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My Car is All Worn Out. What Should I Do?

Written by Steve Rhode


Dear Steve,

I need two new cars(used cars) but I don’t know if I should fix these old cars or trade them in and buy 2 used ones. My 2007 Kia Optima has 165K miles on it and wont pass inspection-needs catalytic converter and new tires (maybe $1500?). My ex-wife has Kia Sedona with 100K miles and needs new transmission (Maybe over $3k).

These cars are paid off and we both desperate NEED cars, more so, me. With no car loans right now, I barely pay my bills every month. And I only have a little over $2k in savings.

I also just had a car accident that was 100% their fault and received a check for $1500 for damages.

My ex-wife does not do a lot of driving but I do a ton unfortunately. Do you have some financial advice of what my best option to do is for this very stressful situation?

Thanks so much!



Dear George,

Well you gave me a couple of important clues. You said you currently do not have any car payment but you are barely getting by and have little in savings. I also get the impression you are not living lavishly and don’t have much to trim in the budget.

So we have to piece together a solution that does not increase your transportation costs and still allows you to have reliable transportation. I’m not sure that’s possible.

Both of your cars seem to be cared for but have worn out critical components. When vehicles reach the end of their affordable or useful life the options are to fix them up or ditch them. They reach a point where fixing them just gets you a free membership in the Repair of the Month club.

I could not help but notice that you are trying to come up with a solution for you and your ex-wife. You know I’m pretty good at what I do but figuring out an answer for two now separate and divided households is beyond my pay grade.

READ  How Can I Afford a Used Car On a Beater Budget?

I’m a big fan of buying used, rather than new cars but your situation is a bit different. In your case, with limited additional resources, I like new cars with good value and awesome warranties.

New car financing from manufacturers can be obtained with really great rates and here is how to do that. A new car will give you the financial protection from a major auto repair over the next few years. Sometimes the advice you always hear about never buying a new car just doesn’t apply to every situation.

Not long ago I actually had a chance to borrow and drive one of the least expensive cars available today. Sure, it was laughingly small but all four of us adults fit in the car and it was a surprisingly brisk ride. In fact, I even took a picture of the Chevy Spark we borrowed because it was so unusual.

The Chevy Spark I drove recently.

The Chevy Spark I drove recently.

The car starts at $12,170 (I know, who ever pays the base price) and the U.S. Department of Energy reports the car gets 30 MPG city and 39 MPG highway. With your insurance check in hand and your beater to trade in there might be a deal to be had on this or a similarly inexpensive car like the Nissan Versa, Mitsubishi Mirage, or Ford Fiesta.

So lets look at the costs and cost savings to see how buying you a new car might make sense and cents.

According to, drivers with a 2007 Kia Optima like yours generally say their combined fuel milage is in the 28 MPG range. Real drivers in the 2015 Chevy Spark are reporting 36 MPG.

Now you say you drive a lot. In my book a lot would be 2,000 miles a month. Hey, I’ve got to use some number for the calculations. At 2,000 miles per month your Kia would burn about 71 gallons a month while a car like the Spark would burn 55 gallons. At current prices that would save you about $34 a month and if fuel prices go up the savings are even bigger.

READ  Should I Buy a Used Car?

Chevy is offering 0% financing and if you qualified your payment, based on $13,000 would be $180 a month. But really it would be $146 a month if you factored in fuel savings. You’d have to check on what your insurance cots would be.

According to Chevy, the Spark has a 2 year or 24,000 mile scheduled service program so you wouldn’t have to pay for any service for the next year or so based on your driving. It also has a 5 year or 100,000 of roadside assistance and powertrain warranty.

Look, I’m not suggesting you should blindly run out a buy a new car. But what I am suggesting is that we have to look at a solution where you are not pouring good money after bad and whatever you decide to do allows you a better chance of less transportation problems and costs moving forward.

And I’m also not saying you should buy the Chevy Spark. There are several cars to choose from in the entry level range.

While a new car does increase some of your costs it also reduces some and most importantly, gives you a better chance of having reliable transportation for a longer period of time with a manufacturer warranty to protect your financial risk of major repairs.

As far as your ex-wife goes, have her write to me and I’ll tackle her situation separately.


You are not alone. I'm here to help. There is no need to suffer in silence. We can get through this. Tomorrow can be better than today. Don't give up.

About the author

Steve Rhode

Steve Rhode is the Get Out of Debt Guy and has been helping good people with bad debt problems since 1994. You can learn more about Steve, here.

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