Fix or replace my car?
July 18, 2011 6:27 AM   Subscribe

Should I fix my car or purchase another one?

My car, 99 Toyota Camry (KBB ~ $5000), just threw a rod. Mechanic I trust says needs a new engine and estimated $2500 for engine, labor, new timing belt and water pump, etc.

I love the car. This is the first time I've had to have it in the shop for anything mechanical. Great mpg, everything works well but I've never had to replace an engine and am wondering if it's going to fundamentally change the car. My other option is to purchase a used vehicle but I'd rather not have to go through the rigamarole of finding, purchasing, insuring and getting used to a "new" car that I might end up hating; having said that, the prospect of a new car is tempting and I've found some for $5-8k that would only be $75-125 a month after my down payment, well within my means.

So, has anyone replaced the engine in their car and not regretted it? Is the car at least similar in performance? I'm not so concerned about the KBB value but I would like for it to last for a few more years. Is a new engine a worthwhile investment or am I looking at more problems and disappointment?

Thanks, Mefi.
posted by dozo to Travel & Transportation (9 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Previously.

and Edmunds.
posted by blob at 6:44 AM on July 18, 2011

Response by poster: Excellent, thanks. I searched but didn't see this previous post!
posted by dozo at 6:49 AM on July 18, 2011

Look at the condition of the rest of the car. If you've recently had new tires, brakes and battery, and the rest of the car is in good shape, you are probably in good shape to replace the engine.

However, if the rest of it is pretty beat up and it's going to need other work soon, you might want to replace the car. Replacing it is still going to cost more than maintaining, but it might not seem that way if you are going to be throwing money at it for the next two years.
posted by gjc at 6:50 AM on July 18, 2011

Response by poster: Yeah, the rest of the car is in pretty good shape. I've decided to fix it and will report on how it turns out.
posted by dozo at 6:54 AM on July 18, 2011

My dad bought me a 88 (I think) Toyota Corolla in 1993 that was about to throw a rod. He replaced the engine with a used Toyota engine that came from Japan (apparently they only put XX number of miles on their engines before replacing them??? I don't know....). Anyway, he replaced the engine himself and I drove that thing for another 6 years and at least 80,000 miles before buying a new car. My dad (who rebuilds cars and replaces engines all the time) said that Toyota engines are usually worth replacing if the rest of the car is in good shape and you get another Toyota engine.

Same dad also bought one Honda Accord with a blown engine, and another with a blown transmission and made my sister one fully functioning Accord that she drove for years too. He likes to play Frankenstein with cars.
posted by MultiFaceted at 7:09 AM on July 18, 2011

Have you asked about the trade-in value for your engine-less car? It might be higher than you think!

That said, it's a 11 year old Toyota. Those Camrys are known for running virtually forever with occasional maintenance. Although I fear that my European car is approaching the point where it'll no longer be economical to continually repair/maintain, a 1990s Camry is about the closest thing to an "unkillable" car on the road today (and that's reflected in its resale value! Your broken 1999 Camry is likely worth more than a running 1999 Mercedes).

If you sell/scrap it, odds are very high that the mechanic will find a working (but used) engine from another more-broken Camry, install it in his spare time, and sell it at a profit.
posted by schmod at 7:11 AM on July 18, 2011

That price quote may indicate your mechanic is going to install a used engine. If so, make sure it gets a very close inspection -- Toyota engines of this era were prone to sludging, which was probably the cause of your thrown rod.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 7:58 AM on July 18, 2011

Yeah, the rest of the car is in pretty good shape. I've decided to fix it and will report on how it turns out.

In the spirit of that, I (the o.p. of the previous thread) ended up getting the repairs done (for less than the $1200 quoted by the first place), and proceeded to continue driving the car for just under three additional years! I ended up selling it a couple months ago for just under $1,000. It still ran well, but I was getting tired of putting up with the various items on which I had deferred maintenance.
posted by Juffo-Wup at 9:09 AM on July 18, 2011

Mechanics--even good mechanics--generally recommend fixing over giving up for the same reason that teachers like college and politicians like voting. It's not bad, just a natural bias.

Get it to where it runs ok and SELL IT. If you don't feel good about that then TRADE IT IN.

You're not gonna get that money out of it. It's not gonna be worth $2500 more. Cars--even good ones--don't last forever. You've got to factor all the other costs besides the financials: time, trouble, peace of mind, etc.
posted by Murray M at 9:10 AM on July 18, 2011

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