Why keep a car not worth fixing?


I took that for hyperbole.


$50,000 to have what is likely the nicest Plymouth Valiant in the world doesn’t seem that out of line to me.


Several of the cars on Fantomworks had wasaaaay more money spent on them than they were worth after restoration. All comes down to an emotional attachment.


My grandpa was a Jeff Foxworthy joke. If you mowed the grass at his house you did indeed find a car. Actually, you found several cars. He had somewhere around 20 of them hidden in the weeds when he died. Grandma had them all hauled off the day after the funeral. I think she felt guilty about how happy she felt.

Grandpa was a child of the Depression, and he also wasn’t very good with rationality. He’d buy the cheapest hunk of crap he could find because anything more expensive was “too dear.” He’d drive it until it broke, which usually wasn’t very long.

Then he’d hook it up to the tractor and tow it down to his mechanic’s shop. The mechanic would diagnose it, and if the repair cost more than 50 bucks or so, Grandpa would get mad and tow it back home. Now he had a choice: He could sell it for scrap value, which he wouldn’t do because he paid a lot more than that for the car and selling it for scrap would be a ripoff. He could get it fixed, which he wouldn’t do because the mechanic was just ripping him off. Or he could just leave it and go get another car. That’s pretty much always what he did.

Grandpa never read Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. If he had, there’s a passage where Pirsig talks about about stripping a screw that he needs to get off in order to drill down to the problem that’s making his motorcycle not work. He explains that people think of screws as low-value because they’re small and aren’t very expensive. But if the screw is preventing you from making the motorcycle work, then that screw is worth the selling price of the whole motorcycle, because the motorcycle is worthless until you get the screw out.

Maybe if Grandpa had read that, he’d have realized it makes more sense to give the mechanic $75 to fix the $500 car than it does to keep buying more and more $500 cars while turning your wife’s front lawn into a scrap yard. :wink:


@shadowfax. My parents lived through the depression and it certainly had an effect on their purchasing habits. World War II also had an effect. New cars weren’t available. I remember seeing an advertisement in a late 1945 Time magazine my parents had saved. The advertisement was from Chevrolet urging motorists to “Continue to conserve your present car”. Production lines were beginning to run, but the supply couldn’t keep up with the demand. My dad had the engine overhauled on his 1939 Chevrolet and the car repainted in the summer of 1946 so that he could drive the car several more years. I remember the motor burned out on our refrigerator that was ten years old in 1949. It didn’t have a sealed unit, so the repairman was able to take the motor off, have it rewound, and put the refrigerator back in service.
Today, having an automobile engine overhauled doesn’t happen very often. The refrigerator motor and compressor are s sealed unit and the entire refrigerator is usually replaced when the unit goes out. We used to have a furnace fan motor rewound. That isn’t done anymore.
On the other hand, things do last longer today than in years past. My dad’s 1939 Chevrolet had 70,000 miles on the odometer before the engine was overhauled which was an amazing number of miles back then. Today’s cars often go over 300,000 miles before major engine work is needed. My parents’ refrigerator needed the motor repaired after 10 years. Our refrigerator is 24 years old, works perfectly, and has never had a repair.


Well, sometimes its just not worth fixing an old car. When it is cheaper to buy a used but functioning car I’d also not fix a broken car.


It doesn’t seem that way. I drive past that ramshackle house at least twice each day, and I have never seen the hoods lifted, nor have I ever seen any people in the vicinity of those moldering wrecks. A few years ago, he added a severely rusted Dodge van (probably also from the '70s) to his “collection”, and this vehicle also just sits, and sinks further into the mud as each month passes.


It all depends what’s wrong with your current car

The expression “The devil you is better than the devil you don’t” comes to mind

If your older car that isn’t worth much needs some bushings, shocks, some mounts, tires and brakes all around, the cost of that work might handily exceed the value of the car

However, if that car has been well maintained, it might be better to do that work, versus junking it and taking a chance on another used car, which might not have been as well maintained as yours

Wouldn’t do to get rid of your own car, just to buy a ticking time bomb, so to speak