called back, to say they had gone to the bank and gotten more money, and would buy it for $1800, and that I should make out a bill of sale for $1800 and they’d be right over. I told them someone else was coming, and had first crack at it. They sounded annoyed, but said they would have lunch, and I should call them as soon as I could.

Well, bless this other guy’s heart; I really wanted him to take it just to teach these other folks a lesson, and sure enough he did. Whipped out the cash, I signed over the title, and off he drove, while I called back the Portland folks and told them the news. They were not happy…they had wasted a whole day, drove a 220 miles round trip, and came home empty handed, all over a measly $50. I felt vindicated, and very glad that guy bought it. I’d have hated to call them back…But I was $300 ahead because of them. Thank you!

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Well, now that it’s gone, it’s time to tally up the final cost of owning this car for almost 15 years and 168,734 miles. A little over two years ago, I did an analysis of the costs so far, at 150,000 miles (full story here). At that point, the Subie had cost us $35,538, or 24¢ per mile, which was about half of what Edmunds estimated the True Cost To Own for 5 years and 75k miles.

So what about the last two-plus years? Here’s a rundown of the costs from 150,000 to 168,734, over a 28 month period:

Gas:   780 gallons at $3.25/gal, rough average cost:          $2,537

Insurance:     Liability only:                                                             $668

Two oil/filter changes:                                                                         $60

Four new Michelin tires at Costco, pro-rated for premature wear on 88k mile tread wear warranty:   $200 (full story here)

New battery (discount store):                                                            $65

One rear wheel bearing R&R:                                                              $230

New rear struts (as a result of a minor accident in the snow):  $390

Turn front rotors (warped)                                                                    $16

Knock sensor (Ebay)                                                                                  $10

Registration  two years                                                                              $86

Depreciation (I valued it at $3000 previously)                           $1200

Total cost:                                                                                                     $5462

Cost per mile:                                                                                                   29¢


So the cost per mile jumped some from the previous 24 cents. The reasons were because of higher gas costs, the bigger dent and broken strut (my fault), and the resultant low final selling price.  Without the last two, it would have been a bit less than the previous average per mile.

Here’s the grand totals for the various categories over the life of the car:

Depreciation:    $16,200

Insurance:           $4,628

Registration:        $ 474

Gasoline:               $16,037

Maintenance:       $1,765

Repairs:                   $1,896

TOTAL:                    $41,000

Cost per mile:                $0.24

Despite the higher cost per mile in the last two years, it still averages out to 24 cents per mile. No complaints there.

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The Forester was a great car for us, very reliable and never once stranded us or caused us any serious unexpected problem. We avoided the head gasket issue until the last year or so. The only real repair costs of any significance ever were three rear wheel bearing, a well known weakness on these cars as well as two replacement front axle shafts. These were all done professionally. The only significant maintenance cost was the 100k timing belt and water pump, in addition to tires oil changes, filters, and two sets of spark plugs.

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The interior of the car has held up quite well, despite it being a kiddie hauler in its early days, and other abuses. The body felt very solid yet. There’s no question that there’s life in it yet after some repairs, which is what the buyer will do, who’s also a mechanic.

We had debated spending some money on it and driving it another five years. But every time we slip behind the wheel of the TSX, in those big comfy heated leather seats that move automatically to their respective positions depending on who’s opening the car, any such thoughts are long gone. Never mind the driving experience; what a difference between the two. It really is nice to get a new car every once in a while, even if it took almost 15 years. We loved you Subie, but we don’t miss you anymore, especially that clattering piston slap on cold mornings. Adios!

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