Choosing Between Repair or New Car

“How do I know when to get my car fixed, or just get another car?”

You would be surprised how often this question comes up.  There comes a time when a car reaches the end of its reliable life. That means the car costs more to keep on the road than it is worth or it will cost about the same as a new/newer car.

So how do you know when it is time?  Well, if your car is 15 years old and needs $7000 worth of work, I would say that would be a no brainer.  However, usually it is not that cut and dry.

We had a really great customer bring her car in for a major service. The service was about $550.  As we took a look at her car, a few other things were discovered that would need attention soon.  None of the items themselves were a big deal, but the sum of everything needed was about $2000.  And that’s not including a transmission that was starting to shift funny.

Having a $2000 bill on a car is nothing to sneeze at.  So, we had an honest conversation with the customer and told her that in our opinion it was not a good idea to make the repair.  We also decided that doing the tune up was not a great idea at that time.  We told her that it might be time to trade in her car for another.  She did just that and traded her 1998 Toyota Camry in for a 2011 model.  In a total stroke of luck, her old Camry needed to have the catalytic converter replaced a few months later. That would have set her back another $1000+.

How did we know it was time for her to trade up?  Well, we didn’t. It was just a matter of repair costs vs value of the car.  Spending about $3000 on a 10-year old car is not that bad if those repairs will keep that car running great.  We also know that some vehicles have some sentimental value and in those cases we understand that money is no object.

So unless you have some sentimental attachment to your vehicle, here are some tips you can use to make that really tough decision if you are ever faced with this situation.

What is the overall shape of your car?
If your car is a big pile of junk, it may be time to cut your losses.  If your car is in good shape but needs some repairs, making the repair can be a good idea.

How many repairs have you made in the last year?
If you have done a bunch of repairs in the past year, keeping the car and making another repair can be a good choice.  If you spent $3000 in the last year or so, another $100 repair is a smart move.

Are the repairs smart decisions?
If the repairs will totally fix all the issues on the car, then it might be a good choice.  If you need to spend $2000 to just limp the car for another month, that would be a bad move.

How many months of car payments will the repair cost equal?
A $5000 repair is 20 months of $250 a month.  Just something to consider.

As you can see there is not a clear-cut answer most of the time.  For some people, there are a few repairs that are immediate deal breakers. Things like…

  • Replacing engines
  • Replacing/ rebuilding transmissions
  • Major electrical issues. Most electric modules are $600+

One of the things we do at Car Care Clinic is to help you get the most miles out of your car and to keep you safe. If your vehicle gives us any signs that it has become unsafe or that a repair may cost more to fix than the car is worth, we’ll let you know right away.

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