One of the biggest woes of owning a car is trying to decide when to throw in the towel. Maybe your first ever vehicle is starting to show it’s age. Dare I say, it may even be bordering on the edge of clunkerness.
Or maybe you’re family’s minivan just can’t handle another back seat spill or another round of post-hockey game celebration.
It can be hard to say goodbye to a vehicle that has taken you the distance. You have memories of jamming out to your favorite tunes and road tripping to your favorite destinations. And each of your car’s beloved dents and scratches holds a story.
Beyond the sentimental side of things, it’s nice to drive around for a few years without having to worry about a car payment. You can probably still remember the joyous day when you mailed that last check.
The savings that come with owning a car that’s paid off are fantastic…well at least until the auto repair bills start racking up. There’s always that gray area when you’re old car starts to require attention beyond just regular maintenance.
And deciding when enough is enough can be a tricky task. If you’re unsure about whether it’s time to upgrade, here are a few things that might help you figure it out.
Those Big Fixes
All cars, no matter how well maintained they are, eventually show signs of wear and tear. With modern vehicles, it may not start to happen until you’ve logged some pretty high mileage.
Today’s cars are more dependable and well-built than ever before. Models with good reliability ratings can last for years without ever presenting a significant problem.
Because vehicles now have such long lives, it’s almost always more cost-effective to pay for a repair than it is to buy a new vehicle.
However, there is definitely a point when that’s no longer the case. General wear and tear issues usually result in minor bills for service, but it’s the larger repairs that present a dilemma.
Big ticket items like timing belt, engine, or transmission replacement can be unwise to pay for. You have to compare the cost of the fix to the value of the vehicle.
If the car itself isn’t worth a whole lot at this point, sinking money for substantial repairs into it won’t pay off in the end. A good guideline is to avoid fixes that would cost more than half of your car’s value.
However, you should always check to make sure there aren’t any recalls for your specific model. Sometimes people find out that the car problem they’re having can actually be taken care of by the manufacturer for free. Check online to see if that’s the case before you make any decisions.
You should also take into consideration how long your vehicle’s life will be extended by a repair. You know your car best, and spending big bucks to fix something when there are other major pitfalls on the horizon is something to steer clear of.
Another situation you want to avoid is getting into a steady routine of shelling out dough for seemingly small repairs. If you’re making multiple trips a month to the shop, you’re probably wasting time, energy, and money that could go to better uses.
Track how much you’re spending to keep your vehicle on the road, and do the math. If you’ve driven your car for years and gotten good use out of it, then it may be time to make the call and start shopping for your next ride.
The Worry Trap
If you’re current vehicle is causing you to lose sleep at night, it’s probably time. It may seem like it makes sense to hold out until you get a promotion or until after your upcoming wedding. But the stress of having an unreliable vehicle can really take its toll.
Maybe your car has been having trouble starting, making you late for work here and there. Or worse, maybe it’s even left your stranded in the breakdown lane waiting for roadside assistance.
If your vehicle has become that unreliable, it’s probably not worth the stress it’s causing you. And it may be reaching the point where it’s unsafe to drive. Unless you’ve identified a problem that can be remedied for low bucks, it’s likely that it’s time to trade up.
The Case for Maturity
Sometimes the case for a vehicle upgrade is based on personal preference. Maybe you’ve had your car forever, and people at your office are starting to shoot funny looks your way in the parking lot.
As life changes, the kind of car you need can change with it. Rolling up to your new job in a vehicle that’s making an awful screeching sound can be pretty embarrassing.
Plus other factors come into play. The sports car you’ve treasured since college probably isn’t the most convenient set of wheels for your new family. Or on the other end of things, maybe your large SUV now seems a little overkill since the kids moved out.
If your vehicle no longer suits your lifestyle, and it’s making you crazy, finding a good deal on a new model may be your best bet.
In the Name of Technology
Another good reason to upgrade is to get your hands on more current convenience and safety technology. If you have a long commute or you travel for work, being able to stay connected wherever you are is probably a priority.
Several manufacturers, like Chevrolet, offer in-car WiFi so you have access to the Internet while you’re on the move. Pluses like wireless charging pads, multiple outlets, and USB and auxiliary ports are also becoming more and more necessary in the digital age.
The navigation systems that are now available offer 3D mapping and can be controlled by voice command, making travel significantly easier.
And vehicle safety technology has also come a long way. The newest models on the market are equipped with safeguards like Lane Departure Warning, Blind Spot Monitoring, Adaptive Cruise Control, Backup Cameras, and more.
Buying a new vehicle can also mean getting a lot more protection for you and your family when you’re on the road.
If you’re still playing cassette tapes for entertainment or if you’re not really sure if your car even has anti-lock brakes, it can be a real incentive to join the modern world.
One of the most critical things to think about when you’re toying with the option of purchasing a new vehicle is your budget. You should take a serious look at your finances before making a decision.
It may be that you were holding out because you were just starting a new career. But now, if you’ve secured a job with solid pay, investing in another car might not seem so insurmountable.
On the other hand, if things are pretty tight, it might be best to wait a bit and save up for a down payment. If you have some money put away that can go toward your next set of wheels, you’ll be able to get a far better deal when you buy.
Think carefully about what you can afford right now, and go from there. Just don’t wait so long that you’ve scrapped all your savings on cobbling together your old ride.