Recalled Windstar Not Worth Fixing, Ford Wants To Buy It

Eric owns an elderly (model year 1999) Ford Windstar, and isn’t particularly interested in trading it in for a new car for financial reasons. Ford recently recalled hundreds of thousands of older Windstars, and Eric dutifully brought his car in for repair. Instead of a freshly safe car, he received an offer of $3,700 for his van. If he wanted to keep the van, he would need to sign a document absolving ford of any liability if anything goes wrong with the car. What would you do?

Before Eric tells his story, let’s quickly look at what the recall is all about. The recall only applies to cars registered or sold in cold-weather states. Basically: corrosion could lead the front subframe coming apart, leading to loss of control of the car.

As the NHTSA’s investigation explains it:

Testing by both Ford and NHTSA have demonstrated that lower control arm separation from the rear attachment bracket results in significant toe out of the affected wheel, which affects the driver’s ability to control vehicle direction.

This is not a minor repair: most people would not want to keep the vehicle. On to Eric’s story.

So, you may have heard of the recent recall of older ford windstar models. Well, my 1999 windstar was one of those recalled. After taking the minivan in for the requisite repairs, ford has now decided that my vehicle is not worth repairing. They have offered me $3,700 for my minivan. I can refuse the offer and take my vehicle back only if i sign an agreement that i know the vehicle is unsafe and absolve ford of any responsibility for any accidents or injuries that may occur from driving my vehicle.

Now, i will admit, if i was ready to sell my 12-year-old minivan, $3,700 would probably be a reasonable offer. But i am not ready. In fact, the whole reason we still have a 12-year-old vehicle is because we are not in a financial position to purchase a new car. The chances of me finding a minivan, or equivalently-sized vehicle, in good shape, for the money they are offering is slim. In our current financial situation, the chances of anyone giving us a car loan is just as slim — and if i could get that loan, i certainly cannot currently afford any new monthly payments. Effectively, they are forcing me to invent some way to cough up some money from some magical source to purchase a car.

I have no idea what to do at this point. I cannot drive my family around in a vehicle that is officially and legally unsafe, but accepting $3,700 effectively leaves us stuck without the ability to reasonably replace the minivan. I can guarantee this: unless they can come up with a better remedy, my next vehicle will not be a ford.

What should i do?