Why I Put a New Engine in My Old Cadillac

by Joe Plemon on January 18, 2012

My post “My car needs a new engine.  Should I sell it, fix it, or junk it?” from October, 2010 received quite a few comments, with many recommendations to sell it, quite a few to fix it, but only a couple who thought I should replace the engine.  Since that time, I have continued to drive my Caddy, but (because of the head gasket issue), I have stayed in town because of the overheating problem which could occur when I put it on the road.  In other words, I have milked it along and done none of the three options I considered in that post. Nothing, that is, until I recently had a Jasper rebuilt engine installed, at a cost of $5,200.

Obviously I have had plenty of time to consider my options.  “So why”, you ask, “would you spend so much money on an old (1999) car?”  Good question.  And my answer is sure to under whelm you:

I love the car.

 True Confession

Not impressed?  Very understandable.  Now…ready for some total disclosure from a personal finance blogger?  Here is how my thinking process works (and probably yours too): I decide to spend money on a car primarily because I love it.  Once I know what I want, I try to mathematically justify the expenditure.  In other words, the car decision often goes from the heart to the head instead of vice versa.

Understand that I am not dropping off the deep end here.  I have owned and babied this car for several years, so, unlike buying a different car, I know fully what I am getting.  Besides, I will commit to continue babying it for years to come.  Although we live in a throw away society, I cling to a life command that tells me to fix what I already own instead of junking it for something new … especially if what I already own is opulent (a great word a Cadillac loving reader used).  After all, this DeVille is the premium D’Elegance model, equipped with leather heated seats, lumbar support (and massage), remote start, premium sound, moisture detecting wipers, etc, etc, etc.  When we took it on its maiden new engine journey, my wife noted that the Caddy still has that new car smell.

Cash only!

Unless you are a brand new reader, you will not be surprised to learn that I did not borrow any money for the engine…love, after all, has its limits.   I emphasize this point because I believe that saving up for something one truly wants and paying cash for it is a good thing.  Furthermore, because of the head gasket issue, trading it or selling it (except perhaps to a mechanic) were not options.  The KBB private party value for a 1999 DeVille with 100,000 miles on it is $5000, so surely that rebuilt engine (with three year, 100,000 mile parts and labor warranty) would make it worth at least $6000.  Enough justification?  Keep reading.

The Question That Made the Difference

The real kicker is a great question I asked myself.  Before I tell you the question, however, I am assuming I could either sell my Caddy as is for $500 or spend $5200 for the new engine…a net total of $5700.  Got it?  Now for the question: “If I did not own this Cadillac, and I had the opportunity to buy it for $5700 with this new engine in it, would I do so?”  No hesitation: YES!  There you go.

I am therefore a happy, happy man.  My wife is happy too, but for a different reason: we are finally through stewing over this problem.  I hope to drive my opulent Caddy for quite a few years; ten more is not out of question.  Will it hold up that long?  If I am still blogging at that time, I will be sure to let you know!

Readers: Do your car decisions start with your heart or your head?  Where do you draw the line between fixing your old car and getting rid of it? 



{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

John January 18, 2012 at 8:21 am

I agree with your decision. You paid cash to repair something that still has tangible and intangible value and is meeting your needs. If the car serves you for the next 10 years, then the $5200 for the engine will amortize at $520/yr, which is much less than the annual depreciation of a slightly used car.


Joe Plemon January 18, 2012 at 9:35 am

John — I like the phrase “tangible and intangible value”… it describes my Caddy quite well. Realistically, I will be spending more money on it over the next several years, but that is OK with me. Having a new engine and no car payments makes those repairs, when they come along, a bit more palatable.


krantcents January 18, 2012 at 7:21 pm

My cars are old (17 & 15 Years old). I want to replace them so I will have newer cars when I retire. I just can not justify it because they are in good shape and doesn’t cost much. I think I am bored with them, but I hate payments more. I will ponder this one for the next year.


Joe Plemon January 19, 2012 at 10:22 am

Krant…Our two cars are practically new compared to yours (13 and 12 years old). But I am with you on hating those payments! In fact, because we simply refuse to borrow money for any reason, having a car payment is not in our vocabulary.


Joe Plemon January 19, 2012 at 10:19 am

Not being sexist here, but I wonder…do you think that “loving a car” is more of a guy thing? Hmmm.


Maurice Muhammad February 21, 2012 at 8:45 pm

Peace and Blessings Joe
It was good for me to read your blog about the Caddy and the engine decision and the outcome I’m about to buy a 1999 Cadillac Deville with 209000 miles the price is 2950.

I have never bought a car with that high mileage before but I love Cadillac I had a 2002 Deville and a 2004 Cadillac Escalade ESV I lost my Escalade because I wasn’t prepared when the economy turned and I have to give up my baby then my 02 got wrecked so now I’m trying another Cadillac I can pay cash for and own it.


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