Time to buy a new used-car?



My '95 Saturn sedan (bought it new) is causing me grief. Spent $1600 for engine work, and another $600 for inordinate repairs & replacements. Now the serpentine belt is getting oil leaked on it. It only squeals/squeaks every few days but with oil leeking on it…well…is it time to buy a new used-car? I could afford a new car but it’s probably not worth it to me. Any thoughts? Thanks!


I think the answer is “probably”. I’m picking up the idea that you are not an amateur mechanic, and have to pay for repair services. In view of that, and because your car is 14 years old and probably quite worn, I’d say start shopping. There are lots of great possibilities out there, including the Toyotas that are getting bad press right now.


Where is your oil leak? If it is a gasket and can be reached easily, it might not cost too much to repair. Take it to your mechanic and see what the cost to repair is. If it’s too high, then buy another car. You might start shopping now so that you have an idea what you want and what it will cost if you buy one in the next few months to a year. How much do you want to spend on your next car?


How many miles on this '95 Saturn? A 15 year old car driven 20k a year has 300,000 miles on it and you can expect to spend money on it. Another way to look at it is that you’ll probably not have to re-visit the repairs you just had done for a long time. Stuff breaks and wears out. Many people just get disgusted and get a new vehicle (which could also break down) but fail to look at the car payments until they’re into them. The $1600 and $600 you recently spent could very easily have been $2200 in new car payments . . . 6 or 7 months worth . . . and yes, you would have a new car, but still have to pay the rest of it off. Since you bought it new you should know how the maintenance was and how it was driven. If you’re comfortable with the way it was treated for the last 15 years then consider the replacement parts as stuff you’ll not have to address again with this vehicle. Rocketman


Yea, it only has 116K on it. And no I don’t do my own repairs. Well, I do have one of those repair-shop-coupons for $20 off; I reckon I can take it in and get an estimate.

But another thing too: I can’t lock my doors! If I do, I can’t open 'em! And the trunk doesn’t close unless I really slam it shut. And occasionally I can’t get the key out of the ignition!

Up for serious consideration: buying a bicycle to get to & from work; use my near-broke car for emergencies, grocery store, rainy days, etc. Decisions, decisions, decisions…life’s full of 'em, eh?

Hey, thanks for the reponses! Any more are welcome.


If you’re thinking about a new vehicle, a budget would be helpful for us to recommend anything. Hyundai vehicles are fairly inexpensive new, and have a pretty good warranty.
I see you’re in the St. Louis area, so the real question of using a bicycle is whether or not the weather cooperates with you or not. Though I do know one guy where I work that bikes there everyday no matter the weather(he can’t drive due to narcolepsy, from what I hear)


If you live close enough and the weather cooperates, the bike is a fabulous choice.


As a complete motor scooter fan I can tell you that nothing beats a scooter for short commutes. You can buy scooters for about $2000 brand new from Yamaha or Honda that are 50 cc. Some states allow you to drive without a special motorcycle license, ask the dealer. These scooters are pretty slow and don’t handle hills quickly, but if you are in St. Louis you don’t have steep hills anyway.

Check it out.


There is a rule of thumb that the amount of miles you drive will involve a minimum cost per year. Either depreciation on a newer car, or repairs on an older car. I don’t remember, but I think it was like $1,000 a year or more repairs on an older car, with average miles driven on it. I am sure if I have screwed that up, someone will correct it, but the basic idea is correct.

You drive less than average miles, so your average cost per year may be somewhat lower.

It seems to me, and I most definitely do not want to offend, that you have stopped repairing this car because it is old. This is a common reaction, and when the owner does that, he has already made up his mind to get a new car, whether he thinks of it that way or not.

If it is true that Saturn has been orphaned, things are different. But, generally, these nuisance problems (door locks; trunk latch) can be fixed. Letting them go turns your car into junk. I just saw a video of a woman with her 1967 Comet with 540,000 miles in it, in great shape. Unbelievable, but she clearly kept it repaired.

So, trying to avoid that $1,000 a year repairs, or less for lesser distance, you are indeed opening yourself up to a fortune for a new car. This is false economy.

But, there is another issue. Have you changed the oil and filter every six months (based on your low mileage), and also drained the transmission fluid and added new every so many miles? How about flushing the coolant every couple years? Brake fluid? Power steering fluid?

If you haven’t done those things on a good schedule, then it is time to plan for new wheels in the next six months or year. And, on your next car, memorize the owners maintenance recommendations, and fix little things when they break.

As far as mechanics, think about that discount coupon. Great mechanics probably don’t send those things out; they are swamped. Go to Mechanics files in this URL, you can find it at the top, click in [Actual Car Info], and find Mechanics Files. If there is a mechanic with several glowing recommendations in your area, try him. You need a good mechanic and an honest one, or you can burn up lots of money with no results.

And, if you get a new car, have that mechanic perform your maintenance for you.

Some people do well with a used car. If you can find one which has been properly maintained, and have it evaluated by a good mechanic before you buy it.


Any way of clarifying what this engine work was exactly and what seal is leaking oil onto the belt?

Just wondering if this oil leak is related to 1600 dollars worth of engine work and is due to someone’s carelessness.
Normally, an oil leak onto a serpentine belt is not that serious. (usually a crank seal, etc.)