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Should I just get another car?
May 13, 2010 9:33 AM   Subscribe

What factors do you consider when thinking about getting rid of your old car and buying a new one?

I have a 2000 Honda Accord, and it's served me well for the past 5 years. However, I've had to make repairs on it last year and this year that total close to $2700. On top of that, the 'Check Engine' light came on yesterday, a scant 2 weeks after I got the alternator and timing belt replaced.

With this new potential expense, I'm wondering whether I should just ride the car until it dies or break down and get a new (used) car. I have the money to probably pay cash for a newer Accord.

What sorts of factors do you look at when making the decision as to whether you should purchase a new vehicle?
posted by reenum to Travel & Transportation (17 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
 
Keeping the old Accord on the road is more economical than making payments on a new car. The Check Engine Light could be something or it could be nothing (mine is always on due to a software glitch that Saturn never fixed and now of course they never will).

Let's say you get a new car with $300 per month pmts. In a year that will be $3600 and you probably will not pay that much for upkeep on the old one.

The deciding factor is reliability. .. if you can't trust the old car to drive out of town, you should probably consider a new one.
posted by Danf at 9:49 AM on May 13, 2010


The OP specifically said: " I have the money to probably pay cash for a newer Accord"
With that in mind, if you won't be incurring car payments, I'd say to do whatever you can to cheaply get the "Check Engine" light to turn off, then see if you can parlay the old car+cash into something newer/more reliable.
The 'formula' is quite subjective, and always mutable. Generally, for me, it's something along the lines of "I'm tired of this thing always being in the shop"+"Wondering about reliability" that moves me in the direction of a new (or new to me) car.
You might want to consider a "certified" used car from a major manufacturer - Honda, Toyota, Nissan and others do them, and it offers some warranty on a used car, which can provide both piece of mind, and some recourse if something major goes haywire.
posted by dbmcd at 9:55 AM on May 13, 2010


Danf's statements echo my thoughts. Until you are pouring more out per year in parts and labor than you would if you bought another car then I would stay with what you've got. The only reason to short circuit this process is if you car is so unreliable that it effects some facet of your life. I once had a car that couldn't make it more than 20 miles at a time without conking out. That was fine for the daily commute but would be mightily inconvenient if I broke down on the side of the road when I went on a shopping trip to a non-local store.
posted by mmascolino at 9:56 AM on May 13, 2010


It partly depends upon your ability to pay and your emotional needs as well as the rational factors that people described above. I could have kept my 1998 Sentra on the road for a couple more years, but I got fed up with all the little quality-of-life stuff that wasn't working right, like the window that would roll down but wouldn't roll back up again if it was cold, and the beeper that wouldn't beep if I left the headlights on so I had to get a jump start 2 or 3 times after accidentally running down my battery. I had a good salary and bought a new car. My Mr. supported my decision by stating safety concerns, like if the electrical system was so unreliable something could break down and leave me stranded, and the new headlights would make me feel safer driving at night, but I think at base it was just an emotional decision that I was tired of having a crappy car. I am super happy with my beautiful new car and have never regretted my decision, even though it means I have to economize in other areas.
posted by matildaben at 10:07 AM on May 13, 2010


If you're thinking of buying a NEW car, think of how much it depreciates the moment you drive it out of the car lot. It's worth some time and effort to find a low mileage car that's 1-2 years old.
posted by neuron at 10:08 AM on May 13, 2010


dbmcd said: Generally, for me, it's something along the lines of "I'm tired of this thing always being in the shop"+"Wondering about reliability" that moves me in the direction of a new (or new to me) car.

I came here to say exactly this. For me, "always being in the shop" was as few as 1-2 times per year -- over the course of a few years, that's a lot of trips and enough hassle to drive me bonkers.
posted by puritycontrol at 10:14 AM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]


It varies from car to car. If I were in your position, I'd take it in to a mechanic to hook up to the diagnostic computer to see why the check engine light is on. If it means a repair in excess of a few hundred dollars I'd probably say to heck with it and look at a new(er) car.

Do you enjoy riding around in your car now? Does it sound old and tired or does it still run smoothly? Is the exterior/interior in reasonable shape or is it banged up and ratty? Some people don't care about cosmetics or ride comfort, but it can mean a lot to others like myself--especially if I'm not the only one who has to ride in the car.

So, there are all kinds of pros/cons and other decision trees you can use to make a seemingly rational decision on whether or not to keep your car, but if you have the money set aside for a newer car and you're just tired of this one, sometimes that's all you need as justification.
posted by Burhanistan at 10:16 AM on May 13, 2010


As my uncle, a serious mechanic, once put it, you either throw in with the new car crowd and never keep a vehicle longer than its warranty ... or you drive some used beater until it dissolves in a cloud of rust. Everything in between is for suckers.
posted by philip-random at 10:21 AM on May 13, 2010 [3 favorites]


My criteria is vanity. I do not want to be seen with a ten-year-old car. I bought a 2002 Accord with 40K miles in 2005. Before December 31 2011 I will buy a 2008 Accord with less than 50K miles on it. My 2002 Accord will be a cream puff purchase for some lucky consumer. It runs splendid and it will be running splendid on 12 / 31 / 2011. It may be a mistake to sell it, but I will want something newer and shinier.
posted by bukvich at 10:21 AM on May 13, 2010


Blue book value on KBB for a 'perfect' 2000 Honda Accord is $2950. If the repair bills were estimated to be that large, I would dump the car (or ideally cheap fix it and sell it on) and look for something that I would regard as a better investment because if you think about it, you could have two 2000 Honda Accords in your drive now with the same money in your pocket.

The solid check engine light is usually (always?) emission related, often it's just you forgot to tighten your gas cap when refueling. Take it to a garage and you'll usually be able to get it diagnosed for free.

Buying a new car is always a little fluffy, but for me it's:
How many years do I think it will last for?
How much money will it cost to get it to that age?
How much money can I sell my car for now?

If I decide that the cost of getting it to retirement is too high vs the cost of just selling it now, I'll sell it and invest that money in a car that has a lower retirement cost per year.
posted by Static Vagabond at 10:33 AM on May 13, 2010


Honda Accords are indestructible. You can easily drive your car for another 15 years / 200k miles.

Accords tend to fail in predictable ways rather than unpredictable ones. If you keep up with regular maintenance, this car should be reliable for as long as you can stand it. That doesn't mean that it never, ever fails. It does mean that a failure would be quite unusual, and the repair cost probably modest.

Economically, your best decision is always to ride a car into the ground, where its resale value is nearly zero and it cannot be repaired for less than its resale cost. That cash that you have that you could be using to buy a new car? Put it in savings or a long-term safe investment. New cars depreciate and so are a terrible place, economically, to put your money.
posted by zippy at 10:57 AM on May 13, 2010


I see four things.

(1) Financial. Straight up, is it cheaper to keep this car or get a new(er) one? Usually this will work in the favor of keeping your car.

(2) Safety. Will the newer car have safety features you care about that your current car lacks? Side curtain airbags, door beams, traction/stability control, that sort of thing.

(3) Features. Will the newer car have features that your current one lacks and that you don't want to retrofit into it? The obvious things here are mp3-aware stereos, built in bluetooth, and GPS navigation.

(4) Quality of life and reliability worries. Does that current car have hiccups or annoying traits that the newer one can be expected not to?

I'm in a similar boat. Right now I (usually) drive a 97 Prelude, and the primary candidate for a replacement is a new Impreza*. So for me:

(1) It's going to need a new clutch soon, and maybe a valve job, and a new timing belt, and new tires. If it needed all of them this year, a new car would be cheaper that year... but not the other years.

(2) Big plus to a new Impreza. Loads more airbags, door beams, stability control, and in this case AWD, which is a plus here in Buffamalo.

(3) The new one would have a stereo that can deal with mp3s, but if that was really important to me I could drop one into the Prelude.

(4) Big plus to a new one. I've loved the Prelude, but being 13/14 years old it's got loads of rattles and there's a leak from somewhere into the trunk so it's starting to smell a bit swampy sometimes and honestly I just don't trust it for long trips any more. And while it's usually fine here in winter, given our near-immediate snow removal, if I'm caught out while it's snowing it can be awfully skittery.

*Enough boy-racers seem to have Imprezas, including non-WRX ones, that I don't trust year-old cars not to have been rode hard and put away wet.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 11:25 AM on May 13, 2010


I am going to advise not settling a firm financial number, but factor in those other (convenience, reliability, vanity) items too. Our old car went to the shop yet again, and we decided "If it's less than $1000, we'll go ahead and fix it; otherwise it's time for a new one". Well, the bill was $950, so we fixed it. A week later, something else broke for another $500. We should have just dumped it the first time.
posted by CathyG at 1:21 PM on May 13, 2010


'Check Engine' light came on yesterday,

Did you fill up the car lately? The most common cause of the check engine light coming on is that gas cap not being screwed on tightly enough. Undo the cap, screw it back on until it starts clicking, then restart the car at least three times and give it a few days before worrying about anything.

This is simple, costs you no money, and seems likely to provide information helpful to your decision.
posted by stet at 1:30 PM on May 13, 2010


What's the mileage? Take it to a trusted mechanic, and as for an inspection. Last 2 years, when I've gotten my state inspection, I've had to get tires, shocks, brakes, etc. But that's really all consumables. I still decided to keep my car because it's a 97 toyota with 110,000 miles. It's not pretty, but the taxes & insurance are lower, it's paid for, and it starts every day.

Contact Bukvich, arrange to buy his Accord in December. Srsly. If I was closer, I'd put in an offer.
posted by theora55 at 2:16 PM on May 13, 2010


Keeping the old Accord on the road is more economical than making payments on a new car.

Depends. For Accords this may well be true. However, I've dealt with a car whose annual repair bills were in the $2000/yr range. And at that point, leasing a new car becomes economically viable. People have been saying good things about Hyundais, these days, and they're inexpensive.

If you're fortunate enough to have a car that just needs steady, predictable regular maintenance even as it gets above 125,000 miles, stick with it and keep it until it turns to dust. But once you get an indication that the car will is becoming a maintenace money sink, get rid of it.
posted by deanc at 2:46 PM on May 13, 2010


I drive a 13-year-old Ford Escort, which has only done 63,000 miles. It's worth about £800 at most, probably less because it has a few dinks and scratches and a bit of rust. Over its lifetime, I've had to replace things that have worn out through normal wear and tear - brake shoes, the exhaust, a new clutch cable (my fault, that, I burned the old one out), things that have just reached the end of their natural life. Its annual service/MoT usually costs under £200.

So far nothing mechanical has gone wrong with the car, so until it does, it's economically viable for me to keep it, because of its low mileage and for how little I use it. But when it gets to the point where a repair is likely to cost more than the car's worth, then that's the time I'll consider ditching it.
posted by essexjan at 2:01 AM on May 14, 2010


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