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Buy or repair car?

On this weekend’s show there was a woman whose husband would not replace a 1980 car in order to save money. Keep repairing was the recommendation. Do you agree?

I will post my own thoughts. I do not agree with this recommendation. this is based on my experience from years ago of owning SEVERAl old cars. What happened is that I would spend money to repair one thing, then figure, well, I spent $800 on the transmission, so now everything is great. Then next month the radiator would go. OK, another few hundred dollars and it’s as good as new. Finally, I got a really inexpensive Toyota Tercel. Even at the then current 15% interest rates, I spent less on that car in a year than I had spent on my previous cars. Plus, I drove it for twenty years and finally donated it to a woman’s shelter at 150K miles. Another advantage was that, since it was never broken down, I was actually able to drive it, a really good feature for a car. Therefore, if a car is old and requiring expensive repairs, better to buy a very inexpensive new car than to put up with that. Just my thought and it has saved me lots of money over the years.

Didn’t hear the show. I’d repair an '80’s car only if was a classic or had classic potential in a few more years. Safety features have improved so much that an update to a late '90’s car makes sense.

It all depends on what the general condition of the car is what repairs may be needed and what the cost of those repairs may be.

That said it is almost always cheaper to repair than to replace, but on a 1980 car it will not take much to exceed the value of the car and once that happens you junk what you have and buy another that is still running.

Where can you buy a NEW car as inexpensive as your Tercel was way back whenever? Even a new low end Toyota is much higher than just the rate of inflation would indicate.

Granted a 1980 car would have to be a near classic, as UT points out below, in order for me to want to spend much money on it. Better to buy a low mileage used car, whatever the make, than to try to keep a dog running.

Been there, done that and in the end got burned. No matter whether it is going to be a classic or not, I am not sinking money into an old car again.

In the good old days (50’s - 70’s) used cars were pretty much “used up” cars. Today used cars still have a lot of life left in them. 2-3 year old cars are often sold as “certified” which is nice but they are pricey.

I’m finding 5 to 10 year old cars can be good buys if they are good cars to begin with and properly maintained. In these 5-10 year olds you’ll need to replace tires, brakes, timing belts, hoses, belts, struts, and replace a few suspension parts but I consider this just a reconditioning of the parts that take most of the wear and tear.

After 10 years now you can expect to get into some of the dicey stuff; such as new radiators, heater cores, CV joints, drive shafts, and so on. These repairs are still cost effective if the car is safe and the body is in good shape.

From 15 to 20 years now you have to look at the value of fixing a car with little value.

Miles on the odometer can be less important than how the car was driven and maintained. Any car should go 100,000 miles today. Most don’t even need a tune up for 100K miles. 200,000 miles is possible for most cars if they are maintained as per the mfg’s recommendations. Dealers recommend excessive stuff and a good independant garage is preferred. If you really work at it a good car can go 300,000+ miles. You’ll have to replace stuff along the way, but all those monthly payments you are not making can fund the repairs.

If you want to take an accounting approach you can calculate when you should get rid of the car. In most cases if the total annnual ownership cost for the current year starts exceeding the CUMULATIVE annual cost (the yearly average of the ownership to date)you are better off looking for something newer.

If you buy a new car, you would keep the old car longer, since reapairs and maintenance need to be very high to exceed the high depreciation of a new car. If you buy a 4 year old used car, you would start looking at trading around the twelfth year of the car’s age.

All this is based on owning a reliable brand for which parts are available. I remember way back when Fiat’s were sold here that 8 years was the maximum life expectancy under North American driving conditions.