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Tank it or Keep it?

At what point should I begin looking for a new vehicle? My vehicle (the infamous head gasket job) has 165,000 miles, and I don’t know what my “point of no return is”. The link to the previous discussions about What I’m Looking At is here, and any suggestions about the remaining life, preventative maintenance, etc. would be greatly appreciated.


Consider this:

If you don’t replace the head gasket, chances are the buyer will deduct that from what they would be willing to pay and a number of potential buyers will walk because they don’t want to get involved with that kind of thing.

If you replace the head gasket, then you are talking about a car with 165,000 miles and a good head gasket. To replace it you will need to buy a different car. A new car will be expensive (how many monthly payments will pay for the head gasket?) and you will have a car that you know the seller (you) is not trying to pull one over on the buyer (you).

Good Luck

I am in the process of replacing the head gasket now. This is more of a “what next” question…

If you keep replacing things as they break, your car will last a very long time, since it is neither a “dog” or one of those biodegradable vehicles. The key is to keep doing the required maintenance.

We had a 1984 Chevy Impala in the family and this car ran up to 320,000 miles before we sold it and from a cost point of view it was always cheaper to keep it running. The nusance of minding all the little things was something else! That’s why so many were used as taxis!

In accounting terms, if the total current annual cost (depreciation, maintenance, repairs, gas ,etc) starts EXCEEDING the AVERAGE ANNUAL COST TO DATE (Total cost of the years you’ve owned it divided by the number of years), it’s time to get another car. That’s called the “inflection point” of the cost curve. With most cars that would occur somewhere around the 200,000 mile mark and at age 12 or so.

However, I agree that this point is difficult to establish for most owners. So Tom and Ray will tell you that the cost of most major repairs is usually 2 or 3 new car payments. If you have one major repair per year, it’s probably OK to keep the car. More than one, I’d think getting rid of it.

Others, including Consumer Reports, will tell you that if any repair exceeds 25% of the market value, it is time to think of trading. I do not totally agree with that; there are many retired folks I know who have very good 20 year old cars worth very little if sold. They gladly spend $900+ on a repair since the rest of the car is normally OK.

Hope this provides you with some insight.

That is exactly what I was looking for. I do appreciate it.

I visited your first post and am very impressed with your having given us actual definitive information. Nice pics.

The two items of information we need to offer an opinion on the question is the condition of the rest of the vehicle and the condition of the head. If the head is not warped and has no erosion paths, and you clean up the carbon residue, properly install the new headgasket, and flush the cooling system out well before refilling it, you may just have many good miles left.

At your mileage you’ll likely need to start repalcing peripheral components like the alternator, AC compressor, power steering pump, and starter motor, perhaps one or two items per year, but if you like the vehicle and it’s otherwise in good shape it may be worth it.

As Doc said, some publications and individuals will offer a “rule of thumb”, but no rule of thumb can quantify how well you like the car or what you’ll get for a replacement. I know someone right now who has an older high mileage car that is as reliable as the Rock of Gibraltar and is thinking of replacing it “before it begins to break down and gets too expensive”. But this friend is looking at replacing it with a used car. I keep telling the friend that the replacement comes with the risk of discovering after the purchase that it needs something major that the current car does not need.

What if you replace yours and discover the replacement needs a tranny?

When the repair costs as much or almost as much as buying another car in comparable condition, it is time to get rid of it.

Also if the thing you need done is the only thing that needs doing, buying another car would likely cost you about the same amount as repairing your current one, because as long as they are both in similar condition, you should expect the next major repair to occur at roughly the same interval.

This doesn’t mean that you would HAVE to go and buy another car in the same shape as what you’ve got…it just means that is the point at which it makes no financial sense to NOT buy another car.

That’s a risk you take…you take that risk if you repair your current car, too.

It’s also why it pays to learn how to detect problems with cars.

How do you clean the top of the short block? I’ve been told everything from a polishing drill attachment to a flat wet stone…