Fix it or Ditch it: Is it Time to Replace Your Ride?

Estimated Completion Time
4 min
You can probably eke a few more miles out of your ancient automobile if it's been:
Well-maintained.
If you've had the car from new and been nothing but nice to it, with frequent oil changes and scheduled services, then your car will likely last well past six figures on the odometer with few complaints.
Kept in a warm garage.
Fed only high-octane fuel.

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One way to keep the cost of repairs down on your old clunker is:
Doing them yourself.
The best way to save money is to do the repairs yourself, which is especially easy if you're handy with a wrench and your car is at least a couple decades old, verging on classic. Modern cars and their sophisticated computer systems can be a bit tricky to navigate once you've got the hood open.
Eating less to make up for what you're paying the mechanic.
Washing the car more often for improved aerodynamics.

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Replacing your car becomes a need rather than a want when:
Jay-Z raps about whatever car he just added to his garage.
You need reliable wheels for work.
If you have to make sales calls all across the state, or if you live in a small town with zero public transportation, you're going to need a car that won't let you down. Investing in a newer car in this case may be investing in yourself, my friend.
You're tired of that burnt-orange color that seemed like such a cool paint job in 2004.

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One of the most clear-cut reasons for keeping your car instead of buying a new one is:
You have your eye on a Guinness World Records feat for most miles driven.
Your car is a sweet Olds on twenty-fours.
You paid off the car loan.
If you've paid off the car … you own it, baby! That's one less bill in the mail, one less automatic withdrawal to account for every month, one less collector calling your phone every day (all day). And if the car you've paid off is a sweet Olds on twenty-fours, well, that's just all the more reason.

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Let's say you've paid off your car completely. If you continue to drive that dear old automobile for five more years, it's the monetary equivalent of:
Getting a free, in-ground swimming pool.
Buying a new car.
The money you don't spend on car payments will equal roughly the cost of a new car. What you do with that money is up to you. Fill the pool with lobsters, maybe.
Eating lobster every night for five years.

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A pretty good sign that it's time to replace your old car is:
The repairs cost more than a monthly car payment.
If you average the amount you've spent on repairs in the last year or so and it's more than a typical car payment, you might as well buy a new car. Pro tip: Resign yourself to the fact that your kids will be embarrassed by any car you're in.
It's on the list of the worst cars of the 20th century.
Your kids are embarrassed to be seen in your car.

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Lots of little things can make your car run longer so you can eke the maximum value out of it. Which of these will NOT help you reach a quarter-million miles?
fuzzy dice
No cosmetic thing, however tacky or talismanic, will help your car live longer. Only regular maintenance (and the occasional hug) will do.
oil changes
tire rotation

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If you do the math and decide to keep your old car, you should consider investing in:
bitcoin
better tires
roadside assistance
Even with regular maintenance, once you hit six figures on the odometer, things are going to break. They're old, after all. Better to know a guy with a tow truck who will come pick up you and your car at the side of the highway in a rainstorm than to wish for a fairy godmother to whisk you away to someplace warm -- maybe to one of those islands where they only ride bikes.

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What's the average life expectancy of a modern car?
five years
eight years
Eight whole years! That's longer than just about every car loan any reputable bank or dealership will give you. That's a few years of payment-free driving!
Depends on if your Uncle Ronnie has run it into a ditch. Again.

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How many miles can you expect to put on a new car before it's ready for the wrecking yard?
100,000
150,000
It used to be common knowledge that a car was probably ready to drop-dead as soon as the nines all rolled over to zeros on the odometer, but car quality has greatly improved over the years. In fact, cars now regularly withstand 150,000 miles of your terrible driving and neglectful maintenance habits.
A million! My car is the undead vampire of automobiles!

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If you really want to ditch your car and sell it, how do you find out what it's worth?
search online at KBB.com, Edmunds.com, or a number of other sites
Is there anything the Internet doesn't know? Of course, there are plenty of things your dad doesn't know -- and for the love of Enzo Ferrari, don't do that last one.
ask your dad
take it to the dealership and let the sales guy make an offer

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Insurance rates for a new car are generally:
Higher than for an older car.
A new car usually mean higher insurance rates. I know … your old car breaks down all the time and repairs are expensive; but insurance doesn't cover breakdowns. It covers accidents and theft, and new cars are much spendier on those fronts.
Lower than for an older car.
The same as an older car, especially if they're the same make and model.

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If you buy a brand-new car, you'll get which of these money-saving benefits?
matching floor mats
lower insurance rates
a warranty
A warranty doesn't always cover maintenance (though some new cars do come with that perk), but it does cover any mistakes the manufacturer made and any recall work that needs to be done.

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Buying a new car usually means a new car payment, which also means:
Yet another PIN and user ID to remember.
Finance charges and interest.
While the first answer will probably be true, and the last answer will feel true, the only actually true answer is that you'll need to remember to include finance charges and monthly interest when budgeting for a new car.
The auto manufacturer owns your soul.

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If you do pay off your old car and hang on to it for a while, what's the smartest thing to do with the cash you save?
make it rain
upgrade the stereo as a gift to the old girl
save up for the down payment on the new car you'll need to buy someday
If you can save even part of your old car payment every month, you'll have the cash on hand to make a fat down payment for a new car in just a few years. Added benefit: The bigger your down payment on the big day, the less you have to finance.

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When you're finally ready to let go of your falling-apart car, you'll get the best deal by:
Handing it down to your little sister, who lives in Idaho.
Selling it yourself.
If you can stand the hassle of placing an ad, dealing with phone calls and scheduling test drives, you'll likely get a better deal from a private buyer than you will from a dealership.
Trading it in at the dealership.

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Your old car is sucking your wallet dry, but how much do you think it will cost to maintain a new car properly for the first 100,000 miles?
$1,500 to $3,000
Oil changes, tune-ups, belt replacements, tires – they all add up. And they're not usually covered by the warranty.
$100 to $500
Nothing. It's called a warranty.

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Once you've bitten the new-car bullet, how can you avoid having to go through this decision making process again in three years or so?
never drive above 60 miles per hour
only drive at constant speeds on highways
check the owner's manual and do the scheduled maintenance
They don't print those things and shove them in the glove box just to take up space you could use for your collection of sunglasses. Read the manual -- especially the service schedule -- then do it.

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Let's talk depreciation. How much less will a brand-new car be worth three years after you drive it off the lot?
45 percent less
The answer is 45 percent less, but sometimes ditching a crappy old car can be such a relief that it makes up for the financial hit by reducing your anxiety-induced insomnia.
75 percent less
It doesn't matter, because it's not that crappy old car I used to have.

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If you can't afford to keep repairing your current hunk of junk, but you also can't afford a shiny new car, how can you make sure you don't buy another crappy used car?
only buy cars from your Uncle Ronnie
get a vehicle history report, like CarFax
Pay the fees and get the reports -- as many as you can find. CarFax is just one, and it's the best-known, but it doesn't cover everything that the car may have been through in its life. The more you know, the more likely you'll be able to live with your new-to-you used car.
buy any make but the one you're currently driving

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(Creative Commons/Flickr/fauxto_digit)
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