Is it worthwhile to spend the money to repair?

13 Questions To Determine 'Is Your Car Worth Repairing?'

by Gary Foreman

The average auto in America is over 11 years old. That means that a lot of us will be facing needed repairs.

When that happens, we'll be tempted to decide that our old car is not worth repairing and we should find a newer ride. But is that true?

Let's look at the 13 questions to ask before you conclude that your old car is not worth repairing.

  1. What does the research show? The net is full of information on auto repairs. Many times you'll be able to diagnose a problem online. Often knowing what caused a leak or squeal will give you a good idea of how much it will cost to fix.
  2. How much will the repair really cost? Don't go on gut feel or instinct. That guess could be big time wrong. Either take it to a mechanic or call and describe the symptoms and ask for a high/low range for cost to repair.
  3. Is there a way to save money on the repair? With a little help, many repairs are DIY. Others can be done for less with used parts.
  4. How long will the car's life be extended by the repair? If one repair will add years to your car's useful life, it makes sense to do it. On the other hand, if this repair is just one of many, it makes less sense to fix it.
  5. What is your car worth if it's repaired? Kelley Blue Book has been valuing cars for generations. See what your car is worth on their website.
  6. What is your car worth if it's not repaired? You may have an opportunity to sell your car to someone who can do the repair for less than you'd spend. Or you might have to sell it for scrap value. In any case, find out what it's worth unrepaired.
  7. Get rid of car payments for good.
    Start saving for your next car today.

  8. Can you expect other major repair bills? The net is full of information about older cars. If a major part begins to fail at a specific mileage, you can pretty much expect to read about it online. See what others say about your make and model.
  9. Have you replaced other major components? Although many car repairs are expensive, only a few are in the really expensive range. If you've recently repaired the transmission, that's one less major bill in the near future. It could be that the major components are newer (and more reliable) than your car's age.
  10. Will the repair cost more than the car is worth? In most cases, it doesn't make sense to spend $3,000 to repair a car with a book value of $2,000.
  11. How important is a dependable vehicle? Your job or family situation may make a reliable car very important. Or you may be in a position that a broken car just means asking a friend for a ride to work.
  12. What would your newer car payment be? That new ride could cost you $300 or more per month for the next three to five years. If you're struggling to pay for the repair, how will you make the monthly payments?
  13. calculator iconCalculator: Auto Loan Calculator

  14. How much car can you buy? Don't buy a car that's not much more reliable than the one you already own, especially if it could face major repairs.
  15. Related: Buying a Cheap, Reliable Used Car

  16. Could you take the money earmarked for car payments and use it to make your current ride more dependable? You can do a lot of repairs/upgrades for $300 or so each month.

Only after considering these 13 questions should you decide to invest big bucks in an auto repair or decide to swap it for a newer ride.

Updated January 2018

Take the Next Step

  • If you decide it makes financial sense to repair your car, use these guidelines to choose the right auto repair center.
  • Don't wait until that next repair before preparing for your next car purchase. Consider starting a dedicated auto fund and begin saving now for your next vehicle.
  • Compare auto insurance rates. Put any monthly savings in your new car fund.
  • Get all the facts before you buy or sell a vehicle. will give you what you need to know to make a confident deal.
  • Stop struggling to get ahead financially. Subscribe to our free weekly Surviving Tough Times newsletter aimed at helping you 'live better...for less'. Each issue features great ways to help you stretch your dollars and make the most of your resources. Subscribers get a copy of Are You Heading for Debt Trouble? A Simple Checklist And What You Can Do About It for FREE!
Gary Foreman

Gary Foreman is a former financial planner and purchasing manager who founded The Dollar website and newsletters in 1996. He's the author of How to Conquer Debt No Matter How Much You Have and he's been featured in MSN Money, Yahoo Finance, Fox Business, The Nightly Business Report, US News Money, and Gary shares his philosophy of money here. Gary is available for audio, video or print interviews. For more info see his media page.

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