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July 18, 2014


I always hate that "cost of repair is more than the car is worth" point. With our first car, that was the point at which we traded in for a new car, but we also wanted 4 doors and a/c. Right now we kind of like our cars, so we might keep them longer even if the cost of repair is more than the value of the car because we know they're not lemons.

We did the one-car commute thing for a couple of years and it was kind of fun, but DH's work was on the way to my work (or vice versa depending on the route) one of those years and the other year he was working from home.

So, no specific advice from the grumpy nation.

Our general advice is to pay for cars with cash except in cases in which you need the car to get to work and don't have the money. (rule: Don't finance a depreciating asset unless you are the appreciating asset.)

Congratulations on the community college job! Yay!

N&M, I was hoping you'd pop by! I meant to post this last night but managed to keep it in draft instead, which means that today is the day to make a decision.

D. and I spent some time this morning looking online at used cars, and then we finally got the phone call from the shop about the price of the new motor: $3,728.66 with parts and labor. Plus $300 for new brakepads.

This morning I was totally thinking that we should just buy a new-to-us car, but once I got the call with the official pricetag, I started going back to the idea of putting in a new motor. We have the cash to pay for the new motor right now, while getting a used car would require financing.

I've put in a call back to the service guy with a few follow-up questions, which he may or may not be able to answer. What I really want to know is whether, if we spend this money now, I can reasonably expect to drive the car another 3-4 years. If so, I think we should just make the repair, because it's been a darn good car. And maybe in 3 years, we'll be in a better financial position to consider getting a new-to-us car.

The other question to think about is what do you expect to spend on repairs in the next 3-4 years. (It doesn't matter if it's BEEN a good car, it matters if it WILL BE a good car). Obviously this requires magic crystal ball skills, but if you know that new belts/tires/water pump etc are coming your way on top of the new motor then that's worth factoring in.

Congratulations to D on the teaching job! That's super exciting all around! Hooray!

I'm probably chiming in too late, but just in case not: check out the integrity of the pieces that hold the engine in/up, and the availability of replacements. I replaced the transmission in a car in its teens several times (should have gone with the rebuilt/remanufactured one the first time, rather than trying to save money with one straight from the junkyard), and it (and the engine) were working just fine when I finally had to donate the car because a piece of the subframe rusted and fell down in front of the wheels, the part was no longer made, and all the ones available in junkyards were equally rusted. All parts of cars --mechanical and structural -- seem to have gotten a lot better, but the structural ones can still be the straw that breaks the camel's back.

That said, I'd go (and did go) for the car you know over an older unknown quantity (theoretically, I'm someone who thinks buying a several-years-used car and keeping it forever is a good idea; in practice, the two times I've bought a car in my life, I've ended up buying a new one, in part because the kind of car I want is the kind bought by people who don't trade them in after a year or two, and that tend to hold their value pretty well over the first few years, making the warranty worth the small additional cost.)

I hate to think of you flagellating yourself. It is not unheard of for a 14-year-old car to need a new engine! Or for said car to drink more oil than usual. I don't really have advice except to say that I could make a case for either avenue.

Congratulations on D's job!

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Who is this What Now?

  • I'm an English teacher at Fabulous Girls' School (FGS). I'm a convert to Judaism. I am partner to D. We live in an adorable, messy little house in Adventure City. Two cats -- the Muse and the Contemplative -- live with us and keep life at home plenty adventurous.

    Email me at whatnowblogger at yahoo dot com.

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