Strategy: when to get a new car? '93 Maxima seems fine.. ...for now

I have a strategy question - and as with most car questions, a need to settle an ongoing “discussion” with my wife.

I have a 1993 Nissan Maxima that has 145k miles. I bought it four years ago for $3300 and it had 103k miles. Since then I have the oil changed every 3k miles and have replaced brakes, a tire and some belts. It has some rust in the body, the back window doesn?t go up or down, the aerial won?t go up or down and it has a whole host of minor issues. But I have had no major problems with this car. While it is no babe-magnet it has been functional.

My wife thinks I should get rid of it before it begins to cost me $ to maintain it. So my question is this: at what point do I get rid of this car and get a new one? What are the types of problems that I might encounter that are just not worth fixing? Since I only paid $3300 and consider that amount fully depreciated, what amount of $ in repairs represents the tipping point of when I should get a new car? I say ?ain?t broke, don?t replace it? my wife says ?replace it before it breaks?.

Any comments or advice are welcome.

As long as it’s running good and meets your needs then why get rid of it. New car payments will cost you a LOT more then maintaining this extremely reliable vehicle. And if you buy used it’s a gamble on if you’ll get a more reliable vehicle.

I agree, it’s always cheaper to keep a vehicle up to the point where the required repairs exceed the replacement value. If you want a new car or if your current car is no longer reliable or safe (and not worth fixing), buy a new (newer) one.

Your car has limited value if you sell it. Even if you put $1000/year in maintenance/repairs you are still so far ahead than buying another car as you have no idea of the reliability of another vehicle AND another vehicle also requires maintenance/repair too.

Financially it makes more sense to hold on, emotionally is another ballgame.

Very sensible. Sounds like my response to my wife.
Do you know of any common significant problems that a '93 Maxima might have? Are they notorious for spontaneously combusting at 162k miles? Or for transmissions falling out at speeds greater that 75 mph?
Any insight about the ?93 Maxima is appreciated.

They actually are known to run a long time and are durable cars. Not sure where you live as 93 is old in age. However I know of at least three time long term Maxima owners who went into the upper 200-300k range without significant repair. One needed an automatic transmission replacement but not atypical for any car over 150k miles.

All three interestingly not really car enthusiasts but absolutely loved their cars and the way they drove. If you have the SE version its essentially a poor mans but reliable version of the BMW 5 series at the time.

The Maxima is a fundamentally reliable car. Brakes, tires and belts are normal maintenance items for any car.

I prefer to measure the cost of repairs in car payments rather than in dollars. That is, how many car payments will it take to equal the cost of a necessary repair? When you get to the point where you are spending more on repairs than you would on car payments, it’s time to get a new (or, at least, newer) car.

If you want, you can drive the Maxima until it becomes cheaper to replace than repair. Then, send it to Nissan heaven.

The time is when you want a new or newer car or need a new car since the current one can not meet your current needs AND you can afford a new(er) car.

Nearly always it is cheaper to keep a car and fix it than to sell it.

I suspect that you already know the economically sound answer. But this is a family vehicle and you both need to be happy. I vote that if the misses no longer feels safe and secure with the Nissan, and you can affodr to replace it, then a new car is in order.

A wife that knows you care more about her security and happiness than will yield a far greater return in life than a few saved dollars. There’s far more at stake here than just economics.

The “known problems” on that vintage Maxima are weak rear window regulators. The part was about $60 when it broke on mine. I had an '89 Maxima with 145K on it when it was totaled. I was fully expecting to get 300K out of it. It didn’t use any oil between 5000 mile changes, and except for repairing the rear window problem and the Bose speakers, it had no functional problems. Just normal maintenance type stuff.

Oh yeah, there was some sort or “program” where Nissan was replacing the head bolts, but I don’t know if that included up to the '93s or was limited to earlier models. It was probably already fixed on yours since you bought it used, if yours was even in that bunch.

Again this is sensible.
My wife never drives the Maxima. She drives a Ford Freestyle. We have three kids and the Freestyle is a perfect car for her.
I get the feeling that part of her desire for me to get a new car is so I get a “family car” so I can do more of the kid taxi work. The Maxima holds two kids just fine - but not all three. I will take an inexpensive, ugly, used Maxima over a minivan any day…


There are a lot of options besides minivans that will accomodate three in the rear seat. Pick up a Consumer Reports New Car Preview at the local bookstore and you’ll see a plethora of choices.

Remember the old saying: “if mama ain’t happy, NOBODY’S happy!”

I don’t think that you will find any car that will seat 3 kids in car seats in the back without starting fights. It’s just too cramped, even with supertankers like the Crown Victoria or Buick LeSabre. Keep your Maxima and run the kids around when there are just one or two of them. You might trade with the Mrs. sometimes so that you can ferry all three at once.

If she won’t drive the Maxima, then you might want to get a newer car so that she is willing to trade.

The nice thing about having a van with separate seats is you can sort out who’s causing all the trouble back there. When they’re all in the back seat…

He didn’t say they were in car seats…

Quite right! But the older kids are more likely to fight if they are in close quarters. My kids certainly did. I sometimes threatened to get a limousine with a glass partition. I told them that I’d roll it up and keep whomever came out alive. That shut them up for a while.