Cars - Repair or Replace?

After having spent over 1200 dollars on a new clutch, brakes, etc. and noting that my six-year-old Ford Escort wagon has nearly 116,000 miles on it, I started wondering…

If the average person buys a new car (brand new, or new to them, whichever) every couple of years or so, they are continually paying between 150-400 dollars per month in car payments. This is not including how much they pay to fix or just simply maintain their car. Would it make any more sense at all, economically and/or ecologically to:

Start off with purchasing a used newer car, 10 years or less, drive it as you normally would, maintain it as you normally should and then, when it gets up to between 100,000 and 200,000 miles, instead of buying a new car, buy a new engine? I understand that a new engine is costly, but it isn’t as costly as an entire new car, is it? I mean, wouldn’t it just make more sense to pay the purchase price of a car ONCE and spend a good chunk every hundred thousand or so miles rather than spending 10,000 to 30,000 every three or four years? In addition, wouldn’t doing so contribute heavily to minimizing the trash and scrap in the world?

I’m obviously not a mechanic or other sort of automobile aficionado, or an enviromental professional, etc. I’m just curious if this is a ridiculous thought or if it actually has some validity? Any ideas?

That might be a good idea if the engine was the only thing that needed replacing every 100 or 200k. You’d still end up buying brakes & clutches and everything else along the way, - essentially buying a “new car” gradually, in very expensive chunks.

I’ll not buy a new car. It makes no sense to lose $2-3,000 in depreciation the moment you drive it off the lot… buy a demo or “program” car and let the dealer or somone else absorb the intitial hit, while you get the benefits of low miles and full warranty. I’ll maintain a vehicle (change the oil whenever I think of it - it eventually becomes “self-changing”) and drive it until the wheels fall off. When the cost of repairing it becomes irksome and economically unfeasible, dump it and start the cycle over. The key to lowering your driving costs (and contributing less to the waste stream) is getting that sucker paid off and keeping it paid off (I once took out a home equity loan to pay off a car, since the HE interest is deductible and a car loan is not) by not running out and buying a new steed every time your ego needs a boost.

Talk about your paying in big chunks. I have a 92 Pontiac Grand Am. I bought it used and it’s a pretty good car. HOWEVER. Recently a turn signal bulb blew out in the front. So, I figured, “Hey, a 50-cent bulb, a screwdriver, and 5 minutes and I’ll have this sucker fixed.” HA! You CAN’T EVEN GET TO THE BULB WITHOUT TAKING MOST OF THE FRONT OF THE CAR APART!!! I checked with the on-line car guys and they confirmed it! Can you believe it! It’s probably going to cost $30-40 just to change a 50-cent bulb!! Thanks GM.

Trumpy, that’s common for GM. Sometimes you can get a little kid who has very small hands to put it in on some GM’s.

100,000 miles is what the manf. plans for when they make one. This is called ‘planned absolutence’ [sp] Same thing with washing machines. etc…

Yes people can get way more milage than that especially if they change the oil every 3,000 miles [approx] --twice what the manf suggests.

Hey, try, for new/used car info. free & fun to search. In general, do not buy anything with more than 120,000 miles on it period. [unless its a model A :-)]

I have two vehicles a 92 plymouth voyager and a 90 dodge colt. I bought the van new for $17,000 and the car used for $1,200 in 1997. The van has 133,000 mi on it and i have had aprox $5,000 in dealer maintenance costs. I don’t work on the van because it has way to many moving parts for me. The car 150,000 mi and I do all the maintenance on it, and trust me some of it has been a learning experience. A used transmition $299.00 ,clutch $39.00, drive shafts $98.00, brake rotors $38.00 + 8 hours of my time and a half quart of sweat and I have a car that I trust to drive across country. Most of this stuff was very easy (if you can change a tire you can do this!). My personal opinion is that if price + maint costs are more than $1,000 a year get rid of it , and dont buy new.

In the early 1990’s I had a '67 Pontiac I was fond of; figured I could repair and restore it as I went. And I did-- the brakes went out, requiring new master cylinder, getting the drums turned, new brake shoes, & as long as I was in there, new races and wheel bearings; replaced warped intake manifold and lousy carburetor only to have engine croak on me, paid machine shop to rebuild short block; blew transmission, acquired 2nd-hand transmission, which promptly wore out, had transmission rebuilt; threw timing chain, smashed engine innards all to pieces, had short block rebuilt again, replaced valves and valve seats. Differential ground itself to death from old age, had machine shop rebuild differential. Replaced front coil springs, shocks, and ball joints. Motor mounts disintegrated from old age, hoisted engine and replaced engine mounts, only then discovering that machine shop had installed wrong transmission drive shaft, & had hidden the evidence by flipping engine mounts backwards and mounting under tension to make it all fit. Needle bearings in transmission hosed badly due to this. Ball joints died due to malfunctioning lubrication channels, replaced ball joints again. Went through 5 fuel pumps, including 2 electric aftermarket systems, before determining that fuel tank rust was ruining them, replaced fuel tank. Replacement tank leaked, found another in junkyard, replaced again. Replaced fuel lines. Replaced wiring harness. Replaced leaky radiator after unsuccessful attempt to solder. Replaced A/C compressor. Replaced alternator. Replaced starter motor 4 times, never did find out what was eating starter motors. Went through 4 72-month hi-amp batteries. Spent lot of time under car in middle of road, trying to coax car into getting me home. After 3 years of this, gave up, let registration expire, had tow truck haul carcass to junkyard. I don’t drive any more.

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Ahunter, all that in three years & you remember it all, wow!
Still how about those used rental cars? Locally they put them on the market after they only have 20,000 miles on them.
If I bought a new car I would want to rent it first. Cause I rent a lot of them and after 200 miles, I think, nope this one isn’t for me. Or it has too much plastic on it. Push your bumper and youll see if it’s plastic. Read some canine took a bite out of one.

Probably the best value I’ve ever experienced in an auto was the 1975 Plymouth Gran Fury I bought at an auction in 1976. One year old, 56,000 mi. and I bought it for $800. It had been a San Antonio Police car and was probably as close as you could get then to a factory NASCAR option. It was fast and tough. It became a taxicab in my hands and after another 152,000 mi. it sold for $1200.
As far as a philosophy of auto ownership I think the general trend of this thread is don’t buy new, don’t even think lease and do whatever to spend as little time as possible w/a car note. My last car was a BMW that was 5 yrs. old when I purchased it, w/70,000 mi., and I drove it for 11 years. Finally needed a tranny last year that was going to cost ~2/3 of market value; time to go. But I’d been happy w/it so I bought a 13 yr. old BMW w/66,000 on it. No note and I’ll probably drive it for another 10 years.

(I know, name any brand of anything and you can find someone whose got a blood vendetta against that company, but I’m happy for now)

I’d like to think that I could have a “car-for-life” … but I’m beginning to wonder if there is such a thing. It seems like, no matter how well I take care of my car, I need to get a new one (new to me) every three years or so. I’ve only had the wagon since August 97 (traded a Festiva for it) and I’m more than a little turned off at having had to spend so much cash … especially since my clutch STILL doesn’t seem tight enough and she shakes when I drive over 55 mph. It’s not that sort of loud, rattly, bouncy shake either. It’s more like (grr, keeping in mind that I’m not a car girl) the shake that happens when you slow down while you’re still in 2nd or 3rd gear, without pressing the clutch, like it’s going to stall out.

I’ve considered buying new, but I figured the best way to do that would be to comparison shop throughout the year and then decide what I like at year-end closeouts. Does that make any sense, or is it still not economically worth it?

PS: Thanks for all the insights everyone. I feel slightly more educated. Now could someone wave a magic wand (dipstick?) and make my car perfect?