When is it time to stop repairing and buy?

anon70anon70 Member Posts: 82
I have a 93 nissan sentra w/180k miles. ran w/o problems till 3 months ago. since then i've replaced the battery ($60), alternator ($150), and starter ($400). All done by different garages in different cities. and now it looks like the flywheel is next ($700 quote from dealer).

On one hand, $700 is nothing compared to $15000 for a new car, even with 0% apr. On the other hand, it seems like the sentra is breaking down fast.

Should i keep throwing $ at my sentra and risk hoping that the flywheel will be the last of the repairs, or buy another car?



  • seeligseelig Member Posts: 590
    this really is a difficult decision, because right now you probably don't have a payment right? but then again, some cars get to a point in mileage and years, that all of a sudden do a nervous breakdown. if you really like the car, see what it would cost you if you suddenly need an engine rebuild or exchange, same with tranny and rear end. add to that about 500-1,000 more for various other parts that can take a dump, and then decide if it's worth it.
    the other consideration is how much you will need down on the new car and payments, and whether or not you find one you like.
    i like a new car every 3 years, but have driven some "Z" cars that nickel and dimed me, but love driving them so much that i didn't care.
    good luck
  • brorjacebrorjace Member Posts: 588
    Anon, it sounds like you're on the bubble as far as whether or not to buy a new car.

    If you want to reduce it to a straight numbers game (and some people just get the 'itch' for a new car) you have to look at the $ you are spending on repairs in the last year ... and then add up 12 car payments. Compare those two numbers.

    It's almost always cheaper to keep the clunker on the road ... as long as its unreliability doesn't start costing you business or frighten you away from driving normally.

    --- Bror Jace
  • adc100adc100 Member Posts: 1,521
    However they should have caught the flywheel problem (bad teeth??) when they did the starter. If you are getting shoddy workmanship that's a wild card in the process.

    I would say one thing though. Bror mentioned comparing the payments and repair costs for a year. Thats good advice, but don't necesarily throw in the towel if costs are higher for one year. Thats a strong flag, but maybe during the past four years the car almost cost you nothing.
    I have been in your shoes several times. I toughed it out and stuck in the money. So far I'm well ahead.
  • jeberjeber Member Posts: 91
    Yes, its worth pointing out that most cars reach a point where various not-too-major parts need replaced, such as alternator, plug wires, water pump, belts/hoses, struts, ball joints, tie rod ends (?), A.C., & so forth...

    These are just things that wear out on any vehicle at some point, whether its a $75000 mercedes or a $7500 hyundai.

    BUT, once cars get past those basic things, in my experience you can then get a couple more cheap & dependable years out of the car.

    That said, the above is true with a well-maintained, good-running car. If there are problems like strange oil/transmission leaks, major oil burning, low compression, slipping transmission, scary rattling noises from deep within the engine, then you are risking catastrophic, high-dollar failure and you should get out while the gettins' good.
  • anon70anon70 Member Posts: 82
    yes, bad teeth on flywheel. and yes the dealership should have caught it when they replaced the starter. thats why i'm thinking they caused it, but how can i make them pay for the repairs?

    yeah, i had no problems w/the car for the past 5 years. all of a sudden, breakdown city :(

    new car = $15000 for 36 months at 0% apr= 5000 for 12 months. so if repairs costs $5000, buy another?

    i thought there was a general rule that says if repairs cost more than the car, replace it? ie: if i sold my car, i would get $1000. With the $700 flywheel, my repairs would have cost more than $1000.

    update-> now i hear the warning sound from the brakes :( But i have lifetime warrenty from Midas so it should be free.
  • brorjacebrorjace Member Posts: 588
    There is some logic that you might not want to sink $1,200 worth of reapirs into a vehicle with a value of only $1,000 ...

    BUT, that approach ignores your future transportation needs. Even if you sink $2,500 into a car worth only $800, it's still cheaper than buying a brand new car. See what I mean?

    The only really problem is when the car's time in the shop really crimps your lifestyle ... or costs you money, dependin what business you're in.

    AND, if you throw the option of buying a good condition used car which is 3-5 years old with reasonable miles on it, you have a lot of middle ground to play with. >;^)

    --- Bror Jace
  • seeligseelig Member Posts: 590
    wish someone had told me this when i was younger.
  • brorjacebrorjace Member Posts: 588
    Guys (and the occasional girl),
    I think we undervalue used cars (and other machinery) these days ... and I'm partly to blame. I love "new" things and when something has lost its shine or the perfectly-fresh look, I tend not to value it as highly as I should.

    I have a computer-programmer friend who makes more than DOUBLE what I make ... and I'm not exactly destitute. >;^) He's a Honda aficionado like myself, and buys Civics (and an occasional Acura Integra) but only after they have over 100,000 miles on them. He buys cars for $1,500-2,000 and drive them until they quit (hasn't happened yet) or rust out to the point where the body's structural integrity is in doubt (happened once). By my recollection, he gets about 5+ years of use from each of these cars and never puts more than about $1,200 into repairs for them during this period. You can't drive much cheaper than that. Actually, he and his wife are motoring on a shoestring budget (about $500 per year, plus the usual) even if he were to double the amount spent on repairs. Compare that to a $300+ per month lease or loan payment.

    And of course, he never bothers to pay for collision insurance, an additional financial savings for him.

    Unfortunately, he spends the money he saves on daily drivers restoring a 1974 Land Rover SWB. There is definitely a limit to what all of us can learn from this guy! >;^)

    Anyway, I currently have a 1995 Civic Coupe DX. It's not a spectacular car in any way (except for fuel economy - 38 to 45mpg) and I intended it to last me only a couple years until I could afford a nicer (faster, sleeker) car. Well, I've had this thing for 6 1/2 years, the longest duration I've ever been with the same car, and I simply can't justify buying something new right now despite the fact that I have the money ... and then some. I've subtly modified this economy car so it's much more sporty (but NOT "ricey"!!) than many of its brethren on the road and it makes all sorts of fun sounds when I exercise its slick-shifting 5-speed and willing throttle. It has nearly 110,000 miles on the clock but always starts and runs flawlessly once warmed up. I have no idea how much longer I'll be keeping it, but if someone were to predict that I'll have it three years from now, they might very well be right.

    So far, I've had the $400 timing belt/water pump service at 90,000 miles and in the next year I'll probably dump about $1,000 into it in the form of 4 new shocks (long overdue), new axles and/or CV joints (sumthin's getting noisy down there when I turn at low speed) and a new battery. I'll also have to check the tie rod ends/ball joints for wear. That seems like a lot for a car that'll be "worth" only about $2,000 at the time, but the car still looks great (no rust yet) ... and, of course, it's much cheaper than buying a new car. >;^)

    --- Bror Jace
  • twouvakindtwouvakind Member Posts: 5
    Battery, alternator and starter. It is no comfort to you now but it sounds as though you did not choose a competent mechanic to diagnose your initial defective component for replacement. Flywheel now? Enough said, stop the bleeding. Unload it.
  • haspelbeinhaspelbein Member Posts: 227
    I used to go drive junkers during my years after college. I paid cash, fixed them up and drove them for a year or two. Bror Jace is completely right: Nothing beats an old car in affordability.

    However, there are two types of problems that I used as criteria to unload:

    a) Rust - It will come back, and there is nothing you can do about it.

    b) Recurring Electrical problems - Very often extremely hard to diagnose and locate. Also very often an indicator that something else is wrong with the vehicle. (e.g. flood damage)

    (I would have also included frame damage, but my father-in-law owns a body shop. ;) )

    Other than that, it really comes down to how much you like your car. If you are satisfied with it, then keep it. A new car might have something else to offer, but I doubt that a comparable new vehicle will ever have a lower cost of ownership.
  • leomortleomort Member Posts: 453

    I have a '94 Toyota Paseo 5spd with 174,700 miles on it. I had all the belts change and the water pump replaced--it was leaking--at 158,000 miles. During the maintenence, the Toyota mechanic noticed that the headgasket on outside had a minor leak. Mechanic said it might last for the life of car or might go--usually during the winter---due to aluminum head and steel block. He said just keep an eye on your antifireeze level during the winters months. So as you can tell, 20k miles later I still don't have a problem. I'll keep an eye on it this winter. So, if it holds this winter, AND passes inspection & emission this coming May, I'll keep the car another year. The Toyota shop wanted a $1,000 to fix. I call around to a few shops and averaging around $450-500, effectively cutting the repair cost in half. Now if the head gasket does go this winter, it is worth fixing and running for another year or two.

    I like being without a car payment. When the car does need replacing, I thinking I'm going to buy a 2yr old used car. It took the biggest hit in depreciation, thus saving you thousand of $$$. The payments will be lower for a shorter term. The car will have relatively low mileage and still be covered under the bumper-bumper warranty. Not a bad deal if you do your homework.

  • brown33brown33 Member Posts: 11
    I am going through the same agonizing decision. I have a 1988 Honda Accord with 172,000 miles. Trusted mechanic says car needs $2000 worth of work (oil leak(s)), front suspension, and rotors. Brought the car 6 1/2 years ago and spent about 3 grand on repairs, half of which is was replacing the transmission. I have been agonizing for three months about what to do. I have done countless test drives of new and used cars, mostly Camry's and Accord's. I have changed my mind a dozen times. Meanwhile, the accord has gone down the tubes: power window stop working, battery went bad, replaced thermostat as car has almost over heated, and it looks like the head gasket is leaking (coolant keeps disappearing).

    To further complicate matters, I have a Nissan Sentra with 151,000 miles which I've sunk over $5,000 in repair cost over the past six years. I've never had a car note and dread the thought of paying on a car monthly. To make matters worse, a used Camry will raise my insurance $600 more a year over my old Honda.

    If I buy, I'll pro ably by a used Camry or Accord, although I'm tempted to buy the new Camry.

    THX and Leo, you are not alone. What ever choice you make, I hope you won't look back.
  • adc100adc100 Member Posts: 1,521
    I feel yur pain. I have normally toughed it out and sunk in the repairs. For the most part, its been a good plan. Even though you have sunk in that amount of money you are still light years ahead, considering you have spent 100 a month to keep 2 cars on the road. Don't look back-that money is gone. Look at today forward. If reliability is important then it might be best to trade. The head gasket scares me a little. You could have a crack and it might not be caught. Will repair be warranted??
  • rest_stoprest_stop Member Posts: 5
    Repair or purchase that too was my dilemma two months ago.
    I own a 1990 Nissan Pathfinder with 214,038 on the odometer currently. I bought it off lease in 1992 with 52,000 miles. Initially, I took the car to the dealer to scheduled maintenance. in 1997, after two expensive timing belt changes, I decided to purchase the service manual and go at it
    myself. With the book, I manage to change my own timing belt, put a new muffler, replaced
    a leaky water pump not to mention replacing the brake shoes and pads when they wear off.

    Two months ago however, the transmission quitted at around 212,000 miles. I knew using the
    book will not do me any good since I did not have tool to do that job. I call places such as
    Aamco and their asking price for a completed transmission overhaul was $3000 + tax.
    To me that was enough money for a down payment on a new car. I was laid off during that
    time and did not want to take the risk of taking a car note.
    I looked around in junk yards in the Pompano area and found a wrecked 95 Pathfinder with
    56,000 miles. I bought the tranny right off the car for $500, found a friendly mechanic who
    agreed to install the tranny for me for $250. I even lend him my service manual. He told me
    it was a good idea to own the manual.
    Right now I feel that I can drive the vehicle to the moon and come back. If your mechanicaly
    inclined, from my own experience I found out some repairs may look scary initialy but turn out
    to be quite straight forward with the service manual. My car performs as if it was back in 1992
    when I purchased it. Sure I will get myself a new vehicle (probably another pathfinder), for
    now it makes sense to me drive the vehicle until I get tired of it
  • rayfbairdrayfbaird Member Posts: 183
    There is a real cascade effect going on in the Auto market right now. Zero percent financing improves car sales. Now there are many used cars that need to be sold. Depending on the situation it may represent substantial savings.
  • rayfbairdrayfbaird Member Posts: 183
    There are a lot of factors to consider.

    My wife hit a curb last January in her 1991 Mazda and most of the steering system components except the power steering pump and the tie rods had to be replaced. Insurance paid 1300 for the repair. I paid about the same since you can't replace components on one side only. (Tires also needed replacement.) Total cost for repairs and maintenance this year came to 3000. Is it worth it? Yes -- for this car.

    Tom and Ray at Cartalk.cars.com recommend reserving $100/month for repairs and maintenance. It really works. I put the money directly into a separate auto repair account and it helped alleviate the pain of those repairs. I only spent $365.00 the year before, which helped. Any money left over can be used for a down payment.

    I had to re upholster a back seat due to damage from the sun and Armor All. When I picked up the car all of the employees in the shop complimented me on how nice the car looked and drove. One said I've seen 2 year old cars that are not as nice as your car. Another said Wow, it still looks new. That's incentive to keep that car.

    Here are the criteria I use:

    Is the car under 200,000 miles? It may be arbitrary, but I believe that any modern car should last that long. I have a 1988 Dodge with 170,000 and it should to that distance. Over 200,000 major repairs must be seriously considered in my opinion. I hate, to use the old cliche but you must decide if you are throwing good money after bad.

    What shape are the engine and transmission in? This is critical. If I have a car worth 2,000 and have to spend 3,000 for an engine overhaul, or 2,500 for a transmission rebuild it would be junked.

    Will the repair allow me to use the car for a significantly longer time? 3 years ago my air conditioning compressor on the aforesaid Dodge Aires went out. $800 repair. It was a tough decision, but I figured that I would keep it for at least another 4 years. At that rate it would have been only $200/year annualized cost. And the comfort level in the heat is a great benefit. The steering repair on the Mazda, while expensive, should not need to be repaired again. And I still have at least 80,000 before its planned obsolescence. But with only 30,000 miles to go on the Dodge I always ask whether I want to do a significant repair. This year I replaced a timing belt pulley bracket, filter injector cleaning, and vacuum hose replacements. All other items were general maintenance.

    Have I saved enough money for a good down payment on a new vehicle? Can I afford the car payment? 'Nough said.

    Aside from the logical factors there are clearly the emotional ones. I would generally do significant repairs on the Mazda again because it is fun to drive, is now in just like new condition, and my wife is really attached to it. On the Dodge -- well let's just say that I can tell it is feeling it's years.

    I have a friend with a 1988 Dodge Caravan that generally looks good, reasonably low mileage,has a great interior except for the drivers seat, and has an overhauled motor and transmission. It needs shock replacement, air conditioner compressor replacement and refurbishing the drivers seat. But everywhere he goes, he is looking and saying I'd like this truck, or my wife would like this car. It's clear to me that he is ready for another vehicle.

    It's no fun to drive an older car that you are tired of driving if you can afford a newer one.

    So realistically the decision to repair or replace is a combination of financial, and emotional factors.
  • srchngfranacrdsrchngfranacrd Member Posts: 1

    i own an '89 olds Cutlass Calais. I bought it used in Feb of 2000 with 44k on the clock for $4200. Everything went fine until this spring when I paid off the loan from the bank. since then I have dumped over $1700 in it for stupid stuff that should not have happened. i.e. the whold cooling system from heater core to radiator to water pump,....etc. My brakes have always been soft and the pedal goes to the floor, despite my mechanic putting new pads on the front discs every six months. I suspect a new master cylinder would resolve the problem. Now I am smelling noxious that smells like gasoline mixed with somehting else only when I'm idling when driving in the city with the car fully warmed up. Since I bought the car, I've put over 30,000 miles on it. The total repairs come to about $17.00 per mile expense of driving the vehicle. i'm switching to Honda/Acura about 3-5 years old as soon as I can afford to.
  • lugwrenchlugwrench Member Posts: 213
    Look up the blue book value of your Sentra. When your total repairs over a short period of time cost more than your car is valued, dump it and move on. Thing will only get worse and not better the longer you keep your high mileage vehicle.
  • redtrain65redtrain65 Member Posts: 24
    If you are buying a 'used' car you have to take into consideration the history. A post previous talked about the 200,000 miles.... wow! Most people do not take care of anything these days especially oil changes. If basic maint. is not done I would not touch a used vehicle with 90,000+ miles on it. If you know the owner and they can prove maintenace then that is a different story.
  • swschradswschrad Member Posts: 2,171
    if you know the previous owner and he has done or exceeded all the maintenance and not beaten up the ride, maybe. I got all my old Mopars like that in the 1970s... but one had a shot engine at 42,000 and needed a short block, which ran for another 110,000 and was still strong when the steering went out. on a lot? -- man, I have very strong reservations indeed about that, even at dealers a lot of stuff goes through auction centers, and all the records disappear there. I've been lucky enough to buy 'em new and run 'em near enough to dust since 1976 - three vehicles - and it's worked out well enough.
  • leomortleomort Member Posts: 453

    My current car, '94 Toyota Paseo--bought new, has 175,000+ miles on it. What will be some normal to be expected repairs to have on this car as it reaches 200,000 miles and beyond. Thanks.

  • tombayertombayer Member Posts: 23
    So said an old time mechanic......

    I think that cars last a lot longer today than they used to. It used to be that 100,000 miles was a major accomplishment, today it may be 200,000 miles.

    Rust will definetly kill a car, I had a 1964 Chevy Bel Air that the frame rusted out on, but the body still wasn't too bad.

    In my family we have three vehicles, 2 have well over 100,000 miles on them. Neither one is a clunker. They're nice looking cars, good bodies, interiors, run well, don't leak fluids etc. Yes I have to occasionally spend some bucks on repairs, but they are worth putting money into.

    But who are we kidding? The decision to fix it or sell it is usually emotional. Some 5 dollar part may disable ol' Betsy on the highway during rush hour and you'll trade her in the next day. Or you may just keep the old girl, but relegate her to second vehicle status. Personally I like to keep the wife in something pretty new and save the old vehicles for myself and the kid.
  • adc100adc100 Member Posts: 1,521
    Just keep following the schedule that you followed for the first100K. I would have a reputable mechanic insure safety items like suspension, ball joints/steering, brakes, brake line hoses, and exhaust system are still in good shape. If the car does trips and you have not replaced the water pump, its running on empty. I think time is a big an ememy of a vehicle-yours is new by those standards.
  • armtdmarmtdm Member Posts: 2,057
    New cars are not breakdown or problem free.

    New 2000 Buick had to be serviced as the oil pan was leaking profusely at 750 miles, seems all the bolts were not torqued properly at the factory.

    So. Overall, unfortunately,0n the whole (yes, many many exceptions) it still seems that American cars are not quite built with the same endurance as the Japanese! Co workers Contour tranny just died at 75,000 miles, fluid changed at 30,000 and 60,000 so go figure, mostly highway driving too.
  • carguy62carguy62 Member Posts: 545
    My '89 Accord LX-i has ~153000 miles (really a baby as Hondas go). Spent about $400 related to an overheating problem (which turned out to be related to the guage!!) and about $100 for some exhaust work over the summer. When Honda had a free inspection the sheet was filled with problems. I tell the dealer "It's an old car and I will be getting rid of it soon" and they don't pester me (they want the new car sale). This has worked for the last five years or so.

    Luckily I have a mechanic friend who has changed the brake pads and shoes and also repaired a cv boot. If not for him I probably would have had to have new rotors or this or that over the years. Always a good thing to know a mechanic.

    Right now I'm putting cash away for the (inevitable) new car. In the time I've owned my car some people I know have had three or more new cars. So I have more money in the bank...but a new car is a new car....
  • leomortleomort Member Posts: 453
    kinda of funny you mention some of those things. I hand the front exhaust replace last December. Had the water pump and all the belts changed at 158,000. That was first time for water pump and belts exept timing which is changed every 60,000 miles. Although, others might claim a bit excessive, I have the oil changed every 3,000 miles. The Paseo doesn't have shocks, only struts which make the car rough riding. Hope those don't need replacing anytime soon as they're expensive. Thanks for the reply.

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