My 1986 Toyota Celica ST has 156K miles, a broken timing belt, and a bunch of other issues. According to my mechanic, it has a non-interference engine, so there shouldn't be valve damage, but it is time to move on anyway? And if I get a new car, which one?
The issues that it has that I know about:
* Obviously, the timing belt needs to be replaced.
* Last time I got new tires (a couple weeks ago), I tried to have it aligned, but the tire shop threw up their hands and said there wasn't enough caster adjustment on the front end, and that I should get the frame looked at.
* Same tire shop claims steering rack & CV joints need to be replaced. (The CV joints aren't clicking during turns yet, but I don't have a hard time believing that they might need to be replaced at some point.)
* It has always idled kind of rough when it first starts.
* It needs a new axle.
* Rear brakes need to be replaced.
* It has this intermittent problem where the headlights sometimes turn off for a couple seconds. I haven't been able to track this one down. It seems to only affect the dims circuit, as it always works to flip to brights for a couple seconds, then back to dims. I suspect the headlight switch, but I'm not sure.
* It burns a little oil, about a quart every 1500 miles or so. (At least, I think it burns it: I've haven't noticed it leaking oil.)
MPG is ~24 in town, ~32 highway.
I'm new in town, so I chose a mechanic based solely on positive Yelp reviews and proximity to my apartment. If he is to be believed, it would be ~$350 to just do the timing belt, ~$600 to do the timing belt the right way (water pump, etc), and ~$1000 to also do the axle and the brakes on top of that.
I just graduated from college and started a real grown-up job, so I could afford a car payment, but I abhor debt, especially for something like a car. If I were to buy a different car, I'd want to spend something like $3K to $5K.
1. Should I just keep pumping money into this? $1000 is probably about what the car is worth, so does it make sense to spend that much? I suppose I could just have only the timing belt done, cross my fingers, and keep driving it, but I'm tired of trying to "get away" with poor maintenance. I just want something that works.
2. If I were to buy a different car, my ideal vehicle would be a small, reliable hatchback, with everything stock and a manual transmission. Basically I want a Honda Civic hatchback, except they seem to me to be priced at a premium for their age and mileage, and are often modded all to hell. What alternatives are there that meet my criteria? Or should I just suck it up and pay $3000 for a twenty-year-old car with 200K miles on it?
More modern vehicles like a Toyota Yaris or a Honda Fit would suit me fine, but they haven't been in North America long, so even the oldest used ones are like $10K. A Ford Focus hatchback can be found for less, since they've been around longer, but I'm leery of buying domestic for reliability reasons.
3. If I sell my current car, how should I do it? Just try to sell it as-is, in non-running condition? Scrap it? Fix it and then sell it?