QDear Tom and Ray:

My wife's mother has given us a '92 Toyota Camry sedan with 55,000 miles on it. My mother has given us a '95 Volvo 850 sedan with 54,000 miles on it. We have to sell one of them to buy a Subaru Outback, because we need all-wheel drive where we live. We don't want to offend a grandmother and make the wrong choice. What should we do? -- Marc

ATOM: Well, they're both good cars, Marc. And they both should have many miles left on them. But the first thing to do is have both of them carefully inspected by your mechanic, to see if any major components on either car are in danger of failing soon.

RAY: Those inspections may make your decision a lot easier. But if both cars are in equally good condition, I think I'd keep the Camry.

TOM: Me, too. And the reason is repair costs. At 54,000 miles, the Volvo is going to need quite a bit of mechanical attention during the next 50,000 miles. The Camry, by comparison, should give you relatively little trouble.

RAY: So the issue is, How do you break it to your mother, Marc?

TOM: Tell them you've asked for advice from several mechanics, and they've told you that both cars are good vehicles, making the choice even harder.

RAY: Then tell them that after considerable thought, you've decided that the only way to make the call is to pick a name out of a hat and randomly choose a car to sell.

TOM: Then rig the drawing so the Volvo goes. It's a great car, and a safe car. But if you're relying on donated cars these days, you probably don't have the budget to care for an aging Volvo yet.

Dear Tom and Ray:

I own a 2003 Hyundai Sonata LX. It comes with a 100,000-mile or 10-year warranty on the powertrain. My question is, what makes up a powertrain? I have received various answers to this question, but I am confused. Can you two mavens give me an answer? -- Sid

RAY: Sure, Sid. We'd be happy to confuse you some more. The problem is that "powertrain" (or "drivetrain," as it's sometimes called) is not a precise term. But it generally refers to those parts of the car that are crucial in delivering power to the wheels.

TOM: That would include the engine, the transmission, the differential and the axles.

RAY: It would not, for example, include the rearview mirror, the air conditioner or the seats.

TOM: But a general definition won't do you much good. What you need is Hyundai's definition. You should be able to find it in the warranty statement that came with your new car. If not, you can ask the dealer for a copy.

RAY: Different manufacturers may define the powertrain differently when it comes to warranty coverage. For instance, one might cover the cylinder heads but not the electrical parts of the engine, like the alternator or computer. It might include the transmission, but most exclude the clutch, since that's a "wear" item.

TOM: So, even though you have an excellent warranty on this car, including five-year/60,000-mile bumper-to-bumper coverage before the powertrain-only warranty even takes over, you need to read the fine print.

Why do unmitigated cheapskates like Tom continue to buy nothing but old clunkers? Find out by ordering Tom and Ray's guide "How to Buy a Great Used Car: Secrets Only Your Mechanic Knows." Send $4.50 (check or money order) to Used Car, P.O. Box 536475 Orlando, Fla. 32853-6475.

Got a question about cars? Write to Click & Clack in care of The Post, or e-mail them by visiting the Car Talk Web site at www.cartalk.com.

(c)2004 by Tom and Ray Magliozzi

and Doug Berman