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Repair or replace 2003 Honda Accord?

I drive a 2003 Honda Accord EX-L that has 173,000 miles on it. I bought it new and have maintained it. I like it very much. Six months ago I replaced a starter motor for about $400 and bought new tires. But now a blower motor is broken and I don’t have air conditioning or heat. The cost of the repair is $350. I also need a new battery and the rear brake pads will need replacing soon. The check engine light has been on for months, and the dealer says it is because I need a mount replaced. That costs $300 but I was told it wasn’t really necessary to do. I am worried that if I spend the money to fix these things, it will just be something else major soon, and I don’t want to waste my money. However I have shopped for cars and don’t really see anything really appealing. We recently bought a car for my husband, so we have a reliable one for trips.

I like knowing how to work everything in my Honda. I have had trouble learning basics in my husband’s new car, and his isn’t as complicated as many new ones I’ve looked at. I like the acceleration of my 6 cylinder Honda to merge onto the highway and have found that power lacking in many of the cars I’ve test driven. If I do buy a new car, I’d like one that is easy to get in and out of for an old lady and an old dog. I’m not that old yet and neither is my dog, but it’s coming. I also want one with rear cross traffic alert, probably blind spot monitoring and other things that help avoid accidents.

So is it better to fix my Honda, wait a year or two for other models to come out that I might like better or should I buy something new? I can afford about $33,000 for a new car.

Interesting dilemma. You want something better than you have (more features) and you can comfortably afford it, but you’re wrestling with the half of your brain that knows the better economic decision is to fix the Honda.

There are two philosophies on this:

  1. the economically smart thing to do is fix the Honda, so do that.
  2. you only live once. If you can afford something better and you want something better, go for it. You never know how long you really have left.

Only you can decide which is the best for you. We can’t.


Do you have a son, who is relatively handy, and has some basic handtools?

A battery and blower motor are pretty easy to replace, and the parts aren’t extremely expensive.

You don’t even have to get genuine Honda parts. You could save significantly on parts, and if you get a relative to do the labor for free, so much the better

If you spend $30K on a new car, what would your car payment each month be? $600? And what would your depreciation be the first 3 years? $12,000? I’m just guessing, but if those numbers are right a new car will cost you about $19,200 over three years just in depreciation and car payments. It doesn’t include the higher cost of insurance and registration, which is another expense you’d have. But you would have a new car, with all of its creature comforts, reliability, and safety features.

On the other hand, I expect you could keep your Honda Accord on the road for the next three years for what? Say around $5000? Maybe $10,000 if you are really unlucky and need a new engine or transmission rebuild. So say keeping the Accord, you are looking at $5k-10K over the next three years. Keeping the Accord, you wouldn’t have the same degree of care-free driving as a new car. But you’d probably have a fatter wallet at the end of 3 years.

I guess if I were in your situation and I liked my current car and didn’t mind the bother of the occasional trip to the car shop for needed repairs and maintenance I’d probably just keep the Accord and bank the savings to buy a new car three years from now, or spend it on some nice vacations at a place that is dog-friendly so the dog can go too.

I don’t know about the 03 Accord, but the earlier model had the computer located just below the blower motor, the carpet had to come up, a shield removed and the computer removed to get enough clearance to get the blower motor out. And with the blower motor running over $100, I can see it costing $350 to replace it at a dealer.

I don’t see haw a mount can cause the check engine light to come on. Why don’t you drop in at a local car parts store like AutoZone and ask them to pull the code for you. Most will do this except in California. Get the actual alpha-numeric code which will probably start with a P and then 4 numbers, i.e P0171. They will usually give you a cash register print out of the code, its explanation and the possible parts that might need to be replaced. The code will be at the top and just let us know what the code is.

If the code isn’t too serious, my first inclination is to keep the car for several reasons. The biggest reason is that in a couple of years, the new CAFE fuel efficiency requirements will kick in. This is going to force the industry into innovations to the current engines to improve fuel economy. I believe there are some technologies on the back burner that will greatly improve fuel economy that are in the final stages of development that will be worth waiting for.

If you do want a new car anyway, check out the Subaru Legacy. It seems to be easier for people with mobility issues to get in and out of. Same for the Outback if you want a wagon. Its eyesight collision avoidance system and backup camera could be just the thing for us older generation.

All the items you mention are maintenance in a high mileage car. I’d fix them and drive on.

Once you’re past 10 years, it’s your call. A new V6 Accord would be just as fast as yours, as would a V6 Camry.

Thanks everybody. I appreciate the advice.

It’s worth repairing just based on what you save on the yearly excise tax alone !

Keith, AutoZone said the check engine light was on due to oxygen sensors. Sold us some stuff to put in the gas tank that might turn it off. Thanks for your suggestion.

What the same mountainbike said. I was thinking the very same thing. In addition, I don’t believe there is a mount on your vehicle that is monitored by the CEL system. Avoid the dealership for further repairs and find a good independent mechanic. “The check engine light has been on for months, and the dealer says it is because I need a mount replaced.” That statement is bogus in my opinion.

AI dunno, its like everything else, just ask yourself how long you would keep the car if not significant problems? Its already ten years, so 15, 20, 25? You have to buy one sooner or later unless death comes first so its really just a matter of timing rather than cost. You might be surprised at how much things have improved in ten years though.

Things like batteries and brakes are just maintenance items like tires and oil changes. A few repairs is not to be unexpected. So you can wait until there is a major repair and be faced with a car with not trade-in value, or take your money off the table now while it still has some value. At some point though you have to trade so my question would be why wait?

As long as the rest of the car appears to be in good shape i’d fix what it needs and drive it. You can always look at some of the new Accords and other cars such as the Mazda6 or Subaru Legacy to see if you like how everything is laid out. If there’s an auto show coming up in your area I’d go and take the time to at least sit in a few potential cars without the pressure to buy.