When it’s time to look for a new car versus fixing it up

New Car Time? | Auto Oil Changers

When it’s time to look for a new car versus fixing it up


Maybe your car broke down for the second time this month and you don’t feel like facing the repair bill again. Maybe you’re dealing with frequent minor repairs every few months. Or maybe you’re not sure expensive maintenance is worth it this time around.

Whatever state your car is currently in, most of us reach a point in vehicle ownership when we have to decide whether to fix our current vehicle or give up on it and search for a new car. It can be a difficult decision to make, and there’s rarely a clear right or wrong answer, but here’s some advice to get you started.

Add up maintenance and repair costs

Often the most important component this decision comes down to is simply doing the math. Keep track of how much you are spending on maintenance and repairs on your existing vehicle. Then compare that to how much you would be spending on new car payments or payments on a used vehicle. If you already own your vehicle fully and only have to pay for maintenance of a few hundred dollars every few months, it is likely costing you less than payments on a new car would. However, if you’re still making payments on your car in addition to extensive maintenance and repairs, it may be worth getting a new car. You’ll lose any money you’ve already put into your car, but you’ll also see your regular expenses go down with the lessened maintenance burden. Looking at costs alone, however, it’s almost always less expensive to repair your existing vehicle than to buy a new one.

Factor in how old and well-worn your vehicle is

When you drive a vehicle for a long time, it will start to wear down, no matter how well you take care of it. Belts, brakes and hoses will all likely need to be replaced at one time or another. When you’re faced with an expensive repair, you should consider how old your vehicle is and whether you would like to purchase a new vehicle sometime soon anyway. Maybe you’re interested in having additional features from a new vehicle, maybe you’re fed up with the rattling in your old vehicle, or maybe you’re searching for a smaller or larger vehicle due to changes in your lifestyle or family size. Whatever your reasons, if you think you would want to replace your old vehicle with a new one in the next year or two anyway, it may be worth doing now instead of shelling out thousands for an expensive repair. If your vehicle is newer, however, the repair will still cost far less than buying a new vehicle.

Don’t pay for a repair that costs more than your vehicle’s worth

While it may make sense to keep fixing your vehicle with minor repairs and routine maintenance, it’s not worth going ahead with a massive repair that will cost more than your vehicle is worth or more than one year’s worth of monthly payments. At that level of payment, you should simply go ahead and sell your vehicle for whatever you can get and apply that to a new or used car. This also applies if you have to pay for expensive repairs every few months. While paying a few hundred dollars for maintenance or smaller fixes every few months will still be less than new car payments, that equation starts to change when you start doling out upwards of a thousand dollars for repairs every few months. At that point, it may make sense to go with a new car.

Consider how much time the repair will add to your vehicle’s life

There’s no way to predict this with full certainty, but you can get a pretty good idea of how long the repair will extend the life of your car from some simple research and talking with your mechanic. If an expensive repair will extend the life of your vehicle over a long enough period, that expense will still end up being cheaper than monthly new car payments. But if another component is likely to fail within another month, costing you even more money, it may not be worth it.

Weight how important peace of mind is to you

Beyond doing all of the math involved, you should also consider how important peace of mind and reliability is to you. If your vehicle is regularly breaking down or needing minor repairs here and there, you may simply want a vehicle that you can count on to get you from point A to point B. If you value this highly, it may be worth the extra cost to you of taking on monthly new car payments.

Ultimately, the decision of when to look for a new car versus fixing up your old one comes down to working out the math and factoring in your personal preferences. But whatever you do, try to make the decision proactively before your old vehicle completely dies so you actually have a choice in the matter.