Author Topic: When to buy another or fix?  (Read 1903 times)

JCGreen

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When to buy another or fix?
« on: July 21, 2018, 04:54:28 PM »
Hi all,

I was wondering how others made the decision to buy something new (or used) vs fix what's broken?
How do you weigh savings for different goals?

My situation-

 My 4 year old laptop died unexpectedly (hard drive) and will cost $100 to fix. I am wondering if it would be more worth while to buy a new/refurbished laptop instead. I would probably want something in the $600-800 range. I do feel I need the laptop as I use it to look at finances, and was using it to start a blog (about cat issues). I would prefer a fancy pants laptop as I like to work from bed, couch, and porch. The library is not ideal as it is open from 9-6 while I work 8-5.

I will also likey need a new-to-me car in the future. I would like something in the $5-8k range.  My current car has a blown head gasket and 270k mile. I have no clue how long it will last. I recently put $600 into it for maintenance items that I didn't plan for (new brakes, hoses).

I currently have $3000 in my big expense/emergency fund (I have 18k in retirement accounts). I make ~42k/year and spend ~20k/year. So money is limited for me, I could put less into retirement as well (currently 25+% of take home pay I am 24 yr old).

I don't know how to justify spending $100 to fix a 4 year old laptop, but want to make sure I still have money for the car.  I am also really bad at anticipating maintenance expenses.(I should know cars need more than new tires and oil changes and that older electronics tend to break). I will wait at least a week before making a move on a computer as I need to do some research on value. I could get a cheap laptop now and upgrade in the future, but I am not sure that is a good long term financial move. The week will give me more time to think about it.

Feel free to look at my case study if you want more information about how I could do better.

So how do you manage replacement and repair costs?

ketchup

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Re: When to buy another or fix?
« Reply #1 on: July 21, 2018, 05:04:29 PM »
If you don't need a ton of space, a new SSD for your laptop doesn't have to be $100: https://www.amazon.com/Silicon-Power-120GB-Internal-SP120GBSS3S55S25AE/dp/B01M61OXRM/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&qid=1532213852&sr=8-2&keywords=120gb+ssd ($26).  If you need the extra space of a real hard drive instead of an SSD, you could get a 1TB one for $46 here: https://www.amazon.com/Seagate-BarraCuda-2-5-Inch-Internal-ST500LM030/dp/B01LYNQXCP/ref=sr_1_3?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1532213907&sr=1-3&keywords=500gb%2Blaptop%2Bhard%2Bdrive&th=1

Definitely worth replacing.  A 4 year old laptop might not be quite as zippy as a new one if you're doing incredibly demanding stuff, but for looking at finances and blogging about cats it will make zero difference (especially if you go SSD).  I'm an outrageous computer geek and my primary laptop I replaced a couple weeks ago was six years old, and I only got a new one because work was footing the bill.  Old one still works great.  My girlfriend does do incredibly demanding stuff on her laptop (she's a pro photographer) and she only replaced her old Thinkpad she used on the road when it was about seven years old (though that was slightly overdue).  You can get at least 3 more years out of that laptop.  Even if you did spent $100 on a new hard drive (again, you can definitely get away with less), that would be worth it.  Maybe upgrade it to Windows 10 while you're at it if you haven't already.  If you have a Windows 7 sticker on the bottom, the key will probably let you activate 10 as long as you install the same version (32-bit/64-bit, Home/Pro).

A car with 270k on the clock and a blown head gasket... that's another story.  Much more in the way of moving pieces there.  I'd probably start hunting for a new one.  But $3k can get you a good car too.
« Last Edit: July 21, 2018, 05:12:27 PM by ketchup »

JCGreen

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Re: When to buy another or fix?
« Reply #2 on: July 21, 2018, 05:11:27 PM »
Yeah, the files on the hard drive are corrupted and the laptop will no longer boot up. I am definitely going to think on it some more. Not that this changes anything, but the laptop is 6 years old and I bought it as a refurbished 2 year old in college. I have had it 4 years. It worked fine until the hard drive issue. I really hope I can get my data off it, but am doubtful.

The car I am going to drive into the ground because it has some emotional attachments with it, but not enough to justify a new engine.


ketchup

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Re: When to buy another or fix?
« Reply #3 on: July 21, 2018, 05:20:33 PM »
Yeah, the files on the hard drive are corrupted and the laptop will no longer boot up. I am definitely going to think on it some more. Not that this changes anything, but the laptop is 6 years old and I bought it as a refurbished 2 year old in college. I have had it 4 years. It worked fine until the hard drive issue. I really hope I can get my data off it, but am doubtful.
I'm obligated by the IT gods to chastise you for not backing up your data. 

Back your shit up!  If it's not in at least two places, it doesn't exist!  If it's not in at least three places, it's not backed up!

Even if you just use DropBox or something as a "backup," it's incredibly easy these days.

JCGreen

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Re: When to buy another or fix?
« Reply #4 on: July 21, 2018, 05:37:23 PM »
Thanks for the face punch. I have been needing some of those on multiple issues. My important documents are all backed up, but I had some photos (of the cat) that were not. I am also going to lose all those saved websites.  I am gratful that this is only an inconvenient and not an emergency.

Sibley

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Re: When to buy another or fix?
« Reply #5 on: July 21, 2018, 08:23:48 PM »
A hard drive that doesn't boot doesn't mean that it's actually dead. It just could be that badly messed up, and it may be possible to pull data off then wipe and reload.

To tired to figure out how to say this nicely - but are you actually good with computers? If you aren't, you need to find someone who is to look at it. If you're sure the hard drive failed (which is definitely a possibility), then I'd just replace the drive. You don't sound like a heavy computer user, so a top of the line laptop is overkill for you.

alsoknownasDean

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Re: When to buy another or fix?
« Reply #6 on: July 21, 2018, 09:01:40 PM »
If you had the equipment and the know-how, it'd be worth trying to get the data off the old HDD using a live Linux operating system, and then wiping the old HDD and reinstalling Windows (or replacing it with an SSD).

Otherwise you may need to pay someone, but a six year old laptop should still be OK for basic usage, especially with an SSD and at least 4GB of RAM.

Although Windows 7 is going to reach end of support in early 2020.

I'd lean towards fixing the laptop and socking away cash for another car. The laptop should have another year or two left in it (I'm using a laptop that's over nine years old) but it sounds like the car is on it's last legs.

If you buy a fancy pants new laptop now and the car dies tomorrow, would you be able to replace the car with the remaining cash? Which is the greater emergency? :)

JCGreen

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Re: When to buy another or fix?
« Reply #7 on: July 22, 2018, 08:33:52 AM »
I was not trying to make a post about whether or not to fix a computer, but what factors go into that decision. I seem to be making these decisions a lot and will continue to in the future as it seems to be part of life.

Things like other money uses and the value for that fix. I am sure what to do differs with how close to FI someone is.

If we want to continue to use the computer as an example, I am not a computer expert, but am more competent than average for my age with software issues. I have a year of college programming (Java and Python) and can generally fix my issues with the help of google. I have no experience fixing hardware issues. In the past I have played computer games, (minecraft, runescape, torchlight, etc.) but gave it up when I didn't have access to my parents desktop anymore.

As for fixing the computer, After playing around with the BIOS, I called Dell ( the manufacture) who had no intention of helping me fix an out of Warrenty computer. I called the local computer repair shop, explained the problem, and was told it would likely be $100 to fix. I haven't made an appointment yet , but am leaning that way.

It's very possible that I am an idiot who knows nothing about computers, but for the sake of this example, let's assume it's going to cost $100 to fix the computer because of my lack of experience. I also am willing to support local business, especially when they have decent customer service.

In my limited experience in college, most laptops (in the $600-800) lasted around 4-5 years before they were replaced. Although it sounds like the life of most laptops has been extended, and costs have gone down.

So for the math in my head, a laptop bought new, is about $125-$150 per year of use. If this laptop is close to the end of its lifetime, will spending $100 on it give me another year of use, given that it has no other problems? If yes (which is probably correct) I should get the laptop fixed. If no, what are my other options? Can I afford a new laptop? How much would I spend on a laptop? How will that spending affect other purchases? Would my relatives lend me their old laptop?

I know buying a $600-800 laptop will but a damper on my savings and is not a good choice, but there a lots of choices that do not involving fixing a laptop. What is the math that you do to come to that decision?

CalBal

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Re: When to buy another or fix?
« Reply #8 on: July 22, 2018, 01:29:47 PM »
I was not trying to make a post about whether or not to fix a computer, but what factors go into that decision. I seem to be making these decisions a lot and will continue to in the future as it seems to be part of life.

I know you just said this but I am going to comment anyway, and ALSO comment on the decision making process.

I personally would fix it. I would also try to get the files off using a live Linux disk/USB. In fact, I recently did that very thing, although with a desktop, 7 years old. Boot sector got fried. Used Ubuntu live disk to copy my files off to an external drive I had. BUT then I was wisely advised I could get a new 1 TB hybrid SSD (Seagate) for about $63. (Smaller ones would be cheaper if you don't need that much space (my original HD was 1 TB so I needed it if I wanted to clone the old drive, also a laptop drive will be more expensive so YMMV). Anyway, I managed to find a cloning program that worked (they can be finicky) and got my old HD cloned and up in running, thus saving ALL my software and games and everything. Now, it took me literally all day (many false starts, many breaks, some swearing), so you have to figure what your time is worth.

Decision making-wise, to me, to get another year (or very likely more) out of this machine that doesn't have anything else wrong with it (I assume) is definitely worth it, both in terms of dollar value and in terms of being environmentally conscious. If it still does the job it is meant to do adequately if fixed, then fix. (But make sure it is really the HD and not, say, the motherboard or power unit.) AND, if you are shorter on cash than time (which it sounds like you are), that is another good reason to try to fix it than just chuck it.

Any way you slice it, it will allow you to save more for the car you are definitely going to need to buy.

Also... you didn't ask this, but if you know you will need a new (to you) car very soon, and it sounds like it (blown head gasket is bad news), I would personally actually STOP contributing to your 401k briefly, or just contribute up to the company match, if you get one. Start looking immediately for a car. Once you find one you like and can afford, immediately start re-contributing, and actually increase your contribution % if you are able to (tighten belts, do whatever it takes), to get yourself back up to where you would be had you not paused your contribution. It is only July, there is plenty of time to max the account if that is what you are aiming for. And even if you aren't contributing 25% is awesome, and way more than most people, but there is nothing saying you have to. It is great to try to hold yourself to it (I do myself), but for situations like this I would personally give myself a little breathing room and improve my cash flow for a short time.

Whatever you decide, good luck!

ketchup

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Re: When to buy another or fix?
« Reply #9 on: July 25, 2018, 09:47:47 AM »
In my limited experience in college, most laptops (in the $600-800) lasted around 4-5 years before they were replaced. Although it sounds like the life of most laptops has been extended, and costs have gone down.

So for the math in my head, a laptop bought new, is about $125-$150 per year of use. If this laptop is close to the end of its lifetime, will spending $100 on it give me another year of use, given that it has no other problems? If yes (which is probably correct) I should get the laptop fixed. If no, what are my other options? Can I afford a new laptop? How much would I spend on a laptop? How will that spending affect other purchases? Would my relatives lend me their old laptop?
My actionable advice for your situation is in my above post, but your logic does seem pretty spot on here.

A basic decent laptop (which is all it sounds like you need) is indeed about $600-800 brand new.  I'm an IT manager at a business with about 40 laptops in near-daily use, and I've only had three fail in the last 5 years that I can think of, only one of which was less than six years old.  Some of these laptops still running fine are super old (>10 years old running XP on old lab equipment).  An assumption of at least six years of life is reasonable, much as 200,000 miles is a reasonable assumption for the life of a car.  You'll probably get more, but you can generally count on that as a minimum.  Desktop computers almost always become obsolete before they break beyond repair, and laptops these days aren't too far off.

So yes, your yearly amortized cost works out to around $100-133/yr.  If you think you'll get more than a year of additional use out of the machine (absolutely the case here, unless there's some other unmentioned gotcha with that laptop) with a fix that costs less than $100, it's a no-brainer (as this decision is).  If money is tight for a new laptop, it could even make sense if it's a little more expensive.  A $150 fix for only one more year could be worth it if that means you have an extra $800 to throw at a car if that blows up in six months.

But if money's not tight, and you know you can deal with either failure (laptop or car) no matter when it occurs, you "can afford" to spend less money and always do what makes the most sense long-term regardless of when spending actually occurs.  That's why beefing up the emergency fund or increasing cashflow is so important.

JCGreen

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Re: When to buy another or fix?
« Reply #10 on: July 28, 2018, 12:15:30 PM »
Hey,  Just wanted to give an update. Thank you for all the advise on when to fix v. replace.

It took me about a week to fix the laptop and $30 in parts (not including driving time, but parts would have been less if I got the correct item the first time). I also had a work trip right past my parents house and had a family friend help me fix it while there. It was a inexpensive lesson, and worth the cost. I probably could have paid someone to fix it sooner, and might in the future, but the education I got was likely worth the many hours and $30 I spent.

The car is still currently up and kicking, but no guarantee's. When I first started this post, I felt that the car and laptop were in the same situation, as in not much life less, and in need of repairs. It seems I was wrong about the laptop not having much life left. After this adventure, I can see that laptop prices have really gone down while there lifespans have increased. That being said, I can see the same thing for cars, but still do not think that replacing the engine will be worth it. I have having trouble making sense of this in my head.

"In my limited experience in college, most laptops (in the $600-800) lasted around 4-5 years before they were replaced. Although it sounds like the life of most laptops has been extended, and costs have gone down. So for the math in my head, a laptop bought new, is about $125-$150 per year of use. If this laptop is close to the end of its lifetime, will spending $100 on it give me another year of use, given that it has no other problems? If yes (which is probably correct) I should get the laptop fixed. If no, what are my other options? "

As for the car repair- A new engine will probably cost $3000 (an estimate I got a while ago) and last me another 1.5 years, the engine is only major problem with the car, but it also has some minor ones- so cost of about $2000 per year of use. A used $5000 car that I pay $5500 (estimate if I needed a loan+transaction costs) would probably last me 2-4 ish years (hopefully more)- cost of $1300-$2750 per year of use.

If my estimates/assumptions are reasonably accurate (I could me missing something) I should fix the laptop (which I have already done), but it would be a wash whether I fix the car or get a used one. Yet all the responses say fix the laptop, replace the car.

Am I missing some assumptions? What would be your math for this situation?

JCGreen

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Re: When to buy another or fix?
« Reply #11 on: August 14, 2018, 10:35:20 PM »

[/quote]

Any way you slice it, it will allow you to save more for the car you are definitely going to need to buy.

Also... you didn't ask this, but if you know you will need a new (to you) car very soon, and it sounds like it (blown head gasket is bad news), I would personally actually STOP contributing to your 401k briefly, or just contribute up to the company match, if you get one. Start looking immediately for a car. Once you find one you like and can afford, immediately start re-contributing, and actually increase your contribution % if you are able to (tighten belts, do whatever it takes), to get yourself back up to where you would be had you not paused your contribution. It is only July, there is plenty of time to max the account if that is what you are aiming for. And even if you aren't contributing 25% is awesome, and way more than most people, but there is nothing saying you have to. It is great to try to hold yourself to it (I do myself), but for situations like this I would personally give myself a little breathing room and improve my cash flow for a short time.

Whatever you decide, good luck!
[/quote]

Thank You CalBal, I wanted to let you know that I took part of your advice. I quit contributing to my roth account through work and instead set up a direct deposit for that amount in a different bank. I reduced my retirement savings by 7% (of pay) as I still want to keep my retirement account growing strong. I set up the direct deposit into a savings account at a different bank as I will have a harder time spending it.

I do need to increase my savings rate for larger ticket items, not just retirement, so I hope this will help me save more if I can not see it. I feel a little bad about reducing my retirement savings, but if it means I can avoid a car loan in the future, it will probably be worth it.

Ecky

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Re: When to buy another or fix?
« Reply #12 on: August 15, 2018, 04:30:43 AM »
As someone who works on computers, I fully support your learning how to take care of these things yourself. Nice job!

As someone who can work on cars, if it were my car, I'd personally replace the head gasket and call it a day. The part itself isn't going to be more than $100. However, not nearly everyone is prepared to take on replacing a head gasket. However, I would highly recommend learning how to do brakes and hoses. These are basically bolt-on parts. When I replaced my front brake pads, I got them from RockAuto for $2.50 and since I'm familiar with the process, I could probably do the swap in 20 minutes per side in good weather. Hoses take even less time, but require flushing the air out of the cooling system, which amounts to letting the car idle out front with a funnel of coolant over the bleed port.

EDIT: I think the takeaway is, the cost of fixing most things is not parts, but labor, and most anyone can do most anything. Cars sometimes take specialized tools which can be an impediment, but from my perspective there's a lot of value in learning how to do at least the basics yourself. At 270k miles your car probably doesn't have decades left, but you might still be able to nurse 2-3 more years out with minimal cost.
« Last Edit: August 15, 2018, 04:34:46 AM by Ecky »

ketchup

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Re: When to buy another or fix?
« Reply #13 on: August 15, 2018, 12:21:04 PM »
As someone who works on computers, I fully support your learning how to take care of these things yourself. Nice job!

As someone who can work on cars, if it were my car, I'd personally replace the head gasket and call it a day. The part itself isn't going to be more than $100. However, not nearly everyone is prepared to take on replacing a head gasket. However, I would highly recommend learning how to do brakes and hoses. These are basically bolt-on parts. When I replaced my front brake pads, I got them from RockAuto for $2.50 and since I'm familiar with the process, I could probably do the swap in 20 minutes per side in good weather. Hoses take even less time, but require flushing the air out of the cooling system, which amounts to letting the car idle out front with a funnel of coolant over the bleed port.

EDIT: I think the takeaway is, the cost of fixing most things is not parts, but labor, and most anyone can do most anything. Cars sometimes take specialized tools which can be an impediment, but from my perspective there's a lot of value in learning how to do at least the basics yourself. At 270k miles your car probably doesn't have decades left, but you might still be able to nurse 2-3 more years out with minimal cost.
I'd hardly recommend a head gasket to someone that's still learning cars.  I'm decently mechanically savvy, and even doing a Geo Metro head gasket a few years ago was still quite a project (though I did it by myself on gravel outside in Illinois December).

robartsd

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Re: When to buy another or fix?
« Reply #14 on: August 15, 2018, 03:23:38 PM »
It seems I was wrong about the laptop not having much life left. After this adventure, I can see that laptop prices have really gone down while there lifespans have increased.
Computers are becoming obsolete at a slower rate than they used to. This is largely because we've slowed the demand for increased computational power (just don't have much need for it) but also because the performance gains available are not as big as they used to be. As far as actual hardware failure goes, there are two main types: moving parts wear out (hard disk, optical drive, screen hinge, various connectors, etc.) or electronic components fail (usually due to stress from heat). Other than power supply failure (cheap and easy fix), hard disk failure is probably the most common problem with computers. A failing hard drive is not a good reason to retire a computer.

JCGreen

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Re: When to buy another or fix?
« Reply #15 on: August 19, 2018, 04:52:25 PM »
Hey, Thank you for all the advice, I will look into fixing my own problems more often. About 3 months ago, I got my breaks replaced, and didn't even think about doing it myself.

I have done a few oil changes and replaced the structs (with assistance), that being said, not quite ready to tackle the head gasket, even with help. I did put some of the head gasket leak goo in it and followed the directions, but I still add oil and/or coolant on a weekly basis, and yes, a professional mechanic did diagnosis the engine, as I couldn't figure out why I was losing oil. 

I am not the most mechanically inclined, but youtube is a surprisingly good resource for these kind of things.