Repair or replace your car? 2 tips to decide
In trying to decide whether to repair or replace your car, consider safety and affordability. (Photo courtesy of Bill Newell)
There's no hard or fast rule about when to repair or replace your car, so Angie's List asked highly rated mechanics for their advice.
Studies suggest the average owner keeps a vehicle about 9 years, but an informal survey of more than a dozen auto service specialists say many of their customers are keeping their vehicles for even longer. That’s a lot of oil changes, tune ups, tire changes, air conditioning service and other general repair work.
There are two factors to consider when making a decision:
- Affordability: When two consecutive years of repairs exceed the annual cost of a replacement vehicle – including payment, increased insurance cost, maintenance and service – it’s time to go car shopping.
- Safety: Your car’s chassis structure, sometimes called the frame, is designed to help absorb impact during an accident and damage to it could compromise safety for everyone in the car. That chassis can rust from exposure to water, salt, air and smog. When rust to the vehicle body or chassis becomes extreme or unsafe structurally, it is time to replace the vehicle. Also, if you have an older car without some key safety features like airbags, you might want to consider an upgrade. Stop and think about how you feel about your car, too. Do you still trust it to be safe for you and your family? Or, do you feel like there’s always something wrong with it?
Keeping your car in top running condition is vital and will save you money in the long run:
- Oil Changes: Oil is the engine’s blood, and is critical to a car’s long life. Your vehicle’s oil should be changed depending on your driving habits, typically every 3,000-7,000 miles or around 3-6 months. You should check your oil about every 1,000 miles.
- Tire Maintenance: Properly maintained tires improve the steering, stopping and traction of your vehicle. Tire pressure should be set to the manufacturer’s specification. Tires that are over or under inflated wears tires out faster, affect fuel consumption, and are a safety hazard. Rotate and balance your tires every 6,000-8,000 miles and get an alignment check every year to make sure there are not suspension problems.
- Fluids: Transmission fluid, break fluid, and coolant can break down over time and lose their effectiveness. All fluids should be checked and topped off every oil change. Have your transmission fluid flushed out every 50,000 miles, depending on your driving habits.
- Brake Check: Brake inspection should be part of your vehicle’s ongoing maintenance to ensure safety and reliability. You should have your brakes inspected at least once a year; more often if you experience grinding or shaking when you break. Regardless of care, brakes will likely need to be replaced every 20,000-30,000 miles.
- Scheduled Maintenance: Failure to follow the manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule could lead to breakdowns, poor fuel economy, and a higher cost of ownership in the long run. Having a certified professional inspect your car according to these schedules is an opportunity to catch problems before they get you stuck or escalate into larger repairs. Build a relationship with a shop or mechanic. Bouncing from shop to shop may save a few dollars on particular jobs, but in the end the only one who will have any responsibility for the condition of the car will be you. A good mechanic, who is familiar with your needs, your expectations, and your car, will help you get the most from your car.