Why keep a car not worth fixing?

why do people keep old cars not worth fixing? there are a LOT cheaper hobbies.

Because they want to and it is their money . And why do you even care ?

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Why do people ask rhetorical questions on internet sites?


Why would you think a 2010 car is not worth fixing? The only thing my daughters 2010 Corolla has needed is brakes and tires, oil and filters. Even the battery is original and the car runs like new. Some very smart people don’t want to spend more on transportation than they have to. A new car brings me joy, for a day or two. Then it is just a car. Now a great car from the 40s or 50s could bring me joy for a long time, but it could not be a daily driver although I would not hesitate to drive across country in one. I have a friend who drives one of his Hudsons from Buffalo to Iowa and back for a car show.

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Good intentions that people don’t follow through on. The show Chasing Classic Cars has a lot of unique cars and trucks that sat still for twenty years and more because the owner meant to get to it, but never made the time. The way they usually put is that life got in the way.

I am currently replacing the engine in a 94 Plymouth Sundance. The car, in running condition, is probably worth less than $1200, and I expect to spend about $2000 on all the parts and incidentals needed to make it reliable and road-worthy. Once this project is finished, I am going to replace the engine in my 95 Caravan, which runs but not well. If in perfect running condition, this van is probably worth about $1500.

How come?

Well, first, working on a car for personal use (as opposed to in a shop environment) can be fun, and there is no time pressure or pressure to cut corners. Second, keeping an old car running is often much cheaper than buying another one, especially if you are doing the work yourself. Third, and most importantly, older cars have features which I find appealing, and are not easily found in more modern vehicles, such as comfortable seats, non-powered windows/locks/seats, no security system, no telemetry/communications systems, and no deliberate attempts to prevent the end user from working on his car. Finally, I believe it is important to preserve historic vehicles, which were once plentiful, and are now extremely rare.


What really determines what a car is worth? I am not thinking about Kelly Blue Book. Suppose I have an older car that has been maintained and isn’t rusted. Let’s suppose the “book” value is $1800. Let’s suppose the transmission needs to be rebuilt and the cost is $2000. Let’s add another variable: the wife has just sprung another offspring on the family. I am in a low paying job, but I am going to night school with the promise of a better financial future when I complete the education.
Now, I probably couldn’t find a decent car for $2000 or even $2500. It seems to me that it makes sense to fix my present car.
I am never sure what it means when someone says that something is “not worth fixing”. It depends a lot on the individual situation. Example: we have a 27 year old washing machine. Two years ago, it vibrated terrible, would move across the laundry area and made a terrible banging noise. Mrs. Triedaq does not like to go shopping. I decided to call a repairman and would eat the cost of the service call if he pronounced the machine dead. The repairman arrived the next day, diagnosed the machine as having a bad shaft bearing and the repair would be $240. I asked if the machine had to go to the shop. “No”, he replied. “I have the parts on the truck. I’ll have it fixed right here in two hours”. That was two years ago and the machine has worked perfectly since the repair. It has cost me $10 a month to keep the machine in service and spared me the agony of dragging Mrs. Triedaq out to shop for a new machine.
Now I read in Consumer Reports that for various pieces of equipment, if the repair is more than half the cost of replacing the item, one should replace the item. I don’t entirely agree. It depends on the circumstances. With a vehicle, one really needs to look at the condition of the vehicle and appraise one’s needs and financial situation before determining that the car isn’t worth fixing.


2 things - 1) What someone is willing to PAY for that car, right then. or 2) What someone is willing to pay to FIX that car, right then (@Triedaq 's point).

Watching car restoration shows is a pretty good gauge. Someone brings in a car, if restored is worth $40,000. They spend $60,000 on that car because it was their parents wedding car, their grandfathers race car, or their high school car. Irrational? Sure! Is it “worth it” to them? Absolutely.

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I’ve been amazed at what some folks would pay to get a car restored. Several times what the finished car was worth. All because of an emotional connection with it.

Another reason is possible emotional attachment. This occurs more often than you may think. I am guilty of this phenomenon myself. There are a laundry list of ways this can happen, but it is real and it happens.

My 73’ Honda CB750 is one example, it was my first street legal motorcycle that I purchased and repaired to get it functional. I have had countless adventures both on the left and the right coasts of this country. It has never once stranded me and I consider it an old friend. So…there you go.


Anyone know where there is a nice 41 Studebaker Commander Landcruiser? I am with Triedaq on this one, In 1968 I bought my wife a Kenmore gas dryer, it was a good one with a large drum and a moisture sensor. Over the years I replaced the belt 4 times, the motor once, the front seal once the top door switch twice and the blastic blower impeller once. One of the kids dropped a metal toy down the filter chute while my wife was cleaning the filter.

45 years later it was still performing flawlessly even though the cabinet was rusting badly. When my son was moving to Florida he tried to give me his 2 year old dryer so I bought it from him and it has been working fine, otherwise I might still have the Kenmore. I never had a service call on the kenmore, Sears used to sell a repair manual for their dryers for $2. All tld I spent less than $150 in parts.

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I thought this must be an old post but guess not. So an old answer anyway. Are we talking ten years old or 20 or 50? Makes a difference. At any rate the decision to repair or not to me was more of a cost per mile issue, regardless of what some book said it was worth. If I could make a repair and drive it long enough to equal my normal cost per mile, then why not? All other things being equal. Of course when you drive 50,000 miles a year compared to 5 or 10,000, your calculations are much different and you treat cars like a piece of production machinery.

When performing a restoration, resto-mod, customization, whatever you want to call it on a classic or vintage car, the general rule of thumb is that in the end you can expect to recover half the cost of the parts and none of the labor.

The value is in owning and driving the car, not what you can sell it for.

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There’s the car-in-question’s resale value in the equation, but there’s also the alternatives to consider, like

  • new car p&i payments
  • new car insurance payments
  • new car registration fees
  • the hassle of locating & buying another car
  • the unknown risks of another car

Taking all those into consideration, it might well make $$-sense to repair a car who’s resale value is less than the repair cost.

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I still laugh thinking about a TV show where a fellow paid north of $50,000 to restore an early 60’s Plymouth valiant back to like new, stock condition.

I do it because fixing the car is cheaper than buying a new one.

Whether the cost of the repair exceeds the value of the car isn’t the question you should be asking. Instead, you should ask whether fixing the car is likely to be less expensive than the alternative, which in most circumstances means buying a used or new car.

A couple years ago I had a head gasket replaced on a car that was worth roughly half the cost of the head gasket job. The car has since lasted long enough to have been a financially sound decision, because $1,200 / 24 months = $50/month, which is cheaper than a car payment.


Well I keep fixing mine, could be not worth fixing my 03 trailblazer. Last year $800 power steering lines rusted out, now I will put a couple grand into for repairs if needed, but vehicles that can tow my boat cost way more . So if a 2k repair came up I will do it. Price 2500 to 4500 for similar. I think I am being frugal not foolish. I keep up on all maintenance, but you never know what will come up next, or I might make it to 250k miles in 5 years.


About 1/2 mile from my home, there is a run-down house, and next to the house is a collection of '70s era Volvos that are rapidly sinking into the ground. I have lived in this neighborhood since 1996, and none of those Volvos has ever been touched–except by falling tree limbs and bird crap. Both the house and the collection of old Volvos are a blight, in a neighborhood where the cheapest homes sell for $450k.

Why did this guy decide to accumulate that collection of crappy old Volvos, but never begin to work on any of them, for more than two decades? I wish that I knew the answer to that question.

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I hope he’s using them for parts.

Only through teleportation, it would seem: “none of them has ever been touched”