Time for a new Batmobile?

I have a 1999 Nissan Altima with 175K miles on it. I drive 500 miles per week between Omaha and Lincoln Nebraska and have been doing so for the past four years, so many of these are highway miles. My mechanic is advising me to flush the transmission, put on new belts, get it aligned, and replace a tie rod (all totally $500-ish). My car also has a broken windshield, cracked taillight, and just recently I took off the driver’s side rearview mirror backing out of my garage (whoops!). It also has a short in the turn signal which makes it click on and off randomly. The car is paid off. Is it time to get a new car or would you put the money into the car to get some of this fixed? The missing mirror really bothers me.

Thanks for your opinions!

Renee Batman (yep, it’s Batman!)

Why wouldn’t you do basic maintenance and minor repairs and keep driving it? Why would it be time to get a new car? If your tires wear out do you say “Oh time for a new car”?

Replacing belts, tie rods, changing transmission fluid, windshields, etc are things that eventually need to be done on cars. $500 is really nothing to spend on a car. A brake job and new tires on a high-end BMW can run you $3,000-and that’s just regular maintenance.

I’d do what needs to be done on the car and keep driving it. I would advise against flushing the transmission however at this mileage and instead just change the fluid. SOmetimes you can cause more harm than good playing with an automatic transmission at this age and mileage if it has never been serviced. You might get 300,000 miles out of this car if you have done regular oil changes and if you drive it gently.

Would you rather spend $400-500 a month on a new car payment or $500 once every year? That’s the simplest way to look at it.

Thanks for your input. I do the regular service and really love my car. I’ve never had any problems with it. My husband and I were disagreeing about this as I would drive this car forever. We needed another “objective” opinion! Thanks!

Ms. Batman,

An “experienced” taillight could possibly be found at an auto recycler (used auto parts yard), in like new condition, at a reasonable (less than 50% new) price. Call a dealer for the price of a new one first so you have a comparison. On some cars the light comes off just to change bulbs. I don’t know if that is the case on yours. Check the owner’s manual. Otherwise, it should be no big deal, anyhow.

A mirror could possibly be obtained the same way. Many recyclers won’t “part out” doors, selling only the whole door, but some might, especially from a damaged door with a good mirror. This would be more involved to replace, but a collision shop may do it reasonably. You could inquire about new and used windshilds while you’re talking to them. Check an auto glass place, too.

You must know that you have no insurance coverage for a windshield, correct? I would be sure first.

If there’s nothing else seriously wrong with the car (i.e., big-ticket item to fix), I’d just go ahead and fix what you have. It should be cheaper than buying another car (new or used). Only if you know that a very expensive repair is coming up (or a lot of little ones that add up) might it be better to shoot Old Paint. With the body items (windshield, mirror, taillight) fixed, your husband might actually like your car again! That reminds me – those three items will probably cause the car to fail the next safety inspection, so you’d have to get them fixed anyway if you wanted to sell the car.