questionmarkI currently own a ’93 Oldsmobile Ciera. It’s been pretty good to me over the three years I’ve owned it, but recently it’s started to develop some major problems. There are a bunch of leaks and the fuel pump might be going out.

Should I fix the car, or ditch it and buy a new one? I’m a PA in Albuquerque right now and I’m looking to move to LA soon, so I don’t want to dip into savings to buy a new car, but I don’t want to sink a bunch of money in my Ciera just for new problems to develop later. What do you think?

– Nick
Albuquerque

random adviceDitch it. Unless you genuinely enjoy tinkering on cars, it’s not worth the time and money to keep it running.

You’re moving to Los Angeles, where you’ll absolutely need a car as a PA. You will be driving all over the city, so find one that’s considered reliable and gets very good mileage. Even though gas prices are down, filling the tank is still going to be a huge expense for you, so every MPG matters.

Should you buy a car in Albuquerque, or wait until you get to Los Angeles? Tougher call.

Buying a car in New Mexico might get you to California in one piece, but you’d have to pay out-of-state registration fees. (Calculate how much.) If you buy a car when you get here, you won’t have that hassle and expense.

If you already have a place to crash when you get to LA, you might consider selling your car in Albuquerque and Greyhounding it here.1 First day here, find a good used car and start making calls about PA jobs.

I arrived in Los Angeles in 1992 driving a seven-year-old Honda Accord. Since it came from the Midwest, the front fenders were incredibly rusted,2 but it ran fine until the clutch gave out in ’94, just after the Northridge earthquake.

I spent a year trying to keep it running, which became incredibly stressful. Each time I turned the key, I prayed it would start. Shifting was murky; reverse wasn’t so much a slot as a vague area of possible engagement.

The weekend I sold it was my happiest in years.

  1. I checked prices, and it’s only a little bit cheaper than flying. But it’s depressingly romantic, so I vote bus.
  2. Nothing really rusts here, unless you’re right by the ocean.