I need a dynamo!

On Sunday night, my car began to sound a high-pitched loud alarm a few seconds after it started. Yesterday, after a lot of goings between the mechanic and the car electrician, it was apparent that the car’s dynamo (or alternator) wasn’t working. Therefore, today I sent the car to the garage for repairs. That left me thinking: this is the third repair in two months… time to sell the car?


  1. The economic logic is it’s cheaper to keep and repair it than make payments on a new one. That may not be true when repair costs really go up, as you are then replacing the whole thing in bits. Compare the annual costs, including insurance and licensing. Another issue is the lemon factor: a poorly designed vehicle can require frequent repair to the same subsystem. Of course, we rightly make many economic decisions for non-economic reasons. On the one hand, you may be getting long-term fixes on things which depend on each other systemically. Get them all at once and you’re good for a few more years. On the other hand, many unrelated items may be wearing out at once, and it’s time to dump it. Only a good technician can offer a reasonable assessment which it is.

  2. Interesting, I read “time to sell the car?” as a choice between keeping the car or not having a car at all, rather than replacing it. I heard a few years back that a study worked out that with all the forms of transport, it was still quicker to walk – if you included the time spent earning the money to pay for your trip. Probably not true now though.

    I don’t know how the economic logic works if like me you buy a newer second-hand car out of savings as opposed to making payments on a new new one. I was taught on my marriage preparation course that one should never borrow money on a depreciating item. I don’t know if that’s a biblical restriction but it seems like good sense to me. It also runs very much contrary to the culture in this country, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing!

  3. Just to note I agree with Tom. Since 1991 I haven’t bought anything on credit. However, the economic analysis I cited was undertaken by someone else, who assumed the typical choices.

  4. Well, I’d say it would be time to consider selling it at least. Failing alternators (or any component of the electrical system, I suppose) make me very nervous. That could just be me though and I know next to nothing about the mechanics of a car.

  5. Thanks to everyone for their comments. First, let me say that the alternator was repaired and my car has gone back to its usual, reliable self ;). I have mixed feelings on this car. The engine is outstanding and gives me great mileage. The car is definitely not a lemon, thankfully.

    Tom and Ed: Sadly, walking is not an option. In fact, buying this car meant significant savings in cab fees.

    As for «never get in debt for a depreciating item», that’s right, but there are exceptions. In our country, most Christian financial experts advocate the same principle, but state that buying a car is an exception.

    The reason is the income level of most families. Here, every dollar has a relative value of four or five times over its stated value (judging after comparing the cost of living in both U.S. and Paraguay). Our income is roughly $600/month, and I purchased my car for $2,500 in hard American currency. That was for a 1990 Toyota Corolla, and in our country the price I paid was considered very good value for my money. I took a very low interest loan from a non-profit entity, and my payments are small and affordable, and I am about to cancel the debt.

    I am wondering whether to sell my car or not. The car is very reliable, but I had to pay over 5% of its purchase value in repair on the last two months; there is another 15% of the purchase value in suggested, but not essential, repairs.

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