Posted by: Nathan | March 28, 2007

When to trade in, when to wait?

I am not a car guy, as you all know, so this is a call for a little advice from those who read this blog. I’ve had my 1998 Nissan 200SX for a few years now. It’s got about 115,000 miles on it, and it runs fine usually. Recently, however, it’s had problems. First, it wouldn’t start in the cold. Then, the turn signal and vents stopped working properly. Finally today, we replaced the alternator for a hefty sum (this could’ve been the cause of problem #2).

All of which has me thinking: should I trade this car in now or wait until it really falls apart entirely? I own the car–it’s paid off, so it’s nice not having a monthly payment. That said, we’ve been shelling out far more than the monthlies on all these repairs. I know Larry Burkett would say, “wait.” Any thoughts you have on the subject, dear reader, would be appreciated. Thanks.

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Responses

  1. While I admire and desire many a car for many a reason, I don’t really know much about what’s under the hood, or the art of buying and selling.

    We’ve sunk over a thousand dollars into fixing my wife’s car’s rough idle (and tendency to die while stopped at intersections). It’s no better than before we started trying to fix the problem, and now just drive it that way.

    I hope somebody posts some good advice here, as I could use it too. As for your turn signal problem, I bet you’re just out of blinker fluid.

  2. There’s blinker fluid?

  3. We’re in a strikingly similar boat. Our 1991 Buick Century has 107,000 and runs about as smoothly as gravel in a blender. Seriously, I feel like it’s just going to die on the Beltway. We’re fast approaching the time for a switch, but darned if new vehicles aren’t expensive!

    And the blinkers? “You may wanna check the specs on the rotary…girders…uh…I’m retarded.”

  4. All I can share is a voice of experience and the results of a few discussions with Granpa Bob. His philosophy was that cars are for transportation from one spot to another and to find something dependable and never buy new. Your Aunt Liane and I have done our fair share of sinking money into repairing and finally trading and getting less money for the trade in than we spent on the last repair. I don’t think there is a specific, calculated answer to your question. I have bought new and been disappointed and I have bought used and been disappointed. My 1998 Camry has turned into a great purchase — I bought it used and it seemed expensive but I have spent very little on repairs. I have had some other cars that worked in a similar manner but by and large — until I swithced to Toyota and Honda — my auto repair man and I were best friends and spoke on a very regular basis. I said I put his kids through college. I now have my Toyota Camry, our Honda Odyssey, and an Elantra. All are performing well. All were bought used. The Elantra was a program car and we drove it to Spokane and back. Probably Grandpa Bob’s best advice to me was that since I’m not a mechanic I will need to stay invested in better cars and because I have great distances to travel to see family, I need dependable. I have friends who have actually taken and kept records on their old cars and amounts they spend on repairs — they have figured what they would spend on new with a payment verses what they spend on old with repairs. They even had to rent a car one time when they were on the road with their old car and it broke down. They continue to buy old and repair and say it is the best deal. I don’t like dealing with car repair and follow another friends advice — you can take a payment and know what your expenses are each month or buy old and have unpredictable repair bills — it will come out the same in the end. I think you have to figure out which is more comfortable and affordable for you and go with it. Cars are expensive and unpedictable no matter how you go. I am not sure this is much wisdom but it is a voice of experience.

  5. Tommy Boy quote made my work morning, Kyle.

  6. Wow, good stuff, Uncle Lynn. Thanks! I also enjoyed the Tommy Boy quote, though I didn’t recognize it as such.

  7. Well, I have had issues with my car lately too. Although I had a decision to either sink lots of money into my current 1999 Chevy Malibu or look for a good used car. I chose the former. As I was driving from good ol’ CR to Rockford my car broke down (a little over half way there) JUST PERFECT!! Well, I got a mechanic to look at it and he said that it was a spun rod bearing. He said it would be in the $2,000 to $3,000 range. Hopefully it’ll be closer to the $2,000 range. To go along with that I had to get it towed to Rockford. That in itself was $250 (and insurance will probably only cover a small portion of that). Oh well, I still would rather stay with the old and have random repair bills than have the monthly car payments. Just feel blessed that you didn’t have to replace the engine like I did. p00t.

  8. I’d say stick it out. 115,000 miles isn’t all that much on a car (although I don’t know how Nissan’s do in terms of track record). As you know, I’m not an expert…btw, Pete’s got 115,000 miles too…it’s like they’re brothers…I had to put new tires on him, but I got a pretty good deal.

  9. Don’t know who I’m quoting, but I like the statement “when in doubt, get information”. I might recommend researching the repair history of your Nissan to help tip the scales between buying and waiting. And while waiting you might start saving anything ahead for the down payment on the inevitable next car. That could help you get your interest rate down when financing the remainder. Cars — ya can’t live with ’em, ya can’t live without ’em.

  10. i’ve been in your situation and far worse. i’ve got a nice acura integra…95 with 160k miles…still in good condition because i put in about 3k for everything…engine, interior, detail etc…

    now i’m regretting it because the place that fixed my car did a horrible job.

    i picked it up the first time after laying $1500.00 cash…drove away and about 5 miles later my car started to smoke. i KID YOU NOT!

    took it back…they charged me more and now my car doesn’t idle…feels like i need a tune up..you’d think they’d take of that! and my abs light and my master cylinder problems just started occuring.

    not worth it…i should’ve just gotten rid of this car for about 2k. 😦


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