By on March 6, 2013

Hello Sajeev and Steve,

I need to get a bit of advice, and I need to get it from real car guys, so I decided to ask the two of you, and the B&B, to give me some input on my situation.

I currently drive a 97 Honda Prelude. I’ve had it for the last 5 years, and it has taken a lot of abuse from me. The problem is that the body has 230k miles on it, and like clockwork, every 2 weeks something goes wrong.

Let me list the things that are currently wrong with it:

There are 2 exhaust gaskets that have perished, there is a rear main seal oil leak, a valve cover oil leak, the alternator bearing is dead, the power steering pump bearing is dead, the high pressure hose for the power steering fluid is leaking, I am missing 2 kick panels from the interior (they were broken by me and/or a passenger), shift boot is shot, the temperature control lever is broken, the temperature control cable the connects the interior lever to the heater control in the engine is rusted solid (that’s a pain to change), the shocks are on their last legs, it seems to be chewing through rear tires at an alarming rate, for some reason, getting an alignment doesn’t work (probably needs ball joint, bushings, the lot), and there are rust spots forming everywhere.

The good parts are the motor and the transmission, since they were swapped over about 70k miles ago, and the car shifts smoothly and the engine feels very strong. I am mechanically inclined, but I really don’t have the time or patients to be overhauling a car that supposed to be my daily driver, so I decided that it was time to upgrade my ride. Now I have always been raised to buy used cars, because hey, don’t be a sucker by taking such a hit on depreciation, but the used car market right now seems to be overinflated. As an enthusiast I am looking to get the most bang for my buck, and really, there are only 2 cars that interest me, one being an S2000, and the other a WRX. Because I realize an S2000 is more of a fun weekend car rather than an all weather daily driver, I have been looking around at a lot of WRXs. The problem is that used ones cost only a grand or 2 less than an equivalent new one! If I want a 2006 WRX with less than 60k miles I am looking at plopping down about 18k, and that’s way too close to the new WRX in asking price.

Another thing to consider is that I am going to finance this car. I know, buying a car cash is the best thing because a car is a devaluating asset, and financing such a thing blah blah blah, but the truth is that I am laden with student loans already (started with 40k 3 years ago, down to 21k today) so most of my spare cash has been going into paying off that debt. I have about 5k saved up for a car, so I wanted to ask: What would you do in my situation, fix my ailing car, sell it and finance a new WRX, sell it and get a used WRX, or quit life and just get a 1998 Civic?

Steve Says:

$2000

That’s my answer. Sell it for $2000.

As for what to buy, let’s face it. You are obviously a bit confused. Why do you want to buy a hysterically overpriced, fashionista oriented, financed to the nether-regions of human stupidity, Honda Civic? When you could just easily find yourself a fun sports coupe from a defunct or second tier brand that offers infinitely better real world value.

I would go where the fanbois of the automotive world fear to tread. Domestic. Defunct. Or heck, maybe a 2002 Galant GTZ with all of the trimmings. Throw in a bit of luxury and you may have the makings of a great ownership experience.

There is a lot out there. So my advice is to start venturing down that path. Find a few good owners who don’t treat their cars with all the care of a worn out mop. That’s WRX territory. Now you need to find yourself a fun, sporty car that has been conservatively driven and well maintained.

My choice… is an acquired one. Drive a few cars that have strong owner reviews and fall in the “unpopular because of the brand” category. Find the right prior owner, get it inspected, and you may just find yourself a nice long-term keeper.

Sajeev Says:

Caring about reducing debt and owning a Subaru WRX (especially considering how fragile they are when abused) does not compute. I’m not saying you need to buy a Crown Victoria Honda Civic, but you need to decide if you really give a crap of advancing your future finances, faster.

WRX’s are premium fuel thirsty.  They are expensive to insure, fix, etc.  They are a horrible car for someone in your situation.

Time for you to take stock in what REALLY matters to you, and buy that.  If you want a WRX, no biggie. Just make sure you know how much more money you’ll spend every month over something more normal, more sedate.  I’d suggest a first gen Mazda 6, honestly.

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92 Comments on “New Or Used? : Wah! Wah! My Life Is Over!… Edition...”


  • avatar
    NormSV650

    Fix AND maintain the car until you your debt is gone. Join the Prelude forums and pick up a Haynes(has pictures) manual to do the repairs. No new cars until your near debt free.

    Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman would lend similar advice. Besides the shadetree mechanic experience you’ll learn the money you’ll save working on your own cars will pay many more times in dividend than the investment for the rest of your life.

    Can’t believe they are still letting them graduate without any personal finance background.

    • 0 avatar
      tresmonos

      Every time I hear “Dave Ramsey,” I want to slit my wrists.

      His car is a money pit. His car will be in the ‘my engine won’t crank because it’s sitting on my driveway’ category before he wipes his loans out.

      Dave Ramsey can kiss my ass. I was his poster child (unintentionally – how I was raised) and all it yielded was a divorce (paid with cash!) and life in Mexico (hey my workplace pays for everything!). *$#& that guy and his scheme to sell books.

      Honestly, the money left over after you pay the minimum on your student loan is best split between your retirement and fun. If you’re a slave to financial independence, that’s all you will become and that’s all you’ll ever be. You have to enjoy life (while being a little responsible).

      And FYI: school is the new housing bubble. You either graduate with a shit load of unmanageable debt, go to a tech school for a job with a defined ceiling, or you go cut fat off pork picnics in a meat packing plant.

      • 0 avatar
        Compaq Deskpro

        This. Where I live, the local state school is putting up lots of new buildings and spending huge money while raising tuition and fees higher and higher. The college bubble will burst making most degrees useless, throwing skilled people in with the riffraff, the inflation which has been curbed will explode, drastically increasing the prices of everything. The depression was delayed, and in several years, it will come down upon us in full force. Make sure you have a reason to exist when it does.

      • 0 avatar
        fvfvsix

        Amen, tresmonos. This guy needs to buy the most reliable, least expensive new car he can afford. I would take the $5k + $2000 in trade to the local Honda dealership and walk outta there in a new Honda Fit Sport MT. If his credit is decent, he should be able to finance the $11K over 48 months for about $250 per month. Given that he stated he’d been paying about $500/month for his student loans, he should be able to carve the cash flow out. Pay the Fit off early if you can, and keep it maintained and it will give you at least a decade of reliable service, guaranteed.

        After you pay the car off, save the $250/month until you have $10K cushion in the bank… Then focus on finishing off what’s left of your student loan.

        Dave Ramsey’s methods are for people who are truly financially stupid, and cannot save money to save their lives. Everything in moderation…

    • 0 avatar
      danio3834

      “Can’t believe they are still letting them graduate without any personal finance background.”

      Even with a finance brackground, the lure of materialism is sometimes too strong. Of the people I know who are the worst with money, one of them was a financial planner for years. ‘Was’ is the keyword there.

    • 0 avatar
      hubcap

      “Dave Ramsey and Suze Orman would lend similar advice.”

      Because they’re the pinnacle of financial literacy? Who cares what Dave and Suze would do? Think for yourself and do what’s right for you.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        People like Dave Ramsey give good hard advice to people who are financially retarded. “What’s right” for a lot of the people he gives advice to, up to that point, was spending 1.5x what they make.

        His advice is sound, but for average people who are able to include all relevant factors into a budget, and review it monthly, his advice is WAY too conservative.

        Suze Orman? She rubs me the wrong way so I just tune her out.

        • 0 avatar
          tresmonos

          Totally agree. I think half of my disgust is from how many people champion his advice – I sure hope that society doesn’t ‘need’ him as much as his book circulation indicates.

        • 0 avatar
          threeer

          I respect Dave Ramsey…lost it for Suze Orman when she started shilling for new cars (kind of defeats the purpose of debt reduction if you are hawking buying new cars…majority of which are not bought with cash).

          • 0 avatar
            mklrivpwner

            You want Dave Ramsey in a nutshell? Me too! and my 20lb sledge. The only reason this guy sells as strongly as he does is because he sells “Christian financing”. 10% PRE TAX tithing is required in your Ramsey budget. OUCH!
            You want Dave Ramsey’s financial advice in a nutshell? Spend within your means and don’t buy stupid unnecessary crap like f’in Dave Ramsey’s books!

    • 0 avatar
      DC Bruce

      A car in the kind of condition that the OP describes is a project, not transportation. It’s fine to have a project, but most people living in most parts of North America need transportation first.

      I think our OP is a little confused about the difference between “transportation” and anything else.

    • 0 avatar
      dominican

      I now work from home and make 6 figures. My loans are pretty much paid off, and I am generally happy. I still have the prelude, since I barely ever drive it. I now mostly use motorcycles to get around. Best of everything in a small, fuel efficient package.

  • avatar
    lzaffuto

    Fun, cheap and reliable(within reason)? Miata.

    • 0 avatar
      Thinkin...

      Exactly. Can’t believe it took this long for someone to say so. A MX5 isn’t the answer to everything, but it sure is the answer to this query. A slightly mechanically-inclined owner with no need for rear seats and a yearning for a reliable roadster? Yes. Go get a Miata sir. (or m’am)

      I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but the glory of the Miata is that, like the S2000, they’re often third cars for people. So you can find lots of recent examples in mint shape with low miles. More often than not, they’re owned by older men who garage, clean, and maintain them well, while only gently pushing them around corners at the weekend. You can get very good NC’s for ~$15k now. Or, if he has a small cash reserve, he could pick up a nice NB for $5-6k, and then avoid the whole financing thing.)

    • 0 avatar
      dominican

      I’m a man, and I love the Miata. I am now working from home, so a daily driver isn’t important. I am saving for an S2000 and enjoying my motorcycles.

  • avatar
    Nick 2012

    Absolutely do not by the WRX. Assuming your car payment plus increased insurance plus premium fuel equals $600/mo, you would save $21,000 in interest if you just put the extra $600/mo towards paying off your student loans. Anyways, today’s WRX is a 2008 model. A new one will arrive soon and you’d be stuck looking at the guys driving their newer, better WRX while you ride around in a 2008 model for the foreseeable future.

    If the current ride isn’t worth fixing, Sajeev’s got a good idea with a 4 cyl first generation Mazda 6 – they still look good and drive well. 2003-06 Mazda6i (the 4-bangers) go for around $5000-6000 in these parts with ~100k miles.

    • 0 avatar
      fvfvsix

      Sorry, but the last thing the OP needs is a $5000 used car. Assuming he’s got a job, he needs to make sure he’s around to get promoted. THAT is worth far more than $20K in freaking interest. If he plays his cards right, $20K will amount to a few months of disposable income for him.

  • avatar
    cgjeep

    Chevy Colbalt SS

  • avatar
    danio3834

    Sounds like you really let the old girl go. Gotta stay on top of that stuff. Depending on the pattern, your tire wear issue could be affected by shocks that no longer dampen.

    Anyway, good advice from Steve and Jeev. You don’t want a WRX, it’ll suffer the same fate or worse than your Prelude and you’re gonna have a bad time. Becoming fixated on a single vehicle when shopping will also cause you to have a bad time because you’ll miss out on the deals on the cars you never even gave a chance that would have served you much better.

    If your Prelude really is concluded, I would suggest finding an off brand pseudo-sporty car that won’t make you broke as Sajeev recommended.

    Non-speed Madza 6 isn’t a bad choice, the Fusion is pretty similar. A non CVT 3.5L Altima. Or if you really want something newer for the price range you mentioned for an 06 WRX, I suggest my new favorite bargain sleeper: A slightly used Chrysler 200 with the 3.6L V6. For well under 20k, you can have something that will hang with or out run many non-STI WRXes and will liklely still have powertrain warranty!

    • 0 avatar
      PrincipalDan

      Other than the lack of stick shift, this OP would likely have more fun than he thinks in a recent vintage V6 family sedan, given that all of them are knocking on the 300hp door.

    • 0 avatar
      dts187

      I thought about suggesting a V6 family sedan but with the OP looking at a WRX or S2000 I think handling might be more of a priority than power. I haven’t driven a newer Fusion or non-CVT Altima but I can’t imagine seeing one at an autocross event.

      • 0 avatar
        danio3834

        In my experience, WRXes (non STi) aren’t particularly great handling cars. They have quite the proprensity to understeer and often get laps put on them by significantly less powerful cars.

        I haven’t driven the 2013 Fusion, but the previous generation’s handling was pretty competant. I haven’t driven an Altima since 2008, but I suspect the handling is much the same, decent.

        I don’t think either car would have much trouble putting up decent numbers at an autocross with the right drivers. I’m kinda interested to do that now.

  • avatar
    Matt Betts

    I was in a similar situation last year, albeit with no student debt and the old car is a 1994 BMW 540 with 195k miles.

    I ended up buying a new (I know, shameful) WRX. I had to order it because nobody had one in a ~500 mile radius, and those that were immediately available had huge markups (4k on top of MSRP or lightly used for MSRP or higher) due to “limited supply”. Ordering let me get the vehicle at 500 over invoice, which was about 10% below MSRP and a decent deal according to TrueCar.

    They told me it should be about 4-8 weeks for the car to get in my hands. That ended up being terribly optimistic. I ordered the vehicle in April and it actually arrived in October, such that I got a MY13 instead of a MY12 car! I wanted to get the current gen vehicle since the product map from Subaru showed the WRX/STI is going to a smaller, coupe-style body, and I wanted 4 doors and a good trunk area.

    So, if you decide to go the WRX route, keep in mind that it may not be a quick thing to get. That said, my ownership experience since I got the vehicle has been flawless. The thing is a hoot-and-a-half to drive, and the mileage is marginally better than the 540. (~+10%) Insurance, oddly enough, only increased by about 100$.

    • 0 avatar
      Synchromesh

      You just have to know the right people. ;) I got my brand new ’12 in 2 weeks back in Dec of ’11 and paid about $500 under invoice for it. On top of that I got a bunch of options I didn’t ask for for free since the car just came from factory with them. Of course this is New England so our Subarus are more plentiful. That same dealer where I bought the car has at least 4 new WRXs and one new STI in stock right now.

      To OP: I hear ya. But people here are right, WRX is a relatively high maintenance girl. Between required synthetic oil changes every 3750 miles, 21-23mpg average on premium and dealership maintenance visits you should only buy it if you can afford it. Otherwise she’ll eat through your budget quickly.

      What I would do if I were you is look for something cheap and easy to maintain. Sell your own car, put your cash together and get something sensible for now. A used Mazda3, Civic, etc. I’d go with something cheap and relatively small just to make your gas bills easy. Then when your debt is small or nonexistent go for a newer/new car.

    • 0 avatar
      burgersandbeer

      I’m having trouble wrapping my head around the idea of insurance for a new WRX only costing $100 more than a ’94 540. Do you mean $100 more per month?

  • avatar
    AMC_CJ

    2011’+ V6 Mustang

    Affordable, pretty damn quick, and more practical then your typical sports car (with the rear seats folded down, a weeks vacation for two is easily doable.) I know, I know, but for a all-around sporty car it can’t be beat, especially when you factor in price.

  • avatar
    jaje

    Get a Helms Manual (oem honda service guides that have step by step with picture instructions) for ~ $65. Join a dedicated Honda Prelude forum where you can ask questions (i.e. Honda Tech). Tools and sohp space: there are garages you can rent out a space by the hour at and use their tools and lift to fix things with you car (heck of a lot easier than on your garage floor or in the street).

    Fix what breaks and pay off your debt and then start saving for your next car and pay as much cash up front for it. A Honda when taken care of will last even longer – even though it does need work.

  • avatar
    tedward

    I hate the go the obvious route but why not a Miata. If an S2000 was on your list then the Mazda is a more affordable route to a similar end game. There’s a ton of used 4×100 wheels out there that will fit, and if you are running narrow winters the car is definitely capable of being a 4-season car. Plus, parts are relatively cheap, and there are affordable aftermarket parts to gradually improve the ride as things wear out/you get bored.

    Since there was no front wheel drive proposed in your letter I’m going to go right ahead and assume you know what you want. FWIW it’s ‘the right choice. You are going to drive this car for years most likely, so if you don’t get the drivetrain configuration you want you’ll be stuck with it long term.

    There’s also a ton of old BMW’s out there (80’s or 90’s cars) that are easy to work on and are right wheel drive. They are, not to hammer on the obvious, quite a bit nicer than any version of the Miata, however good that car is.

  • avatar
    gessvt

    $18K for a 2006 WRX?? Is that in Canadian currency?

    A quick search on Autotrader around me shows a few lower mileage ’06 WRXs, with full dealer markup, for < $15K.

    I'd also look at the 2006 Saab 9-2X Aero. More depreciation, increased likelihood that it wasn't flogged to near death because it's a Saaaaab, same car.

    • 0 avatar
      toplessFC3Sman

      Also consider the Saab 9-3; Yes, they’re only FWD (although they’re still pretty toss-able), but:
      – are much less likely to be abused
      – are more common as manuals than many brands
      – have been hit hard by depreciation
      – the 2.0T’s have similar power to a WRX with better fuel economy
      – 2007+ gets you a different interior with more GM-common electronics, so replacements should be cheaper if necessary. I personally like the design of the pre-2007 interior better, but thats just a preference
      – 2008+ gets you the updated body; I’ve heard that exterior parts might be a little more difficult to get, but haven’t tried myself
      – AWD is available on 2008 TurboX, 2009+ Aeros (V6 turbo & 2.0T), its a pretty capable gen 4 Haldex system, although there is a TSB on some of the seals for the rear diff unit that should be done for the earlier systems.

    • 0 avatar
      Synchromesh

      If you want a decent 2006-2007 car with less than 100K miles and without major rice you will end up paying $16K+. $18K+ is easily possible for a clean Limited. I’ve been doing the same search 2 years ago before I bought my own car and the prices haven’t changed much. For some reason WRX keeps its value like crazy and people actually buy at those prices. I routinely see 1-2 year old used cars with under 30K miles with pricetags equal to current MSRP. Sure, they’re negotiable but how much? It makes more sense to buy a new car instead which is what I did.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      Saabaru for the win!

  • avatar
    dts187

    I’m going to echo what everyone else says and avoid the WRX for now. I’d stay away from anything with high costs to repair/insure/maintain.

    My picks for economical/reliable fun used cars with under 60k miles for $15k or less:

    2006-08 Civic Si
    2010 Mazda3 s Sport
    2008-09 Mustang V6

    Work down your debt, work hard and increase your salary, save more money(!!!), and your next car can be anything you want (within reason, of course).

    • 0 avatar
      Jellodyne

      I would say don’t get a pre-2011 Mustang v6. Prior to 2011 the V6 was a dog — the engine was the cast iron 4.0 Cologne V6. The 2011 V6 is a modern 24 valve 3.7 liter loses 40 pounds and gains 95 horsepower.

    • 0 avatar
      dominican

      I did work hard, changed companies to get huge raises, and discovered the beauty of motorcycles. I will be getting and S2000 sometime in the future, but for now, I am happy with my NC700X. I love that I work from home.

  • avatar
    Halftruth

    Sounds like the Prelude is not long for this world.. and there are really no deals out on the used market except granny-mobiles. Hmm..
    And getting 2 grand for it is hopeful with the issues listed. I would have to agree with NormSV650 to fix it and keep it as long as it does not get ridiculous. Just fix safety items and roll the dice. When your debt is near gone, you can reward yourself for a job well done and get something you want instead of trying to make something work.
    Technically, you still have a working vehicle so I would go with that.

  • avatar
    Frank Galvin

    If you’re going to finance, the world is your oyster. But with $5000 saved, and something for the sale of the Prelude, that’s a decent amount for something fun to drive. Late 90’s / early 00 Mustang GT, Miata, supercharged Park Ave, Saab 9-5s hold up really well, early 00’s Acuras, and a bit more. Have some fun with a 4500 -6000 search on Craigslist. Good luck.

  • avatar
    mnm4ever

    Is anyone else pissed off that he let his Prelude go to crap like that, or is it just me??

    That Prelude was a great car, it was the last generation, it was one of the best cars Honda has ever made, and it would still be a valuable and worthwhile car to own today if you had just taken care of it. It would also be worth a LOT more than $2k right now, I have seen them going for $6-8k in nice shape.

    Also, a new WRX is $25k, you are looking at used ones that are $18k, that is about $6k less, not $2k. And book value on a 2006 WRX is around $12k, so whoever is trying to sell you one for $18k is smoking crack, as are you if you pay that much for it. And you want a good deal on a WRX look for an older bug-eye model, those are under $10k easy.

    But don’t buy one. I don’t think you should get a new car, especially if you are going to destroy it too. You should just get a cheap beater, or keep what you have and keep it running until you pay off your student loans.

    • 0 avatar
      F-85

      I agree with your sentiments, mnm.

      Whatever he gets — I urge him not to “abuse” it as he did the Prelude. Unless he’s prepared to cross this same bridge in another few years. A car should NOT go from daily driver to a pile of crap in five years.

    • 0 avatar
      Dan

      Just you.

      A beat up interior is the owner’s fault and preventable but the real problems of rust, leaks, suspension, etc. are just showing its age. 16 years and a quarter million miles is used up.

    • 0 avatar
      redmondjp

      Um, daily-driver cars wear out, and many folks have things called ‘lives’ and don’t (want to) spend their evening out in their apartment parking lot trying to change a power steering hose.

      I do all of my own maintenance and even I have let my repairs slide a lot now that I have a wife, old house, and young kids to raise.

      I vote sell it, but my recommendations for a replacement would lean towards the cheap side (Taurus with the 3.0 engine) or maybe a ’96-’05 Civic.

    • 0 avatar
      mnm4ever

      OK, OK, deep down I know you all are right, the car has lived it’s life. I just like the Prelude, hate to see them just run down like that.

    • 0 avatar
      dolorean

      I agree. I ALMOST bought a ’99 Prelude Si that the dealer was desparate to get rid of. Test drove, took it home for three days, and found out my financing hadn’t gone through. By that time I had just found had a kid on the way and a friend was selling his ’98 Ford Contour SVT for five grand less and so the ‘Lude was out. Still, chirped the front wheels in third gear while rocketing that beautiful metallic green beauty to 100 mph on a remote Colorado highway with the salesguy telling me, “Don’t worry about it. It can do more. It’s a Honda.”

    • 0 avatar
      gessvt

      “And you want a good deal on a WRX look for an older bug-eye model, those are under $10k easy.”

      I’m probably going to go this route, or a 9-2X Aero like I mentioned above. And then I am going to DIY every single repair on it so I can become adept at fixing (rather than paying to fix) my ’05 Legacy GT.

    • 0 avatar
      Ryoku75

      Be glad that he kept it going for so long, usually 230k means scrap time for a car.

      Heck, I’m just glad the owner used more money on repairs. Most Honda drivers spend their money on bodykits and etc.

      • 0 avatar
        geozinger

        I had to laugh when I read the description of this car. It’s a beater; if the OP had said Cavalier or Mustang, there would be a thousand posts about how all American cars are crap and they’d be better off in a Honda. The fact is, it’s just a used up car, no matter the brand. Subjected to less than perfect maintenance routines (i.e. real life), surprisingly they hold up just like all the other cars. Average.

        There’s also a lot of sermonizing going on about his choices in running/owning the car. We’re coming in at the end of the story, we have no idea how long some of these things were bad. Did all of these problems happen during his ownership? We don’t know.

        I would try to find something reliable to get me to work so I could pay off all of those college loans and put some money away. Here in the US you NEED a car to get to work. Many used mid sized family cars today would absolutely blow the doors off of the pony cars I was getting into debt over back in the early 80’s.

        At a minimum, you’d get to the office everyday, which is what he probably needs to focus on doing NOW. The hot rod or sports car may have to wait.

    • 0 avatar
      dominican

      I sent this in about a year ago, so my situation is vastly different now. I work from home now, and have been since last June. I also discovered that motorcycles do everything better. Another thing, I still own the Prelude, and I still drive it from time to time, and it’s an awesome feeling whenever I do. The car in no way feels like a beater, but since I am mechanically inclined, I can tell there are a few things off. I would definitely fix all of them and keep the car forever, which was my plan when I moved back from Florida to NY last year, but I discovered a lot of rust in the back unibody, and to fix that will be a lot of money. Altogether, I would estimate about 3-4k to get that car fixed up, painted, and pretty. That’s way more than what the car is worth right now, so in the meantime I will keep it, ride my motorcycle everywhere, and when I feel like it’s the right time, I will pick up an S2000, rust free and stock, and just keep it that way for as long as I can.

  • avatar
    azmtbkr81

    Normally I’d say fix it but fighting rust is nearly always a losing battle so I’d avoid sinking another dollar into the Prelude.

    My recommendation would be to buy an early-mid 2000’s short bed single cab domestic pickup with as few options as possible. These trucks are generally very reliable and more fun to drive than they get credit for (even the V6 models). Hold on to it for 2 years while you finish paying off the school debt and then sell it for the same price you bought it for and buy your dream car.

    • 0 avatar

      I was thinking this too. Not sure the requestor would appreciate the advice, but it really is something to consider while used car market is like this. I ended in this boat accidentially, but now I’m quite glad being exposed to these solid axle mini-monsters. And not just the time I had to haul an old projection TV off to recyclers, but every day too.

      P.S. OMG I just looked up the KBB value of my truck, it’s insane. A bit below what I paid for it, granted, but I put 40k miles on it. Now I’m not sure this advice is going to win a lot over a Mustang, financially speaking. Still, something to consider.

      • 0 avatar
        azmtbkr81

        Absolutely, beating depreciation is the name of the game with short term car ownership and a truck or maybe a Camry is the way to go but who wants to drive a Camry?

  • avatar
    prabal34

    I own both a 5th gen Prelude and a newer 3rd gen WRX. They are completely different cars. A few months ago I was in a similar situation. Let go of the Prelude to get the WRX? I decided to keep the Prelude and I am very happy with my decision.

    I made some adjustments such as eating out less and spending less on buying unnecessary things in order to make ends meet. The WRX is expensive to maintain, requires the same premium fuel as the Prelude but gets worse mileage (AWD), and costs about 3X to insure as the Prelude (Full coverage required for financed car, 30 yr old driver w good history)

    Luckily for my Prelude’s sake I had already invested a lot of money in it so my decision was a lot simpler than yours. I am sure everyone that has ever owned a Prelude has heard about the Prelude curse, it’s no joke! (look it up on urban dictionary if you haven’t).

    I understand if you want to get rid of your car but it is paid off and it sounds like it needs a lot of TLC and $$$. Used car prices are climbing up so it may be worth spending the money to keep it. Perhaps consider buying another beater (Some 4 door economy car that you are comfortable working on) and taking your time and giving the Prelude the love and attention it needs… :)

    • 0 avatar
      Compaq Deskpro

      I Googled Prelude curse, and I read loads of threads full of people making long lists of all the problems they had with Preludes, and calling it a curse as if it’s unusual. I’m thinking that these things are screwed together like a Jaguar and fall short of the quality standard set by Civics and CR-V’s.

      • 0 avatar
        prabal34

        You have a good point. The Prelude might be the most unreliable Honda ever made. I have thought about this quite a bit and below are my other related thoughts as to how the “Prelude Curse” moniker came to be.

        I think partially it’s because the Prelude had so many Prelude model (especially 5th gen) only parts whereas the other Hondas had a lot more parts in common. A lot of these parts cost 2-3x what other “normal” Honda replacement parts cost. Also, the Prelude’s H22 was a very unique engine; for Honda anyway.

        Furthermore, the Prelude used to be Honda’s consumer “test” platform. Equipment on higher end Hondas/Acuras were optional firsts on the Prelude. For example the traction control system (Super Handling/SH) we now see on Acura TLs and MDXs , and the 4 wheel steering system (3rd and 4th gen)

        Plus, a lot of people raced/modified their Preludes and thus broke things. Heavily modified Civics/Integras have their fair share of problems too. It’s just most other Hondas did not see 200+HP back in the day to come across longevity issues over time.

        But I think it’s a lot easier to believe that the car was cursed ;)

  • avatar
    DC Bruce

    Definitely let the Prelude go while it’s still worth something. Skip the WRX; my guess is that you will get tired of it very quickly.

    Since you’re used to the modest performance envelope of the Prelude, consider a manual Ford Focus from the latest generation. Having test driven the manual hatch, I can say that the clutch/tranny operation is as sweet as it gets. The Focus isn’t that roomy in the back. Having rented a Focus for a weekend in Arizona (with the awful DCT — avoid!)I will also say that mid to high 30s mpg is a reasonable expectation, something that your WRX won’t touch. The Focus is not a dragster but it is a fun-to-drive car and has surprisingly neutral steering for a front driver.

    My guess is that it will be much cheaper to insure than a WRX or an S2000. Having driven the S2000 a bit, I would say that its virtues are not apparent in daily driving . . . you’ll wonder why you didn’t buy a Miata. If you drive it — and rev it — like you stole it, then the fun begins. But who wants to do that every day?

  • avatar
    Fordson

    A 16-year-old car with 230,000 miles on it, obviously in an area where body corrosion is somewhat of an issue…a daily driver…and he “let it go to crap” – ?

    Anyone remember the Monty Python dead parrot sketch?

    Even Hondas *genuflects properly* sometimes wear out. Could he have maintainted it better? Perhaps. Could he have prevented the corrosion issues? Probably not. He’s a starving ex-college student with a lot of student debt. He already replaced the engine and tranny. Let it go.

    The first-gen Mazda6 is interesting, but they are not great at resisting corrosion, so I might pass on that. Honestly, for $5k I’d get a 2006 Focus hatch with around 75k miles on it and drive that until he can afford a better car…when his loans are paid off.

    Oh – and the idea that he’s going to sell that roach Prelude for $2k is insane. I can’t believe someone who writes for an automotive publication suggested that was possible.

    • 0 avatar
      azmtbkr81

      $2k is completely possible, perhaps even conservative. I’d list it for $3000 and take $2500. The ricer…er “import tuner” crowd will snap this thing up in a heartbeat especially with the newish drive train.

      • 0 avatar
        Fordson

        The newish drive train that makes all that accessory-drive bearing noise, with the loud exhaust which prevents anyone from listening to the valve train, with all the power steering fluid and oil leaks (one at the rear main seal)? The car has 230k on it – can he establish for potential buyers the drive train’s age? We know it was installed 70k ago, but we don’t know if rebuilt, reman, salvage – ?

        I think that assumes some incredible stupidity on the part of the import tuner crowd. This owner is up shit’s creek right now – he doesn’t have the luxury of waiting around for someone to come up with his price, while more and more things go wrong with the car.

        • 0 avatar
          azmtbkr81

          Take a look at Craigslist, I think you’ll be shocked. Sane or not Preludes with salvage titles, horrendous ham-fisted modifications, primered body panels, and all manner of mechanical woes are listed for $2-3K. Nicer examples are closer to $10k.

          • 0 avatar
            Fordson

            Well, we are going to have to agree to disagree. I’ll leave it with two thoughts: This is a young guy with an ’97 Prelude. He wants a used S2000 or a used WRX. He is mechanically-inclined and an enthusiast. In other words, he is a MEMBER of the import tuner/ricer crowd that is supposed to bail him out of this situation…and he thinks the car is a basket case, clearly. Also, your perception of the car’s worth and mine may differ due to location – if this guy is in Southern California or maybe Southern Florida, you could have a point – but this car has a lot of rust to the point that control cables going through the firewall are seized up. I am thinking he is not located in SoCal.

          • 0 avatar
            Steven Lang

            It’s a 97. Not an 87.

            “Oh – and the idea that he’s going to sell that roach Prelude for $2k is insane. I can’t believe someone who writes for an automotive publication suggested that was possible.”

            Believe it… and consider a little bit of civility in your comments. The higher road is always the better one when commenting at this site.

        • 0 avatar
          brokeguy

          Apparently you havent been around the import tuner crowd much. Some of them folks are incredibly stu.. er, naive when it comes to those things. There is a reason they keep making those Fast and Furious movies..

  • avatar
    cheapthrills

    My advice is to take ~$4k of your $5k savings, and pay cash for a used car at that price point. Another Prelude or an Integra will fall into that category. A first-gen Focus (maybe even an SVT) will fit the bill as well. Most sporty cars that are a step-up from your current ride are too expensive to buy or maintain.

    In 3 years, you have only managed to pay down $20k of debt and save $5k. You will have 40k to pay in the next 5 years if you buy a new car. That sounds a bit bleak and optimistic to me.

    You will get nowhere near $2k for the ‘Lude on the open market with that mileage and those issues. I struggled to sell my Integra GS with 230k body/120k motor, no rust, everything else very good condition for $2.1k. Above 200k is no-go zone for 95% of potential customers. You may get $2-3k for it as a trade-in.

    I bought that Integra 1.5 years after graduating from college. Driving it for two years allowed me to save up enough to pay cash for a much nicer car when I finally tired of it. Have patience; you’re not rich yet.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    The only real problems with this car are the rust, the rear suspension and the rear main seal. Everything else could be taken care of with a trip to the junkyard (or Car-part.com), a couple hundred in new parts (shocks + bushings) and about 2 weekends worth of wrenching.

    Now if the guy is just sick of the car that is a whole nother issue. But looking through dude’s list I didn’t see anything that was too bad. Even if he took it to Honda and paid stealership prices to get all that work done it would not come up to the $10K or so he would have to spend to get the kind of car he wants. Plus with the swap, for all intents and purposes this thing is good for at least another 100K miles if its properly maintained.

    I would tabulate the cost of all the parts you need and see what you can + can’t replace… then figure in the cost of labor for what you can’t do yourself and use that + the $2K the car is worth as the budget for your next car. In this used car climate you won’t be able to buy much, if anything that won’t net you in the same or a WORSE position.

  • avatar
    Fordson

    Point taken, Steven Lang…but to suggest he sell the car at a price of his choosing, when he does not have the luxury of time and another car to drive in the meantime while he waits for that offer…not realistic.

    • 0 avatar
      brokeguy

      Steve is right, in my neck of the woods, A 5th gen Prelude shell (no engine or trans) would go for 2K provided theres no rust. A running driving 5th gen with issues is an easy 3-4k. OP probably already has an offer of 2K from the honda fanbois. Never underestimate the power of the “Honda tax”

  • avatar
    A D H

    01-05 Lexus IS300 (sportcross?) I just sold my 11 yr old Sportcross w 108k for $7500. Very reliable car that is fun to drive. Parts were reasonable. I live in a high salt/chemical enviro and with regular wax mine was rust free. 2 sandbags in rear and snow tires made it very good in the snow. The wagon looked the part of a Subaru or Saab with better reliability.

  • avatar
    Kyree S. Williams

    I wonder whatever happened to kill off the Prelude…

  • avatar
    APaGttH

    If my father was still alive, he would gently put his hand on your shoulder, take a long drag from his cigarette, exhale so the smell of tobacco smoke and scotch lingers in the air, take a long look at your Prelude and say, “son, they do still shoot horses.”

    He would then take another long drag from his cigarette and shake his head with a knowing smile only maturity will make you realize, that your replacement of choice being a 2006 Subbie WRX, is a really, REALLY, bad idea.

    A day or two later after polling his automotive engineering peers, he would recommend a used Civic, or Corolla. or maybe even a Panther, GM W-body or an older manual equipped Fusion. You would likely dismiss this wisdom of low cost used reliability.

    Sometimes, I miss dad…

  • avatar
    chaparral

    $10,000 buys a nice S2000. You’ve got $5,000 cash, your car’s going to sell for $2,000 quickly, and the local credit union will lend you $3000 – 12 months of a $275 car payment.

    Sell your Prelude up north, buy a plane ticket to San Antonio, buy the car, drive home.

    Nobody should have to put up with northern rust any longer than they have to. Even when I move back north I will take a biennial trip to Texas to drag home decent machinery.

  • avatar
    nickoo

    Forget that Dave Ramsey BS about trying to fix that car up, its too far gone. Its time to drive the car until it no longer runs and then haul it to the junkyard, or even better, donate it for a tax write-off. The second part, getting yourself a newer car, I feel your pain, used popular cars are ridiculously priced right now, but that doesn’t mean you have to go the civic route, I would try to find a good deal on a used mazda speed 3. Good luck.

  • avatar
    chicagoland

    “…many folks have things called ‘lives’ and don’t (want to) spend their evening … trying to change a power steering hose.”

    There is a certain point to say ‘bye’ and move on. Steve Lang is right, sell to a kid for $2k, and let pay shipping costs for parts on eBay. After 15-20 years, parts at U pulls get harder to find.

    If not a WRX, how about just an Impreza?

  • avatar
    mkirk

    Why change the engine and quit because of relatively minor stuff. I almost dumped my Land Cruiser because of issues similar to what you describe after swapping the motor. Fixing all of it was literally 3 weekends of work. Sucked giving up those weekends, but not so much as being in to the man for 5 years would suck. If reducing debt is the priority then you either fix it, or you get yourself an appliance to drive until said debt is reduced. Or you dont fix it and drive it until it will no longer move.

    If you must dump it though and you are willing to live with the S2000, then why not a Miata? Cheaper to get in to, more plentiful, and most think better as a daily driver. You could get something much newer for your buck than is likely with an S2000.

  • avatar
    jim brewer

    Find a used WRX that wasn’t owned by a head-banger? Riiiiight.

    You are right. This is a bad time to be buying a used car. This is a good time to be selling a used car. Like your clapped out Prelude. Sure used cars are a better deal. Just not right now. So take out a five year 4 percent loan, an extended manufacturer’s warranty, if its available to you buy a new car and get on with life. Having paid down 21K in student loans in three years, you are obviously gainfully employed and can handle the payments.

    As far as changing your mind about cars to buy, I don’t know. I do know that used sports cars were about the only good used car deals out there when i looked. A used S2000 wouldn’t be such a bad deal. Nor would a used Miata, if you are interested.

  • avatar
    roamer

    You’re clearly tired of dealing with the car’s continual breakdowns. If you don’t want to keep it, don’t. Try expanding your horizons in terms of cars that interest you. Don’t know why you chose the S2000 and the WRX, as they have nothing in common except that both are Japanese and fast. If that’s your only criteria, then there are a lot of older niche Japanese cars that you might consider – Subaru Legacy turbo, Mazda 323 GTX or Rx-7 turbo, Mitsu Eclipse or Galant VR4, the list goes on. If you’re looking for something that’s more recent, then I have a specific car that meets your criteria: an Acura RSX. Neglected by the company when it arrived in NA – and therefore available unmolested and at good prices even in today’s overheated market – the car has great handling, excellent ergonomics, and a fantastic engine. If you feel like doing something to the car to improve performance, add a limited-slip diff. Nothing else is needed.

  • avatar
    burgersandbeer

    Definitely drop the Prelude and avoid a WRX.

    The new Focus sounds like a good idea. Wasn’t Ford offering 0% financing not too long ago?

    If new is out, I like the pickup truck idea. It might cost a bit up front, but it will hold its value and should have reasonable running costs.

    I think BMWs are a good value used as well, especially for the mechanically inclined. That said, they are still too expensive to run (even DIY) for someone trying to pay down debt and without a decent war chest.

    I don’t know why so many recommend the miata if the s2000 was ruled out for practicality reasons.

  • avatar
    jgcaulder

    Used 2011 Hyundai Sonata 2.0T SE. Good gas mileage (26/33 mpg), quick, can burn regular gas, sporty suspension, and will still be under warranty if purchased under 60,000 miles.

  • avatar
    dominican

    Well then, I am gone for a week and my year old question gets posted! Well, here is an updated to my situation: I am pretty much done with my student loans, I make over six figures, and I still haven’t done anything with the Prelude. However, I can’t be more happy… My solution? Working from home. Because I work form home, I no longer need a way to get to work every weekday, having to deal with those NY winters. Because of that, I don’t have to get something with 4wd, or 4 doors, or with a lot of room, or even 4 wheels! Last year, about a month after I sent this e-mail I started my love affair with motorcycles, and it is now stronger than ever. I even upgraded my bike, from a Ninja 500R to Honda NC700X. I go into the city a lot to hang out with friends, it’s a perfect way to cut through traffic and then park just about anywhere. With all that said, I think there is an S2000 in my future, but for now, I’m ok with my cheap as chips, fun as hell ride. By the way, the only thing that will keep me from riding is if there is snow on the ground.

  • avatar
    CoreyDL

    Well, DON’T buy a Galant, GTZ or any other trim level. That’s the worst advice I’ve seen on this column. You’d be in the same shape with broken items within a couple of years!

    Old Celica, newer Accord Coupe, Camry Solara, etc.

    NOT A MITSU.


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