When should I replace an old car? | finder.com
When should you replace an old car?

When should you replace an old car?

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Keeping a car past its prime can be expensive and dangerous.

Replacing your old car could mean a new monthly bill and higher insurance premiums, but picking the right car can cut those costs down.

Factors to consider when upgrading your car

At some point, the cost of owning and maintaining an older car might outweigh its value. It’s nice to pay off your car and no longer have car payments, but having to rely on a car that’s increasingly unreliable can be stressful and expensive.

Trading out your old beater for a new or new-to-you car might sound pricey, but it’s not always more expensive after the initial upfront cost. Consider some of these cost factors before making the decision to upgrade your ride or not.

Test drive a new car in your area Test drive a used car in your area

Newer cars have more safety equipment and optional features

Statistically, newer vehicles are safer. They benefit from modern advancements in body design, autonomous safety technology and driving aids. Plus, an aging car’s crash safety could be weakened by rust. If your car is rusty, you could have a 20% higher risk of dying in a crash.

Cars for sale today carry plenty of equipment that was optional or unavailable in the past. It’s not uncommon to get phone connectivity, steering wheel controls, cruise control and electric windows as standard. All automakers are now required to include backup cameras by default.

In addition to keeping you safer in an accident, these safety features and anti-theft devices often get you discounts on your car insurance.

Repair costs can get expensive with older cars

New cars benefit from a manufacturer’s warranty, and they’ll usually have fewer recalls than older cars.

But as a car ages, it will begin to degrade. Things will start going wrong, rust will set in and you’ll find yourself becoming familiar with the mechanics at the local garage.

Gas mileage is better on newer cars

Gas is the second largest expense that car owners have to shell out for. Thanks to lower-capacity engines, start-stop systems and eco-modes working in tandem, a new car can dramatically slash your fuel bills.

Older cars that aren’t maintained properly can also suffer from decreasing gas mileage over time.

If you’re considering a newer car and want to maximize your fuel use, hybrids and electrics are cheaper than ever, even for many slightly used models.

Outstanding finance can get complicated

If you haven’t paid off your current car, things can get a little tricky. You need to make sure that selling your old car or trading it in will cover the remainder of your loan. Otherwise you’ll be on the hook to pay off the remainder to your lender.

Don’t forget to factor in any early settlement charges or fees.

Insurance costs could go up for a car upgrade

New cars with the same level of insurance can be cheaper to insure than older models. You’ll benefit from safety discounts and anti-theft discounts, which could save 5% to 33%

However, getting a new car usually means you’ll be upping your coverage. A lender for a loan or lease may require you to have comprehensive insurance, which could increase your annual premium if you previously had liability only.

Insurance rates depend a lot on the make and model of the car you’re switching to. If you’re upgrading from a $5,000 used minivan to a $50,000 luxury SUV, your insurance rates will probably go up. But if you’re upgrading from a used sedan to an almost new sedan, your rates might not go up that much.

Compare new car loans

Updated March 26th, 2019
Name Product Filter Values Minimum Credit Score Loan Term Requirements
300
Varies by lender
Must be a US citizen with a current US address and employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income.
Apply with a simple online application to get paired with a local auto lender. No credit and bad credit accepted.
300
Varies by lender
Must be employed full-time or have guaranteed fixed income of at least $1,500/month and be a current resident of the US or Canada.
Get connected with an auto lender near you, even if you have bad credit.
Good to excellent credit
Good or excellent credit, enough income or assets to afford a new loan, US citizen or permanent resident, 18+ years old
Quick car loans from $5,000 to $100,000 with competitive rates for borrowers with strong credit.
Fair or better credit
From 2 years
Car must be less than 10 years old with fewer than 120,000 miles. Current loan must have a balance between $5,000 and $55,000 and at least 24 months left in its term.
Lower your monthly car payments and save on interest through a fast and easy online application process.
510
Varies
Income of $2,000+/month, vehicle has less than 150,000 miles and is no older than 8 years, loan balance is between $10,000 and $100,000, debt-to-income ratio is less than 50%
Connect with a network of over 150 lenders to refinance your car loan.
Good to excellent credit
Varies by lender
Must be a US citizen and 18+ years old. Must have good to excellent credit.
Compare multiple financing options for auto refinance, new car purchase, used car purchase and lease buy out.

Compare up to 4 providers

Compare new car insurance quotes

Name Product Roadside assistance New car protection Available states
Optional
Yes, cars under 3 years old & 15,000 miles
All 50 states
Save up to 31% with safe driver discounts and bundling all your rides in one convenient policy.
Included free
Yes, cars under 2 years old
All 50 states
Enjoy having your own dedicated agent to help you get the best discounts and coverage.
Optional
Yes, cars under 1 year old & 15,000 miles
AZ, CA, IL, NJ, OR, PA, VA, WA
Drive less than 30 miles a day? Save on the coverage you need with pay-per-mile insurance from Metromile. Get a low monthly rate then pay just a few cents per mile. Available in AZ, CA, IL, NJ, OR, PA, VA and WA.
Optional
Yes, cars under 1 year old & 15,000 miles
All 50 states
Car insurance through Liberty Mutual will give coverage options for almost any situation.
Included free
No
AZ, AR, DE, IL, IN, IA, KY, LA, MD, MI, MS, MT, NM, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, TX, UT
Root offers simple, affordable insurance that?s ideal for good drivers. Try the Root app for 2 weeks and see how much you could save. Available in 20 states.
Included free
Yes, cars under 1 year old & 15,000 miles
All states except AK, DE, HI, MT, NH, VT, WY
Esurance offers a modern online and mobile experience that helps you take your insurance on the go. Available in 42 states.
Included free
Yes, cars under 2 years old
All 50 states
Backed by nearly 100 years in the business, Farmers Insurance aims to offer options and support to help you find the coverage you need.
Optional
No
All states except Hawaii, Massachusetts, Michigan and New Jersey
The General offers affordable coverage for nearly any driver who needs car insurance.
Optional
Not specified
IL, IN, MD, TN, TX, VA
Elephant Insurance offers low-cost auto insurance with big discounts. Breaking from the national herd could save up to 40% off your current car insurance.
Included free
No
AZ, GA, IL, IN, KS, KY, LA, MS, MO, OH, OK, PA, SC, TN, TX, VA
Known for providing insurance to high-risk customers who may have trouble finding coverage elsewhere, SafeAuto offers a lot of different discounts, from those for homeowners to good drivers.
Optional
No
AL, AR, FL, GA, LA, MS, MO, NC, SC, TN, TX, VA
Discounts, flexible payments and a life coach that guides you to your best rates and coverage with Direct car insurance.
Optional
No
CO, DE, ID, IA, MD, MS, NE, NV, OH, TN, WA
Connects high-risk drivers to providers in its network offering affordable policies
Optional
No
All states except AK, LA, GA, HI, MA, MI, MT, NH, NJ, NY, ND, OK, RI
Dairyland offers auto insurance with flexible payment and coverage options for high-risk drivers in 37 states.

Compare up to 4 providers

How to get cheap insurance for a new car

Save on new car insurance by being smart with extra features and discounts.

  • Opt for lower specifications. A base or lower end model will often cost less initially and have a smaller engine, which will help you save on upfront costs and insurance bills.
  • Add safety and security features. Cars with anti-theft devices and extra safety features, such as seat belts, blind spot sensors, side airbags and backup cameras, are often cheaper to insure.
  • Choose extras wisely. Insurance add-ons can quickly raise the amount you have to shell out, especially if you don’t need them. You might not need towing coverage on a new car, but gap coverage is probably a good idea if you take out a loan.
  • Look for discounts. Most insurers offer stacking insurance discounts for being a safe driver, homeowner, good student, staying claim-free and more.
  • Shop around. Finally, shop around for your insurance. You could save a substantial chunk of cash!

When is the right time to upgrade my older car?

If you find that your car has a track record of reliability and is cheap to run, then it may not be worth upgrading from a financial point of view.

But if you’re starting to see more maintenance costs on your older car, calculate how much you spend per month fixing your car. You might be better off using that money on a new car payment and using your car as a down payment for a new car. If you don’t relish the thought of buying new, a slightly used but more reliable car could be the way to go.

You can also keep track of your car’s value over time. If your car faces a big problem that will cost more to fix than it’s worth, you’ll have to decide if you want to put in the cash to repair a dying car and guess how much more maintenance it will need in the future.

Keep in mind that your car’s value is also tied to its working condition. You might be hoping to drive your car into the ground, but trading in your car before it dies could give you some money towards a new or new-to-you car. It could be hard to find a buyer for a car that won’t run or needs major repairs.

Test drive a new car in your area Test drive a used car in your area

Bottom line

If your car’s still got its best years ahead, don’t take on a loan you can’t afford just to upgrade. On the other hand, if your car breaks down every other week and practically has a custody arrangement with the local mechanic, keep yourself safe and save money by upgrading to a newer vehicle.

Frequently asked questions about car upgrading

Picture: Shutterstock

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