Author Topic: When is an old car not worth repairing?  (Read 5592 times)

RusticBohemian

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When is an old car not worth repairing?
« on: January 14, 2018, 06:33:42 PM »
I currently drive an oldie but goodie - a 1998 Honda Civic with 169,313 miles. I bought it for $1500 six years ago and have put less than $1,000 into it while taking it on multiple long road trips. I normally don't put tons of miles on it locally as I bike to most places and work from home. I like it because it's great on gas mileage and has been pretty reliable.

However, I just got the oil changed/tired rotated and the free inspection that came with it found $2,500 worth of repairs that need to be done. I will take that to my normal trusted mechanic to verify, but let's assume that this is correct.

Another thing that would need to be done soon after is replace the tires. I would also choose to buy a new paint job for it if I put all that money into it,, because the paint is peeling and truly looks embarrassingly horrendous (and I'm not one to care about appearances...but really..it's bad. No body rot, though.

Anyway, how do you go about figuring out when it's not worth it to pour money into an old car? I'd hate to pay for this work and have something else big go wrong six months later. What's your calculus for this sort of decision? Any advice?

Dmy0013

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2018, 06:40:20 PM »
Personal Opinion and I am not a mechanic.

Is you paid 1500 bucks for the car 6 years ago, the car is probably worth what 500 bucks now?  so to put in 5X the value of the car into repairs I dunno dont sound worth it to me...

Lets say you did put 2500 bucks into the car and got it all repaired, imagine what your honda would be like after that... Now look on Craigslist at what 2500 bucks would get you, what appears to be the better car?  Now I understand you might get a lemon off craigslist but hopefully you see where I am going with this...

Again I'm not a mechanic just my opinion

pecunia

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2018, 06:52:14 PM »
Quote
Lets say you did put 2500 bucks into the car and got it all repaired, imagine what your honda would be like after that... Now look on Craigslist at what 2500 bucks would get you, what appears to be the better car?  Now I understand you might get a lemon off craigslist but hopefully you see where I am going with this...

Certainly seems like a sensible response.  How many years do car dealers have to provide parts for cars?  Ever try to find parts for an old Packard or AMC Rambler.

People fall in love with their cars and do not view them as machines with a finite life.

I have had my running car and the parts car in the past.  Problem came to be that both cars had the same broken parts or the parts from the parts car had limited life left in them.  Not enough gained.

Cars used to be designed for 3 years.  This was planned obsolescence.  It was Detroit's way of keeping the cash flow going.  Today they are designed for a longer life, but it is still finite.  After you spend the $2500, other things will break.

WhiteTrashCash

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #3 on: January 14, 2018, 08:11:01 PM »
Hmm, this is tough to say. How much more do you think you could get out of the car if you did the repairs? If you could make it last another four years, since you don't use it much, then you'd pay $4000 for a ten year car. That's actually not too bad financially. I suppose it depends on whether you are confident that the repairs will solve the issues or whether it's going to be something that cascades into bigger problems moving forward.

Syonyk

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #4 on: January 14, 2018, 09:45:14 PM »
However, I just got the oil changed/tired rotated and the free inspection that came with it found $2,500 worth of repairs that need to be done. I will take that to my normal trusted mechanic to verify, but let's assume that this is correct.

Why should we assume that Jiffy Lube or whoever, who literally makes their bread and butter on upsells ("Clean your air filter?  Change your blinker relay?  Replace your muffler belt?") is actually correct?  They usually just look at the miles and list everything that should have been done, and charge you through the wazoo for it in the process.

Take it to your normal mechanic before even thinking further about it, because those places are somewhere between "sketchy" and "pure scam if they think they can get away with it."  I take a car to a quick lube place once every 5 years or so, and remind myself why I don't do that.  Crap like not putting the air filter back in properly so I have an unfiltered air leak, not putting bolts back in, not bothering with a crush washer so the car pisses oil any time it's parked, and somehow managing to charge me 4x what it would cost me to do it myself in the process.  While informing me of all sorts of other rubbish I've already done.  If I've changed the air filter in the past 3 months, I'm pretty sure that it doesn't need changing again, thanks.

Quote
Another thing that would need to be done soon after is replace the tires. I would also choose to buy a new paint job for it if I put all that money into it,, because the paint is peeling and truly looks embarrassingly horrendous (and I'm not one to care about appearances...but really..it's bad. No body rot, though.

Look for sales.  You should have cheap tires, so shop around a bit and look for newspaper coupons.  Some number of years ago (2006 or so), I got a set of 4 new tires for an old Subaru (13s) for something like $120 installed.  I'd stacked a few coupons/discounts/incentives, and the guy at the shop couldn't find anything saying I couldn't combine them like that...

Quote
Anyway, how do you go about figuring out when it's not worth it to pour money into an old car? I'd hate to pay for this work and have something else big go wrong six months later. What's your calculus for this sort of decision? Any advice?

Well, there's no guarantee at all about something big going wrong in 6 months, no matter what you do...

Personally, I'll scrap a car for (serious) rust, or if it's a beater that I'm deliberately doing the minimum on and it's got a few semi-major issues.  But I do a lot of my own work, so my repair costs are far lower.

Certainly seems like a sensible response.  How many years do car dealers have to provide parts for cars?  Ever try to find parts for an old Packard or AMC Rambler.

Counterpoint: The car under discussion is a Honda Civic.  It's not a Daihatsu Charade or anything exotic.  The decision is which of the 15 aftermarket companies you want to buy parts from, not "Can you find parts for it?"

Quote
People fall in love with their cars and do not view them as machines with a finite life.

Sure, but a 1998 Honda Civic is nowhere near end of finite life.

Quote
Cars used to be designed for 3 years.  This was planned obsolescence.  It was Detroit's way of keeping the cash flow going.  Today they are designed for a longer life, but it is still finite.  After you spend the $2500, other things will break.

Right, but the $2500 is almost certainly a load of upsell rubbish. :)

Rural

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2018, 05:36:38 AM »
Um. Honda Civic. Not just some old car.

Get the second opinion; likely you actually need virtually no work. Get your trusted mechanic to look to see they filled the oil and changed the filter, too - often those places don't change the filter if they get the sense the owner can't tell.

If it does need a bunch of work, check first to see if you can get another Honda of the same vintage for the cost of the work. If not, do the work and drive it another 100K miles.

Or pm me - KBB on that thing is $1500 now, assuming the head's not blown. I could use a Civic. Husband wrecked my last one or I'd still be driving it.

ChpBstrd

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2018, 02:18:25 PM »
A key question is "will failure to fix this item result in a tow truck charge or safety risk soon?" If so, fix it. If not, maybe wait. Avoiding tow truck fees is the name of the game.

You would should never fix a dent, cracked windshield, rust, or torn upholstery in a $1500 car. You could spend thousands to fix such things and then the motor throws a rod the next day. The reason for driving a $1500 car is to extract as much transportation as possible out of the asset before it hits an uneconomical repair, such as anything costing more than the fixed value minus salvage value (once dead, your car is worth ~$200-250 to a salvage yard).

TL;DR:
Sell the car when repairs that if left unaddressed might result in safety issues or tow truck bills exceed the post-repair value minus $250. Until then, do the bare minimum to keep it operational.

Example 1: Worth $1500 running/driving. Repair costs $1100. Decision: pay for the repairs because 1500-1100 > 250.
Example 2: Worth $1500 running/driving. Repair costs $1500. Decision: scrap the car for $250 because 1500-1500 < 250.

RusticBohemian

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2018, 02:35:36 PM »
Um. Honda Civic. Not just some old car.

The repairs suggested (from the print out they gave me) are:

1) Inner Steering Tie Rod End x2
2) Front Left Outer Steering
3) Front Right Outer Steering
4) Front Right Suspension STR
5) Front Left Suspension STR
6) Tie Rod End R&R, Includes Adjustment
7) Power Steering Fluid Exchange
8) Strut RUR Both x2
9) Rear Suspension Strut x2
10) Strut Assembly  R&I x1
11) Spark Plug x4
12) Fuel System Tune Up
13) Brake Fluid Exchange
14) Air Filter


bacchi

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #8 on: January 15, 2018, 02:55:45 PM »
I'm going to go with Syonyk here and say: scam.

YttriumNitrate

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #9 on: January 15, 2018, 03:05:01 PM »
Mostly suspension stuff...does the car feel super bouncy when driving?

daverobev

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #10 on: January 15, 2018, 03:15:06 PM »
Could be suspension stuff needs replacing, it could be rusted. You never know.

Changing the plugs every now and then isn't a terrible idea :P Brake fluid too.

RusticBohemian

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #11 on: January 15, 2018, 05:06:02 PM »
Mostly suspension stuff...does the car feel super bouncy when driving?

It doesn't feel super bouncy. Sometimes I hear a small amount of squeak when I'm on a really bumpy road or go over a speed bump.

If I'm making a really tight turn and pull the wheel all the way in one direction, I hear a bit of a squeak as I turn.

But it's a 20 year old car so a bit of a squeak doesn't found unreasonable.
« Last Edit: January 15, 2018, 05:07:38 PM by RusticBohemian »

Stashasaurus

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #12 on: January 15, 2018, 05:32:15 PM »
If the suspension is not bothering you don't fix it. Depending on how much you want to flex your DIY muscle you could get the filter and spark plugs for $40 canadian from rock auto. ( way less if your American). Those are the easy fixes.  Brake fluid flush is next level, you have to take off each tire, but still very DYI.

RusticBohemian

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #13 on: January 15, 2018, 05:39:10 PM »
Are the Inner Steering Tie Rod Ends and other steering parts critical?

If the suspension is not bothering you don't fix it. Depending on how much you want to flex your DIY muscle you could get the filter and spark plugs for $40 canadian from rock auto. ( way less if your American). Those are the easy fixes.  Brake fluid flush is next level, you have to take off each tire, but still very DYI.

Parizade

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #14 on: January 15, 2018, 05:46:07 PM »
Do you have many deer in your area?

My thinking with my last car (a Toyota) was to get the $2500 worth of work done because I planned to keep the car for 5 more years. A few months later I hit a deer and totaled the car (no damage to me thankfully). The insurance company told me they were handling several such accidents each week in my area.

Fortunately I had enough cash on hand to get a certified pre-owned Kia so I didn't have to take out a loan for a new car, but it certainly changed my thinking about investing in repairs on an older car.

ChpBstrd

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #15 on: January 15, 2018, 07:15:26 PM »
Um. Honda Civic. Not just some old car.

The repairs suggested (from the print out they gave me) are:

1) Inner Steering Tie Rod End x2
2) Front Left Outer Steering
3) Front Right Outer Steering
4) Front Right Suspension STR
5) Front Left Suspension STR
6) Tie Rod End R&R, Includes Adjustment
7) Power Steering Fluid Exchange
8) Strut RUR Both x2
9) Rear Suspension Strut x2
10) Strut Assembly  R&I x1
11) Spark Plug x4
12) Fuel System Tune Up
13) Brake Fluid Exchange
14) Air Filter

Out of this list, the tie rod ends and other steering components (1-6) are the only things I'd consider. Their wear can cause poor alignment/handling, excessive tire wear, and poor fuel economy (you experiencing any of that?). In extreme cases, these parts can break causing the wheels to point opposite directions on the interstate! Still, get a 2nd opinion/quote. This should be an $600-850 job. The remaining items are everyday maintenance. You could do these in your driveway. "Fuel system tune up" - what is that, a new fuel filter? The mere fact that spark plugs are on the list tells me your car is in excellent mechanical shape!

RyanAtTanagra

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #16 on: January 15, 2018, 08:38:13 PM »
I think it was Car Talk that talked about this and did some math.  Assuming starting with a reasonable car, and not a Jag or BMW that costs $800 just to replace the brakes, it's generally financially advantageous to keep replacing parts (including engine and transmission) until the frame is too rusted to bolt anything to it anymore.  Trying to find it but my quick google search had no luck.  It's out there somewhere I'm sure.

RusticBohemian

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #17 on: January 15, 2018, 09:33:34 PM »
I think it was Car Talk that talked about this and did some math.  Assuming starting with a reasonable car, and not a Jag or BMW that costs $800 just to replace the brakes, it's generally financially advantageous to keep replacing parts (including engine and transmission) until the frame is too rusted to bolt anything to it anymore.  Trying to find it but my quick google search had no luck.  It's out there somewhere I'm sure.

Thanks. Sounds like a great episode. Wish I could find it. Any idea approximately when it ran?

RusticBohemian

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #18 on: January 15, 2018, 09:35:14 PM »

Quote

Out of this list, the tie rod ends and other steering components (1-6) are the only things I'd consider. Their wear can cause poor alignment/handling, excessive tire wear, and poor fuel economy (you experiencing any of that?). In extreme cases, these parts can break causing the wheels to point opposite directions on the interstate! Still, get a 2nd opinion/quote. This should be an $600-850 job. The remaining items are everyday maintenance. You could do these in your driveway. "Fuel system tune up" - what is that, a new fuel filter? The mere fact that spark plugs are on the list tells me your car is in excellent mechanical shape!

Thanks! I will definitely get a second opinion. I'd be happy to keep the old civic running if it's financially feasible and safe.

RyanAtTanagra

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #19 on: January 15, 2018, 11:25:57 PM »
I think it was Car Talk that talked about this and did some math.  Assuming starting with a reasonable car, and not a Jag or BMW that costs $800 just to replace the brakes, it's generally financially advantageous to keep replacing parts (including engine and transmission) until the frame is too rusted to bolt anything to it anymore.  Trying to find it but my quick google search had no luck.  It's out there somewhere I'm sure.

Thanks. Sounds like a great episode. Wish I could find it. Any idea approximately when it ran?

Had to be a decade ago at least.  I'll search again when I get a chance, I'd like to verify my memory of it.

Thegoblinchief

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #20 on: January 16, 2018, 07:24:29 AM »
I personally like to keep cars running into the ground unless the repair bill is just drastically out of line with the car’s value. In my area that car is probably still worth $1500, maybe even more if it drives reasonably well. It’s hard to find cars under $3K that dont have an immediate show stopper evident within 5 minutes of a test drive.

I’d definitely get an opinion from a mechanic you trust on the suspension stuff. He may want to have you pay the labor to put it through an alignment check and road test to give a accurate opinion. But the sheer volume of parts suggests the shop just went “hey that looks original or very old, should be replaced”.

That’s quite low miles for a Civic that age. Only reason I got rid of my ‘97 is I needed a car that could fit 3 car seats and it just couldn’t quite do it, and my wife wasn’t willing to learn stick so it couldn’t become her commuter. I’d keep running it but sure as heck wouldn’t pay to repaint it. I love having cars that look awful cosmetically, they’re an anti-theft magnet ;)

Thegoblinchief

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #21 on: January 16, 2018, 07:26:07 AM »
Worth noting that I have recently put around $3K and about $3.5K in cars just slightly newer than yours but I have reasonable expectations of them running for quite a few more years, and as noted the used car market here sucks in that price range anyways.

Clean Shaven

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #22 on: January 16, 2018, 07:46:39 AM »
That repair recommendations list is basic maintenance items, plus all four shocks (struts), plus everything in the steering connections (tie rods). I don't understand some of the list - some things look like they're listed multiple times and not just because the part is in multiple places.

Get your own mechanic to check it out. If they confirm you need all that work, shop it on Rockauto for parts cost.  Can you do these repairs yourself? If so, it won't be crazy expensive - guessing that all the parts can be bought for under $1000. You will need to pay for an alignment after changing tie rods out.

neo von retorch

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #23 on: January 16, 2018, 07:52:26 AM »
It reads like a list of things you couldn't tell were bad before and couldn't tell were replaced after.

(I mean, you COULD tell if the spark plugs were really bad. The engine would be running rough or your fuel economy would be going south or something. And you COULD tell if your suspension was actually bad, etc... but none of those things seem to be happening.)

HawkeyeNFO

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #24 on: January 16, 2018, 08:00:01 AM »
I'd fix it, as long as it's cheaper than buying another car, or making a year's worth of payments.  That car has a solid motor that should last you another few years.

Lots of DIY work on that list, although it does seem like a scam from that shop.  Did they physically show you the bad parts that they wanted to replace?  If you trust another mechanic more, then take it that way.  The first one was trying to rip you off.
« Last Edit: January 16, 2018, 08:02:15 AM by HawkeyeNFO »

JLee

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #25 on: January 16, 2018, 11:24:59 AM »
Um. Honda Civic. Not just some old car.

The repairs suggested (from the print out they gave me) are:

1) Inner Steering Tie Rod End x2
2) Front Left Outer Steering
3) Front Right Outer Steering
4) Front Right Suspension STR
5) Front Left Suspension STR
6) Tie Rod End R&R, Includes Adjustment
7) Power Steering Fluid Exchange
8) Strut RUR Both x2
9) Rear Suspension Strut x2
10) Strut Assembly  R&I x1
11) Spark Plug x4
12) Fuel System Tune Up
13) Brake Fluid Exchange
14) Air Filter



I don't know which model you have so the spark plugs and air filter might be the wrong ones, but...you need to find a new mechanic.  I did not go with bottom-of-the-barrel parts here, and even went with complete pre-assembled suspension components:



For another $2k, you could probably fly me out there, buy all tools I'd need to install parts, pay me $80-100/hr, get an alignment, and fly me home.

HawkeyeNFO

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #26 on: January 16, 2018, 06:42:07 PM »
For another $2k, you could probably fly me out there, buy all tools I'd need to install parts, pay me $80-100/hr, get an alignment, and fly me home.

Now THAT is Mustachianism.

RusticBohemian

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #27 on: January 19, 2018, 02:20:05 PM »
Thanks for your advice guys. I had my regular mechanic take a look and he said there was really one one thing that needed to be done - a single one of the steering tie rods, which I'm having replaced. So basically $320 instead of $2500. The other people were trying to bilk me.

So my noble steed will continue on for the foreseeable future :)

StarBright

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #28 on: January 19, 2018, 02:32:38 PM »
We just put $1200 into a 2003 Corolla.

It has a 150k miles and we had an unexpected repair (badly cracked rim and we had to replace the wheels) and we ended up doing some maintenance stuff to it while we had it in for the repair. We had been planning on driving the car to 200k miles (another 5 years for us). Since the car is otherwise in decent shape we took this as the opportunity to get it ready for its last 50k miles.

We talked about just buying a new car - but decided to put the money into it.

Syonyk

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Re: When is an old car not worth repairing?
« Reply #29 on: January 19, 2018, 03:47:31 PM »
Thanks for your advice guys. I had my regular mechanic take a look and he said there was really one one thing that needed to be done - a single one of the steering tie rods, which I'm having replaced. So basically $320 instead of $2500. The other people were trying to bilk me.

Good, I'm glad you were able to work that out successfully.  I really hate scummy shops like the first one...

A tie rod end is one of those wear items that does actually need replacement every now and then.