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Should I repair or replace my old car?
Grown weary of breakdowns? Here's when to switch to something new.
An expensive car repair can feel like a punch in the gut and leave you wondering whether it’s even worth it. But before you start shopping for a new set of wheels, weigh the benefits and drawbacks to decide what makes the most sense for your finances.
First, consider the big picture
When you’re debating between repairing your current car or opting for something new, consider how long you’ve had the car and its current value. A $1,000 repair on a relatively new car is much different than a $6,000 repair on a car that has a history of breaking down.
So what’s the right answer? Look at the current value of your car along with the cost to repair it. If repairs cost more than half the value of your current car or a year of payments on a new car, it may be time to upgrade to a more reliable model. For instance, spending $3,000 to replace a transmission may not be worth it if you can score a decently priced used car for $200 a month — or $2,400 a year.
You should also consider potential savings — and costs — that come with buying a new or new-to-you car. Factors like better fuel efficiency and lower mileage can save you money in the short and long term. But increased premiums that often come with insuring a new car could make it more expensive than just fixing your current vehicle.
However, there’s always an exception to the rule. If frequent breakdowns have you trapped in a stressful cycle, it could be worth investing in a more reliable car — even if it’s more expensive.
If you decide to repair your car …
You’ll need to have a trusted independent mechanic check out your car. If possible, try to avoid going to a mechanic associated with a specific manufacturer. This way, you know there’s no sales team attached that may want to pressure you into getting a new car.
If you think a mechanic is trying to pull one over on you, consider getting a second opinion from another shop to ensure you’re getting the best deal on your repairs.
Benefits of repairing your car
- Already know your car’s accident and repair history
- Skip car shopping and loan applications
- Avoid bad deals from quickly selling or trading in your car
- Insurance premiums won’t change
If you decide to sell your car …
You’ll need to figure out if you want to repair your car before selling it. While it’ll cost more up front, you’ll get more money than if you simply sold it as-is. If you decide against repairing it, you’ll need to factor in the cost of repairs to the purchase price to ensure you’re breaking as close to even as possible. And if it’s a junker beyond repair, you can at least sell it for scrap to get something.
From there, you’ll need to decide if you want to buy new or used. Buying new may be the most appealing choice, but a newer used model can be just as reliable with a much lower sticker price.
Benefits of replacing your car
- More advanced safety features and technology
- Save time by avoiding frequent trips to the mechanic
- New and recently used cars typically still have warranties
- Newer cars are typically more reliable
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When deciding whether to repair your current car or upgrade to a more reliable model, it depends on how big of a bill you’re facing at the mechanic and your car’s current value. Though you may also want to factor in the headache you’ve experienced from multiple breakdowns in a short period.
If you decide to trade up, compare your car loan options before you hit the dealership to find the best deal available to you.
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