lightning bolt icon to show concept for quick lessons Quick Lesson 4 min read

When Is It Not Worth Repairing a Car?

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If your car needs repairs, you may want to consider if it’s cost-effective to get the repairs done. In some cases, it might make more sense to trade your old car in for another vehicle instead of investing in costly repairs, especially if it is nearing the end of its working life. Choosing whether or not to repair your car depends on several factors, including the cost of repairs, how long the car will last and how much it’s worth in today’s market. Learn when to trade in your car instead of making repairs.

Smiling woman handing over car keys to mechanic at an auto shop.
Yellow notepad with pen svg icon Lesson Notes:
  • You will have to either replace or repair your car if it breaks down.
  • Buying another used car may cost more or about the same as the cost of repairs.
  • It may make more financial sense to replace the car if it is on its way out or the repairs cost more than the value of a used car.

When to Repair or Replace Your Car

Your car will eventually need repairs, so it’s recommended that you include this expense in your budget.  Some of the most important parts and components will likely need to be replaced after 100,000 miles or more, such as the engine, battery, axels, brakes, tires, pistons and timing belts. Newer vehicles may last up to 200,000 miles if you drive them with care and keep up with regular maintenance, but your car will likely start showing signs of wear once you pass the 100,000-mile mark.

The cost of repairing these parts can be several thousand dollars or more. For example, repairing your engine can easily cost $4,000, while a new set of tires can cost $700 or more.

If your car needs extensive repairs, usually several thousand dollars or more, you may want to consider replacing the vehicle outright. You can do some quick math to compare the cost of repairs with the cost of buying a new car.

First, you’ll want to assess how much it will cost to repair your vehicle. Find a reliable mechanic that will give you an honest estimate for the repair job. Consider calling multiple repair shops to find the best rate.

Once you have an idea of how much the repairs will cost, look up the make and model of your vehicle online. You can search for listings of the same vehicle or search for your car on Kelley Blue Book to get a rough estimate of its value.

If the repair estimate is close to the value of your car or a year’s worth of car payments, consider trading it in for a new or used car to save money in the long term. Use this car affordability calculator to determine the purchase price of the vehicle you can afford with your trade-in.

Additional Factors to Consider:

There are other factors to consider when thinking about whether to make the repairs or buy another car.

How Long Will the Repairs Last?

Repairing your current car may seem cheaper than buying a new or used vehicle, but it may need additional repairs in the future. Depending on the overall condition of the car, you may have to replace the vehicle in the near future, so consider replacing it before you sink more money into major repairs. Have a professional inspect your car to see if it’s in good condition other than the necessary repairs. If you can keep using your car for another few years or more, it may be worth the cost to make the repairs.

Fuel Mileage

Replacing your old car with a new one can help you save money in other ways as well. Consider how much you could save at the pump if you trade in your car for a more fuel-efficient model.

Safety

You should never drive a car that could put your safety at risk. If your car leaves you stranded or is nearing the end of its life, it’s time to sell. Your safety should be your first priority when choosing a mode of transportation. Finding a car with additional safety features may also help you lower the cost of insurance.

What to Do with a Car That’s Not Worth Repairing

If you decide it’s time to replace your car, you have several options.

If the car still has some value, you can sell it by putting it on the market. Consider listing it yourself or taking it to a used car dealership. When selling your car, you can either pay to make the necessary repairs and pay yourself back later or list the car as is and subtract the repairs estimate from the listing price. You may have an easier time selling the vehicle for a higher price if you make the repairs, especially if you know a reputable mechanic.

If you choose to keep the car as is, be upfront with the buyer about the repairs. Show them estimates from a mechanic, so they know how much it will cost to fix these issues.

If there is no value in repairing the car, consider scrapping it for parts to make some money off the vehicle. You may have to pay to have a shop impound your car if it’s no longer usable. Do your research when replacing or repairing your car to ensure that you get the best value. You don’t want to waste your money on a car that’s on its way out.

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