Should I sell my car?
May 13, 2010 3:57 PM   Subscribe

Should I sell my car?

I have a 2000 Honda Odyssey with ~130K miles on it. I recently had to get new rear brakes and tires which set me back about $700. While I was and am happy to pay for needed procedures like this, it does make me consider selling the car.

I put most (90%) of my miles on the thing driving to visit my girlfriend ~130 miles away, but she's moving back to town soon so I won't need it for that. Other than visiting, I use it occasionally to skip having to take the T when driving is much shorter, and that's pretty much it. I also like hiking, which will be hard if not impossible to do from Boston without a car, but I don't know if having a car just for the occasional weekend errand run or backpacking trip is worthwhile, especially given the availability of ZipCars.

I've done some math on the total monthly cost of insurance (~75 at least), oil changes (~10 or less per month), and gas (maybe 50, but varying with mileage), but what I can't guess or figure out online is what I should budget on a monthly basis for larger repairs/maintenance for stuff like the repair I just had. Is that cost going to be 50 bucks a month? 100? 25? I have no idea.

So I have two main questions:
1. What is the average monthly amount (call it x) I will have to pay for non-oil change/maintenance stuff on this car?

2. Given some estimated value of x, does it make any sense for me to keep the thing, or should I just sell it?

Other random factors: I live in Boston, Kelly Blue Book for the car is 2400 but there is a large dent in the rear door and bumper that will bring that down, and I sometimes think about moving back to California where having a car is more necessary than here.

Finally, I'm wondering what I might be forgetting to think about, so I will monitor the thread if the Mighty HiveMind needs more info.
posted by Aizkolari to Travel & Transportation (15 answers total)
Ditch it. It's worth maybe 2k and you are thinking of putting 700 into it?

If ZipCar is available, it sounds like that is a way better option for you. Get a bike and take public transportation, use ZipCar when you need to. If you track your spending (always a good idea), you will see how much you save over the course of a year.
posted by mallow005 at 4:15 PM on May 13, 2010

I have a similar car: a 2000 Honda Accord with 140k miles on it. Last I looked at it, it cost about $75/month (averaged, of course) for service, oil, brakes, tires, etc. Hondas are VERY reliable generally speaking but they do need the same care and feeding that any car does to keep them that way.
posted by deadmessenger at 4:15 PM on May 13, 2010

It all depends on what's more important to you; the convenience of having it, or the money you'll save not having it. If you have no clear winner on that front, keep it -- because not having it, then needing it, will end up being a lot more expensive than keeping it and not needing it (if you assume you'll ditch it, then need it within twelve months.)
posted by davejay at 4:16 PM on May 13, 2010

we have an 11 year old car with 130k miles on it (chevy malibu) - our plan is that whenever we come to a repair that is at or more than the car is worth, then we take that money and instead put it as a down payment for a new (used) car. for our car, that means that 1K repair (not counting tires, because that will be a reoccurring cost on a new car too) is new car time.

things we're living with: huge electrical problems (gas gauge doesn't work, coolant alarm just stays on, on super hot days the A/C will flicker on and off), we have holes drilled in the rear light shields so rain water doesn't collect and burn the bulbs, and the bumper is tied on. but it runs and always starts.

as a piggy back question for the other commenters - what repairs do you suggest to keep a 130k, 10 year old car in good running condition as long as possible?
posted by nadawi at 4:22 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

you are also paying tax on it (or paying to register it in some way). You also either pay for a parking spot or are forced to live in a spot that has parking for it. You risk getting parking tickets.

Also, the blue book value is going down on it (though perhaps slowly). To figure out how much, see what the difference is between it and the years adjacent to it. Assume that it will fall by approximately that much each year (unless they radically changed the model on one of those years). Divide that by 12 and you can see how much you are losing to depreciation per month.

I imagine that you would be able to ditch it, and use that money on something that might increase in value instead of riding the sinking ship to the bottom.

Of course, if you need to get around, you need to get around. Find out how much zipcar (or a more complete T-pass) would cost you to support your commuting habit. If the alternative cost is cheaper, then you want to sell it now. The two grand that you will get from it (and the monthly amount that you pay to upkeep it currently) will go a long way toward zipcar rentals or t-passes.
posted by milqman at 4:28 PM on May 13, 2010

I have an 01 accord with 150k miles on it. Large repairs are really unknown for me...many months of none needed, then an expensive thing breaks suddenly. I do budget about $125/mo for an unexpected repair fund. I'm also thinking about getting a new car for more reliability/predictability.
posted by sninctown at 4:28 PM on May 13, 2010

as a piggy back question for the other commenters - what repairs do you suggest to keep a 130k, 10 year old car in good running condition as long as possible?

All scheduled maintenance, but especially oil and timing belts/chain replacement (on cars where failure means serious engine damage).

posted by zippy at 4:56 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

I had a manual Accord for over 15 years and nearly 200k miles. Aside from one component that cost a few hundred dollars, the only garage expenses were scheduled maintenance: brakes, tires, battery. You can calculate those costs by looking at the maintenance schedule in your car manual and calling your garage.
posted by zippy at 4:59 PM on May 13, 2010

... including brakes, tires, battery.
posted by zippy at 5:29 PM on May 13, 2010

I am of a very different opinion say you get that 2500 and then you turn around and try to buy another one, it'll take a grand to get one that starts and it'll be a death trap. I have a Honda I say drive it until the wheels fall off. A carbon hand that actually drives is a blessing. 700 while expensive is reasonable repair on car with 140k miles on it. That car if it is safe and runs and starts consistently is worth more to you as vehicle than the money you'll get for it, and when turn around to buy another you'll see how much people really want for a car that runs. Right now you're monthly payment free enjoy that and keep driving.
posted by ExitPursuedByBear at 7:10 PM on May 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

#1. Your car is relatively unused for its age. Hondas (in my experience) generally last around 160-180K (or more), which means you've got at least two more years of significant driving on it. You might be starting to see some body rust, but unless its rusting through, even that isn't a horrible issue.
#2. You are driving a minivan, so you aren't concerned about your ride adversely affecting a cool factor, meaning that an old car shouldn't affect it either.
#3. Insurance for your vehicle should be pretty low by now (<$750/yr?) as well as excise tax ($75?) . Registration and inspection are fixed costs. City gas and mileage should be minimal.
#4. Calculate this for a new car (~$300 monthly payment, ~$2500/yr? insurance, ~$450? excize tax? Operating expenses for a new car run north of $500/mo before gas and maintenance.
#5. Clearly you aren't intending on replacing with a new car, but if you sold your ~$75/monthly operating expense 11 year old car, and then did go back to cali, you'd be looking at substantial cost changes.

With that said, you may want to investigate the low milage discount for your insurance. I cycle commuted in Boston for a bunch of years and managed to barely put any mileage or wear on my car. Expenses wound up more from being towed for not moving my car than for actual car problems.
posted by Nanukthedog at 8:51 PM on May 13, 2010

Response by poster: Thanks for a ton of really insightful answers.

Two quick clarifications before bed: moving to back to SoCal would not happen any sooner than 1 year from now, probably more like 2, and I have absolutely no interest in getting a new car.

And, if I hadn't had to shell out for these repairs, I would be biking to work on a sweet new Surly Crosscheck. Guess that one will have to wait for my next paycheck though.
posted by Aizkolari at 9:55 PM on May 13, 2010

I drive a 97 Mazda 626. The non-routine maintenance bill for it in 2007 and 2008 was only a couple of hundred bucks each year. Last year I got hit for about $1000 late in the year, making the average over the last 3 years about $650 annually. This year I'm already $1000 in due to the every 4 year valve gasket repair job that my engine requires. But still, $1000 a year ain't bad compared to a $200+ payment on a $10K used car loan.

If you can keep a car running reliably for $1200 a year you are way ahead of the game versus making car payments, especially in your case where you don't need the car every day. Insurance on a newer car will be more expensive and whatever local taxes that are tied to the value of your car will also be more expensive.
posted by COD at 6:05 AM on May 14, 2010

To have a paid-off, reliable car with less than 200k miles on it is priceless. Tires and brakes are routine maintenance, and from your description of the van, it sounds like it will be perfect for SoCal, which eats cars. I'd keep it.

But you should save up and get the Surly anyway -- I ride my steamroller to school and work every day, but it's sure nice to have my aging, dented Cherokee when I have to go to Costco for dogfood or want to get out of town.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 8:12 AM on May 14, 2010

I got rid of my car and joined Zipcar here in Boston maybe 7 years ago now? Even with a dayhike to NH meaning a whole day car zipcar rental I have never, ever spent as much on Zipcar in a month as I used to spend in insurance alone. It, of course, depends how much you drive and would like to - I bike almost everywhere, and in crummy weather that can be... unpleasant. But not having to worry where I parked my car and whether they're towing for street cleaning or snow removal and never getting parking tickets?

posted by ldthomps at 10:36 AM on May 14, 2010

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