Should You Fix Your Old Car Or Buy A New One?

5 min. read By Kevin Joshua Ng on

Over the course of a vehicle’s lifetime, there will be inevitable trips to the repair shop for whatever the case may be. Engine failures, nicked fenders, busted lights, flat tires—these are just part of the car owner’s journey. And through the eventual wear and tear, some components will just reach their serviceable life.

Some of us might have gotten used to it by now, learning how to deal with the stuff as you go along. On the other hand, there are car owners who are still clueless on what to do in the event of something needing a major fix.

Actually, whether you’ve had a lot of cars go through the palm of your hand or not, the age-old question of “should I fix my car or replace it?” seems to baffle and create a divide. Ask everyone and you will not get the same answer twice.

You’re probably wondering by yourself too. Or maybe you’re stuck in this ordeal. So let us help you decide between the two and give you expert advice based on real-life experiences.

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Can you live with your old car?

This is perhaps the single most important question that needs to be tackled and answered before you make a decision. Can you live with whatever’s going on with your car?

Cars are a major investment, that’s an obvious fact. And replacing your car with a new one, whether secondhand or straight out of the dealer, requires some serious cash.

So ask yourself these questions:

1. Is my car still roadworthy? Will it pose a major risk not just to myself but also to the ones I share the road with

If the answer to this is no, then it’s time to say goodbye to your old reliable and say hello to a new car. You don’t want to be a complete liability on the road. Any accident has a consequence with legal and even life-threatening ramifications. So don’t skimp on getting a new ride. Which brings us to the next question.

2. Will the money I fork out to repair the car be so substantial that it be significant enough for a downpayment on a new car?

If your car is unworthy, then the amount to fix it would probably be significant enough for you to buy a new one. Just save the money you have allotted for repairs and find a way to sell your used car so you could build your fund for a new car.

Here’s a tip to get the most out of selling your clunker for cash: Ask an expert if your car is more valuable sold as-is or parted out, meaning you sell the car per component/parts. A friend of mine was able to buy a used but usable car from parting out his old Mercedes-Benz.

3. Is my car uninsurable or if I put the repair cost on the car insurance’s tab, will they refuse to have it repaired and instead just give me a lump sum?

The point of having comprehensive car insurance is to protect you from the cost and liability that comes with repairing your vehicle. Now, if your car is being denied coverage left and right, then it’s probably a sign for you to give up on your beloved vehicle, especially when you’re going to use it on a day-to-day basis.

Now, if your car is insured and you apply for a claim to be used for repairs then your insurance company offers you a lump sum of cash instead, our advice is to just get the insurance money and use it to buy a new car. It’s what the people in the industry call a totalled car, which just means that the car is no good.

It’s all about determining the cost vs. worth of repairing your old car vs. getting a new one. A good rule of thumb is to buy a new car if the repair would cost more than 20% of a car’s total worth. If it’s less then you can have it fixed to keep it running.

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Consider your car’s age

One thing that most car owners overlook is how daily driving really takes a toll on a vehicle overtime, despite the amount of TLC poured onto it.

Most vehicle components become faulty once the warranty expires. That could be in 10 years, five years, or even three years.It’s all in the rate of usage, the mileage, and if your vehicle is always being used to its limit for an extended period of time.

Find a car group or an online forum dedicated to your car’s make and model and learn from those with long-term experience on what to expect as your car grows older.

Parts become significantly hard to come by as a vehicle goes way past beyond its production years. You might just be able to take a sharp turn away from a money-grabbing disaster before it happens.

Remember that what we’re tackling here is if it’s better for you to fix a daily driver or to just buy a brand-new car. This is something that you will spend lots of time doing most of your activities.

Also, an upgrade to newer models wouldn’t exactly be a bad idea since cars have significantly improved in safety and efficiency over the years.

It’s entirely up to you

Honestly, there’s no right or wrong answer here because again it’s entirely based on what you can live with. Of course, having a brand new car or a less-used one doesn’t have the same problems as an older one.

However, if you’re the kind of person who puts a sentimental value on your vehicle, perhaps it being your first one, then by all means, duke it out until the end. But it’s always better to enter a situation knowing all the consequences.

About the author

Kevin Joshua Ng

Kevin Joshua Ng Kevin Joshua Ng is a digital marketing professional and car enthusiast who has written for In The Garage, a trusted resource for car owners in North America.