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Repairing Your Car: Is It Time To Move On?

Old Car

There comes a point when you’ve been repairing your car often and you need to make an important decision: are you “all in” and willing to commit to taking care of an expensive problem, or does it make more sense for you to move on from your current ride and spend some green on something new? It’s not an easy choice to make, especially when you factor in how expensive it can be to purchase a new vehicle, but almost everyone will face this problem at some point in their driving careers. Here are a few things to consider when weighing whether to keep repairing your vehicle, or if it is time to move on.

Examine The Real Costs

It definitely costs money to maintain a car over time, and some vehicles are pricier to keep in good shape than others. However, parting with cash for a brand new ride instead of repairing your car also puts a serious dent in your bank account.

It’s easy to be seduced by the idea of a new car warranty, which will easily take care of any problems that might crop up down the road. But in reality, you’ll need to do a careful analysis of the total cost of ownership associated with the purchase. Start by going over the new car payment. Does it match the average of what you’ve been spending each year to keep your current vehicle on the road? Sure, a $4,000 engine failure might seem expensive at the time, but over the course of 12 months it’s much less than the $700-a-month a new car might run you.

Then there’s the down payment and insurance costs to consider. You’re going to need to drop some cash upfront when you buy or lease; so is this amount more than the cost of repairing your car for another year? From an insurance perspective, new cars often increase the price when compared to older models when signing up for a policy, which is another financial consideration to factor into the equation. You may have only had liability coverage on your old vehicle, but most lenders will required full coverage as part of the loan agreement. Finally you may get stung by ad valorem tax. If you live in a state that bases your yearly vehicle registration cost on its market value, you may go from paying tens of dollars a year to hundreds just for a tag. It all adds up.

When It’s Time To Move On
Old, unsafe car

Even after you’ve crunched the numbers, there are still two situations in which it usually makes sense to stop repairing your car and look for something new.

The first major consideration is safety. If your current automobile is constantly breaking down in a way that puts you or your passengers in danger, then it’s hard to justify keeping it around. You don’t want to be stuck on the side of the road late at night after the engine lets go for the last time. There may also be issues that affect the structural safety of a vehicle. While a vehicle may still run if the floors are rusted out or the chassis integrity is compromised with corrosion, the passenger compartment may not hold up in an accident. These are issues that should sound familiar to those who live in the salt belt. For those vehicles affected by the Takata air bag recall it has been difficult sourcing replacement airbags with some vehicles owners waiting years. If you are still waiting on a replacement air big with no estimated repair date in sight, it may be time to be done with the vehicle.

The second case has to do with the total value of your car. Once repair costs start to exceed the total amount you could sell the car for — or would receive from an insurance company if it was totaled — it may be time to reconsider investing in further repairs. Repair costs can skyrocket quickly on a modern vehicle thanks to the complicated technology and precise construction. It is easy for what seems to be a simple repair to rocket upwards once the specialty diagnostic tools come out. You may be able to mitigate some rising repair costs by choosing to DIY at home. But that also involves investing in tools and your personal time. At some point though even free labor may not be worth the cost of the parts necessary to get back on the road. Speaking of parts there may also be the issue of parts availability. If you own an orphaned brand like Suzuki or Saturn it can be increasingly difficult to source repair parts. Brand new parts may be available now but will command a high price. At some point you may have to depend on scrounging good used parts to get by, which will also command a high price.

It’s not always easy to sell a vehicle you’ve grown attached to after so many years together. By taking a long, hard look at the situation and being objective about the actual costs involved with keeping your current ride versus a new monthly car payment, you will gain a solid perspective on whether it’s time to trade-in or not.

Check out all the maintenance parts available on NAPAOnline or trust one of our 17,000 NAPA AutoCare locations for routine maintenance and repairs. For more information on repairing your vehicle, chat with a knowledgeable expert at your local NAPA Auto Parts store.

Photo courtesy of Freeimages.

Benjamin Hunting View All

Having been bitten by the car bug at a young age, I spent my formative years surrounded by Studebakers at car shows across Quebec and the northeastern United States. Over ten years of racing, restoring, and obsessing over automobiles lead me to balance science writing and automotive journalism full time.  I currently contribute as an editor to several online and print automotive publications, and I also write and consult for the pharmaceutical and medical device industry.

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