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!