Cost of owning older vehicle

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nerd86
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Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by nerd86 »

I purchased a beater about 1.5 years ago and it has been great. I just put some money into it, and I also had to chase some leaks. I found and fixed the leaks which ended up being a coolant hose that needed the worm clamp to be tightened, and a leaky oil drain plug. All is well now although I am pist off part of my driveway looks like an auto shop....might try scrubbing and pressure washing it come spring.

However it got me wondering, on an older vehicle that you bought cheap...when is the cost at a point where it is better off purchasing another vehicle?
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whodidntante
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by whodidntante »

When the cost of a repair exceeds the value of the car. In my opinion low value cars make a lot more sense for those willing to do repairs themselves.

It's hard to get in and out of a shop for less than $500. On some vehicles, a simple timing belt or water pump replacement can cost $1,000 if done at a mechanic's shop. You can avoid such time bombs by researching the car before you buy it. I've also seen mechanics take a carpet bomb repair approach even on a low value car, such as replacing all coil packs instead instead of identifying the one that is bad and replacing just that one. This can make a $200 job an $800 proposition. This is a far worse mistake on a car that is only worth $3,000.

More often I see friends panic or just use a repair's cost to justify a new car purchase, though.
ragnathor
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by ragnathor »

Certainly if buying an equivalent used vehicle is cheaper than repairing, it would simply make more sense to buy the other vehicle. I think this is rarely the case however.

It hardly ever makes more sense purely financially to purchase a new vehicle. It also depends what you would buy. If you plan to get a 25k car for 10 years, a simple calculation would be if you're spending more than $2500/year on current repairs. Insurance may be another expense to account for.

This does not account for the inconvenience of repairs, car breaking down, etc.
Not Law
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by Not Law »

For the past 25 years I have purchased used GM vehicles with the 3800 engine. They have had 120k to 160k miles at purchase for a price of $2k to $4k. I have gotten 60k to 100k miles on them, so my purchase cost per mile has been an average of 4 cents. With standard regular maintenance (tires, brakes, oil changes, etc.) I have averaged less than 10 cents all told per mile driven on these cars. When I lose confidence (or a family member is in need), I sell it to them for $1500 or less, and (from family) take payments of $100 per month until the price is paid, or until it dies (no further payments after vehicle death). These fully loaded vehicles were listed at over $30k when new. I just had to wait 10 years or so to get them at my price point.

The last time I bought a new vehicle was a very basic 1995 Geo Metro, five speed stick for $4200. I had a GM card with $3500 credits toward a new buy, and a family member discount. I did break down and added a radio, since it did not have one at purchase! I had a 1983 Park Avenue that it replaced, and I later replaced it with a 1992 LeSabre 4 years later. Sold the Geo with 100k miles to my kid at a discount, and it got another 100k miles before it was retired. At 40 MPG, it sure beat the Buicks which average(d) 20 to 25 MPG depending on the trip length.

Not needing collision coverage saves lots in insurance premiums as well.
Register44
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by Register44 »

:arrow:
Last edited by Register44 on Mon Jan 11, 2021 8:49 pm, edited 1 time in total.
megabad
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by megabad »

nerd86 wrote: Sun Jan 10, 2021 9:08 pm However it got me wondering, on an older vehicle that you bought cheap...when is the cost at a point where it is better off purchasing another vehicle?
As above, when repair cost (inclusive of my labor time) + tow to dump/scrapyard exceeds cost of replacement vehicle. BUT, this assumes I do not need a reliable vehicle. I have multiple vehicles so if one dies, I still have one. If you have only one car, reliability would be a viable concern with a problematic older vehicle.
Register44
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by Register44 »

:arrow:
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runner3081
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by runner3081 »

We sold a 1999 Mercedes ML about a year ago (wife's car)

The tipping point was:
-AC stopped working (issue in AZ)
-Coolant leaking
-Oil leak
-Power Steering leak
-Tires needed replacing
-Oil change due

Granted, many of those started over time, the AC was the "final incident" and we sold it and bought something else. We replaced with a 2012 compact hatchback.

My current car is a 2005 Infiniti. It looks like crap, but runs great. I just has new upper control arms put on and brakes within the last year. However, there is a nasty vibration and fairly bad oil leak at the moment. I am done once something that is >$750 breaks on it. But, I will continue to maintain with oil/brakes/tires, etc.

I will still buy a 10-year old car as a replacement though, for three main reasons 1) Cost, 2) lower insurance costs 3) lower licensing costs

RE: Infiniti, have owned it for almost exactly 6-years. Paid $6.1k for it and have put $5,300 into it for all maintenance, repairs, etc., over those 6-years. Has been an excellent car.
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Watty
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by Watty »

nerd86 wrote: Sun Jan 10, 2021 9:08 pm However it got me wondering, on an older vehicle that you bought cheap...when is the cost at a point where it is better off purchasing another vehicle?
Here is how I look at it.

You will have operating costs like gas, insurance, tires, routine maintenance, etc with any car. Those are important but they will vary little with the type of car you have.

Other than those the big costs that will vary are depreciation and non-routine maintenance and those will depend on the type of car you have.

My basic car owning strategy is to buy modest new cars that have a reputation for reliability that don't depreciate quickly. I will keep them for around 10 years and then replace them even if I do not have any problems. I usually buy cars like a Toyota Camry or Corolla or similar Hondas. I purchased a new Corolla a few years ago and the math for my strategy planning roughly looks like this.

1) Purchase New Corolla for $17,000.

2) Keep it for 10 years(120 months). Unless I get unlucky I hope to have to pay for little non-routine maintenance during that time.

3) Sell the car when it is 10 years old. A 10 year old, one owner, well maintained, never wrecked Corolla with reasonable mileage is sort of the holy grail of used car for some used car buyers do I expect to be able to get around $5,000 for it. (I just checked and CarMax has a number of 2011 Corollas for around $10K or even more. That seems insane to me but part of that may be due to the pandemic.)

4) That means that it would have cost me about $12,000 in depreciation or about $100 a month and hopefully very little or no non-routine maintenance.

If I kept it another year then the $5000 car might depreciate another $600(or $50 a month). This means that if I started needing some non-routine maintenance and had a $600 repair then I would be back up to the $100 a month that I had been paying for the first ten years. I don't do many car repairs myself so it does not take much to have a $600 car repair.

If you buy a beater you will not have much depreciation keeping the monthly costs for non-routine maintenance below $100 a month could be tough if you are not doing your own car repairs.

If you can do your own car repairs then the parts will not cost a lot but you will still need to spend your time and deal with things like making a mess out of your driveway.

That seems to work well for me but I buy relatively inexpensive cars. If you are dealing with something like an expensive SUV the math could be a lot different so you should play with the numbers for the type of car you are looking at. This is especially true if you are looking at less reliable cars or cars that depreciate faster.

Car safety has improved a lot especially in the last ten years so you also need to consider what the value is of the improved car safety is worth to you.
nerd86 wrote: Sun Jan 10, 2021 9:08 pm I purchased a beater.....


If money is tight(been there done that!) you sometimes have to do what you have to do so there is nothing wrong with that and it is great that you can keep a beater running.

If you have sufficient means but just want to be frugal with cars then you might want to upgrade from a "beater" to a nice older car that is in good condition and well maintained.
jhawktx
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by jhawktx »

Watty wrote: Sun Jan 10, 2021 11:14 pm
nerd86 wrote: Sun Jan 10, 2021 9:08 pm However it got me wondering, on an older vehicle that you bought cheap...when is the cost at a point where it is better off purchasing another vehicle?
Here is how I look at it.

You will have operating costs like gas, insurance, tires, routine maintenance, etc with any car. Those are important but they will vary little with the type of car you have.

Other than those the big costs that will vary are depreciation and non-routine maintenance and those will depend on the type of car you have.

My basic car owning strategy is to buy modest new cars that have a reputation for reliability that don't depreciate quickly. I will keep them for around 10 years and then replace them even if I do not have any problems. I usually buy cars like a Toyota Camry or Corolla or similar Hondas. I purchased a new Corolla a few years ago and the math for my strategy planning roughly looks like this.

1) Purchase New Corolla for $17,000.

2) Keep it for 10 years(120 months). Unless I get unlucky I hope to have to pay for little non-routine maintenance during that time.

3) Sell the car when it is 10 years old. A 10 year old, one owner, well maintained, never wrecked Corolla with reasonable mileage is sort of the holy grail of used car for some used car buyers do I expect to be able to get around $5,000 for it. (I just checked and CarMax has a number of 2011 Corollas for around $10K or even more. That seems insane to me but part of that may be due to the pandemic.)

4) That means that it would have cost me about $12,000 in depreciation or about $100 a month and hopefully very little or no non-routine maintenance.

If I kept it another year then the $5000 car might depreciate another $600(or $50 a month). This means that if I started needing some non-routine maintenance and had a $600 repair then I would be back up to the $100 a month that I had been paying for the first ten years. I don't do many car repairs myself so it does not take much to have a $600 car repair.

If you buy a beater you will not have much depreciation keeping the monthly costs for non-routine maintenance below $100 a month could be tough if you are not doing your own car repairs.

If you can do your own car repairs then the parts will not cost a lot but you will still need to spend your time and deal with things like making a mess out of your driveway.

That seems to work well for me but I buy relatively inexpensive cars. If you are dealing with something like an expensive SUV the math could be a lot different so you should play with the numbers for the type of car you are looking at. This is especially true if you are looking at less reliable cars or cars that depreciate faster.

Car safety has improved a lot especially in the last ten years so you also need to consider what the value is of the improved car safety is worth to you.
nerd86 wrote: Sun Jan 10, 2021 9:08 pm I purchased a beater.....


If money is tight(been there done that!) you sometimes have to do what you have to do so there is nothing wrong with that and it is great that you can keep a beater running.

If you have sufficient means but just want to be frugal with cars then you might want to upgrade from a "beater" to a nice older car that is in good condition and well maintained.
Good plan except on #2 I would keep it for longer. I have a 2007 Corolla I bought new and it is still a great car.
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Watty
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by Watty »

jhawktx wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 12:07 am Good plan except on #2 I would keep it for longer. I have a 2007 Corolla I bought new and it is still a great car.
There are lots of ways to play with the numbers that can work so there is nothing magic about ten years.

With the pandemic used car prices have gone crazy. You might want to check to see how much you could sell your 2007 for now and how much a new Corolla would cost. The numbers might surprise you.

When I replace my cars I actually start casually watching the car market when my car is about nine years old. That way I can wait for a great deal and if I don't find one then I can even wait for a great time to buy until my car is maybe 11 years old.

Being able to wait for a really good time to buy saves me a good amount of money.

I have had to buy a replacement car in a hurry and in addition to being stressful it makes it real hard to get even an OK deal on the next car much less a great deal. That was when I started replacing my old cars long before I had an urgent need to.

There are also a lot of non financial reasons to sell your car when it still has lots of life left in it. When I bought my last car I actually replaced a Honda Fit that was only eight years old because it did not even have ESC and the Corolla I replaced it with had a lot of the advanced safety features like automatic braking.
anoop
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by anoop »

If it costs more to maintain the car than the car is worth then it's time to get rid of it. This can be impacted by how much maintenance the owner can do themselves and/or what condition the car is maintained in, i.e. keeping everything in working order vs keeping only critical components working and letting non-critical items go non-functional, e.g. AC, heater, radio, etc.

I drove a 2003 BMW 325i for 211k miles (from new) and did all the maintenance at the dealer till about 100K miles. Then switched to independent which saved about 30% on labor costs. Yet, by the time I got rid of it, I had 2 years of ~$4000 per year in maintenance and when I sold the car I got only $3500. I kept everything in excellent working condition like I would with a new car, even replacing bits of trim that had worn like the center armrest and cupholders. I should have gotten rid of it sooner, but I didn't like the newer models.
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Sandtrap
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by Sandtrap »

Refer to this Forum 3 page thread: "How Long To Keep A Car".

One post there:
<snip>
The Story of Blue Betsy
(picture is not actually of Blue Betsy but pretty close).

Blue Betsy, originally owned by a fireman friend for over 15 years in a high salt tropical climate. He bought her brand new for several thousand dollars.
Mileage 180k to unknown. Rusted floor, leaked. Rusted roof, leaked (water drained out of floor so fine).
Radiator had no fins but did not leak or overheat.
R4 4 cylinder engine, standard shift, zero extras.
Blue Betsy has original clutch and drivetrain. No repairs done or needed. Ran great.

Blue Betsy was given to me by my old best friend as an "extra car" for free. I drove Betsy for a couple years.
My son learned how to drive on Blue Betsy, then drove Blue Betsy to school every day for several years, then gave Blue Betsy back to me after buying a VW Golf.

I drove Blue Betsy for awhile then finally sold Blue Betsy to a nice retired Carpenter fellow for $800 in cash.
I had put in zero repairs except for some Bondo and blue spray paint and a set of new tires in the entire time I had Blue Betsy.

I would like to think that Blue Betsy has been restored and is still on the road.

Blue Betsy:
Image
Wiki Bogleheads Wiki: Everything You Need to Know
LittleMaggieMae
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by LittleMaggieMae »

I think it depends on your over all "vehicle" plan.

1.) Are you just trying to keep a vehicle you've owned for 10 or 12 or 20 years on the road in a bid to put off buying another car?

2.) you do serial beaters - you keep a beater for 2 or 3 or 5 years and then buy another beater and start over.


For #1. usually it's some arbitrary number (depending on the cost of the vehicles you buy) based on how much you'd spend each year on a new vehicle purchased with a loan (or how much you are currently saving each year for a new vehicle) For me this number is in the 3500 range. If my current paid off vehicle is costing me 3500 or more to keep on the road each year - I'm buying a new vehicle. For $300 a month - I could be driving a fresh off the lot new car. I have a downpayment and beer tastes in cars.

For #2 my siblings do serial beaters - and they generally drive a beater at least 3 years. They try to not put more money into the car than they paid for it. So a $800 car won't get more than $800 worth of 'fixing' while they are driving it. After the first "fix up" to get it running OK (usually about $300 or less of DIY's - it's not gonna go to a shop or a dealer for anything.). the vehicle should then run for a year or 2 without needing much else. They don't try to restore the vehicle - they just need it running reliably. If they like the car they fix new things in the 3rd year and/or re-evaluate the car (is it still doing what they need it to do?). If they are bored with the car (or find a nicer beater) they will sell it. Otherwise they will keep driving it. I think the longest a car has been kept is 6 years. it was a beat up hyundai "commuter car" that refused to die and apparently was easy to fix/keep running. I think it was 15 years old when it went to Great Scrap Heap in the sky.

The family rule for why one drives a beater - driving serial beaters costs less yearly (for years/decades) than to serially have a brand new vehicle every 10 or 12 years. For the record they do usually have a nicer "family car" and then use the beater for general car stuff - going shopping, lugging heavy stuff, when a second car is needed, etc.
Mr. Rumples
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by Mr. Rumples »

My "girl" is going to be 20 this year. My rule of thumb is that if a repair is more than one year's car payment, she will be replaced (though I would pay cash for a new vehicle). Last year the maintenance was less than $75 (oil change, some bulbs burned out). The year before it was less than $1,000 (new tires, new battery, oil change &c). This year it will be expensive - a new timing belt. I've been lucky.
tibbitts
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by tibbitts »

Register44 wrote: Sun Jan 10, 2021 10:35 pm For the car experts: Would it be better for a novice to buy a new car that they baby and take care of for 15 years. Or buy a used car and hope that the owner took care of it?

With my limited knowledge I have assumed I would do better with the new car as I would be afraid of buying a used car and having huge $$ repairs. But maybe there is something in between.
A "car expert" can't answer your question, but you have to recognize that Bogleheads are predisposed to being cheap when it comes to cars. "Better" doesn't always mean expending the theoretically least possible amount of money on a vehicle, at least not in the world outside of Bogleheads. Relatively few people keep a car for 15 years as you've suggested, for all kinds of reasons that have nothing to do with reliability.

Hoping that the owner took car of the car is a pretty minor factor with regard to purchasing relatively recent-model vehicles used. Sometimes at least some records might be available; sometimes not. But luck matters at least as much; probably more. An owner could have done all the required maintenance, but be disposing of the car because of a nagging intermittent problem that has never been able to be solved, even given a full manufacturer warranty.
unstartable
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by unstartable »

I recently replaced a head gasket on a 2005 Subaru, so I don't think I buy into the whole don't spend more than the car is worth. IMHO, people use that guideline to justify buying a new car, which is fine.

A used car that I know the history of is worth significantly more to me than any old used car that I could buy with a similar "value".
summit
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by summit »

If you are in a good place financially, I think driving an older car is never worth it, from a safety perspective alone.
People first, then money, then things.
SimonJester
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by SimonJester »

jhawktx wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 12:07 am
Good plan except on #2 I would keep it for longer. I have a 2007 Corolla I bought new and it is still a great car.
I was going to say the exact same thing... I am on 17 years with our minivan and just now have the first repair (coolant leak). I will never have a car payment again...
"They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin
rockstar
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by rockstar »

summit wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 11:53 am If you are in a good place financially, I think driving an older car is never worth it, from a safety perspective alone.
I like my Apple CarPlay.

Now, that I mainly work from home, my vehicle sits in the garage hooked up to a battery charger. A beater would have made more sense if I had known a pandemic was coming.
MathWizard
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by MathWizard »

I have owned lots of very old cars.

I have two criteria, either of which I will chose to replace a car:

1. Cost of repair > 50% of value of the vehicle.
Once you start getting big repair bills, you start to get many more repairs. At the point that
a single repair exceeds half the price, you are headed down a path of increasing maintenance cost.

2. I no longer have faith that the vehicle will get me where I want to go.
I expect to be able to take a trip of 1000 miles (round trip) on a moment's notice. I've had to a few times for family
emergencies, funerals, etc. If I would hesitate to the vehicle coast to coast after only an oil change and quick check of
belts and hoses, I start to look for another vehicle.
JackoC
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by JackoC »

summit wrote: Mon Jan 11, 2021 11:53 am If you are in a good place financially, I think driving an older car is never worth it, from a safety perspective alone.
I agree there's some truth to that. But our old car is a 2005 Lexus GX470. Collision safety is still good I think, combination of good mass and size (of crush zones) and that model year already plenty of airbags (side, rollover). A brand new or even few year old one would be safer, but I don't think it's enough to be a significant reason in timing getting rid of it. If it's a vehicle type with a higher historical death rate (see IIHS figures, GX is always very low, though those numbers don't correct for what kind of drivers buy what kind of car), like small sedans I'd factor this in more. Though I wouldn't get a Corolla class car to begin with, myself.

On repair cost as % of the car's remaining market value I can see why people look for a simple rule of thumb like that, can see why you'd think twice about $2k repair on a $4k residual value car, but I don't think it makes a whole lot of objective sense. Basically the reason to get a new(er) car is the old one gets too crummy or unreliable, and for our older car that would be mainly according to my wife's perception. The Lexus has had a couple of fairly (not disastrously) expensive repairs in the last year after only one (the rear air suspension system, weak point of that car) in the prior 15 yrs, and cosmetic stuff (cracks in the dashboard on one side, drivers seat leather not in good shape, finish on the wheels is decaying again [replaced them with refinished ones once already], etc) gradually gets worse. Paint still looks remarkably good overall though, car's been parked on street last several years, paid $500 not long ago to get some of the dings and scratches addressed on the quick and dirty. If a big new repair came we might get rid of it, but the cumulative desire to just have a newer, nicer car will be the main thing. Our other car is 2 yrs old so that's another factor: we can drive a pretty new car (though of very different type, a BMW M2) whenever we feel like it. Some people here would raise eyebrows at the idea of caring if your car is a hunk of junk, but we do to some degree. Part of what we get out of our car spending is enjoyment of nice things not just transport.
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Watty
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by Watty »

JackoC wrote: Tue Jan 12, 2021 9:58 am On repair cost as % of the car's remaining market value I can see why people look for a simple rule of thumb like that, can see why you'd think twice about $2k repair on a $4k residual value car, but I don't think it makes a whole lot of objective sense.
Having a real old car likely only makes sense if you can do most of the repairs yourself. Few cars in that price range would be worth fixing if it needed $2K worth of DIY repairs since that would pretty major.

If you are not able to do your own car repairs then having a mechanic do that $2K repair would likely make sense because the car would likely not sell for much of anything if you did not do it and the car was not driveable. If it was something like an AC then it might not make sense because the car would still be drivable and be worth something to someone.

They are related but the question of how long you should keep a car is a bit different than if you should do a specific fix on a car.
bogledogle
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by bogledogle »

nerd86 wrote: Sun Jan 10, 2021 9:08 pm when is the cost at a point where it is better off purchasing another vehicle?
When the car starts interfering with your day to day tasks, and becomes a pain to deal with.
Last edited by bogledogle on Tue Jan 12, 2021 2:37 pm, edited 1 time in total.
FireSekr
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by FireSekr »

The value of the vehicle is completely irrelevant to the decision to repair or replace.

What is important to consider is the cost to repair & maintain vs. the cost to replace it with a vehicle that you like as much or more, or if there are features that are worth the cost of getting something new or different.

My newest car is 18 years old, the oldest is 23. I can afford a new model from the same manufacturer, but the new models do not drive as well and are somewhat boring. In fact, I had a 2017 model and it was so bland compared to the old ones I got rid of it.

Because my cars are all higher end, they have most of the features you can get in the newer models. They were pre-wired for bluetooth so I just needed to add a microphone which I got on eBay for $15. They all have stability control, side impact airbags parking sensors etc. The only features that my 2017 had that I don't have in my 2002 are heads up display, heated steering wheel, gesture control, voice control and a decent navigation system. The only item I miss out of all of those is the heated steering wheel as stupid as it sounds.

The key to enjoying these cars is keeping them well maintained and in like new condition, but that is still cheaper than buying a newer model, and they are more enjoyable so I keep them.
mkc
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by mkc »

nerd86 wrote: Sun Jan 10, 2021 9:08 pm However it got me wondering, on an older vehicle that you bought cheap...when is the cost at a point where it is better off purchasing another vehicle?
I have run into another issue with an older vehicle that should also be considered - availability of repair parts. Granted, it happens to be a lower volume vehicle that was only in production for a couple of years, but a number of important components aren't even available as aftermarket these days.
JackoC
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by JackoC »

Watty wrote: Tue Jan 12, 2021 2:04 pm
JackoC wrote: Tue Jan 12, 2021 9:58 am On repair cost as % of the car's remaining market value I can see why people look for a simple rule of thumb like that, can see why you'd think twice about $2k repair on a $4k residual value car, but I don't think it makes a whole lot of objective sense.
Having a real old car likely only makes sense if you can do most of the repairs yourself. Few cars in that price range would be worth fixing if it needed $2K worth of DIY repairs since that would pretty major.

If you are not able to do your own car repairs then having a mechanic do that $2K repair would likely make sense because the car would likely not sell for much of anything if you did not do it and the car was not driveable. If it was something like an AC then it might not make sense because the car would still be drivable and be worth something to someone.

They are related but the question of how long you should keep a car is a bit different than if you should do a specific fix on a car.
Yeah I think a particular repair's cost v the car's value is loosely related if it is. Like you say once a big item arises, the car would often be worth nothing in the market without fixing it, so that tends to put the 'repair worth doing' $ amount at pretty much anything below the car's market value. It's not even strictly illogical pay more than a car is worth to fix it, depending how much money you have to spend on an alternative, and the bid-offer and unknowns that come with buying another copy of the same car. Also whether you think the big repair is indicative of more trouble to come. The actual reason to get rid of it is general decline in reliability and condition to where it no longer suits your requirements compared to newer alternatives, given your budget.

As to DIY skills I agree what could modify the result also. But beyond actually doing it yourself, depending on familiarity some people have to take it on faith what a mechanic tells them a car needs, others can at least sometimes figure out what it really needs even if not set up to DIY. For example back when the GX's rear air suspension failed, maybe ~$2k repair to repair and other components that could still fail, I bought a $400 spring kit for equivalent Toyota, had a mechanic install it and removed the necessary relays/fuses to avoid warning lights, myself. Then it had symptoms that could have been meant $$$ ABS controller replacement, but I was able to troubleshoot it to a $40 switch and tell him to replace that. More recently it just wouldn't run and I paid for a complete tune up with ignition coil replacements: I can't be 100% sure it needed everything he did. It's ideal from POV of old car to have a nice space with all the tools and have all the skills to do everything, I agree. I have reasonable knowledge but am not set up to do big repairs.
stimulacra
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by stimulacra »

For me it's when the cost of repairs exceeds the bluebook value of the car.

I purchased a 2010 Audi Station wagon back in 2017. Have a long list of minor repairs that needs to be done but the car runs fine otherwise. Big thing on the horizon is new struts and replacing a cracked windshield.

What keeps me from replacing it is that I have little desire to have a car payment. My current ongoing expenses is fuel, insurance, $400-ish/year for service.
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wander
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by wander »

Op, you asked for trouble by buying a beater, why are you upset?
phxjcc
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by phxjcc »

I believe the "repairs cost more than the kbb value" is wrong logic because you are not buying the car from yourself.

For a daily driver, the metric needs to consider a viable replacement for equal transportation.
You are talking about a transportation appliance--so how much will a REPLACEMENT appliance cost?

E.g.,

So, 4 tires, a battery, and new AC compressor and lines on a 1998 Park Avenue with 200,000?

Well, what else can you buy for $1500 that will carry six and luggage and get you from pt A to pt B.

A replacement is going to be $3000; trade in is probably less than $1000 to a BHPH lot with bad tires, a dying battery and not working AC; come to think of it, probably more like $350.

ETA: which is why I keep throwing money into my truck. Because a replacement of this truck is going to be (easily) $20,000.
Bluetooth stereo and speakers $500, go ahead.
AC compressor, lines, and Schroeder valves, $900, go ahead.
Lift and injection pump. $4,000. Go ahead.
KBB $5,000 ; but none, I repeat NONE, are available for under $15,000; and that is with 300,000 miles.
FireFool
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by FireFool »

I read through the first 10 or so posts and skimmed past the others, so my apologies if someone else may have shared the below viewpoint. First off since college I've always bought new and on average kept my cars about 8 years, but generally had access to my wife's vehicle which was generally under 4 years (I "inherited" hers when we replaced). In the past when I was traveling for work my measure of when it was time to ditch an old car was when I started worrying about it breaking down on the way to the airport and potentially missing a flight. That evolved as my business travel dropped and I kept one vehicle 18 years. Despite being mechanically inclined, and performing good maintenance on it, in retrospect I was stupid to keep it as long as I did. For the level of wealth I had it was stupid for me to be relying on 18 year old safety technology, let alone the physical deficiencies of the vehicle caused by rust. Presently I have a 9 year old vehicle with only about 85k miles that I REALLY like to drive and it still looks phenomenal - but I'm telling myself that I should be trading it in just to get the newer safety features. My current attitude is that I have accumulated enough money to support a long retirement, now my duty is to see that I do everything possible to live a long retirement - health and safety wise.

TL:DR: if you have the money don't skimp on safety.
oldfort
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by oldfort »

From a pure financial standpoint, you almost never save money on a new car. A typical car payment on a new vehicle might be $500+/month.
hudson
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by hudson »

nerd86 wrote: Sun Jan 10, 2021 9:08 pm I purchased a beater about 1.5 years ago and it has been great. I just put some money into it, and I also had to chase some leaks. I found and fixed the leaks which ended up being a coolant hose that needed the worm clamp to be tightened, and a leaky oil drain plug. All is well now although I am pist off part of my driveway looks like an auto shop....might try scrubbing and pressure washing it come spring.

However it got me wondering, on an older vehicle that you bought cheap...when is the cost at a point where it is better off purchasing another vehicle?
I got rid of my 18 year old pickup 2 years ago. It was really nice to have an old beater around.
It's good to have a "fishing" vehicle!
For me, it was never about the cost. One day, I decided that it was in the way, and I didn't want to maintain an extra vehicle.
ronno2018
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by ronno2018 »

I think it is fine to use beater cars but I have a college age kid and I want her to be in a modern car with all the safety features.

I leased 2021 Kia Forte for $220 a month (insurance is $110 a month). I commute via bike (and transit when the pandemic is over).

Probably will just get a good electric bike in three years when the lease is up.
phxjcc
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by phxjcc »

I give up.

My new saying: "how did we ever survive?"

1983, my fleet: 1968 Kharmin Ghia, 1970 MGB.

WHEN IT RAINED:
1. Do I take the MG? Better get a rag because the windows fog up because the top leaks., or
2. Do I take the Ghia? better bring pliers and a new fuel filter because the over flow from the gas filler is rusted shut and water seeps into the gas tank and gets into the fuel line--then you get out, in the rain and replace the filter and crank and crank until she fires up. On Nordhoff in the SFV during a downpour on the way to MSEE thesis review.

...and now I read, "OMG, I (or my loved one) am driving an 8 year old car with ANCIENT technology."

And yes, I still do---1200 miles, CO to CA and back, straight through, 1999 truck.

How did we ever survive?

Have any of you ever driven from Denver to Vegas?

Leaving CO Springs there is a sign "Next Services, 102 miles"

Thank OG my Bluetooth didn't give out.
:oops:
ncbill
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Location: Western NC

Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by ncbill »

mkc wrote: Tue Jan 12, 2021 3:11 pm
nerd86 wrote: Sun Jan 10, 2021 9:08 pm However it got me wondering, on an older vehicle that you bought cheap...when is the cost at a point where it is better off purchasing another vehicle?
I have run into another issue with an older vehicle that should also be considered - availability of repair parts. Granted, it happens to be a lower volume vehicle that was only in production for a couple of years, but a number of important components aren't even available as aftermarket these days.
Had the same problems on a a model where it was the highest trim-line...e.g. trunk-mounted power antenna where all other trims used roof-mounted manual antennas, different brake pads/rotors, even interior parts were different & hard to find.

Finally got rid of it after 20+ years, ~225,000 city/urban miles...after the A/C failed, sunroof started leaking, & the suspension was so worn that it would rock back & forth while stopping like one of those spring-mounted animals you see on playgrounds.
LiterallyIronic
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by LiterallyIronic »

nerd86 wrote: Sun Jan 10, 2021 9:08 pm However it got me wondering, on an older vehicle that you bought cheap...when is the cost at a point where it is better off purchasing another vehicle?
This is a topic I can speak to. I've always only driving beaters. I'm not even talking the $2-3k cars that others have mentioned. Those are way above my price range. The most I've spent buying a car was $975. My current car was $700 - some high school girl was selling it on Craigslist because it was too crappy for her. I bought this $700 2004 Dodge Stratus in the middle of 2019 after my 2001 Stratus blew a head gasket (it ran for about three months after it blew, before it finally ground to a halt forever).

Anyway, since I track every expenditure, I can tell you my experience with my current car.

$700 - purchase price
$171.80 - replace camshaft sensor (problem I knew about going in and so it was factored into negotiating the purchase).
$73.75 - 2019 annual registration
$35.00 - 2019 emissions test (have to do it every year with an older car in my state (newer cars only every other year))
$11.23 - transmission fluid
$37.53 - oil change (going to have to do this regularly, regardless of the car)
$14.10 - quarts of oil to keep in trunk
$182.60 - new battery and installation (didn't drive it for a long time during pandemic and battery conked out)
$24.95 - 2020 emissions test
$73.75 - 2020 annual registration renewal
$79.32 - new tire and installation (could not find a used tire of the right size. Usually I spend closer to $40 for a used tire + install).

So that's a total of $1,404.03 over 18 months, or $78/month. This doesn't include car insurance (liability only) or gasoline.

How do I decide what repairs to do and when it's better to buy a replacement vehicle? Contrary to what other people have said, it's not when the repair cost exceeds the value of the car. I don't want to have to go through the whole process of looking for another car, test driving it, registering it, and so on every time there's a $700 repair.

I automatically disregard repairs that aren't for things that make the car go or make the car stop. I've never had a car with a working AC. I've had a car that I had to drive with the windows down because the exhaust pipe broke off and the exhaust fumes were instead rising through the body of the car. Cracked windshields. Missing bumpers. Broken radio. Broken tie rods. Broken motor mounts. You name it. As long as the car can keep moving or keep stopping, I don't fix it.

But I do find that these clunkers require an $800-$1,000 fix every other year or so. Now, these cars only last me between two and six years before I've driven them into the ground. I always have the mechanic do an assessment and decide if they think anything else major is on its last legs before I proceed with one of those fixes to determine the odds that I have at least one more year of driving the car. But, eventually, a head gasket blows or the transmission fails or something like that. A fix that's going to run $3,000 or so. And I never do those. At that point, I drive the car for however much time it has left and eventually it refuses to move again. Then I sell it for a couple hundred bucks to a scrapyard and get back on Craigslist.
illumination
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by illumination »

So much of this decision is based on the "headache factor" more than just a financial decision. If a car is reasonably reliable, it's almost always cheaper to keep repairing what you have. Even if a repair exceeds the value of the car outright, it can still be "cheaper" to keep what you have. But that doesn't mean it's a good decision, what's your time and frustration worth? I used to buy vehicles with a lot of miles and do a lot of repairs myself, but I've decided my bandwidth is better used elsewhere and just take the financial hit of a newer vehicle. But there was no question, repairs are usually way cheaper than depreciation of a new or new-ish car. Also, my state's vehicle tags are based on the car's value plus the insurance is cheaper.

Where though I see both a bad financial decision and one that has a lot of headaches are older (say 10-20+ year old) European cars. You can get pretty close to the cost of just leasing a new one for keeping some of these on the road, especially if you are paying a shop to do all the work. If someone has say a 12 year old Audi, BMW, Mercedes etc. and get a Christmas car from their mechanic, you're probably not being thrifty to keep it going.
illumination
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Re: Cost of owning older vehicle

Post by illumination »

LiterallyIronic wrote: Wed Jan 13, 2021 11:17 am This is a topic I can speak to. I've always only driving beaters. I'm not even talking the $2-3k cars that others have mentioned. Those are way above my price range. The most I've spent buying a car was $975. My current car was $700 - some high school girl was selling it on Craigslist because it was too crappy for her.

I automatically disregard repairs that aren't for things that make the car go or make the car stop. I've never had a car with a working AC. I've had a car that I had to drive with the windows down because the exhaust pipe broke off and the exhaust fumes were instead rising through the body of the car. Cracked windshields. Missing bumpers. Broken radio. Broken tie rods. Broken motor mounts. You name it. As long as the car can keep moving or keep stopping, I don't fix it.

This is a really "miserly" existence that doesn't suit most people. I'm not sure if you are being purposely facetious, but you're putting yourself and others in danger going to this degree all to just save some money. Things like tie rods effect your cars handling and can cause an accident, cracked windshields effect visibility, exhaust leaks inside a car's cabin could make you pass out or cause brain damage, etc.

If you really want to save a money, just start riding a bike everywhere or use public transportation instead.
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