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New Car Anxiety

Good Evening,



I was hoping you guys could help me. I am struggling about whether to buy a new or newer used car OR just keep my 1993 Saturn which is still in good mechanical condition at 104K miles.



I only use it to drive about 5 miles round trip to work.



I am considering a Honda Civic or a Hyundai…those rated as the best according to Consumer Reports.



I am also hearing alot about car buying services. Does anyone have any experience with those? That would certaintly help alleviate the stress of negotiation, which I have no experience.



In the meantime, a friend of mine suggested taking my 1993 Saturn into a trusted mechanic and having them inspect the car from top to bottom.



Any feedback would help ease my anxiety.



Thanks!



Ingrid





The first question that comes to mind is why - if your car is in good condition - you are thinking of a new one. Are you just tired of it? Just come into some money to burn? Do you occasionally take long trips and are getting wary of its reliability? Certainly the car’s age brings up questions - its pretty old. But 104K isn’t that many miles if it has been well cared for. But I tend to keep old things and fix them when needed rather than looking to buy new things. (The only time this seems to be a problem is with computers and mobile phones). Given your very simple driving needs I’d have to wonder why you want to put a whole bunch of money someplace like this. (Consider not only a new car payment but also much higher insurance. And maintenance costs won’t go away, though repair costs would be lower in the event that they are needed).

Why anxious all of a sudden? If you are tired of the car and have extra money, get a new one. If you like the Saturn, keep it. It is not a bad idea to take to an honest shop on a regular basis for the regular maintenance. They can spot incipien problems and save you a lot of dough in the long run.

My thought at this point if it were me keep driving the saturn until something breaks, then decide, In the mean time it is about time for 100k maintenance, so get that $500 dollars of stuff done, rtm ~ read the manual, cars are a crap game, keep it win or loose, buy another win or loose.

I think your friend’s suggestion of taking your Saturn to a trusted mechanic is a good one. The mechanic will check to see if the underbody is rusted or if there are any other safety related issues. The mechanic can also give you some idea of the condition of the engine and drivetrain.

If the car checks out o.k., particularly for the type of driving you do, start saving money in an account so that you can either pay cash or have a substantial down payment for a new or newer car.

When you are ready to buy a car, keep it simple. Your Saturn won’t have much appeal to a dealer. Buy the replacement car outright. Have the financing arranged through a bank or credit union before you go to the dealer. I politely tell the salesperson that I am going to buy a car within the next week. I don’t have time to spare. Here is the car I want and what do you have that is close to it. I want your best price guaranteed to be good for a week. I have a couple of other dealers to visit. If you have the lowest price, I’ll be back to purchase the car. If the agency doesn’t want to cooperate, I leave.

I also shop for dealers as carefully as I shop for the car. On my last purchase of a minivan, I went to several dealers. The Chevrolet dealer was most cooperative and gave me the best price. The service has been great. A couple of minor problems were taken care of with the warranty with no problem.

When I was shopping for a new car back in 1965, I had a saleman that really listened to what I wanted. I wanted a car with a minimum of accessories and at the lowest possible price. I had looked at the Dodge Dart and the Ford Falcon. I went to the Rambler dealer and assumed that I would get a price on the Rambler American. When the saleman figured out that I wasn’t interested in a fancy car, he said, “How would you like to save some money?” Instead of a brand new car, he showed me a bottom of the line 1965 Rambler Classic, one step up from the Rambler American, that had gone 7000 miles. I bought the car for $1750–much less than the $2000 that I thought I would have to pay for a new car. I ran that car for a long, long time.

To me, a '93 model car with only 104k miles has a lot of life left in it. Do the basic maintenance on it on a regular basis and drive it until it dies due to something major.
It’s far, far cheaper than flushing interest money down the drain.

If you just want a new car and can afford it…

Good advice above on checking out the Saturn

Its a buyers market. Do your home work on sites like Kelly Blue Book (www.kbb.com) and Consumer Reports. You can find info on dealer invoices and determine a reasonable price. Do not buy any of the dealer things like extra undercoating and “paint protection”

Don’t forget to factor in sales tax, higher insurance premiums, and excise tax.

If the Saturn is running fine take your time, do you research, the market isn’t going to change soon.

5 miles round trip? That’s 2.5 miles one way.

I’m sure you’re not aware of this, but driving a car only for short distances is the hardest life a car will ever know. It seems counterintuitive, I realize, but if you drove a 50 mile round trip every day it would be easier on the car.

The reason is the car’s engine never gets a chance to fully warm up when you only drive short distances, and the engine, transmission, etc, work better when they are at their correct operating temperature.

I suggest you take this car for a highway drive every now and then, just to warm it up and drive all the condensation out of the engine, transmission, exhaust system, etc.

Having said that, if the car is in good mechanical shape, as you say, the only reason to replace it with something newer is if you want to. 104K miles does not mean the car is worn out, or on the verge of failure, assuming you’ve kept up with the maintenance.

If you like the car, I suggest you have it checked out by a mechanic, as your friend suggested, and keep on driving it.

If, on the other hand, you’re tired of it, or want something newer, or with more conveniences, then, by all means, shop for Civics, Hyundais, or Corollas. Don’t forget the Corolla. It’s one of the most reliable vehicles on the planet.

How did you miss the Corolla if you’re reading CR?

Why do you want to change? I generally have kept my cars a long time and kept them well maintained. Even after many years and miles they have served me well. Most of my car changes have been due to changes in my needs or on one occasion, I just wanted a different car and could afford it.

 There is no reason a 1993 car with 104,000 miles should not be able to provide many more years of reliable safe driving.  That is almost certainly the least expensive way to go.  If you are worried about reliability or upcoming repair expense, do have a trusted local independent mechanic take a good look at it.  

 If you just want a different car and if you can afford it, go ahead.  Find what you want.  I would only repeat that part about being able to afford it.  I have lived at my means and below my means and frankly it is a lot more comfortable to live below your means with money in the bank and no worry about making any payments.  I am now wealthy, but I enjoy what I have.

Here’s another vote for keeping your Saturn, assuming it’s in good condition as per a mechanic’s once-over. Just keep maintaining it using the severe service schedule. As mcparadise said, your driving routine is actually rather hard on a car’s engine.

Thanks everyone…very very helpful!!!

Ingrid

You’re in a very similar situation as me(same round trip miles). I’d like to replace my 99 Civic with something new, but I just can’t seem to bring myself to buy one just yet, nor can I see myself getting rid of the thing.
One thing to consider is getting a newer car and keeping the old one around as a spare, or something.

Sorry to disagree but a 93 Saturn is about due to be put out of its misery. This is a fantastic time to buy and in this day and age, there is not much to negotiate anymore. I would pick the Honda with 50K mile warranty and a much better resale value if you want to trade later on. Everything and everybody has to be replaced sometime so might as well take advantage of the times. When you look at the cost of used vs. new, there really is not much difference in annual costs, so I’d go for the new.

I don’t normally recommend getting rid of a car with that low a mileage, BUT as posted already, Saturns of that age have more than average engine problems and GM is about to shut down or sell the whole Saturn division. This means a parts and service problem similar to Daewoo cars sold in the US.

In view of the above facts, and the car still in good saleable shape (no rust). I would trade to a more reliable vehicle, such as a Honda Civic, Toyota Corolla, Mazda 3, Hyundai Elantra or similar vehicle.

A friend of my wife was in exactly the same position. After fixing the head gasket problem, which nearly all these cars incur, she sold her Saturn which still had a great body (always garaged) and bought a Hyundai.