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What to do with a no-go '96 Honda Accord LX?

Hello fellow Car Talk fans! :slight_smile:

Pleased to make your acquaintance and to learn about this community - seems like a great resource. Perhaps some of you will be able to help me with the little pickle I’m in. My 4-door 1996 Honda Accord LX (w/ sunroof and car phone!) has less than 140K miles on it, but now needs a new water pump, timing belt and most importantly, head gasket - and the alternator or starter probably needs to be fixed too. The timing belt and water pump need to be fixed just as routine maintanence, but the head gasket is due to some unfortunate overheating of the engine. I don’t recall how the alternator and/or spark plugs failed, but I believe it was related to the other problems, and those will probably have to be repaired as well. Repair estimates I’ve received (for the three major items) would mean spending more than the car is probably worth now. However, since the Blue Book value was $2700 when I bought it in February 2012, I’m hoping to get more than just $300 (the standard quote I’ve been getting for junking it), and I could be wrong, but it seems to me that the car might be worth more than $300 to someone, given all the good parts, etc. Any ideas for how I could get more for it? Or is it worth trying to find someone to repair it cheaply and then selling it running, with the other problems? Many thanks for any ideas / tips.

In that condition you won’t get much for it. You could try posting it for sale on Craigslist as a parts car for, say, $500, but in the end you may have to settle for the $300 from the junker man.

Don’t bother trying to fix it. Take your money and move on to a slightly newer Honda. :wink:

Overheated engines are no good. Its better to put another engine in and its a lot cheaper that way. Repairing an overheated engine is costly. Really depends on how much it overheated.

Don’t get caught up in whether the car costs more to repair than you can get for it. The key question is: What is this car worth to you? What are your alternatives?

My car is a 1998 Civic with 251,000 miles on the odometer, and although I probably couldn’t get more than $1,000 for it, I know I could never get a car for $1,000 that is in as good shape and is as reliable as mine. Because I’ve taken good care of my car, I know it is likely to make it to the 300,000 mile mark. When I compare the alternatives, I know I would have to spend at least $5,000 to get a car that I can trust to be as reliable as the one I have. Mine may be an eyesore, but it’s got good tires, good brakes, and a reliable powertrain.

So, what are your alternatives? Can you afford a car payment? Have you considered donating your car to NPR and writing it off on your taxes?

Thank you to each of you for these considerations. You each make points worthy of thinking about. I never thought about asking what it is worth to me, that’s a great question. Yes, I have considered donating to NPR or another car donation option… do you know how much the write off would be exactly? That is a piece of information I haven’t yet been able to get my hands on.

Those cars just go to auction, so there’s no telling what it would bring - but it still wouldn’t be a lot. $500 or less is a good guess.

The question of the value of the write-off is something you should ask the agency or charitable organization to which you would donate the car. I’m sure they’re used to answering that question.

Don’t throw good money after bad; dispose of it by listing it as a mechanic’s special or for parts.

Why do you think the head gasket is blown, overheating does not automatically mean a blown head gasket on this car. If you can verify that the head gasket is indeed blown, then junking it is probably a good idea, but if the head gasket is good, then this car is worth servicing for its utility value.

The timing belt and water pump along with front oil seals, balance shaft belt and seals, serpentine belt and coolant replacement cost me $735 at the dealership last year on an 97 LX. Mine had a couple overheating incidents under its belt and it never blew a head gasket. But the overheating was not too severe, the gauge got into the red zone but not for very long, immediate shut down.

Donating a car to a Charity seldom results in much money in your pocket anymore. If you don’t have enough deduction to itemize you get nothing. You can no longer deduct the appraised value unless the charity uses the car. You can only deduct what the charity sells it for- usually the junk price, say $300. Now this doesn’t give you $300, only a deduction of $300 in your taxable income if you already have more in deductions than your standard deduction. Then if you are in the 15% tax bracket you will save a whopping $45.