My car is worth $2k and needs $2k of work - what now?

It sounds like the car is in excellent shape except for the required maintenance and repairs. You like it, so fix it and enjoy it for a few more years.

What makes you think someone will pay $1500 for a car worth $1980 that needs $2000 in repairs ?

$2,000 represents the price if I fixed every single thing they suggested fixing, including light bulbs, washer fluid, wheel caps, air filter, and other items that are not major mechanical problems. The repair of the major problems probably comes to $1000. The car is worth $2250-$2500 in “good” condition on KBB, which is what it would be in after those repairs. So perhaps I could sell for $1250 - $1500. Or maybe not.

I do not know Honda. But, I can tell you official manufacturer’s recommendation on my Sienna is INSPECT the water pump when the timing belt is replaced. It is presumed with proper cooling system maintenance it will not need replaced for a long while.

I gotta’ admit I do worry about it, but they were not going to cut me any slack; if they could tell me to replace it they would have.

Note though that the Honda is 17 years old, which is a different ball game.

Those things do not cost $2K although I do not know the cost of spark plug tube seals or what specifically is an engine front seal (a valve cover gasket?) How much oil is it leaking between oil changes?

I would say the radiator is about $110, battery about $50, plugs about $2 each, rotor about $3, cap about $17, etc.

I’ve done some research today and located an independent Honda mechanic that gets exceptional reviews in this area. I think I will take the car to him on Monday and get a second opinion. After reading all of the threads here I’m not sure that I fully trust the shop that I took it to.

Excellent decision. Getting multiple opinions for work of this cost/magnitude is a great idea. Let us know what they say.

lease, then work it to the monthly or close out price you want

Do consider doing some of this stuff yourself - it really can be fun. Keep records and do price shop. I have an older accord so I am not sure of the exact layout of yours. I had 7 years on the last radiator which started leaking from the top seam. It had a lifetime warranty (do look for those) so I went back to the place to get my free replacement radiator. They said it would be about $90 to put it in though. I pulled off to the side and did it myself and left them the old one.

The valve cover gasket should be easy to get to. Many car parts stores will help you put stuff on also. Just call around or look online. On the east coast you could try advance auto to start. Tell them you want to price a valve cover gasket for your car. They ask the year, model, make, and sometimes other things like fuel-injected or carb. engine, 2dr or 4dr etc.

For batteries, the car parts stores also test those for free - go there for a free 2nd opinion on that. Does the one in the car have a warranty on it like is it a 2 year battery and is it within the two years and what brand is it? If batteries degrade before their time is up, places will replace it - some for free.

Tires? With tire sales and price matching, I found some for $35 each 40K mile tires. Another place price matched it with their 50K mile tires so I took those. Mounting, lifetime balancing and all that was an extra $15/tire. Or you can just order tires online and have WalMart put them on.

Also on the radiator - where is it leaking? If it is clearly leaking from the plastic neck it will need to be replaced. But in replacing mine, they said that when leaking from the top seam, the top gasket can be replaced, that radiator shops carry those gaskets. Since the whole radiator was free for me I went for that plus I learned how to do it as I had never done that myself before.

Some of these parts like water pumps - the one I have is from NAPA with a lifetime warranty, so I do not have to buy water pumps any more. My power steering pump also has a lifetime warranty.

Do you have any idea of the mileage on that timing belt? If you lost the records, but know where they took it to get worked on, ask that shop to look it up, But if it is easy to get the top half of the cover off and inspect, you should do that too.

Hondas can easily go over 500K miles.

Do you have a digital camera? If so, take some pictures and post them here. Take some of the top of your engine, any leaks, any hoses that look like they are bulging, take some of hard-to-see places like the CV boots or stick the camera under the radiator and aim up to get a picture of the lower radiator hose. Is the oil pan gasket just seeping or leaking a lot of oil?

Dear Switters,

In 135,000 miles my 1996 Chevrolet Cavalier needed only spark plugs at 100K miles, a new battery or maybe two, new fan belt new front brake pads and that is all except for a couple of warranty covered items. No new radiator, no axles, no radiator hoses, no water pump, no fuel pump and no engine seals needed. I will admit to a rusted out gas tank that was a PIA for me to replace. The Cavalier did not have a cam timing belt. Normal wear and tear can cover a lot of territory.

I liked my Cavalier as it cost me little in repairs. Was I lucky?

I think we’re all missing the point. This 1000 mile trip you are taking - how many days? Before you make a big move on the Honda, go to something like Orbitz or Hotwire and find out a rough idea of cost to rent a car for the trip. I do this often on long mileage, but sort of quick trips. The cost per mile can be very reasonable, especially if the trip is over a weekend. You can also check the Costco travel website if you are a member. This is easier if you live near an airport, but check it out. Sometimes a nice new rental car can help you put off big jobs til later.

Is this a State Inspection or a shop inspection ? If a shop. I’d have another garage look at it. I think the estimate is an overkill. However, if it really needs all the work mentioned, Sell it or trade it in. No way put the worth of the car into repairs. What will be next ?

If you only have $5000 to spend, fix your existing ride.

Get a 2nd opinion on what needs to get done imminently or ask the folks.

$5000 does not buy much if you like Honda or Toyota. Usually a newer vehicle but in need of some work.

I would fix it and save for a $8-10k used vehicle of your choice. There are some really good choices. Your car is not loosing much value year to year now at that mileage or age.

…/ …
…| |…

Andrew, Where Have You Been? It Took You Almost Two Months To Come Up With Helpful Advice. I Guess Good Things Are Worth The Wait.


It sounds like replacing the timing belt, water pump, axle and CV boot is essential.

Those are essential. If the radiator is leaking then get that fixed too.

Tester recommended replacing the valve cover gasket set. I’m not sure what that refers to on my list?

This refers to #6 on your list. The Tube seals are part of the valve cover gasket set. Not a huge issue…can probably let this one slide for a while.

As for the sparkplugs/cap/rotor…If the car is running fine then you can probably let these go for a while.

The problem I have is these are all maintenance items which SHOULD have been taken car. If you kept up on these maintenance items when they were needed then you wouldn’t be stuck with a huge bill at once.

I liked my Cavalier as it cost me little in repairs. Was I lucky?


What you need is a friend that know something about car repairs and you could get it all done for under $1000. An after-market radiator is about $200 but the timing belt and water pump and belts will be at least $500 but these are must do’s. The axle maybe can wait but to me the tune up would be a fairly high priority. Normally I would say fix it, especially if you like it and plan to drive it enough to get your money out of it again. $3500 is not enough to get a decent car that won’t need the same $2000 in repairs to bring it up to par.

For someone that cannot work on there own car, I would rather see in a new car where warrantees will cover the repairs. I would rather see you keep your cash, and trade it in for a new one. There are still good deals out there. Why don’t you at least just take a look before spending all your money on the old one. For someone that can do their own work, no problem fixing it-just ask me.