To Fix or Not to Fix... This is my Question

I have a 1997 Honda Accord with 155000+ miles. It’s been almost over heating and the dealer’s diagnosis is that I need a new radiator and temperature gauge–at $611+tax. A few months ago when I was getting the front brakes fixed, they told me I need to have the back brakes fixed before winter (which is coming up fast!). I think they estimated that at about $400. So I’m looking at over $1000 in repairs in the next few months. HOWEVER, I’m in my last stretch of grad school (graduate in December), and have negative income (except for those blessed student loans). I DO have money for a down payment and for payments until I have a job, but do I do it???

Get an estimate from someone other than a Honda dealer. An independent mechanic can replace the radiator and fix the brakes for much less than the dealer, and the car will last another 150K miles.

Repairing a vehicle is almost ALWAYS less expensive than replacing a vehicle.

Agree; this car will go another 150,000 miles if well cared for. By all means, go to an independent shop. Your cost will be about half of what the dealer would charge.

Temperature gauge? Are you sure you weren’t told new thermostat?

All cars require maintenance and repair. If the car is otherwise in good shape, you won’t come close to finding a comparable vehicle for the cost of the current repairs.

I also agree you should find an independent shop to give you an estimate.

I’m curious about how and why they determined the radiator is at fault. Unless clogged up, a radiator will not cause overheating unless it’s leaking and causing the coolant level to become too low.

Also curious about why they’re bringing the temperature gauge into this.

I’d get another opinion or two and price this around. It seems to me that if you really need a radiator the price you were quoted can be beaten by an independent shop.
As to the brakes, one could simply replace the rear linings without replacing or surfacing the rear drums or rotors, whichever you have. This is not a proper by the book repair, but when pinching pennies this can be done and should get you by without endangering yourself or anyone else. A shop would not guarantee this kind of repair against things like shudder, noise, etc. but odds are that it will work fine.

At $1000, that’s $250 per month. Can you get a car loan for $250 a month that is paid off anywhere close to 4 months? Do you have a job lined up already? If not, getting a loan will be very expensive since you don’t have a regular paycheck to cover the loan. And unless you are in an in-demand filed, getting a job may take some time. I don’t know you, so I can’t offer any recommendations.