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When to sell an old car?

I drive a Honda that’s about twenty years old. Looks good. Runs amazing. 30 mpg city/40 mpg hwy. I’ve maintained it well. This car has never failed me.

Summer 2015 is the next scheduled major maintenance (brakes, battery replacement, belt replacement, possibly new hoses, coolant flush, etc). About $1000 in anticipated maintenance in summer 2015. Then, the car could theoretically last until 2018 before the next round of major planned maintenance (about $600 for tires, timing belt, etc).

Does it make sense to keep pouring money into maintenance on a 20 year old car? My alternative would be to buy a newer used car for $5000 - $10,000. At what point in time does it make better sense to sell my old Honda even if it’s still running reliably?


For $5000 you’ll most likely be buying somebody else’s POS car

$5000 will probably only get you a high mileage, used up car

Of course, they’ll present it as a creampuff

There’s an old saying…“The devil you know is alot better than the devil you don’t.”

It sounds like you have a good-running, well-maintained Honda, which should keep going like the Energizer Bunny. You didn’t mention anything about miles, condition, etc… but if it’s in decent shape and you know its quirks (and the quirks aren’t too bad), I’d keep it. As the previous poster mentioned, for the price you’re talking you’ll just be getting another higher-mileage (albeit probably newer) vehicle with unknown history.

Also keep in mind that the expenses you mentioned would be applicable to just about any 100k mileage vehicle. I’d categorize those as simply standard maintenance costs as opposed to abnormal or excessive maintenance issues. You’ll end up seeing those costs regardless, so I’d go with the vehicle you know and trust.

Just my $.02.

When you don’t want it anymore. It sounds as though you like the car. If so, keep it and enjoy it. You could spend $5000 to $10,000 on a new-to-you car, but that money would go a long way on your old Honda. And you will still need to maintain the newer car. If it is strictly a money decision and you are not tired of your car, keep it.

Whether you keep what you have or buy a new car, you’ll still have to do maintenance.

Whether maintenance is a fixed cost or a variable costs depends on how much you drive your car. Maintenance intervals are usually based on mileage/time intervals, whichever come first, so if you don’t do a lot if driving, maintenance becomes a fixed cost. If you drive a lot of miles, maintenance becomes a variable cost.

Having said that, when you compare a new car to the car you have, I treat maintenance as a fixed cost for the purpose of comparison, because maintenance should be performed on any vehicle, whether it is new or old.

What you should be considering are repair costs, and it doesn’t sound like you have any to speak of. I know what that is like, because I drive an old well-maintained Honda too, and the repair costs on my 16-year-old Civic with 257,000 miles have been minuscule.

Buying a new car won’t prevent you from “pouring money into maintenance.” It will, however, lessen your odds of “pouring money into” repairs.

So the real question is, “Does this old car require frequent repairs?” If the answer is “no,” I think you should keep it. When stuff starts breaking, and repairs become frequently necessary, it will be time to buy another car.

Even when repairs become frequently necessary on a car, keeping what you have is almost always less expensive than buying a new car, but nobody wants to deal with frequent break-downs and lost productivity while the car is in the shop, so at that point the decision usually becomes a pragmatic decision, not a financial one.

You aren’t ‘pouring money’ into it, those are cheap maintenance costs, overall. I’d keep driving it and put away money every month into a new(er) car account. That way when something major does fail you’ll be ready to replace.

Consider this as well: A 20 year old Honda is less safe than a newer model vehicle. Theoretically…your Honda may last to 2018 but what if it fails? You will have spent this money on maintenance and your vehicle would be nearly worthless. I would buy a newer vehicle and have it completely checked out by a competent independent mechanic before you do. It’s money well spent.

“Theoretically…your Honda may last to 2018 but what if it fails?”

What if what fails?

How many miles are on it? What is the actual year and model? I would keep maintaining and keep driving. As noted, you can go ahead and spend a chunk of money on something else. But unless you’re shelling out a ton of $$ for a new car with warranty and service agreement, then you haven’t really changed your position at all. You will have spent a ton of money on a different car that has to be maintained and could have some major kind of failure.

@cigroller…“if” means the vehicle which could be the transmission or engine or rusted frame. I really don’t see the replacement of an engine or transmission as being a viable option when dealing with a 20 year old vehicle. I guess “safe” is not in your vocabulary either after reading your comment. Pay attention here…you may learn something.

No missileman, not learning anything. If you meant “Theoretically…your Honda may last to 2018 but what if [its engine or transmission] fails?” that’s fine. But there is no “it.”

One way to rephrase part of what I was just saying could be: “Theoretically…you could go buy a different used car because it is newer. But what if you do that and pay for its maintenance, and then its engine or transmission fails?” Meanwhile, you probably sold you car to some kid down the street for $1000 and he’s the one who comes by in your old Honda to pick you up while you’re stranded on the side of the road.

The fact that a car is 20yrs old means nothing about the odds of engine or transmission failure. Getting into a car that is less old similarly means nothing about those odds. (This is partly why I asked for the mileage and model). The OP is not talking about going out to buy a new car with a manufacturer warranty. Pay attention here…you might learn something.

Friend just sold 99 accord w/102k miles for $5k. Zero issues. Just bought new accord instead. Old car was fine. V6, leather, sunroof, alloy wheels, good tires. Certainly has many more yrs left

If the overall condition of the car is the way you describe it, then keeping it going will likely be the cheapest alternative. However, money isn’t the only factor here. The chance that it’ll break down and strand you is steadily increasing. It’s not as safe as today’s cars. You’ll have to weigh those factors too.

Also, the price range you mention for a replacement is such that you’d probably be looking at cars that are more than “gently used”, so you could end up with a troublesome car if you’re unlucky. If you were considering, say, a well-maintained three-year-old Accord, then that would be a different story.

Sorry @cigroller but since I mentioned “Honda” in the beginning of the sentence…it becomes an “it” later on. Pick up a dictionary sometime…1. The definition of “It”: used to refer to a thing previously mentioned or easily identified in a sentence or phrase. Like I said before…pay attention and you may learn something.

I know I’m guilty of forgetting to do this, but when you post online, picture yourself sitting across a table from the person you’re addressing. It’s so easy to be condescending and rude when you’re posting to a faceless person on the internet.

@missileman, still having a lot to learn? When it comes to the question of failing, a car isn’t an “it” - it is a whole lot of different “its.” An engine can blow - and that means the engine failed. It doesn’t mean “the Honda” failed. A fuel pump can fail. Does that mean “the Honda” failed? A brake line can leak. Does that mean “the Honda” failed? A car cannot fail. Only parts of it can. Your sentence referred to nothing. Dictionaries provide definitions, but not understanding, btw - obviously.

Given the info provided by the OP, getting rid of this well-maintained car is a bad idea. Some of its parts will probably fail over the next X amount of time. That’s what car parts do. I’ve said everything I’ve got to say on the subject.

Same here. Your yammering on about the subject is very annoying. A Honda is an it. Let’s leave it at that.

I thought it was you who was yammering.

Look, no hard feelings. Let’s agree to disagree about a car as an “it.” Have a good one.

OP…you mention brakes, battery, hoses and belts as concerns and as reasons for gettting rid of the car.

Brakes and battery are NOT mileage-based actions; they are “fix it when it breaks” actions. I suppose a more risk-averse (and wealthier) person might elect to replace a battery preventatively; I’d just wait till it goes and park on hills.

Hoses are easy DIY jobs (excepting perhaps the heater core); this leaves “belts” (presumably timing) as the sticking point. I have made the argument, here, that Hondas are over-hyped as forever-mobiles for just this reason (well, that and rustproofing). But a timing belt job is not a $1,000 outlay.

Missileman, so what that the car isn’t as safe as a current car? A circa '94 most likely has 3-points, ABS, reinforced doors and airbags. The real gains came through the 80s-90s…after that, nibbling at the margins. (At any event, OP has self-selected a car that gets “30 MPG city,” so it’s safe to venture he isn’t neurotic about safety.)

And why isn’t it realistic to repower a 20-y.o. car? I have a 20y.o. truck with even more miles than OP’s Honda…and if the engine went belly-up, I’d be at the you-pull-it faster than you can say “300 cubes of inline goodness!”

If the body holds up, and the car is relatively inexpensive to repair, I would say just keep fixing it. That’s usually far less expensive than new car payments.

The accuarate accounting version is “when the actual unnual ownership costs start exceeding the AVERAGE annual ownweship cost to date”, it’s time to sell . In other words, you are heading up the cost curve, and it’s cheaper overall to get another car.

We have found that we actually never reached that point; the corrosion always got there first. We sold my wife’s 1994 Nissan Sentra in 2012 in very good mechanical condition, but the body and floor panels started to rust out. The car would have been very unsightly by now had we kept it. In its last year we spent $771 on maintenance and repairs, not a lot. Over its life the annual maintenance and repairs came to $562!

Other reasons for dumping a car:

  1. The car has become unsafe and can’t be made safe economically

  2. The car can’t be made compliant with environmental standards. We had such a car.

  3. Parts are no longer available; this usually applies to orphan cars such as temporary imports by the Big Three.

  4. The paint and body are so far gone that your wife won’t drive it. Our 1965 Dodge Dart was pulled over by the highway safety check cops and they were surprised it was fully roadworthy.

To the OP:
You already own the car that you’d want to be looking for on the used car market. You’d be a fool to replace it with another used car IMHO.