For many consumers, owning a car is not a luxury but a necessity. That doesn’t mean they can’t enjoy their car, even pamper it like a member of the family. But time and road miles tend to wreak all sorts of damage and wear on even the best-kept vehicle.
Sooner or later, the decision must be made whether to repair or replace your car. Here are 10 ways to help make the choice a little easier.
When repairs or maintenance cost more than the car is worth. You’ll know it’s time to get rid of the car and get a new one when the dollars start adding up to the point where it’s going to cost you more I repairs or continual maintenance than the old car is actually worth. The key point to keep in mind here is that older cars tend to require bigger and more costly repairs.
Look at potential future repairs. Plunking down $1,500 or so for a repair job now may help you eke out a few more miles from your old car, but what’s likely to come next? This is the automotive equivalent of a home money pit. At this point, have a trusted mechanic take a look at the car to spot looming problems and give you advice on how serious it is. The more the repair estimates or forecasts climb, the closer you may be to deciding on a new car.
What about safety? Not only do older cars, even the best-maintained of them, tend to wear out, consider the potential risks of having a breakdown while driving. New cars today come equipped with a lot of standard safety equipment, things like advanced airbags, side airbags, better handling and brakes, electronic stability control (now mandated by the federal government), and even rearview cameras. Optional active safety technology includes blind spot monitoring and lane departure warning systems, forward collision alert, drowsiness alert, and automatic parking. Since your old car likely doesn’t have these safety features, when it starts to show its age, maybe it’s time to look at a new car as a replacement.
When your car eats gas and mileage suffers, the problem may not be fixable. Let’s face it. The older your car is, the less fuel-efficient it’s going to be. That’s because it doesn’t have the engineering advances of newer engines, is likely nearing the end of its useful life, and will continue to go downhill or require increasingly more expensive repairs – like a new engine, transmission, or both.
Know what your car is worth. Before making the decision to go ahead and pay for repairs on your old car, you should take the time to find out what it’s worth. Use tools available from sites like Kelley Blue Book and Edmunds to determine trade-in or retail value of cars similar to yours. A good rule of thumb is to employ the so-called “50-percent rule.” When repairs cost 50 percent of what your car is worth, it’s time to replace.
Know what your next car will cost. You probably have some idea of the next car you want to buy, since you’ve likely been eyeballing magazine articles and kept a keen eye on models that catch your attention. Not only should you have a fairly good idea what that new car you want will cost, you’ll also need to figure out how you’re going to pay for it. Use the proceeds from the sale or trade-in of your old car to serve as a down payment to lower the amount you’ll need to finance. Weigh and balance whether that monthly payment for the next 36 to 60 months is more or less than the anticipated annual outlay in repairs for your current car. Another rule of thumb here is to consider replacing your car if yearly repair bills are more than 10 percent of the price of the new car you’re looking at.
Factor in insurance costs. Do your homework and calculate the difference in annual insurance costs for your old car compared to a brand-new one. If your old car isn’t worth that much, you could drop comprehensive and collision, saving several hundred dollars. But your old car likely won’t qualify for as many safety-related discounts available for new cars. Also keep in mind that performance, sporty and luxury cars cost more to insure than family sedans. In the end, insurance costs may not move you one way or another to repairing or replacing your old car, but they are something to take into consideration in the decision.
Pay attention to rebates and incentives. Nothing is more enticing than substantial money on the hood or low or zero-percent financing. You might even decide that leasing is a more attractive proposition this time around. When the incentives offered by automakers make the financial case for you, this is really a no-brainer for dumping a repair-prone older car and getting into something new. On the other hand, if your ride isn’t that old and you’ve kept it up religiously, maybe foregoing the temptation to buy new is the right choice.
Lifestyle changes may dictate it’s time for a change. Has your family size increased or decreased? Do you have longer or shorter commutes to work or school? Are there different recreational pursuits you’re now engaged in that require more space or capability, maybe the need to haul items and gear or tow a boat or trailer? Maybe getting into a new vehicle that’s more suited to your driving habits and needs is in order.
When you’ve just had enough of your old car. There’s also a lot to be said for getting out of your old car and into a new one just because you’re past being okay with what you have. You may have started a new job and want something more appropriate for business or you’ve yearned for a new car for the past few years and kept nursing the old one along as long as you could. In this case, if the financial picture makes sense and you can snag a good deal, go for the new car.