Should I Junk My Car or Fix It? 14 Things to Consider

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You’re at a crossroads. Maybe your old car needs another pricey repair. Or you know you’re due for one soon…you can just feel it. Should you put any more money into the vehicle? How much is too much? A crystal ball would be nice. Then you’d know exactly how long it’d be until you’re hit again.

But since you can’t gaze into the future, you’ve got to use logic to answer the question: should I junk my car or fix it? Once you’ve made up your mind, Junk Car Medics can diagnose your junk car woes with cash. To help with the decision, here are some points to consider:

1. Maintenance Costs vs Monthly Car Payment: How much did you pay during the last year keep your current car running? This includes ordinary maintenance, such as oil changes and tune-ups, as well as more aggravating visits to the auto shop. Don’t forget to include any current repairs on deck. And if you know your car needs fixing, be sure to get a real estimate. Don’t guess; you could be really low or really high.

Divide the total by 12, and you’ll have an idea of your current “car payment.” Now, if you were to buy a new or new-to-you car, what would your monthly payments be? Only you can decide which is more feasible on your budget.

Interest.com recommends that car payments should not go above eight percent of your gross monthly income. Look at the costs of both keeping your car and replacing it. Which payment comes closest to eight percent? There might be no contest.

2. Insurance: If you’re considering junking your car for another, check to see what the new insurance cost will be. Chances are, it’ll be more. You may not even have collision now, or, at least, rates for a newer car will be higher. You need to consider this when you look at your budget.

3. Incentives: So if you’re thinking about another vehicle, what incentives or rebates are being offered? If they are sweet enough, junking your current (and perhaps expensive) ride could be worth it. For instance, some dealers offer free basic maintenance for new cars.

4. Replacement Possibilities: If you’re thinking about replacing your old car with a used model, remember that it’ll likely come with its own issues. They’ll rear their ugly heads somewhere along the line, sooner or later. How will they compare to what you’re facing now? Don’t switch one junker for another.

5. Current Value: Check a guide, such as the Kelley Blue Book, to see what your car is worth currently. (Try not to cry.) Remember, if it needs repair work, that number drops.

6. Your History: When you’re analyzing the current condition of your car and determining its value, reflect on your track record. How conscientious have you been at regular maintenance? That can give you a feel for the general health of your car.

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7. Past Repairs: What work has been done on your car so far? Anything major? If so, that particular repair is probably not looming in your future. But what potential problems are on the horizon?

Get a sense of this by visiting online car forums. Find some that discuss your car’s make, model, and general age. What issues are other owners having? They may sound familiar, or you may get an idea of what’s in store.

8. Big Ticket Items: As you reflect on past repairs, pay special attention to the health of two very costly components: the engine and the transmission. If either or both have been replaced, that’s a bonus. However, if not, and your mileage is high and the vehicle is old, these may be ticking time bombs.

Transmissions and engines on newer cars — from about 1995 to now – last, on average, about 15 years or 200,000 miles. However, related components, such as alternators and sensors, can conk out earlier. Replacement costs are not as high, but they do add up.

9. Repair Timeline: If you’ve recently had major work done on your car or are considering it (for examples, see #8), it could significantly add to your car’s life. But think back to those car forums you visited back in #7 (you did go, didn’t you?). Do reliable sources suggest that you’re facing one repair after another? If so, it might be time to cut your losses.

10. Body Condition: Is your current car a rust bucket? A vehicle’s body lasts about 20 years. But even if you don’t see rust on the frame, it can be happening in less obvious spots. Fuel lines, brake lines, and other hidden parts could be decaying as you read this. (Maybe you should run out and check.)

11. Safety: OK, your car might be kinda ugly and need a few repairs, but is it safe? Do your air bags work? Do you even have air bags? Brakes, tires, seatbelts –- consider the state of all the vehicle’s safety features. Then think about safety measures on newer cars, such as back-up cameras and electronic stability control. What are they worth to you?

12. Your Finances: If you were sitting pretty financially, you probably wouldn’t be having the “junk it or not” debate. Let’s assume that you can’t just run out and pay cash for a new Audi 8. Is this a good time to take on a new monthly payment? Ideally, you’d like to make this decision when it’s good for you, rather than when you are desperate because your car absolutely, positively, really and truly will not move another foot. If you think about your car’s condition relative to your financial condition soon enough, you’ll have some planning time.

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13. Your Life: Does the car meet your current needs? Maybe it’s too small or too big. If you just need a car to putt around your local area, you might get a way with a junker. But if you regularly drive considerable distances, you may be one trip away from disaster. If your life means you need reliable transportation, that’s just a fact. You don’t want to get stuck on your way to work with no bus service in sight.

14. Your Feelings: You shouldn’t make financial decisions based solely on your feelings, but when something is a big part of your life –- as cars often are — you should add them to the mix. How much do you worry about your car’s reliability? Are you lying awake at night fretting about that, or paying for repairs, or financing a new vehicle? (Maybe you should try some warm milk at bedtime.)

Be honest: how do you feel about your car? Maybe you have a sentimental attachment to it. Or maybe you hate its guts. Do you become incredibly frustrated with it? Perhaps you’re indifferent. This might actually make the decision easier, because you’re not influenced by strong emotions.

That’s a long list. But this is an important decision financially and emotionally, so you don’t want to take it lightly. If you finally decide the answer to the question, “should I junk my car or fix it?” is yes, Junk Car Medics will give you a fair price and send you along to your next stage of automobile ownership.

Resources:

http://www.interest.com/auto/news/is-it-time-to-sell-your-car/

http://blog.motorists.org/fix-it-or-junk-it/