When Not to Make A Repair To Your Car

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This question comes up a lot.

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

Thankfully the question comes up much more than the situation. There comes a time when a car reaches the end of it’s 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. Usually it is not that cut and dry.

I had a really great customer bring her car in for a major service. The service was about $550. As I took a look at her car, I found a few other things that would need attention soon. None of the times themselves were a big deal. The sum off all the things that were needed, was about $2000. Not including a transmission that was starting to shift funny.

Having a $2000 bill on a car is nothing to sneeze at. I had an honest conversation with the customer. I told her that 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.

I told her that it might be time to trade her Jetta in for another car. She did just that. She traded her 2002 Jetta in for a 2011 Jetta. In a total stroke of luck, her old Jetta needed to have the catalytic converter replaced a few months later. That would have set her back another $1500.

I got pretty lucky on that one. So how did I know it was time? Well, I didn’t really know. It was just a matter of repair costs. Spending about $3000 on a 10 year old car is not that bad. It is not bad if those repairs will keep that car running great.

If you are ever faced with this situation, here are some tips you can use to make that really tough decision.

  • 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 you making repairs to limp the car along, or are you making all the repairs
    If the repairs will totally fix all the issues on the car the repair 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. I will say that there are a few repairs that are deal breakers for me. Things like

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

This is just another example of why everyone needs a mechanic they can trust!


6 replies
  1. Mike Townsend
    Mike Townsend says:

    Excellent advise for the consumers. I especially like how you said think of a $5,000.00 repair paying off in 20 months of $250.00 a month vs upgrading the car. When a car gets over 12 years old in my opinion you really need to sit down and look at the repairs vs buying either a new car or an updated car. Good mechanic shop will never let you down so invest your time and do your homework.

  2. JoAnn
    JoAnn says:

    I’m glad I found your website, I have a 2004 Camry with 79,500 miles. Making a noise, maybe a valve and will cost between $3,000 and $7,000 if it needs a new engine. I’m thinking I shouldn’t put $7,000 in a $5,000 car … I thought this Camry would keep going until it had about 200,000 miles. This is the first problem I’ve had with this car. After reading your information I think I need to start looking for a good used car, maybe a Ford.

    • Charles
      Charles says:

      Hi JoAnn,
      I am really glad you found the site too.

      The situation you are in is not an easy one, that’s for sure.

      I think shopping around is a great idea. Even if you decide to make the repair. You can at least know you made a solid choice. If I can help you out at all, please let me know!

      • JoAnn
        JoAnn says:

        Hello, I found a solution to my problem. A guy I went to school with (we’re senior citizens) told me it sounded like a “sticky lifter” … and to try some Marvel Mystery Oil. I thought “it couldn’t hurt” so I put some in the gas tank, I’ve done that twice now and I don’t hear the noise anymore. I’m getting the oil changed in the next few weeks and will add a quart in the oil. I’m amazed at what the mechanic told me and what he wanted to charge. My old friend from school rebuilds engines and restores old cars as a hobby, I’m sure glad I talked to him.

  3. cheryl kaufman
    cheryl kaufman says:


    I would like your opinion. I have a 2008 Saturn Vue, with 97,000 miles on it. I just made the last payment. It is going to require about $3000.00 worth of labor. The tork converter and celenoid is going out and the steering has a noice and that needs to be fixed. He said the parts are not real expensive but it requires about 10 hours of labor. should I trade it in or get the repairs?


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