Despite common misconceptions, car journos aren’t gifted a brand new machine whenever they threaten to give out a poor review. We are, for the most part, pretty poorly paid, but the fringe benefits make up (some of) the fiscal shortfall.
No, most of us tool around on the weekends in pretty everyday machinery. And our Ford Territory is the very definition of ordinary.
We picked Terry up about 10 years ago now as a second-hand 2004 base TS model. It runs the ubiquitous 4.0-litre Barra inline six petrol engine backed by a four-speed automatic transmission, and its only claim to fame is body colour-matched bumpers and side panels.
It’s got a grey and beige interior, lots of scratches, dents and bumps, and it’s been a faithful workhorse for our five-person, eight-bicycle, two-dog, one-racing car family.
It’s terrible on fuel, sure, and we’ve spent a few bucks over the years ironing out weird issues. The ignition barrel, for example, was apparently only engineered with the weight of a key and an alarm fob in mind – not a bunch of house keys and a garage opener. When it wore out four years ago, it was an $800 fix.
Similarly, when the bonnet release cable went ‘twang’, it necessitated the replacement of the lower part of our centre console and the payment of another $600.
Currently, though, there’s a bill looming that may make the Territory a goner. Terry owners will know the pain and cost of rear diff bushings crapping themselves. It’s a $1000 fix, so when it happened to ours about five months ago, I stuck my fingers in my ears and ignored it.
Predictably, it caused a brace of other bushings to wear out more quickly, including the centre driveshaft bushing, which in turn killed the centre driveshaft bearing. Great.
My first quote was an eye-watering $3000 including tyres, and I thought ‘no way, the car’s a dead Terry rolling’. But the simple fact is that it’s a terrible time to borrow money at the moment, and we really need to knuckle down and save hard to… well, eat.
So began the internal battle of Repair or Replace.
In the Repair corner is the fact that we have two learner drivers in the house, as well as a… ahem, somewhat untidy car keeper.
Buying a new car to have all four rims mashed and soy latte mochas leached into the carpet just doesn’t seem smart.
The aforementioned dogs, bikes and car bits also come into it.
Financially, a repair of $2500 on a known quantity is as sound a theory – to me at least – as buying another old dunger. Just because the Territory is only worth $2500 to a valuation service doesn’t reflect its true value to us.
On the Replace side, though, are some compelling arguments, particularly around safety. Even a basic mid-sized SUV like a Kia Sportage (just for example, below) has AEB, rear-view camera, lane departure warning, more airbags and better traction and stability controls. The Territory has, um, two airbags.
As well, Terry is a fuelaholic. Twenty litres per 100km is his usual tipple – but that’s mainly down to his citified life.
Civilian comforts, too, like keyless entry, heated seats and Apple CarPlay are pretty big draws, too.
You can watch the vid above to get a sense of what we’re looking at doing, but one of the biggest factors for me was the notion of finance. Tipping $700 a month or more into a brand new car isn’t an option, and even finding the necessary for a half-decent used rig isn’t easy in the current climate – unless you go to Dodgy Loans R Us.
So as I wrap up this part of the tale, the jury is swinging towards Repair. Our mechanic spent his apprenticeship swearing underneath Ford products, and he has a few ideas that will improve the car without adding a lot of cost.
Cox Automotive's Jordan Cox, trying not to think about Territory subframes
We’ll bring you further updates as we move on with the process, but we’d love to hear from you if you’ve been down the same path, and how you resolved it.