I have a 1990 Honda Accord with about 150K miles. I bought it new. It’s in very good condition as far as body (no rust) and runs like a top, but is starting to show its age. About 3 months ago I did have the AC repaired, (it hadn’t worked in over 3 years) and replaced the entire exhaust system to the tune of a little over 900 dollars. I have had the car regularly maintained, i.e. oil changes, belts, hoses, etc. since it was new. I have resigned myself to keeping it forever instead of buying a new one.

Since I’ve had this car since it was new, and since I like it so much, and since I have some cash saved up (about $10k) I’m very interested in having the car totally restored – is this advisable?


I have to say I’m intrigued by your question. It’s exciting to think about “pimping out” a 90′ Accord – especially with such a solid budget. However, before you make the leap, I have a question for you: Is this your daily driver? If not, it’s up to you. I wouldn’t do it, but I haven’t seen the car and I don’t have the relationship with it that you do.

If the answer is yes, then I must advise you to save your money. Restoring a car (any car) is expensive, time consuming, and terribly inconvenient. Since you’re not going to do the work yourself, you’ll have to work with a mechanic’s schedule. I can tell you that their typical restoration project runs 4-12 weeks of uninterrupted time. Granted, you could do the restoration one step at a time (and therefore one or two days at a time), but that ads quite a bit of labor to the cost (as I’m sure you know, when you’re restoring something, it makes sense to dismantle most of the car, then fix, replace, or upgrade piece by piece as you re-assemble). Basically you’re going to be without a ride for a month or two (or three) if your restore your car.

Second, your budget for a full restoration is too low. Figure that a quality shop will charge a labor rate of at least $100 an hour for a full restore. While you could get an engine and transmission rebuild, all the major maintenance done, a new interior, a paint job, a stereo, and a set of wheels for $10k, you’re still going to have a car that’s mostly 18 years old. A full restoration will make it “new” again, but it would cost $20k at a minimum (basically, the same as a new Accord).

I like your idea of keeping the car, but my advice would be to send it to the boneyard the next time you have to spend more than a few hundred dollars for a repair. The trouble with these older cars is that they can “nickle and dime” you to death. Think about it this way:

You spent $900 for an A/C and exhaust repair 3 months ago. If you spend another $1000 to fix something else in 6 months (totally possible), that works out to $1,900 spent in 9 months.

$1,900 over 9 months = $212 a month in maintenance.

$212 a month is a car payment my friend.

My recommendation: Keep it until something expensive breaks (more than a couple hundred), then sell it on Craigslist to someone looking for a fixer-upper (you might be able to get a couple thousand for it if it’s in good shape). Then take your $10k and go buy something else.

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