Whether you are a dyed-in-the-wool car buff or someone who sees your vehicle as nothing more than a way to get from Point A to Point B, you have to admit your ride definitely comes in handy as a good form of transportation.
Of course, as you probably know all too well, that hunk of metal can also be pretty expensive to maintain. From splurging on common expenses like gas and oil changes to less frequent ones like repairs and new tires, you can spend a pretty penny keeping your car road worthy.
With that in mind, if it seems like something goes wrong with your car every other month, you might wonder if you should continue putting money into it or bid it a fond farewell. To answer these tough questions, let’s look at some financial data and common repair scenarios:
Start with Some Simple Math
The first place to start when deciding whether to keep putting money into your aging vehicle is to get a good estimate of its value. Kelley Blue Book or Edmunds are both great resources to provide you with this estimate. Simply enter the year, make and model of your car into one or more of these online databases to quickly determine its worth. This figure will also help you decide whether repairing or replacing your car is your best option.
Next, Get a Car Repair Estimate
Take your car to a trusted mechanic and explain what seems to be wrong with it. Then, ask for an itemized list of repairs, how much each repair will cost, and which ones need to be fixed now for safety reasons and which ones can wait.
Once you have this itemized list, inquire about customer discounts or upcoming sales your auto shop may be running. You may also want to determine whether any salvaged parts could be used to conduct these repairs. Essentially, do your homework, and don’t be shy about asking for ways to make these costs more managable.
Now, Run the Numbers
As Compare notes, now that you have a list of repairs and their total costs, it’s time to do some financial soul searching. If your mechanic said repairing virtually everything under the sun would run you roughly $1,000 — and Kelley Blue Book estimates your car’s value at $7,000 — you probably want to bite the bullet and get it repaired.
But if your 20-year-old vehicle that may be worth $2,000 needs a new $5,500 engine, you might want to say “no” to the repair and “yes” to a new sedan or SUV. As a general rule of thumb, if the repair costs are greater than the value of the car or a year’s worth of monthly payments, it’s probably time to shop for a new vehicle.
Keep Safety in Mind
Even if you’ve determined selling your old car is the best financial decision, you may not be able to start shopping for a new one for a few months. In these cases, consider paying for the most basic needed repairs so you can continue getting from destination to destination without any hassles or worries.
On the other hand, if you’re ready to buy a new car right away, you can likely skip splurging for any and all repairs. Tires typically meet this criteria. For example, if your mechanic suggests you spring for four new tires, you might be able to avoid this cost altogether knowing you’ll be driving a new vehicle sometime soon.
Not sure whether you need to replace your aging tires? Websites like TireBuyer.com offer advice about how to check your treads using a penny. Simply insert the coin into the tire tread grooves, with Abe Lincoln’s head facing down. If you can see the top of his head, your tires have very little remaining tread and should be replaced sooner rather than later.
Now, you might be able to drive on your current tires for a short period of time until you get a new vehicle. But if you need to invest in new tires right away for safety reasons, TireBuyer.com offers a wide selection of tires at affordable prices. Best of all, your new tires can be delivered directly to your home or a tire shop of your choice.