98 Sable - Replace a Car or Keep Fixing It?

I have a friend who keeps nagging me to get rid of my "heap of shit" 1998 Sable because of all the repairs I've had performed on it lately.
First of all, this is a guy who is in his mid-30's and only recently learned to drive, and who admits that he knows absolutely nothing about working on cars. He tries to convince me that I can buy a good 10-year-old Honda for only $1100 and I'll get another 100,000 miles out of it with no problems.
What have I had done to my Sable recently? Here's a backwards list, not counting normal wear and tear like brakes, belts, oil changes, etc, though I do include replacement of an oil pan gasket.
Right now it's in the shop to investigate leaking coolant. I think it might be coming from the radiator. If not, one of the hoses and it's just running down the air dam or something and dripping from there. Other problem it has right now is pulsating lights, but only when running the headlights - (all lighting -- probably the alternator going out), and the AC compressor just started making a strange noise. The heater core is also clogged up, so there's no heat.
11/23/2004 - 166,899 miles - No overdrive, hard shift from second to third - Replaced valve body in the transmission and gearshift solenoid - $1,133.
11/5/2004 - 165,500 miles - Shimmy in front driver wheel at highway speeds - Replace front brake pads and rotors, replace worn out tie rod end, replace right front tire - $254.95
7/8/2004 - 153,737 - Overheating problem. Water pump had gone out, the engine got hot (though not quite maxed out) and warped the heads. $838.80.
6/21/2004 - 151,259 miles - Water pump went out - $85.
6/9/2004 - 150,418 miles - Check Engine light had been on for the last 62,000 miles. I knew from my own scan tool it was an oxygen sensor. Had it replaced and fixed some screwed up wiring for $271.27.
3/19/2004 - 134,187 miles - Oil spewing from the underside of the engine. Replaced engine oil pan gasket - $232.11
11/1/2003 - 122,042 miles - Coolant loss due to a leaking radiator. Replaced radiator. $371.55.
6/11/2003 - 106,647 miles - Imprecise steering, slight horizontal drift - Replaced front left lower ball joint - $160.09.
Prior to that date, the only other work done was paid for by the dealer and that was for the replacement of the rack in the steering mechanism. The car was virtually undriveable it was so bad. Other dealer work was for normal wear & tear (brakes, bulb replacements, and other things needed to get it to pass inspection).
So in all, not counting normal maintenance costs, I've only spent $2,507.97 for 65,000 miles of driving from April 2003 until now.
For the replacement of the heater core and alternator, that's probably another $800, then if the radiator is bad, another $400 or so, for a total of $1200, not counting the compressor.
That said, mechanically the car runs great. It doesn't smoke, the engine is very responsive to the gas pedal, especially after having the transmission worked on. The only problem I do have is that I have to burn premium gas or it clatters, but the mechanic says the inside of my engine is exceptionally clean. It's clattered since I first bought it with 101,000 miles on it. The A/C still blows cold enough to make you exhale fog in the middle of summer and all the electric windows and locks still work, though in really cold weather, the front passenger window seems a little sluggish.
The body of the car is in great shape, too. There are no dents except for about three barely noticeable dents on the roof - probably a touch of hail damage, but they're so hard to see that I didn't even notice them for the first fifteen months I had the car, if they were even on there at that time. The only complaint I have about the body is the typical yellowed, hazy headlight lenses, but those can be replaced for $500.
So based on all that info, does it really sound like I have a heap of shit? Or does it sound like I have a car that's in good shape overall, but some of the parts (alternator, compressor) are just nearing the end of their normal operating life?
I want to keep the car because I really love it a lot -- even more than the newer models. Plus I don't want to take on a big car payment right now, not when I'm so close to getting this one paid for. I only owe $1300 more on it and I'm determined to keep it at least that long. I want so badly to experience the freedom of life without a car payment once again.
So he thinks I should sell the "piece of shit" and get a car for $1,000 -- a Honda. Now what would you do? Hell, I certainly don't want to drive a Honda. When you spend as much time behind the wheel as I do, comfort becomes an issue. My Sable is comfortable. A Ford Focus is not. Even the 2003 Taurus I've been driving in recent days is not as comfortable as mine.
What are your words of wisdom? Yes, my Sable has drained all my last pennies from my checking account with the most recent repair, and I'm having to get a friend to lend me a little money to get this coolant leak fixed, but if I can just get a month of trouble-free service out of it, I can recover and be financially prepared for the next major repair.
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Damaeus opined in

I agree with your friend... face it, there are just some cars and owners that dont get along. It's a "ZEN" thing..you've had very bad luck and this isnt JUST a "FOrd" problem in all cases.
But I strongly disagree that YOU, personally, should drive any car that isnt covered by some sort of warranty. Honda has some lemons, too. Strongly advise you check out all dealer and mfr incentives and buy a new car... domestic or foreign, doesnt matter..
Research whatever you settle on before you buy.. like with google in web and groups
Eg; BEFORE you buy a Jetta, make SURE that VW has addressed the problems that has made it the "sucker car" of the last decade.
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In

I was thinking it was just high mileage and parts are just wearing down. It would be the same thing with ANY car, wouldn't it?

No way will I drive a Jetta. It's too damned small.
Damaeus
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Damaeus wrote:

You have fixed this much of it, you might as well keep it. Finding a Honda for $1000 that does not need major work will not be an easy mission. You don't think they don't break down too? Any older car requires maintenance at some time.
Bob
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In posted on Sun, 28 Nov 2004 12:36:43 -0600:

That's what I was thinking, too. Why would I want to spend that much on repairs just to sell it for only $3,000 at best? And the way I see it, if something lasted for 120,000 before wearing out, then once replaced, and if replaced with an OEM part, it should theoretically last about the same amount of time.
Damaeus
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Lots of luck finding a good honda thats 10 years old for $1100. You said it yourself, your friend doesn't know shit about cars.
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Damaeus wrote:

As a 151,000 mile 1996 Taurus GL wagon owner I'm in the same boat. Two weeks ago I made my last car payment on the used car I bought because my Rx7 died. The list of stuff to fix had convinced my to start car shopping again. And then....... I got fired on the 5th. Need less to say the shopping plans are on hold. While I wouldn't call it a POS, I would prefer something else easier to fix and cheaper to deal with. I'd ditch the Sable!
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In posted on Mon, 29 Nov 2004 21:53:10 GMT:

I don't think general repairs are all that expensive. But warped heads and a screwed up transmission aren't "general" repairs. Oh, and my radiator does have a leak. $490 to replace it.
Damaeus
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I am wondering if you are choosing a high priced approach to car repair: new car dealers are high-priced for labor and using new original equipment parts from them is expensive. Instead use an independent mechanic. You can shop around yourself for auto parts (and frequently used parts are a good choice). (for example I know if I needed an alternator I would get a rebuilt one.) Many auto repairs you can do yourself.
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The coolant leak I'd be watchful of. Lemme tell you... I happen to have just changed the transmission lines on a '97 Sable with 127,000 miles (Vulcan motor). The car has had it's problems, they all do, but I could never complain about the car overall. The sad part of this is that as soon as I finished the trans line problemo, (Ford redesign evident in the overhaul kit) the head gasket was a goner. Sooo... there I was, into the motor. Not an afternoon picnic for sure. I was amazed at the condition of the cylinder walls and the overall cleanliness of this motor. It's back together and I'll fire it up later today. I'm keepin' it and I'm sure it'll get to the 200k mark soon.
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