Fix the old or buy a new one?



We need to replace our older car. And, we own an even older one - a 1987 Nissan 300Z that is not running. In fact, it’s been sitting around for ~7 years, except for a period of about a year in the middle of that time after we had it worked on. It’s got 163,000 miles on it. It was in an accident at ~120,000 miles and was re-built then. When it is working, it is incredibly fun to drive. It has numerous small & a few larger problems. My husband wants to spend “oh maybe” $3000 to get it all fixed up again. I suspect that six months after that money goes into it, it will need another major repair, and then another, etc. He argues that it is cheaper than buying something newer. Any opinions?


It is unclear which car you are considering for replacement – the undefined “old” car you alluded to, or the older 300Z which is merely a hobby. If you are asking about the 300Z, the answer is obvious. A decision to buy a new car is independent of whether you keep or discard the toy. At this point you may assume it will ‘never’ become a reliable daily driver. Still great fun, but not if you need something dependable. Maybe you can clarify your needs?


As always, it’s a better deal to repair your existing car until/unless the repair costs exceed the replacement value. You need a realistic estimate of what the repair casts will be to make this car functional and reliable, then you need to see what other vehicles you could purchase for that amount. The decision should be obvious when you have the numbers.


Why do you think it would be difficult to turn a 300Z into a reliable car? Obviously it can be done, the only question is whether it will take $3000 or $10,000.


Cool toy. But as I understand its condition it will require a serious commitment of capital and time to make it back into a reliable daily driver. If you need a new car, get a new car. Don’t consider this a replacement for your family ride.

It’s what I call the “law of threes”. It will always cost three times as much and take three times as long as your best estimate. That applies whether you’re restoring a 300Z or remodeling the bathroom.


It’s the 300Z that we’re considering repairing. The other car is just about worthy of target practice - don’t get me started! We have easily spent more repairing it than we paid for it - and that was before we paid it off. Make me stop, now!


Seriously, take the 300Z to someone who actually knows these cars and get a realistic estimate of everything that needs to be done to make it a reliable car that will only require routine maintenance going forward. Personally, I have a car that’s been sitting around for over 15 years waiting for me to get around to working on it; and I know it will cost me significantly more than $3000 (and lots of time) once I get started. Do not fall into the trap of doing a little at a time without understanding the total cost, find out what you are getting into before you start and make a decision.


Also, have the mechanic list the repairs according to need. There are some things that must be done and some that could be done. Have him subdivide the must-be-done list to show the must items on a time scale. Can some wait? What has to be done right now? If the cost looks acceptable, then go for it.


Old cars aren’t the same now as old cars were thirty years ago. Computer systems and their wiring aren’t so bullet proof or cheap like yesterday. $3,000 will get it running for a few months.


This argument goes on a lot in the homes of those of us who keep vehicle fantasies as hobbies. Cars that are fantasy possessions are no longer cars as transportation, they only look like it. So, accept your husband’s obsession with this old 300Z as a hobby, and the car as a toy. Just like if he was a stamp collector, would you be chasing after him to use those darn stamps on the envelopes to pay the bills? He’s trying to rationalize you off his back about this car. I suggest you give him a “Whatever…” shrug and go car shopping for your next transportation module. A nice new Toyota Corolla and you’ll be happy, he’ll be happy, the $3,000 won’t get sunk in the 300Z, and it can sleep in the garage for awhile. And your husband can sleep out there with the Z.