Blogs Car Info Our Show Deals Mechanics Files Vehicle Donation

Should I buy a new car?

I LOVE my 1990 Honda Prelude - my baby! That said, I’m wondering if it’s time for me to retire her to the Junkyard in the Sky:

2 months ago I put in $1,466.08 for replacing alternator, master brake cylinder, rear brake pads & rotors. Plus some miscellaneous maintenance stuff. My mechanic, who I believe is honest & trustworthy, recommends another $855.00 of replacing drive belts, timing belt, engine mount, oil pan gasket, timing cover, etc. Now my A/C has failed - apparently due to a faulty master controller. One mechanic (he’s closer to home) recommends splicing electrical wiring to bypass controller. My trustworthy mechanic said by phone that that could be a mistake to mess with splicing electrical wiring and suggests local mechanic is trying to save me an expensive replacement.

I’ve been resisting buying a new car because I love my baby and also because as an art history professor at a Cal State (still paying off student loans), I don’t have the funds. At the same time, I don’t want to start dumping money into a car that is on its last wheels. I’m also concerned about the lack of airbags and my 90-mile rt commute on SoCal freeways.

What are your thoughts?

How many miles?

There are a number of variables to consider. Are you planning on buying new or used? Will you be paying cash or taking out another loan? How much will your insurance go up?

Realize that some of these items are routine maintenance, and such expenses can be expected from your new ride at some point. If you crunch the numbers, it will almost definitely cost you more money to buy something else, assuming your Prelude is one of those jealousy-inspiring rust-free SoCal cars.

Since you love your baby, take care of him/her, and keep driving is your best bet, IMHO.

Just over 126,345.

I agree with NYBo - 126k isn’t all that much, assuming you’ve been changing the oil, etc., and you can do lots of repairs for the same amount as a few month’s payments on a new car.

Buying a new car is always the most expensive option. Buying a used car will save you money. However, fixing your current car, even if you spend more than it is worth, will save you the most money.

Most of the items you mention doing now sound like normal maintenance, not a repair. I would not bother with the engine mount unless you are having problems.

My answer depends on how many miles are on the car and where you live. Can you live without air conditioning? If so, I would leave it as it is.

Okay, with only 126,000 miles, I would do the maintenance and repairs and keep the car.

Yes, true.
Do you have any thoughts on the fact that I’m driving long distances a few times a week on the freeways without airbags?

Definitely cannot live without a/c: it gets up over 90 deg. F. some days…

Then fork over the $855. It sounds like a reasonable price for all the things your mechanic wants to do.

You have gone 18 years without needing them. Evidently, your driving skills are good enough.

Contrary to popular belief, highways are safer to drive on than streets…no cross traffic.

Are you religious in your seatbelt use? I think that gets you a large fraction of the protection. However, new cars definitely perform better in crashes because the basic structures are now built to handle crashes better, especially side impact. So if that’s a major concern of yours, you may need to replace the Prelude…

The $855 does not include the additional $500 for splicing electrical wiring to bypass the faulty master controller that will make the a/c work.

Still, with only 126,000 miles, I would do the maintenance and repairs and keep the car.

regardless of the advice you get from others you have to have the peace of mind as to the future costs/benefits with keeping the car vs getting a new one. It is 18 years old regardless of the mileage and as you pointed out there are new safety features in newer cars compared to your old one.

$500 to splice some wires?! how much do they want to actually FIX the problem? I wouldn’t even go back to that shop to tell him I don’t want it done. $1400 is about what, 4 payments for a new car if you take out a loan?