My 10-year-old car needs about $1,000 in repairs, which is about what the car is worth in running condition. If I get it fixed, am I throwing good money after bad? If I don't fix it, will I be able to sell it?
Let’s say the engine is the problem. Even if you repair or replace it, what other problems might you have coming down the road? Are your brakes about to go? What about your tires? Do you have a cracked windshield? If the car is in great shape (other than having a worn-out engine), that’s one thing. But if you envision more problems to come, you should cut your losses.
My first move would be to try to get it fixed for less than $1,000. Have a friend who’s mechanically inclined try to diagnose the problem. This will save some time and money, and enable you to cut to the chase when getting repair estimates. Once you know what the issue is, call three different garages, making sure they’re certified by the National Institute for Automotive Excellence (ASE). I also recommend asking the whichever garage you choose to use refurbished parts rather than new ones.
If you can’t negotiate a repair price below the car’s book value, there are still a few options. Forgo the service and see if the mechanic wants to buy the car as is, or knows someone who might be interested. Another route is placing an ad on Craigslist or eBay. You’d be surprised … you just may find someone who has your make and model and needs parts.
All in all, the more wear-and-tear and mileage the car has, the more you should question whether you want to put in big money to repair it. A car with 300,000 miles? If it’s a ’66 Mustang, sure. If it’s a 1989 Delta 88, not so much. -- As told to Thomas Farley
Lauren Fix, The Car Coach, is a nationally recognized automotive expert and analyst. She is the National Automotive Correspondent for Time Warner Cable, auto expert for “The Weather Channel” and “QVC,” a contributing editor to several car magazines and a regular guest on TV talk shows. Her most recent book is Lauren Fix’s Guide to Loving Your Car. She is also a member of the Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) and an ASE-certified technician. This is her first contribution to Men’s Life Today.