What Would You Do? Repair or Buy a Different Car?

Unfortunately, these don’t power a Prius.

“My mechanic told me, ‘I couldn’t repair your brakes, so I made your horn louder.’”

Recently, the service engine light came on in my wife’s 2001 Toyota Prius, which had 113,000 miles on it. We took it to the local repair shop, and they said that the problem was the car’s battery. For those of you who have never been exposed to hybrid batteries – like me – apparently, they are quite expensive. Since the local repair shop wouldn’t touch a Prius battery, we had to then go to the dealer to see about getting it serviced. The service manager gave us a quote of $2,900 for repairing the battery.

Unless you’re Bill Gates or Warren Buffett, $2,900 is no laughing matter for a car repair. So, I began looking at what our options were for getting a different car. Here’s what we narrowed the choices down to:

  • 1999 Honda Accord, 134,000 miles, $6,900
  • 2001 Toyota Camry, 38,500 miles, $9,500
  • (for comparison) 2012 Honda Civic (new), $16,500

For us, the new car option is off the table, which left us with three options: repair the car, buy the Accord, or buy the Camry.

Which one would you choose? Why? What other information would you need to make the decision? Please, if you know us and know the outcome, don’t spoil it for everyone else! Thanks!

You can read the exciting conclusion here: What Did We Do? Repair or Buy?

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Jason Hull was the co-founder of Broadtree Partners, a firm that acquires $1-5MM EBITDA companies. He also was the co-founder of open source search consultancy OpenSource Connections, a premier Solr and ElasticSearch firm. He and his wife FIREd (financial independence retire early) at 46 and 45, respectively. He has a BS from the United States Military Academy at West Point and a MBA from the University of Virginia Darden Graduate School of Business. He held a CFP certification from 2015 - 2021. You can read more about him in the About Page. If you live in Johnson County, Texas or the surrounding areas, he and his wife are cash buyers of Johnson County, Texas houses.

9 thoughts on “What Would You Do? Repair or Buy a Different Car?

  1. Jason, we own a 2005 and a 2006 Prius. We researched this battery-replacement question extensively on PriusChat.com. Best cars we’ve ever owned, and the best car ever for a teen driver.

    Frankly, after 11+ years on a second-generation battery, the car has lived a full life and owes you nothing. You might be able to buy a cheaper battery from a junked Prius, but even I’d hesitate to tackle that DIY project.

    If you’re emotionally attached to the car then it’s worth the $2900. However you’re also looking at upcoming failures of the inverter cooling pump, the air conditioning hardware, and at least one CV boot. That $2900 might quickly become $6000.

    Another option would be to sell/donate the 2001 and upgrade to a used 2004-2011 model. They’re plentiful on Craigslist and perhaps on USAA’s Auto Circle. You already know what’s important to you, and you know how it should drive.

  2. I would find out how many miles you believe you could get on the car if you spent the $2,900. Are there other problems that you see in the foreseeable future that will require even more money?

    Unless you think you can get another 100K miles out of it i would dump it in exchange for that Honda… you are almost guaranteed to get 250K out of the Accord if you keep up with oil changes.

    If your first battery went out after 113K miles, then the best you can expect out of your second is another 113K, but I bet the car is no where near as efficient as it was new, so that 113K probably shrinks up substantially, and since you are in a bigger city I would image the every day drive is a bit harder on the car.

    Even if you did get another 113K miles out of battery#2, that is still less life than the Honda or Toyota have in them, so that would make my decision even easier.

    unless you just like showing off your liberal side with the Prius I would dump it

    1. The biggest concern that we had about subsequent costs was the catalytic converter. Apparently it was the next in line to go, and while ours seemed fine, there were just too many horror stories on the Internet about it going and costing another $3,500.

      You make an excellent point about trying to estimate how many extra miles that repair would buy out of the existing car. My guess is it probably would have been another 40-50k.

      I try to show my liberal side as much as I show my conservative side! 🙂

  3. Repairing is the best solution, if it is possible. This will costs you less. In your case, if you are thinking that after repairing your vehicle will function properly for long duration, then it is good option. In other case, you should buy a new car.

    1. That’s always the question, isn’t it? What’s the probability that my car will function properly for a long period after I repair it? Thanks for commenting!

  4. Sometimes after repairing car’s average life increases and sometimes totally opposite happens. In your case if life is increasing then I do not think repairing is bad option.

    1. Yes, you definitely need to account for the possibility that something else could go wrong. For us, the biggest concern was the still intact catalytic converter.

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