To Repair a Current Vehicle, or Take Out a Loan for a New One?

Updated on April 26, 2012
S.O. asks from Billings, MT
20 answers

Seeking opinions... Our 1991 Isuzu Rodeo is in the shop, and we just found out today that it will cost $1000 to repair it (instead of the $200 we initially thought.) We could probably get $1200 for it on a trade-in. Do you think it's worth it to spend this much to repair a vehicle? Or would the wiser thing be to trade it in and have to take out about an $8,000 car loan for a newer vehicle? I feel like this older vehicle is turning into the money pit. But I don't know if it's better fork out $1,000, or have to fork out a monthly car payment for something more reliable? We are living paycheck to paycheck, also with a 3 year old, and a baby on the way. I'm wondering... if money is tight, is it better off to just get by in the moment and keep our old vehicle, rather than to have a car payment.

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answers from Salt Lake City on

Repair it!! Don't add a stressful car payment once repaired you could look at selling it instead buying a differen car privately when you have enough saved up . You can find a decent car for 5k



answers from Washington DC on

how much in repairs have you put in to it in the last 6 months?

If you get a new car payment for a $10,000 (which is about what a $8k car will be after taxes, delivery, etc), can you afford $300 a month payment?

More Answers


answers from St. Louis on

Ask the mechanic if they see anything else coming down the pike and if so what is it. 1,000 to fix it and nothing major breaks for two years is a steal. 1,000 now, another 100 next month and so on, not so much a good deal.

The best case is do the repair and start making the car payments to your savings, then when the next big thing happens you have a car fund.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from New York on

i always thought that if the cost to fix it was more or close to the amount the car was worth theres no point in fixing it.. unless your positive the car is in really good shape otherwise and will last u a few more years its not worth it to keep putting money into it

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Knoxville on

Something similar to this just happened to us last month. My husband drives a 1994 Jeep Cherokee and had to have a $1600 repair done to it. It has 215,000 miles on it. We decided to go ahead and have it done, instead of getting a newer vehicle and having a car payment every month. I am still not sure we made the best decision, but hopefully if we can go a few more months to a year without any more major repairs, it will be worth it. Good luck. I feel your pain!!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

We are in a somewhat similar situation. Our cars are older and at the point where they need some repair work here and there, not just routine maintenance. If you have used the same mechanic for awhile and you trust him, then ask his opinion about this. Seriously. Does he foresee any expensive repairs that will be needed in the next few months? How many months would it take you to "spend" $1,000 on car payments? Will making this repair save you more months than that?
If it is a toss-up, then maybe trade it in. But will the repair it needs drastically affect what you can get for it? 1991 is quite old, so maybe not.

I figure it like this: $1,000 is about 3 months worth of car payments. If you anticipate that making this repair will garner you at LEAST 4 more months without a car payment, then make the repair. If not, then look at trading. 4 more months on a 1991 vehicle isn't going to affect its value at trade in time.

ETA: if you have to borrow the $1,000 for the repair, then just trade it in. I'd only make the repair if you can pay cash for it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My concern is you are living paycheck to paycheck now. What would happen to a new car if a job was lost and how fast. Tg
hen again if the one you have now breaks down again next week how will you repair it? Do you have a way of making extra money or trimming your budget before considering a purchase. Also things to calculate is the gas consumption of the new car with the technology since 1991 but if you take a loan you will need full insurance which will cost mote. However if it is new ir certified you won't have repairs for a bit.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Houston on

Our car was a '98 Toyota. We had spent about $10,000 on repairs in the past two or three years. The last time it broke down, we traded it in for get this... only $500. It's all it was worth, it was totally dead. So for us, it was a financially better choice to dump the car, take out a small loan and get a new (well used) one.

Our other car is a '92 Ford truck. It broke down due to an accident, but needs a $500 repair. Because the thing works great otherwise, we are going to do the repair.

Weigh your options,. It sounds like your car is turning into a money pit if you have to keep repairing it.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Columbia on

Here's what I think:

Is this your only vehicle? If you can, I suggest that you repair it and sell it on Craigslist. You can likely get more for it by selling it privately.

Carpool for a couple of months and save up at least $2,000 more dollars. Take your $3,000 and go use it as a downpayment on a newer model vehicle. Right now you can get vehicles that are year 2005 and newer for around $6,000-8,000. The more you have to put down, the lower your payment and interest rate will be.

Keep in mind that whatever you get, if it has a loan, not only will your outgoing expenses increase with the payment...but your insurance will increase because you'll have to get full coverage.

And don't fall into the "buy it new" trap. I actually returned my Hyundai Elantra that I bought new. I was paying $350 a month on a 5 year note, plus $65 a month in insurance. I carpooled for three months, saved up, and bought a 2005 Chevy Trailblazer. I paid half of it up front, and have a payment of $180 a month on a 3 year note. MUCH BETTER!

Sit down with your hubby and be inventive. How can you save money? You might have to scrimp and save, maybe cut back on some things for a few months, but it's worth it in the long run.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Denver on

Have you shopped around to compare prices on the fixing of the vehicle?

I only paid $6k on my Durango when I bought it. Just recently a shaft (or something like that, lol) went out and the dealer wanted $3k to fix it. To us it wasn't worth it. But my husband called around like crazy and we were able to get it fixed for $200 elsewhere. That was a $2800 savings for us to call around.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

You would be the perfect candidate for cash for clunkers.

I thought about this today. I spend $90 a week driving an average of 35 miles per day going to kids school, daycare, and gym. Car is paid off but gets 17mpg. That's $360 a month in gas. I could buy a hybrid or other extremely fuel efficient car with the savings I spend on gas. If the car were not paid off, that's exactly whay I would do.

In your case, I can't imagine a 1991 Isuzu gets good gas mileage. What you spend in gas can be reduced, offsetting some of the cost of the car payment.
A 1991 will not stop at $1,000 worth of work. That's all it needs today. What will it need next month?

1 mom found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

This is an older vehicle, but Japanese cars can run forever - I guess my questions would be, what's wrong with it now, do you trust your mechanic, and what else could go wrong with it? For instance, if you've rebuilt the engine and transmission, chances are that not too much other major stuff will fail. I drive a 2003 Ford that has 180,000 miles on it. We've crunched the numbers, and bottom line I'll drive it until the necessary repair costs more than the value of the vehicle (no signs of that yet, still seems to run fine). It's almost always cheaper to keep the vehicle you have than to take out a loan on a new one. The car you have now, MAYBE will need repairs coming up. But a used vehicle with a car loan - you are guaranteed to have to spend money on monthly (because of the loan), with no guarantees that it, too, will not need repairs in the future. Obviously, during the months when your current car doesn't need repair, put money aside into your new car fund, and then you may not even need a loan when the time comes. Just my two cents!

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Erie on

Can you afford the monthly payment for a new car?
Then pony up the 1k for the repairs, put the monthly payment for a year into a savings account, and in a year see where you stand with this vehicle.
Did you spend everything you put aside on repairs on the Isuzu?
Do you have enough for a decent down payment and is your income and job secure enough that even living paycheck to paycheck you could afford the monthly payment on a new(er) car?
Can you afford the extra insurance on a car bought with a loan? Talk to your mechanic. But 1991 is pretty old. We joke that we've never owned a vehicle made in our current decade, but I can't say we've ever owned a 20 year old car. I can't see you getting more than $800 for it just because of how old it is.
And will your tax return next year be enough to pay cash for a good used vehicle? Or a good down payment on a new one?

Our mechanic is like a god to me. I hope you have a good one, too. I wanted a Volkswagon van so bad once, drove it around for a day, etc...and he warned me of the expensive repairs it would need in the future, how much the oil changes and new tires every few years would cost, and advised us to get a used Caravan or Voyager instead. He was right, and we eventually did. We also lived without a car for a year when our last van broke down to the point that it was too much $$ to fix it (we have 4 kids) and then were gifted a 5-seater car (my dad who didn't need it anymore, it was a '97) that I drove for 18 months before this van (200 Voyager in immaculate condition) came along (last week as a matter of fact lol). We paid cash. Patience is a virtue :)



answers from Charlotte on

Because of the year and the money pit issue, I would go ahead and buy a lower mileage used car that has a 3 year warranty with the dealership. I know it's a lot of money, but I really believe that this $1000 will go into this car, and then another $1000, etc, etc. Your car has gone above and beyond what was expected, and it's time for a safer car and one that will perform along the lines of what today's cars are supposed to, and not leave you stranded on the side of the road.

I say this, having a year 2000 car that I've put plenty of maintenance into. But this car is not driving every day, and not with an infant and toddler in it.

Try to drop some other things - cable, use pay-as-you-go cell phones, no newspaper delivery, etc. You can buy in bulk and eat at home more, etc, to help make up the difference. And for that $1000 you would put on the old car, make it your downpayment so that your monthly payments are lower.

Good luck,



answers from Phoenix on

Repair it, especially if you are just scraping by. Can you really afford to miss a payment (or more) and have a car repossessed & be left with nothing even if you've made payments prior to losing the car? Can you afford to pay more for mandated full coverage car insurance?

Car payments are no good for people living paycheck to paycheck, end of story. Take the money you would spend on a car payment & save up for another used car to pay cash. Cars are the worst investment one can make.


answers from Washington DC on

1991? That's a really old car. And I imagine it's going to need a lot of work coming up seeing as it is over 20 years old. I'd trade it in and get a new one - but can you really get that much for a 20 yer old car?

I'm not normally one to say go get a new one, but in your case I think I would. But $8k isn't going to get a very new one, maybe something in the early 2000's? So you'll still have the same issues.

I understand you're paycheck to paycheck and that makes it hard. But check out some of the new cars and deals they have. You can get a new car for as little as $200 a month.



answers from Bloomington on

I just totaled my 2000 vehicle last month. They gave me $2700 for it, and it had 219K miles. We bought an '03 van for $3500 with 130K miles.

My point is although the price for the trade in sounds high, it's only because the prices of vehicles have really gone up. There are fewer older cars on the road (due to Cash for Clunkers a few years ago), and the scrap prices have really sored.

I feel like $3500 was a lot to pay for the van we got. Years ago, it would have been $1500. Most lots don't even carry anything $5K or less (we asked at SOOO many). Really do your homework to see what's available before you make your decision. (I should add that we live in Indiana where things are typically cheaper than most parts in the country.)

I agree with the last person. If your $1000 is worth 3 car payments, and you can get 4 + months out of it, repair it. If not, you could look at buying something on a loan.

Have you had the car for the majority of those 20 years? Know what you have replaced? I had a nearly rebuilt engine in my car and was SOOO sad to see her go. I knew she was old, but dependable! I was determined to put 250K miles on her, or more!



answers from Washington DC on

I guess it would depend on the overall condition of the vehicle. How many miles are on it? Has this been happening more lately? Is it overall in good mechanical condition?

You would have to balance out the cost of fixing it (and possible future repairs) with monthly car payments AND any repairs that might pop up on it since I'm assuming you'll be buying a used car and not a new one.



answers from Washington DC on

We just got a new Flex an I have stopped driving the van. THe van is a 2001 and the things that are dying now are things like the fuel pump $1600, the transmission $2500, air conditioning ??? Plus the Behemoth gets a whopping 12 mpg.
I put off for a long time before I finally broke down and got something more ecomonical.
1991 is a really old car. You are lucky or have it this long. If you can afford it, then I say go for the newer one. We got ours from Carmax.



answers from Albuquerque on

Oooh, this is a hard one. I say this because I HATE car payments, haven't had one in over 10 years. You're already living check to check (I know how that is). The car is old though, we just trashed my 92 nissan that had probably about 200,000 miles on it last year (hubby was using it for work). If you trade it in, you'll probably just get a nominal amount, maybe $400.00. It's hard these days to find anything at a dealership for under 10,000. We're currently kind of looking for a vehicle but have cash and it's hard to find a good deal these days, especially at a dealership. If you do decide to get something with a loan I would go to your bank and try to qualify there and find a car from a private seller, you'll save so much that way. Of course, you'll still have to have full coverage. Good luck, hope it all works out.

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