I have a 1997 Honda Accord. My husband has a 1997 Nissan Altima. Both need repairs on a somewhat regular basis. We are wondering at what point to get a new car or cars. Right now it seems like a car payment would be more than continuing to repair the cars. But that is at the current expense level. How do we know when to give up and buy a newer one?
For me the decision point is when a major issue like transmission failure or major engine problems occur. I then consider potential value of repair and overall condition of car, anticipated miles driven after this repair to see if I can “amortize” it over the remaining life of the car. This presumes the body and interior is generally OK and acceptable. Other reasons might be that the cars turn into “hangar queens” and you are inconvenienced due to the lack of reliability. All in all, pretty much a personal decision.
I agree with the analysis of major engine and transmission faults. Some people consider maintenance and wear and tear items as indicative of a problem car and that’s not the case.
Tires, batteries, filters, brakes, etc. are nothing more than the cost of driving.
If a car is well maintained and the repairs are kept up its almost always cheaper to fix it rather than scrap it. As noted above, the only serious decision points are things like engines and transmissions. The only thing that truly kills a car is body/frame damage via rust or accident.
When you do your math about the car payment, don’t forget to add on much higher insurance premiums. I also happen to be in an area where we pay property tax on cars, so I always have to include that as well.
I drive a '97 car with high miles and anytime I add it all up the best economy is pretty much always on the side of continuing to take care of it.
It is also, btw, among the “greenest” of things you can do.
Whenever it doesn’t suit your needs or desires anymore. When you don’t want to keep it long enough to pay for the repair, or when it is rusting out. No magic formula. A new car will give virtually no repair costs for many miles but with payments and an old car will give repair costs and no payments. Takes your pick and to each his own but a dandy time for a deal on a car right now.
You have given no specific information on the repairs you’ve made to the car(s). Tires, brakes, struts, and muffler and exhaust pipes don’t count as “repairs” in my book. These items simply are wear items that you can expect to replace on any car. Put on new tires and you are good for the next 40 to 50K miles. Spark plugs, air filters, and all fluid changes all are part of the wear items category.
Repairs are things like alternators, radiators, blower fans etc. There are just a zillion or so parts that can eventually break and require replacing. Eventually you can just not want to bother with any more repairs.
You need to really evaluate if you’ve spent money on repairs or just replacing items you can expect to wear out with usage. If the basic car mechanicals and body are sound then the cars can last 5 to 10 more years.
Older cars will have more repairs and breakdowns than newer cars. Part of your problem might be that both your cars are '97 models and both are 13 to 14 years old. Perhaps one car should be retired now in favor of a new one. Then in 5 years you can retire the other one for a new car. Then go 5 more years with both cars and replace again when the cars are 10 years old. Cars are going to need a lot more repairs in service years 10 to 20 compared to service years 1 to 10.
Running 2 newer cars is expensive with car payments. Running two old car (like yours) is expensive with repair bills. Since repair bills for a year are rarely as much as a years worth of car payments you are better off with older cars, until they just get too old to be dependable.
What repairs? Keep in mind that many things like changing transmission fluid or plug wires etc and NOT repairs, they are maintenance items. Not doing maintenance items, is the most expensive way to own a car.
As other posters point out, all cars need repairs from time to time. And usually replacing items as they wear out is considerbly cheaper than paying off a new car.
Having said that when a car gets to be 14 years old and the automatic or the engine fails I would call it quits. If a car is maintained well, neither of these things should happen, however.
Please keep in mind that if a car is properly maintained, it will consume the new car value in maintenance and repairs over its lifetime. If that seems like a lot, keep in mind that such a vehicle would go at least 300,000-350,000 miles if it is a normal bread and buttter vehicle, such as a Corolla, Civic, Accord, Camry, etc. Poorly built cars will also consume their original value in M & R, but they will bite the dust in as little as 150,000 miles.
Both your cars should go 300,000+ miles before the engine or transmission fails, if they are properly maintained.
P.S. We drove a 1984 Chevrolet Impala from 1983 till 2003, and put 320,000 miles on it. Needless to say many little things were repaired over that period, but no internal engine work or transmission repairs were incurred. Tyical replacements worth doing are; alternator, starter motor, battery, fuel pump, struts, CV joints, heater fan, radiator, heater core, wiper motor, exhaust system, headlight bulbs, and other small items. All these are worth doing and will likely need doing on your cars before 300,000 miles.
Thank you all for your helpful feedback. When I looked at the repairs I found that most, if not all, would fall into the category you described as “routine maintenance”. We have not had engine or transmission problems (knock on wood). I have been keeping up with the body touch ups so we are ok there. After reading your insightful posts we have decided to keep the cars. Thank you so much for taking the time to give us your thoughts.