Sunday, April 28, 2013

My Car

I have yet another dilemma to ponder.  This one is my car. It is ten years old and about to roll 100,000 miles. According to Honda, that either makes me right on time (at 100k miles) or 3 years late to replace the timing belt.  The timing belt, for those of us who are not auto-engine savvy, is a critically important piece of rubber that, if it breaks, will break the engine catastrophically. And it costs about twelve hundred bucks to replace (but hey, the dealership has a $150 coupon on their website...*eyeroll*).

I'm also due for spark plugs, which they estimate at just under $300. And the stereo, which also happens to be integrated with the heating/air conditioning, has lost its backlight (meaning, I have to guess at both temperature and radio station, and rely on my cell phone for a clock).  I can have Honda fix the stereo for another $275, or replace it with an aftermarket one (which could get me an auxiliary port where I could plug in my phone instead of having to rely on CDs for non-broadcast music).  According to my window ("Windows") shopping at, we're talking anywhere between $100 and $500 for a radio (depending on how fancy I want), plus another $125 for the dashboard kit that replaces the panel that has the controls for the heater (actually $250, but they give you a deal if you buy both parts from them). Plus installation (hubby and I are relatively electronics savvy, but installation in my car apparently involves disassembling most of the dash board).

We're talking $2k, give or take a few hundred dollars depending on what I do with the radio. 

Or I could trade the car in and buy something new. A hybrid, possibly, to save some gas with all my commuting. Or maybe just go smaller--I bought my Accord knowing that the trunk size would accomodate a baby stroller and a few bags of groceries. But I'm well past the stroller stage now, and my husband drives an SUV that has plenty of cargo space for soccer goals and other big kid equipment. My previous car was a Civic, and I loved the size of it.  A friend drives a Fit, and I quite liked it.  There's the Insight, the CRV if I want to keep a larger car, or the Prius  or Prius C....

New cars cost money. But then, with all this work on my existing car, it also costs money.  $2000 is several car payments worth of money.

I just wish I hadn't been warned that I'm driving a ticking time bomb while I decide on how best to solve the dilemma.


Bethany said...

My mother is in the same situation...with my car. I sold my 2003 Civic to her a few years ago, and now it needs a new catalytic converter. How much will it cost...$2000. The car has 150,000 miles on it, but could go another few years with the repair. They don't put that many miles on it anyway.

Personally I think she should just replace it. Spending that much is at least 1 year worth of car payments. If you're going to have to buy a new car in a few years anyway, it's like making payments on a car that you're just going to have to get rid of. Of course my husband disagrees. He says that over time, if you buy cars more frequently there will be more cost in the end...but by how much? Maybe one extra car in a lifetime? And you always have a working car that you're not stressed that something could break or need more immediate repair. No, I'm a new car kind of person.

I really wanted to buy the Prius V, but it just wasn't big enough for travel, which was what we really needed a car for. If you want to go really really small we love the Yaris (except for the gas mileage, that's kind of disappointing).

I will say that Hondas last a long time. If you love your car, it might be worth it to keep it for a while if you just don't want to get rid of it. It might make it long enough that you don't have payments on the other car. I think that's what my parents are thinking with their choice to repair the car.

Kristi Lea said...

The problem with the debate in my head is that I like my car, but I don't love it.

Believe it or not, the idea to buy a new house came, in part, from my wanting to replace my car a few years back. Our old garage held two cars--but not if you opened the car doors to get in and out. So one whole side of my car got badly dinged up from the kids getting in and out of hubby's car (not so much in reverse, because his car is so much higher than mne that my doors didn't hurt his car). There was no way t make that garage bigger, so I started pining after a bigger garage, and thus, a different house.

Fast forward 2.5 years. The badly-dinged door got repaired thanks to a run-in with a shopping cart by a gentleman who was honest enough to fix it. But we still have another year of payments on my husband's car. And we just signed contracts for deck and patio (spending a good chunk of cash and also financing another small portion, because, of course, we never come up with a simple plan for anything).

I can afford a car payment. But I don't really want to. If I wait a year till the other car is paid off, then we will be in better shape--only one payment and it will be less than his payment (since I'm unlikely to buy as expensive of a car). But it will also lose another year's worth of trade-in value (which, if I traded in the car today, would probably cover about 1/4-1/3 of the new cars I keep thinking about).

I don't regret this car in the least. I paid it off six years ago, and have only had to shell out for tires, brakes, batteries, and an air conditioner recharge on top of the regular oil changes and such. Some years I probably spent $200 or less on car maintenance. At worst, maybe $500 (I think I had to replace 2 tires plus the battery in one 12-month span). The car has been an incredible value.

I'm leaning toward just fixing the radio as-is, plus doing the timing belt and spark plugs, then driving it for another year or two. Heck, if Charlotte were a little older, I might just keep it for when she learns to drive (but 8 years is a long time to keep an extra car around, and I like having room in the garage for bicycles and toys).