What is the lesser of two evils?

All right. I’m a teenager. My first car - I bought it from my parents - is an automatic 1992 Subaru station wagon. A Legacy, I believe, if anyone is interested.

The rear struts are dead. The AC is dying. (And making horrid death wails.) The CD player is dead. (The tape player and radio work just fine. I only require one out of the three, so I’m ahead of the game.) It is getting about twenty miles to the gallon. It has barely over 200k miles. The speedometer only mostly works, not all of the dash lights light up, and there is some cosmetic damage I don’t even want to get into.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m grateful and I love my car.

However. There is a 1987 Honda Civic for sale for $1400 near my house.

It has 260k miles, but it looks to be in better repair, and the owner claims she has kept up with repairs and that she just fixed some belts. According to the owner and the internet, it gets about thirty miles to the gallon.

I do know how to drive a stick shift.

I have the money saved up, I could buy this car. (I’m hoping for a bank loan for half, though.)

Do you think I should keep my Subaru or sell it for a pittance and get this Honda?


True. I should have worded my query better.

Which do you think?

This seems to me a choice between a rotten apple and an overripe orange. Your $1400 won’t buy very much but keep your eyes open. Something more reasonable will turn up. You might try offering $600 to the Civic owner. Expect to be turned down at first. Leave your phone number.

Sorry, couldn’t resist.

I think you should stay with the bird in hand. As long as the Suby runs decently, and the timing belt was changed at proper interval(s) and the trans has been serviced as required. There IS a safety issue with the worn struts - you should probably look into having them changed.

The other issues with the Suby are fairly trivial (excepting the AC), which you could probably address yourself, if you are in possession of a Haynes manual.

Save the money. Or invest in an alternative energy stock.

The struts would cost $1200 to fix. My parents said that I should leave the struts as they are and just stay in the county at 35MPH or under.

I’d really like to stop borrowing cars when I go to the next town over…

Thank you for your time.

The struts would cost $1200 to fix. My parents said that I should leave the struts as they are and just stay in the county at 35MPH or under.

I’d really like to stop borrowing cars when I go to the next town over…

Does that change your opinion?

Thank you!

If it’s $1200 for just the rear struts, I’m skeptical. I suggest that you shop around for a better price even if it’s all 4 struts. Remember to get an alignment in the quote with the struts.

Thank you!

I did go to several places… I’ll keep looking.

The other thing you can do with the Subaru is to get a shorter belt and bypass the AC, then you wouldn’t have to worry about the noise and the possibility of it damaging the belt to the point of breaking leaving you without something like power steering.

It’s not likely a bank is going to loan you money on a 20 year old car and especially for 700 dollars. Usually a bank will not finance a car older than 7 years and the minimum amount they will loan is a 1000 dollars on any type of loan. While they may not make the loan with the car as collateral they could possibly make it as a personal loan if you have a co-signer. The interest rate may not be very palatable either.

A belt situation you need to consider is the timing belt one. This is a pricy repair, and pricier on the Subaru. Tensioners and water pump should be replaced at the same time.
To replace struts and repair the air conditioning will probably eat up most or all of that 1400 dollars.

If the Honda has had the timing belt job done and appears to run and drive out well, my opinion would be to dump the Subaru and buy the Honda in a heartbeat. Weigh what you get out of the Subaru and gas mileage savings against the 1400 dollars and it may not be a bad deal at all.
(Some of the automatic transaxle Subarus were prone to transaxle failures and is something to keep in mind for the future.)

Yeah, timing belt a big one, that should definitely be done if it hasn’t recently. The other belt I was talking about was a serpentine belt.

I still think I would hold on to the Subaru that you got for free. Then if you take it to a shop and it ends up as scrap you wouldn’t have lost much.

If you are out of town for a while, or can live without a car for a little bit, see if you can leave it at a good local mechanic as many times you can get a break on labor if you don’t need it back on a strict deadline.

Try to get the Honda owner down to $1100, keep the Subaru for when the Honda breaks down, and use the extra $300 for a Haynes manual and some tools so you can fix the Honda yourself when it breaks down…or save the $300 to go towards paying someone else to do future repairs on the Honda.

Both cars are now a complete loss. Keep the one you have and save for a better car. $1400 for the Honda is $1300 more than it is worth to you. You can pick up cars like that for free sometimes. Don’t ever be willing to take a beating on a car deal. It never pays off.

Timing belt only runs around $300 in Northeast for a Subaru. I hardly consider that “big”. Struts are usually $200 per side not $1400.

I would not waste your $1400 on a twenty year old Honda that is insane despite what the owner tells you. The Honda is worth about $500-$1000 it is a relic likely older than you.

Buying a car with 260k on it is risky. There might not be to many miles left on it and if it dies you just wasted 1,400. I would wait until you can find something better.

I meant “big” as it is important to have done, not “big” as in a “big stack of bills”. The cost can be “big” if the timing belt is not replaced when needed.