Fix the truck or going car shopping

My 2000 Nissan Frontier Pickup truck is dead. The engine needs to be rebuilt. The mechanic is going to call around a get some prices for me and he’s going to write up an estimate. He told me that if he finds a previously-rebuilt engine, it will cost around $1,500 to $2,000. If he can fix it himself, it could cost less that.

The wife and I are going to wait to see the estimate before we decide anything.

The truck, which is my primary work car, has 136,000 miles on it. Other than needing some new tires and a bad engine, it is in good condition. I had the oil changed after 5,000 or so miles. It’s 15.4 mile roundtrip to work and I just drive it around town. We still owe about $1,200 on it.

Money is tight right now, so we don’t have a lot for a down payment. Our credit is decent, but not great.

The question is … do you try fixing the truck or start making plans for buy a small car for about $2,000 to $3000.

We are not in a real big hurry. We work overlapping shifts, I can use her car to get back and forth to work. We are also going to wait until we get more information, but no harm in looking into more options.


$2000? I had to put $6000 into a transmission on the wife’s Mercedes to keep it going, and it was still better than going for a decent used car. Decent cars cost a lot of money these days. If you bought your ride new than you know what is good and bad about it. Buy used and you are buying someone else’s (unknown) problems…

Funny. I have a 2000 Dodge Dakota that we just had to replace the head gasket on.
It’s paid off and we got a big enough tax refund that we’ll be able to get the Honda Element we’ve been looking at (eventually), but for a while I had the same dillema as you.
A complete engine rebuild/replacement? I think I’d personally use that exuse to get a used car with better gas mileage.

There are two things to take into account.

  1. How much do you like the truck? A truly rebuilt engine is like new so much of that mileage comes off at least mentally. There is the possibility that another major component like the transmission could go rather soon but your mechanic will have to be the judge of that.

  2. How much are you willing to spend to get any working vehicle? This question is a little different than the one people usually ask. It is usually phrased “Is it worth what you are putting into it?” That isn’t always the right way to put it because what you should compare it to would be the vehicle you could get for a comparable amount of money to rebuilding the engine. $2000 or so isn’t likely to get you a great vehicle especially one with a newly rebuilt engine so it is likely you would be better fixing what you have and know.

Another vote for replacing the engine. However, you should consider what caused the first engine to fail and correct the underlying cause (if there is one). That may or not be the case, but you might want to search the net and see if any Nissan forums know of any problems. In addition, if the truck has a manual transmission you should have the clutch replaced while the engine is out.

I have a truck with 310,000 miles on it, and while the engine is ok, the tranny needs to be rebuilt every 125,000 miles. (I only recently discovered that a bearing has been redesigned to correct the problem, so I’ll fix that next time). It’s a pain to have to put money into the truck every now and then, but it’s far better than having a car payment.

How the heck do you kill a Nissan pickup in 136,000 miles? I’ve put over 200,000 on each of the last two I’ve owned, and I have 96,000 on my 2000. With regular oil changes and the odd tune-up, they should run for next-to-forever.

I vote for repair.
Any used vehicle you buy for $2000 is going to have it’s own set of problems and will probably have the same or more miles than your truck.
And while a brand new vehicle may be nice, that $2000 your trying to avoid is only like 4 or 5 payments on a new car.

Fix the truck.
Think of it this way; you’ll have a 7 year old vehicle with a new motor in it that will probably last another 150,000 miles or so. That is a deal that would be hard to pass up in my eyes. Plus, if you get the rebuilt motor it should come with a 24 month waranty (should!), and that should bring peace to the household too.
Did you get a second opinion on the motor needing replacing? You should.
What exactly is wrong and how did it happen?

I found out by going car shopping with my daughter last summer that the typical $3K econocar is pretty dismal. Think 150K miles, engines suspiciously spotless (steam cleaned to hide leaks)while the interiors reek of air freshener over stale fast food, Cheapo new tires to mask suspension/ alignment woes, etc.

In general, econocars are pushed to those who barely have the payment, let alone the money to maintain a car. To get a good one, my daughter had to use a relative’s spare car(guess whose) and eventually go up in size to an Olds 88 kept as a “good car”, not a throwaway intended to establish credit. She’s burning more gas ,but has spent nothing on repairs, thus far.

Not rusted out? Interior still prety decent? Fix what you’ve got and look for another vehicle at your leisure.

Another vote for repair; as others have said, you’re happy with the rest of it and a new engine will get you that much more life out of a good vehicle.

We had the engine on our 1992 minivan all but rebuilt a few years ago, and it’s still going strong at 230,000 miles. We bought it used in 1999 with almost 100,000 miles on it. One of the best vehicles we’ve owned and well worth the investment.

I had a nissan pickup that refused to die. I stopped doing maintenance (including oil changes) at 200,000 miles and just waited for the thing to give out so that I could use that as an excuse to buy a new truck. The thing ran for another 50,000 miles with no oil changes, no nothing. Finally, the fuel pump went out, and even though it was a very minor thing and was easily repairable, I scrapped the thing at that point.

Nissans have a reputation for just not dying no matter how much you abuse them. I’d really like to know what killed the first engine before I’d consider replacing it.

Generally speaking, though, as long as the truck has been reasonably well maintained, you’ll do better replacing the engine than getting an el cheapo car. At least with the truck you’ll know that there aren’t any other problems.

Could just be the runt of the litter.

For me? Timing Chain. Never heard of such a thing until mine broke. Right around 140k miles.

Another vote for second opinion on the engine.

Exactly what is happening with the present one? If not something obvious like a timing chain or belt breaking at the wrong part of the combustion cycle causing a piston to hit a valve, a bad head gasket streaming coolant into the combustion chamber, consumption of a quart of oil in <100 miles, etc., it could be something fixable for only a few hunred dollars.

Did your mechanic put the vehicle on any type of diagnostic machine?

My initial response is to advise repair, BUt get a written warrenty on the work… My wife (before I met her) had an engine rebuild by a “friend of her dad’s”… all went well for the first 300 miles or so… then the timing chain broke and engine self destructed… Mechanic said that it was time for a NEW engine, and because of friend of family status, no legal recourse was available (well it was but it wouyld have been nasty/more than it was worth)…

I also back up the “get a second opinion…” posts

just my thoughts