At what point to do you stop fixing a vehicle?

Discussion in 'Teacher Time Out' started by DrivingPigeon, Mar 7, 2012.

  1. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    Mar 7, 2012

    I have a 2002 Mitsubishi Lancer with about 128,000 miles. In the past 3 1/2 years, I have put about $4,000 into it for repairs (not including regular maintenance, like oil changes, new tires and rotations, etc.).

    It seems like there isn't anything left to fix! Just yesterday I had to replace the following: the exhaust system, the input/output speed sensors, front inner tie rod ends, and a few other small things. The bill? $1,400!

    Now, I just paid the car off last month, so I am really enjoying not having a car payment. I would like to drive it for another 3 years, so I can pay off some other debt, and save up for a new car. However, if things keep going wrong, when do I stop repairing it? If it's $200 here and $100 there, I can handle that. But $1,400 is a bit much for a car that is worth $3,000. But if I get 3 more years out of it, that seems worth it to me.

    What would you do?
     
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  3. czacza

    czacza Multitudinous

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    Mar 7, 2012

    I'd start looking for a new car.
     
  4. chebrutta

    chebrutta Enthusiast

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    Honestly, I've driven my cars until it won't go or the repair is ridiculously expensive.

    My first car - 1982 Accord - wasn't worth spit, paid $1 to my parents. Had to put water in it every time I drove it. I drove it until the head gasket blew.

    Next car - 1995 Neon, paid $5k for it. Repairs galore - new computer, struts, had to keep recharging the a/c, etc etc etc. Drove until the head gasket blew.

    Next car - 1996 Accord, free (my mom's car). Only thing every replaced on it was the radiator. That one got totaled in an accident.

    My current car - 2006 Civic - is the only one I might sell before it dies, since it's a coupe and not really family-friendly.

    I guess the way I've always looked at it is minor repairs will always be cheaper than a new car. But a new exhaust system seems a little too much to put in an older car... but I don't really know much about that; I usually let my dad or mechanic tell me when it's time to look for a new car.
     
    Last edited: Mar 7, 2012
  5. mopar

    mopar Multitudinous

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    When the repairs start to be as much as the car is worth, I start looking for a new car. Unless I still have warranty on the car.
     
  6. Irishdave

    Irishdave Enthusiast

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    It is really a hard decision, How is the transmission? That is the next biggest thing that could go wrong. if something goes bad mechanically with the engine, that age of car is not worth it. You need to look at how you use the car if it is just to work and back keep it. but don't take it out of town. We just spent $3,000 to fix our 1997 Toyota, if it had been any other make I would have junked it.

    Now We don't have a car payment! Terri just drives 5.2 mi, (14 mins) to work, she only fills it up once a month.

    EDIT: it also depends where you live, I live in AZ no snow and little rain.
     
  7. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Mar 7, 2012

    I drive a 1996 Ford Taurus with almost 200k miles. For me, it's simply a matter of cost-comparison.

    A few years back, I did have a LOT of repairs to the car...had something going wrong with many of the major systems. The total cost of repair was around 2,000 that year. Since then, I've had minor repairs each year; replacing sensors, tires, etc. I would guess my annual maintenance bill on the car is $500 or less. That is about 2 car payment, maybe 3 at the most. And even a new car still needs regular maintenance and repairs. So, for me, it is more cost effective to continue driving the Taurus.

    Now it sounds like your repairs are much higher and you've had several in a short period of time. Your car IS 10 years old, so that's really not surprising. Hopefully, this round of repairs has fixed all the major problems with the car and you will be able to get those 3 extra years out of it.

    I know $1400 is a lot to pay at one time, but that is equal to a monthly payment of $117. Would you be able to get a new car for a payment that low? The next thing to look at is how often the car needs to be repaired. Since you've put so much money into now, I would give it a few months (maybe 6) to see if any MORE repairs are needed or if this seems to have everything fixed.

    If you continue have regular repair bills of, say, $300+, then I would say it IS probably time to look for a new car. On the other hand, if you go several months with no serious repairs (maybe nothing more than $200), then it would probably be more effective to continue driving this car - especially since it is paid for.

    Here is what I think you should do: do some online shopping for new cars to find out the total cost and monthly payment you would have to make. Then, start putting that amount (the monthly payment) aside each month, maybe in a separate bank account. At the end of the year, see how much money you have left in that account. That is how much you saved by driving the older car (and again, that doesn't account for any maintenance costs for the new car).

    If you have money left over, keep doing this for the next 3 years (as long as you are continuing to have money left over). At the end of that time, you will have a good amount saved up for a down payment on a new car if you decide to trade then. OR, you might decide to just keep fixing the things that come up on your current car and keep putting the extra money away each month.
     
  8. Irishdave

    Irishdave Enthusiast

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    That is a real good tangible way to see if you need to buy a new car (I do the math).
     
  9. DrivingPigeon

    DrivingPigeon Phenom

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    Cerek-that's my plan (to put money away each month) after my one crazy high credit card is paid off. I would rather put money away for a few years and buy a car with cash than have a car loan. Realistically, I will probably have to take out a loan, because I don't know if this car will last that long!

    Thanks for the advice, everyone. You're pretty confirming my thoughts: small repairs are manageable, but if it needs more major repairs, get a new one. It is a pretty nice vehicle, overall. It drives beautifully now....$1,400 later!
     
  10. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

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    When the money spent monthly fixing it is more than a monthly car payment. Been there done that. If I could afford to pay yay amount each month fixing the clunker, then I could afford a newer car.
     
  11. Caesar753

    Caesar753 Multitudinous

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    This is how I feel as well.
     
  12. midwestteacher

    midwestteacher Cohort

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    It is really hard to get that payment book again. $1400 for repairs it literally just about 3-4 months of car payments. I know the $1400 seemed like a lot of money, but if it maintains the car for another year, you can save a lot of money towards a down payment. I was in a similar situation. I was driving a 12 year old minivan that we bought when DD was born. She is in junior high now. I told DH that I would drive it until it started to scare me or the wheels fell off. We spent about $750 on it last year. It started making really funny noise back in September. Turned out the plastic fill cap for the oil had disintegrated and pieces of the plastic fell into the engine. The melted plastic had made its way into the workings of the motor. It was time to go. We finally traded it.
     
  13. amakaye

    amakaye Enthusiast

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    I think it depends on your situation, too. I am single and live alone, 500 miles from family. If my car were to break down, I would have to try to get a hold of a friend, etc. I also make the 8-hour drive back home two or three times a year. I didn't want to drive my car to the point of being worried that I wouldn't make it.
     
  14. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    The difference is that the older car likely will not need repairs every month. My Taurus is more than 15 years old now and I usually have to take it to the shop 2-3 times a year. The average cost of these repairs is generally less than $500; that would be equal just two monthly car payments (IF you're lucky). So, I could pay $250 for two months or $250 for 12 months. The difference between the two adds up pretty fast.

    Now, that being said, there DOES come a time when the advantage of having a newer car (with a longer life) outweighs having an older car. If my contract is renewed for next year, I will have to seriously consider looking for a new vehicle with the amount of extra traveling I will be doing.
     
  15. tracykaliski

    tracykaliski Connoisseur

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    When we had my old car, it was a 1998 escort wagon with 150,000 miles on it. OUr rule of thumb was that even if we spent $1,000 a year on repairs we were still coming out ahead. We finally sold it for $100 when the suspension wore out and it wasn't really safe for me to drive anymore with kids in the car.

    Even consumer reports says that even spending $1,000 per year on an older car is reasonable to avoid a car payment. It's a hard choice, but you'll know when it's time.
     
  16. SpecialPreskoo

    SpecialPreskoo Moderator

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    Yeah, but with my car, it was the same thing being "fixed" but never getting fixed. LOL I gave up after 4 tries and it still doing the same thing and leaving me stuck on the side of the road ;)
     
  17. Peachyness

    Peachyness Virtuoso

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    I agree that if the repairs end up being more than your monthly payments, then it'd be worth it to sell it and buy another car. Makes sense.

    I had my 1990 Toyota Camry for around 11 years (bought it used when I was 18). I finally just sold it for $300. The head gasket blew. I put in a brand new transmission a few years ago. And, almost everything else was brand new too. But this head gasket was among a few other things that's been an issue (my spedometer broke).

    I decided that for now, the best thing to do was to sell it and buy a new car. Plus, I travel an hour everyday to work and needed something super reliable. AND, a mechanic pretty much refused to work on it.
     
  18. callmebob

    callmebob Enthusiast

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    This one is a personal preference. For me, I am not the most knowledgable car guy, so when things start to go wrong beyond the basic things that need to be fixed, I feel it is time to trade it in. I want to have a reliable vehicle that I am not going to have to take into the shop very much. If I am going to spend money on a vehicle I would rather it be on a nicer vehicle that is reliable (car payment) than taking it to a shop to have things fixed and replaced when I more than likely don't trust the shop to be honest about the problems and prices.
     
  19. Cerek

    Cerek Aficionado

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    Mar 8, 2012

    In that situation, I would agree it's time to look for a new car.

    Peachyness - Reliability of the car is definitely an important factor to consider, especially if you have a long commute each day.

    Bob - Reliability is also important when it comes to mechanics. That's a very valid point. If you're driving an older caro,it WILL need some repairs from time to time. So you need a mechanic you can trust.
     

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