Our car died. Donate or try to trade? What kind of car should we get now?

(21 posts)(9 voices)
  1. Dh has been driving a 1996 Nissan Sentra to work and the alternator died. He thinks that he could find a used part and replace it himself but it would probably cost around $150. I think we really need to get a new car at this point so the only reason to replace the alternator would be so we can trade it. I don't think we can sell the car privately (too old). On the other hand we could just donate it to charity (anyone know of a good organization) and take it on our taxes. From a financial standpoint, what would make the most sense? And also, I don't know what kind of car to look for to replace it. We want something w/ good gas mileage but also good safety (for my peace of mind more than his--he's not a great driver), and enough space that we could squeeze 4 people in if we ever wanted to. Honda Civic? What else should we look at? Don't want to spend a ton of money and we'd look for a car that is at least 2-3 years old.

  2. just so happens i'm struggling with this myself. have been driving an 11 year old civic, 2 door, and i'm feeling increasingly worried about getting stranded and/or hit by a truck. plus it is a nightmare to get the baby into the backward facing carseat. i'll be giving the car to my 20 year old son- but i see ads around here for donating cars to the kidney foundation...

    basically, it's hard to get a safe car that isn't a gas guzzler, b/c safety- crash safety, anyway- b/c a heavier car does better up against other heavy cars. hence the arms race to get bigger more wasteful cars. but i digress...

    the ford focus, amazingly, was a top 10 pick this year for safety and fuel economy. i will make myself test drive this one, although i have such antipathy about ford and the cr at ppy ford i had in the past, that i will take some convincing. their hybrid is also a top 10.

    after all my research, with pretty much the same goals you have, the accord is the obvious choice. i'll compromise some on fuel economy versus the civic- but it'll be a safer and somewhat bigger car. it's very sad, but i just don't think i'll consider the toyotas b/c of the acceleration thing, which they don't seem to have really figured out.

    however, i will be test driving the civic hybrid and the civic.

    and... because i don't like the way the accord looks at all and its not at all interesting to drive, i will also try the volkswagen passat, jetta, and gti. imo VWs are overpriced for the cars they are, esp given their variable reliability, but they are fun....

    and i would also like to at least try the altima hybrid- but the safety ratings aren't great. also, nissan reliability ratings were low.

    and, our family car is a volvo XC70 that i absolutely love, so i will also try the low end volvo sedan- the S40.

    sooo, i guess for me the honda accord is the rational choice, but i will be allowing myself to be swayed by looks, etc....

    you probably know these websites, but:

    usnews does car reviews each year- very comprehensive
    jd power and associates
    insurance institute for highway safety
    edmunds
    aaa (excellent pricing, and you can get quotes)
    car and driver

    honda, volvo, and VW have really low interest rates through june (double check me on this) volvo has 0% for 5 years!

  3. If you are looking at it primarily from a financial point of view, I'd fix it (if dh is able) and sell it. I actually think older cheaper cars sell better by private party than more expensive ones. IMO people who are able to afford more expensive cars are more likely to go to dealers. When I was a teenager/college student I sold several of my old beaters private party. My dad had a business on a busy street. We'd park it there with a $500 sign on it and invariably it'd be gone in days.

    If you donate it, you save yourself the headache, but you only get a portion of it back thru taxes. Let's say the car is worth $1000 and your tax bracket is 25%, you'd only get $250 back in taxes. If you had sold it you would get the whole $1000. Up to you what you want to do.

    Now as for what to replace it with... back when gas was $4/gal we bought a used Scion XA for our second car. The XA model is no longer in production (stopped in 06 I think?), but I seriously don't know why. I think it's cute as a button. I always get compliments on it when I take it out. Here's a picture of a random one I found. Ours looks just like this. carphotos.cardomain.com/ride_images/2/3409/4201/21022100007_large.jpg
    This is the car that dh drives to work, but we sometimes will take it as a family (4 of us, just like you) to dh's parents (2 hr drive) b/c the gas mileage is so fantastic (upper 20s-30 mpg). Scion is a brand owned by Toyota, so there is that. We have not had any problems with our car FWIW. It has 4 out of 5 star safety ratings all around.

  4. pilma--I hear you on the small vs. big cars. It's frustrating looking for something that's "green" and economical and then fearing someone is going to plow you over in their truck or SUV. That's a big reason why we got a minivan vs. smaller car--i didn't want to put my kids in jeopardy. I was looking at Toyota Corolla because I think it's just the 09-10 models that were recalled (someone correct me if I'm wrong) but I'm not finding any that have ABS (we have terrible icy roads in winter so this would be a big plus) or curtain airbags. I don't care about looks or style at all so I should do more research on the Accord. We did test drive a Ford Focus a while back and Dh had strong opinions against it. I don't remember what his issue was.
    Now I wish we had looked into that "Cash For Clunkers" program because the prices for used cars are now on the rise and I don't think we'll get anything for the Nissan.
    Thanks for the websites, I knew about some but not others.

    BT, it has 180,000 miles and is rusted.
    you think someone would actually go for that? Talk about driving cars into the ground, that is literally us. You can't get more into the ground w/ this car. It might be good for spare parts--not sure the reasons people buy really old cars. I was just researching the Scion B. I'll have to look at yours as well. I was reading that the interior of the Scion is really roomy, which sounds nice, but it's not great on road trips because of all the noise plus it's bumpy. But that wouldn't matter much because Dh would mainly just be using it 3 hours a week to commute.

  5. Rachel- I agree w/BT. I think it would be worth more $ if you fixed it and then sold it. The rules on donating vehicles changed last year. You don't get to claim the Blue Book value anymore. The organization has to auction the vehicle and then you only get to write off the amount that they sold it for. We donated dh's 2000 Acura RL (it had 250,000+ miles on it and was in fair condition) and it sold for $700. The blue book was over $2,000. We could have sold it ourselves and come out way ahead.

    As for what to look for.... No clue! But I'm sure you'll get lots of helpful advice here.

    Lynn

  6. thanks Lynn, that's interesting. I just hate the idea of putting more money in the car when we probably wouldn't get much for it anyway.
    Does anyone know if a dealership will take a car as a trade if it's inoperable without being fixed? Not sure how we would get the car there, though, anyway...
    I guess if Dh wants to fix it I'll let him fix it and then we'll either try to trade it or sell it privately. Dh is going to have to fix it quick though or we'll have to buy a new one because it's hard living with one car. He's taking a bus to work but the bus schedule is screwy and the stops aren't near our house. Right now the car is stuck at the shop so I don't know how he would fix it.

  7. pilma--I hear you on the small vs. big cars. It's frustrating looking for something that's "green" and economical and then fearing someone is going to plow you over in their truck or SUV. That's a big reason why we got a minivan vs. smaller car--i didn't want to put my kids in jeopardy. I was looking at Toyota Corolla because I think it's just the 09-10 models that were recalled (someone correct me if I'm wrong) but I'm not finding any that have ABS (we have terrible icy roads in winter so this would be a big plus) or curtain airbags. I don't care about looks or style at all so I should do more research on the Accord. We did test drive a Ford Focus a while back and Dh had strong opinions against it. I don't remember what his issue was.Now I wish we had looked into that "Cash For Clunkers" program because the prices for used cars are now on the rise and I don't think we'll get anything for the Nissan.Thanks for the websites, I knew about some but not others.BT, it has 180,000 miles and is rusted.you think someone would actually go for that? Talk about driving cars into the ground, that is literally us. You can't get more into the ground w/ this car. It might be good for spare parts--not sure the reasons people buy really old cars. I was just researching the Scion B. I'll have to look at yours as well. I was reading that the interior of the Scion is really roomy, which sounds nice, but it's not great on road trips because of all the noise plus it's bumpy. But that wouldn't matter much because Dh would mainly just be using it 3 hours a week to commute.

    A few years back, we sold DH's 14 year old Honda Accord with 160,000 miles on Craig's list for $1500, blue book value. Our phone was ringing off the hook!

    We replaced my two door civic with a hybrid Camry.
    I love it!

  8. mirnaester--what kind of people buy a car that old? People looking for scraps? College students? That's funny your phone was ringing off the hook. I just assumed it would be hopeless.

  9. mirnaester--what kind of people buy a car that old? People looking for scraps? College students? That's funny your phone was ringing off the hook. I just assumed it would be hopeless.

    Students - in our case, a high school student. I've driven my old Nissan Maxima into the ground, it's got at least 240,000 km on it, it's in pretty good shape considering how far it has gone but it is definitely beat up. But we have it sold "as is" to a Grade 12 student for $2,000.

    I'm just waiting for my new vehicle to arrive before I hand over the keys.

  10. mirnaester--what kind of people buy a car that old? People looking for scraps? College students? That's funny your phone was ringing off the hook. I just assumed it would be hopeless.

    Ours became a 16 year old kid's first car. His dad bought it for him as a surprise.

    It was actually in reasonably good shape--we paid to fix a dent in the door to sell. No rust. In need of a clutch sooner rather than later... (Of course, a kid learning to drive stick would make it even sooner.)

    It hadn't stranded DH in a full year and a half at that point!

  11. Rachel, people just need a cheap ride/good deal. Not quite the same, but we bought new appliances last year. Our old ones were literally falling apart (oven door didn't shut, seal coming off the fridge, dishwasher wouldn't clean anything). Dh put them in the FREE section of craigslist and they were gone within hours! Our phone was ringing off the hook too.

    Even if you don't fix the car, put it for sale on craigslist "as is" first come first serve for a couple hundred bucks. I bet you'd be surprised!

  12. That's a good idea, BT. List it for a couple hundred the way it is, tell them they have to fix it themselves. Worth a try. I guess it's a question of whether it's worth it to buy another alternator, then at least Dh would have something to drive til we find a new car and we might be able to sell it for a bit more.

    We bought our first car in college for $800. I only had $1000 in my savings account. It was a 1986 Chrysler LeBaron and even though it was 9 years old it supposedly only had 56,000 miles on it. I think it lasted a couple years

  13. I've had great luck with Hondas. I've owned a Civic, 2 Accords, and now drive an Acura. I've never taken one in for anything other than standard maintenance (vs. my DH's Volvo sedan which is always in the shop). I sold my original 1980's 4-door Civic to a friend when I got my Accord, and he was later in a horrible accident in it. He was hit head-on by a drunk driver driving a larger car the wrong way on the highway. While he did break both legs, he was so lucky to live and it always made me feel good about Honda safety (and this was way before airbags, etc).

    The brand that seems to get the best reviews these days is Hyundai. I don't know anything about the different models but know they are supposed to be great and reasonably priced.

  14. yes, we are considering Hyundai Elantra as well. I remember a lot of people here making fun of the username "Hyundai" like why would anyone chose a username of a junky car, but some of the Hyundai are very well rated. Has anyone here had a Honda Fit? I wonder how that compares to the Civic. We have a Honda Odyssey right now and are happy in general but it got a couple large dents on the back panel for no apparent reason (I don't remember hitting anything) and we have issues with the sliding doors but I guess those are pretty minor complaints.

    As I type, Dh is on his computer researching used alternators and our car is still sitting at the shop. I wish he'd make a decision already.

  15. Dh has been driving a 1996 Nissan Sentra to work and the alternator died. He thinks that he could find a used part and replace it himself but it would probably cost around $150. I think we really need to get a new car at this point so the only reason to replace the alternator would be so we can trade it. I don't think we can sell the car privately (too old). On the other hand we could just donate it to charity (anyone know of a good organization) and take it on our taxes. From a financial standpoint, what would make the most sense? And also, I don't know what kind of car to look for to replace it. We want something w/ good gas mileage but also good safety (for my peace of mind more than his--he's not a great driver), and enough space that we could squeeze 4 people in if we ever wanted to. Honda Civic? What else should we look at? Don't want to spend a ton of money and we'd look for a car that is at least 2-3 years old.
    Rachel- I didn't read all the responses, but this happened to me last year. I had a '94 Toyota Tercel that I bought when it was 3 years old, it had 260+ miles on it, and would still be truckin' if the winters (salt) here hadn't rusted her poor chassis to bits. She had 2 doors, too- but I never had problems w/infant seat or car seat (Britax). She finally died in 2008.
    I didn't know what to do with it either- so, I called Purple Heart, but they only wanted cars that were running. So, I put her on Craigslist for parts.
    as an aside- the guy that picked her up told me what happened to Jim.my H.off.a and he knew where he was. Interesting character.

    The Honda Civic was one of the top (if not the top) vehicles for safety, reliability and gas millage. That would be a very, very wise choice.
    They have been rated this way for the past 3 - 4 years, so if you got a slightly used one, you should still be OK.
    My friend bought one in 2007, and he's gone all nuts about it. Treats it like it's his baby. This guy belongs to a very exclusive Country Club- he treats that car and loves it way more than his fellow Porsche owners.
    I'd be happy to give you his # so you could ask questions.
    That said, if you can wait until September (I now you can't) the Honda has a new line coming out that's electric (or runs on gas- the kind that's used on your stove). After the tax incentive, it would cost around $25,000.

    There is a new Nissan Leaf coming out at the same time (September) that has zero emissions and runs on electric. This is a family Sedan, and it looks awesome. The price, after Federal incentive, is also $25k.
    Then there's the Chevy Volt (electric w/gasoline back up), Ford Focus and Fusion (electric/gasoline back up) that are all coming in September for the same price, after Federal Incentive ($7,500)

    If I were you, I would go for a gently used Honda or Toyota sedans (that means 4 door)
    I have a Chevy 4 door Cobalt, never, ever gets the gas milage it advertised.

  16. just so happens i'm struggling with this myself. have been driving an 11 year old civic, 2 door, and i'm feeling increasingly worried about getting stranded and/or hit by a truck. basically, it's hard to get a safe car that isn't a gas guzzler, b/c safety- crash safety, anyway- b/c a heavier car does better up against other heavy cars. hence the arms race to get bigger more wasteful cars. but i digress...
    No. Fish. That's not true. SUV's are extremely dangerous cars. They tip over. They give you a sense' of false security. They are horrible in the winter (last year, I pushed 3 of my neighbor's SUV's out of the snow w/my '94 Toyota economy car).
    Besides, in a year or so there will be no more SUVs on the road- so you won't have to worry about one of them bashing into you.
    Believe me, the crash tests prove it. The sedans are just as safe- if not safer.

  17. I have a 12 year old Toyota Corolla but I'm staying with it despite 180k in miles. We were told since it was well maintained we could eaily go up to 300K. I am hoping I can hold out for 2 more years until we are out of private preschool before taking on another car payment.

    I say stick with it if you feel it is reliable enough. I'm most likely going to get a mini-van when we do buy another car but only so that we can take my inlaws with us when we go places.

    I would think you could easily get at least $500-1000 for your car if you had it running.

    Lauren

  18. No. Fish. That's not true. SUV's are extremely dangerous cars. They tip over. They give you a sense' of false security. They are horrible in the winter (last year, I pushed 3 of my neighbor's SUV's out of the snow w/my '94 Toyota economy car).Besides, in a year or so there will be no more SUVs on the road- so you won't have to worry about one of them bashing into you.Believe me, the crash tests prove it. The sedans are just as safe- if not safer.

    OA, didn't mean that i'd be safer in an SUV b/c i know that isn't true. and i would never ever buy an SUV. but i think if i got rammed by an SUV, if i wasn't immediately beheaded, i'd have a better chance in say a volvo than a civic. or at least in an accord than a civic. that has to be true, doesn't it?

    why do you say no more SUVS in a year or so?

    ps Rachel, i've now test driven the accord and the civic (automatic trans, and i'm going back to try the standard) and the jetta and the passat (+ a 2 year old, his carseat, and bag of skittles). the jetta was def the most fun to drive, but overpriced imo for its class. the civic gets about 35 mpg hwy and the other 3 right around 30. they are phasing out the passat (who knew?) so they will want to move them- but at the same time, it'll be hard to find the options you want- for me, i want a standard but i prefer leather seats b/c of the peanut gallery- hard combo to find. justdogs told me she got a passat diesel wagon and loves it- and gets great mileage.

    they all have financing deals- VW offered me 0% and honda .9%

  19. financing deals for 2010 new models, right? I think there's a deal on Toyota too. I don't think I could buy a new car--I'd rather get one with 15 or 20 thousand miles and pay a fraction of the price. I'm cheap that way. Usually the factory warranty still applies on used cars if it's not over the time limit as far as I'm aware, so if we bought one that's a year or two old we don't have to worry as much about buying a lemon.
    The Nissan is back in the driveway. Dh was able to start it and drive it with a new battery but the alternator is still fried. I think he's going to replace it. If this was the only "event" I wouldn't be so worried but a month or two ago it was the starter motor and that ran us $300+ so what is it going to be next?
    pilma not sure if an accord would be that much safer than a civic--they are both really small cars and if a semi hit you you're probably toast in either.

    Maria-M, civic is probably our top choice. I found one online, a 2009 with 6,000 miles and it was only $10k. Sounds too good to be true. I wonder if it was in a wreck and salvaged.

  20. Rachel, i was only thinking about new- but the VW dealer did offer me the same interest rates for a certified preowned- you get the remainder of the warranty and they add on two years of warranty. i didn't ask at honda and he didn't volunteer, so not sure there.

  21. Thanks pilma. We can get a pretty good rate through our credit union (under 4 percent for a used car) so I need to do some math and figure out how much we'd save w/ various options.

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