Is it foolish to put $700 woth of repairs into a car with a "book value" of $700?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Feb 01, 2000

Dear Tom and Ray:

I'm the second owner of an '86 Honda Civic named Wanda that I purchased from the dealer. I paid $2,800 five years ago. At the time, she had 72,000 miles. Now she has
120,000 and her engine is fine. Her problems are all structural. I was recently given an estimate of about $700 to fix her up. She needs exhaust work, CV joints, a tie
rod, a new ball joint and some other stuff. Should I put $700 into a car that only has a book value of $700? Is that smart? All of my friends say it's "bye-bye Wanda."
Please help. Wanda's life rests in your hands. -- Traci

TOM: First, you should completely ignore the book value, Traci. It means nothing. If I refused to put more than "book value" into my car, I'd never fill it up with gas!

RAY: There are only two important questions here, Traci. One is, what is the car worth to YOU?

TOM: Right. If you took that $700 and bought a different car with it, would it be better than Wanda? If not, consider fixing her up.

RAY: Then, the next key question is, what else is wrong with her? Before you put $700 into an old car, you want to be sure that it's not about to crumble into a pile of
orange rust, that the frame is not bent and that the transmission is not about to croak. You'd hate to spend the $700 only to find out a month later that you need a head
gasket and steering rack.

TOM: So take it to a mechanic you trust and ask him to go over Wanda stem to stern. Tell him to list everything that's wrong with her, and what it will all cost to fix.
Let's call that "X" bucks. Then, once you have that information, you can ask yourself that same question: Is this the best transportation I can get for "X" bucks?

RAY: And no matter what the book value is, if the answer is yes, then fix it. And if not, sprinkle some radiator water over Wanda's hood and give her last rites.

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