A Vehicle Replacement Analysis

May 17, 2010

What are the markers that indicate that you need to replace your car? I’m not talking about just the miles on the odometer, but rather those things that make the decision easy to make. Something that you can put a pencil to and come up with an answer that’s there in black and white.

Consider trade in value versus the cost of keeping your vehicle fit. First establish what your car is worth by going to a web site that evaluates your car’s value and compare it to the money you’re about to spend on replacing that pair of struts or that steering rack that make the vehicle handle like a sail boat in the midst of a perfect storm. If the cost of repairs is over the value of the car, it’s a no brainer. But also think about whether you are willing to spend, say, thirty percent of your car’s value to repair or renew just one facet of its wellness.

Be a devil’s advocate and consider worse case possibilities about what could possibly go wrong. Factor in the age of your car and what systems you have not renewed and consider them suspect. For example, if you have nursed a faulty air conditioning system for a number of seasons and in your area of the country it’s not a luxury to have cool air, think about what you will be faced with if the system becomes completely inoperable.

Space in a car is like land there is a finite amount and it’s never going to increase. So if your family is growing and needs space for two adults and two maybe three car seats, a MX-5 Miata is not a viable choice. If your responsibilities at work have changed and now your car has to provide enough room for sales materials or a comfortable space for clients, you might have to trade up from that 1993 Chevrolet Cavalier that occupies a special place your pantheon of owned cars.

If gasoline is not the only fluid your car is consuming add up what you’re spending on motor oil, power steering fluid, coolant and the like. Now envision what it would cost to repair the root problems causing those leaks and consider this as an expense that’s imminent. Now use that information in your vehicle replacement analysis.

If state inspection is looming over your vehicle and it feels as inescapable as death and taxes, consider what it will take to get the tags renewed. A tail light bulb is one thing but a new catalytic converter costing four figures is quite another. Prepare for this so you are not sucked into a costly repair just to pass inspection and then faced with other repair needs shortly thereafter. Think slippery slope.

A vehicle replacement analysis is not something you are going to choose to do over taking a walk in the park, but when changing your transportation piece works its way up into your consciousness, it might be a way to make the path clear.

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