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Old Car But Very Low Mileage - Should I Fix or Buy New? 96 Nissan Sentra

I have a 96 Nissan Sentra with about 68,000 miles on it (awesome, right?). This car is a trooper and has been with me for several years. I live in Pennsylvania where there is a yearly inspection requirement – mechanical in addition to emissions. I took it in last week for inspection. My mechanic, who is a great guy I trust, tells me I need about $500 worth of work in order to get it to pass inspection: a new exhaust from the catalytic converter back, a tie down of some kind (engine?), and a rod that I believe connects the wheels.

This car blue books in Fair condition at about 1000. It’s in Fair or less condition. I don’t have very much money at all right now, and I’m trying to decide if I should sink it into fixing the car and hoping nothing else major breaks soon, or spending it on a down payment for a new(er) car. It would be a no-brainer in favor of the newer car if my mileage weren’t so low. I don’t know a whole lot about cars but I’m trying to educate myself—not sure if the age of the car or the low mileage wins out on this one.

Any advice at all is sooooooooo appreciated. Thank you!

If that’s all it needs and considering the low miles I’d fix it in a heartbeat. The price quote is very fair and you would lose more than that in depreciation the minute you drove a new car off of the lot.

There are about half a dozen Recalls out on this model and if they have never been performed it would be a good idea to take it in and have the applicable ones done. Recalls are free of charge as to parts and labor and can be done by any Nissan dealer.

I’d also fix it. $500 for parts and labor for all of those parts and repairs sounds like a great price.

Worst case, $500 these days is two or less car payments. If the car lasts more than two months after the repair you are ahead of the game. With this attitude I got three more years out of my 2000 Blazer averaging about one major repair ($400-$500) a year. I agree with 98caddy, $500 total for the work is a good price.

Ed B.

I’d fix it if the mechanic thought there weren’t other major problems coming up. And start saving for its replacement.

In general, I tend to fix instead of throw away and agree with the above. Though I would ask your shop about the rust situation. And I don’t mean rust that you can see up top. A PA car - coming up on 20 winters. It’s rusty down there. Obviously its not too bad yet or it wouldn’t pass inspection at all but I just wonder…

We don’t know much about your financial condition but after you pay for the repair, wait 2 months and put $250 a month into a car replacement/repair fund.
If you can’t afford $250 a month, then it is simple, you can’t afford a new car.

How is underside of car holding up for rust issues? Brake lines? Fuel lines? Rocker panels. 18yrs of penn salt water spray is pretty rough

The car lived most of its life in Indiana, has been in PA for about 2 years. But there are some rust issues – I know that is why the exhaust needs to be replaces. There is a spot under the driver door but I had a guy coat that area recently.

The rust we’re worried about is on suspension mounting points, fuel lines, brake lines, stuff that’ll cause a wreck or fire.

This is so immensely helpful. Thank you. (Keep responding if you like)

I’ll just add another vote for keeping the Nissan and fixing it. I’m a big fan of Nissan and think they have the reliability that’s just as good as any Honda or Toyota.

I tentatively agree with fixing, but there are a few things that you might want to consider. How soon will it need new tires? How about the brakes? the battery? If all these are coming soon and at once, you might want to look around, but all in all its probably cheaper to keep her if she passes the safety inspection after doing the repairs.

Thank you all! I talked to my mechanic this afternoon and they also suggested to fix it and that is what I’ve decided to do. It feels good to commit to fixing a car that’s been so good to me for so long. I appreciate all of your input. This forum is great!

If this buys you several years of not having to buy a new car (and you put money aside each month for the next while), keeping this car could serve you well.

If $500 buys another year of life for this car, then do it. That’s a cheap fix these days.

My opinion is to never buy a new car. You lose more money on a new car in the first year then you could piss away in Las Vegas with you buddies. Well maybe not, but still. I have never bought a new car. The depreciation is too great the first couple of years. It is not the 80’s or 90’s anymore. You can get a two to three year car 20%-40% off a new car and have a very reliable car. Different cars lose value more then others. You will have the higher cost of the 100,000 maintenance interval though you need to figure into price, because different cars have different items that need to be done. Cost will be different, but close. Running cost of a car that is 12 years or older goes up dramatically if you cannot work on it yourself. Of course you will never know how long something will last, but you are looking at $1600 a year in running cost. Of course could be more or less. That is over a hundred a month. Then you have to figure you are not working on it so you have your time wasted of bring to people to fix. Of course all this could be different for different situations and there are too many variables to list. Including what you like and can tolerant. Of course financial situation. I had a old car that a keep piecing together and then I bought a used Honda accord with 13,000 miles on it. I hate payments but it was worth it not having to work something every month or two. It has been paid off for a couple of years now and I am still driving and have not had no problems just regular maintenance. I got it from a dealer that put a lifetime warranty on the engine and transmission with a $500 deductible. I plan to make them own up to it when the car will never pull itself. I say go but a good used car depending on situation. Or like a couple of people said run it and save up, because it isn’t going last forever. You will be at this same cross road again soon. Hopefully not to soon…

You can get a two to three year car 20%-40% off a new car and have a very reliable car.

They’re tough to find. My 05 4runner I bought used. Only had 11k miles on it. Now has over 260k miles. I just bought an 14 Highlander…All the used 12 or 13 highlanders I found had over 60k miles. Even if you thoroughly inspect it - you’re taking a gamble on how long it’ll last. So if I can’t find a 1-2 year old vehicle with low mileage I’ll buy new…then keep it for 300k+ miles.