Tips & Advice


Fixing Up That Ailing Car or Replace?

This May Help You Make a Decision
By Donna Wagner, Director of Operations, Car Care Council, Port Clinton, OH

The new models are out, and many of us look longingly at the variety of sleek, new vehicles in dealers’ showrooms. Meanwhile, “Old Faithful” sits at home in the driveway. She’s in need of new tires, a brake job and some fresh paint, but she’s paid for. And so the dilemma begins.

When an aging car needs repairs, too often the solution lies in the quickest route to the car dealer. But what if the down payment (plus a little extra) were spent on your old car instead, making it serviceable for another year or two? Statistics show that more owners are fixing up and driving their old cars. In fact, the average car age (9 years) is the highest it’s been since the early 1950’s.


To renew or replace?

It’s a big decision with several pros and cons to consider. Here are some points in favor of renewing:

  • No big car payments and, therefore, an opportunity to save for a future new car purchase;
  • Less sales tax to pay;
  • Saving on insurance premiums;
  • A new car loses an average of 25% of its value when it leaves the lot; 40% of its value in four years;
  • You know your old car’s problems and quirks;
  • Your old car will be in better shape for future trade.

Of course in every financial endeavor there is a point of diminishing return. Trading cars is no different. If the cost of the combined repairs far exceeds the value of your old car, chances are you should trade up. Consider the following points that favor replacing.

  • Has your life-style (family size, business, recreational interests) changed so that “Old Faithful”, even fully restored would no longer fit your needs?
  • If you have neglected maintenance and repairs too long your car may need major mechanical work. For example, overhauling both the engine and transmission on a typical car may cost $2,000. If this price exceeds the value of your car, its probably time for a new or newer vehicle.
  • Even if the mechanical systems can be restored for a reasonable price, will body/or interior fix-up work be costly?
  • How important are state-of-the-art safety and fuel economy features of a newer vehicle? How vital is the “image” created by the vehicle parked in your driveway?

In the end, you are the only one who can put pencil to paper and make the decision.