3 signs it's time to replace your car

Shopping for -- and committing to buying -- a car can be a stressful experience. Sometimes, though, it makes a lot of sense.

By Credit.com Aug 28, 2014 11:43AM
This post comes from Gerri Detweiler at partner site Credit.com.

Credit.com on MSN MoneyAre you holding onto an older car or truck, hoping to squeeze a few more months (or a few more thousand miles) out of it, all the while wondering whether it’s time to start shopping for a newer one?

Calling for roadside assistance © Tom Merton/Photolibrary/PhotolibraryMaybe your vehicle is paid off and you aren’t anxious to have a car payment, or perhaps you are worried your credit may keep you from getting a good car loan. The average car payment is just under $350 a month, according to Experian Automotive. And payments on some vehicles can top $400 a month, so for most people it’s not a decision to be taken lightly.

How do you know when it’s time to start looking for a new set of wheels? Here are three signs it may be time to start car shopping.

1. Your vehicle isn’t safe

My friend was driving on the interstate when her minivan inexplicably started slowing down. I was riding next to her at the time, and was terrified as we slowed to a crawl while traffic whizzed around us at 80 miles per hour. She told me it wasn’t the first time that had happened, but it was the first time it happened on the highway. Not too long after, she got a new vehicle.

"If you fear that it will break down and leave you stranded on the side of the road, you should replace it with something safer and more reliable," says LeAnn Shattuck with Women’s Automotive Solutions.

2. Repair costs are mounting

It's almost always going to be cheaper to keep fixing an old car,” says Gordon Hard, senior editor with Consumer Reports. But a big, expensive repair, or a long series of repairs, can quickly throw a wrench in the budget and make a monthly car payment seem very attractive.

That’s what happened with my previous vehicle, which like my friend’s, began to stall at traffic lights, and then in traffic. I would get it repaired, only to find the same problem happening again. When my mechanic sent me to another mechanic, who also tried to fix it without success, I realized it was probably time to throw in the towel.

The reliability of your vehicle is one factor to look at when deciding whether to keep driving it"Has it been good to you all along or does it seem you're constantly getting something fixed?" asks Hard. “If it's trouble-prone, get out of it sooner rather than later,” he advises. Extensive reliability data on used cars is available through Consumer Reports. “On average, some models are a lot less troublesome than others,” he notes.

And keep the hassle factor in mind as well. “If you frequently worry that your car won’t start in the morning, causing you to be late for work or other important activities, it’s time to consider buying a new one,” Shattuck says. A car payment may be far preferable than losing your job over a car that won’t start time and again.

3. It doesn't work for your life anymore

I recently drove the truck my dad purchased from me some 15 years ago. It has 137,000 miles on it now but it’s been reliable and has worked great for him. He bought it from me after I became pregnant with my daughter and realized there was no place for a car seat. And I inherited it from my husband after the bed proved to be too small for the supplies he needed to haul for his work.

There are plenty of lifestyle changes that may force you to re-evaluate what you’re driving. For example: You take a job farther away and need better gas mileage. Your family grows and you need a larger vehicle; or your kids move out and you don’t need a large vehicle anymore. Or your car is involved in an accident and can’t be repaired.

Before you start shopping

Regardless of your reason for getting a different vehicle, giving yourself enough time to research possible choices will increase the odds you’ll make a choice you’re less likely to regret.

In addition to researching vehicles, check your credit reports and credit scores. (You can get a free credit score and analysis of where you stand at Credit.com.) Ideally, you’ll want to get your free credit reports at least a month before you start car shopping, to give yourself time to address any mistakes or problems you may find. 

While you are at it, get pre-approved for a car loan. That way you can focus on negotiating the best deal on your vehicle. If the dealer offers you a better car loan -- perhaps even 0% financing -- great, but you’ll know what you qualify for walking into the dealer.

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Aug 28, 2014 3:23PM
Don't pay attention to any of this nonsense. I own a 2002 Toyota Echo that I bought as an extra car many years ago. Believe that I paid $9800 for it. Now, it has 189,000 miles on it. I have always taken care of the fluid changes and it has always been garaged. Now, I am planning on retiring in two more years. I will keep this as a second car. I will tell you the secret to not having to buy a new car...... do the scheduled maintenance. Even for brakes, when you hear a squeak, take the car in. A brake job that is ignored for six months could double or triple the cost of repair. Better to change out the belts and hoses every few years rather than having them break on you when you are on the road. You and you alone are the most important component of how long your car lasts. Drive it reasonably, not like some teenager that just got their license. Just remember that a car does not wake up in the morning with aches and pains. It has no idea how old it is or how many miles it has logged. Take care of your automobile and it will take care of you. 
Aug 28, 2014 3:28PM
Really, the recession is over? How many out there agree? I'm personally thankful I don't have a car payment right now.
Aug 28, 2014 2:31PM

more crap to get people buying cars again. They keep stats on everything. I believe I heard the average age of a car now is 10 to 11 years. Most likely due to the recession, but now they say the economy is better and they are trying to get people to spend and go in debt again.


this reminds of all those B.S. matress commercials. Stating you have to replace after 7 or 8 years. If I spend $2,000 on a matress, it better last more that 7 or 8 years. I really don't believe the crap about your matress doubles it weight due to your dead skin, sweat, and dust mites.

Aug 28, 2014 3:14PM
If a mechanic cannot fix your car (slowing down from example 1 or stalling from example 2), then find a mechanic who actually knows how to DIAGNOSE and REPAIR motor vehicles.  Too many are R & R artists, swapping out parts, hoping that something might work.  

Always less expensive to keep current car and repair it rather than buy a newer one.

Aug 28, 2014 5:27PM

$350 to $400 dollars a month car payment, huh?


Sure, for 7 YEARS!

Aug 28, 2014 2:59PM
#3 is the only one worth paying attention to. As for 1 & 2, the article said it best. 

“It's almost always going to be cheaper to keep fixing an old car,” says Gordon Hard, senior editor with Consumer Reports. 
Aug 28, 2014 6:07PM
My car is 15 years old.  It has 125,000 miles and runs like a champ.  I just put on new tires, did an alignment and changed all the fluids.  It looks as good as anything on the road and rides like new.  It is my understanding, I should be able to get 250,000 miles of use.  New car?  NOOOOOOOO........
Aug 28, 2014 5:18PM
Try maintenance it works wonders !  
Aug 28, 2014 4:14PM
I got a whole box just packed full of tools, a spray gun, a torch and a welder and I know how to use all of them, So I doubt I'll be shopping for a new car any time soon...
Aug 28, 2014 3:56PM
Unless you're like your lemming friends who just have to acquire the latest and greatest, there's nothing wrong with and no shame attached to keeping your old car. Remember...it's a tool to be used to transport you where you need to go. Keep up on the maintenance, change the oil, coolant and other fluids regularly. Wash it once in awhile. And, once and for all, unlike the author of this piece and her so-called 'friend', get ahead of repairs when your car is telling you that it's time. There is no excuse that I can think of that justifies driving a car that continuously stalls since, in the world most of us live in, mechanical problems do NOT heal themselves if they're ignored.


Aug 28, 2014 7:41PM
If you can leave it on a dark street with the doors unlocked, windows rolled down and the keys  in the ignition and no one steals it, it's time to replace it.
Aug 28, 2014 6:19PM

Bought a used car for $5,000 -- had 120,000 miles on it.  Worked great for 1.5 years, and then died on the side of the road last week at 157,000 miles...  Needed a $1,200 fuel pump (which was inside the fuel tank), and a $150 tow.

It hurt, but I fixed the car and now it drives just as good as new.  No need to buy a new car -- I wouldn't be able to buy a new car for $1,500!!!

Aug 28, 2014 4:53PM

my car was purchased new. 14 years later no problems. if it needs tires buy them

follow a schedule. mine gets tuned up and belts every 30000



Aug 28, 2014 3:20PM
#1 and #2 kind of go along the same line. If it is leaving you stranded it probably needs repair and if it needs repair it will probably leave you stranded or it isn't safe. Once a vehicle costs a couple of thousand a year in repairs, and not regular maintenance, it most likely won't get much better. Of course it also depends on the type of repair. A water pump, that's a repair but it should last another 100k mile or more. A non catastrophic transmission repair, that should be ok. Once you start getting into electrical repairs, seat covers, axles, valve trains, crankshafts, any fairly major engine repair or overhaul, dash instrument failures, computer failures, etc. it's time to think about your next step. These are sure things the overall condition is just wearing out. And like #2 states, any major accident repair that makes the vehicle seem so different that you question the quality of the repair. My line in the sand is once any single repair approaches $1,000 or more, it's time to consider overall condition of the vehicle and does it still suit my needs (#3). Other than that, if you really want a different vehicle and you have the disposable income to get one, do it. Personally, I drive a vehicle till it's almost worn out. Usually about 15-18 years with good regular maintenance and repair things when they show signs of needing repair or suddenly break. This works for me across numerous manufacturers and models. I also don't get too emotionally involved in loving or hating any particular brand or model. Keeps my stress levels down when it comes to ownership!
Aug 28, 2014 2:32PM
Aug 28, 2014 6:21PM
Aug 28, 2014 1:30PM
Well, gee...what about those sheep who will listen to the government's "economic patriotism" message and go out and buy a new car because of that? 

Aug 28, 2014 7:01PM
$400.00 a month for a payment.  Yeah right.  If its leased.  To replace the truck I have now it would cost me over $50,000.00 which would be over $800.00 a month.  My truck has been very reliable has 210,000 miles on it and still runs strong.  I do all the maintenance myself.  I just spent about $5,000.00 replacing brakes, new clutch, rear main seal and rear wheel seals, new AC compressor.  Yes that's a lot but not considering I haven't had a payment in 12 years.  I get better fuel mileage with this truck than a lot of the newer diesels.  The best way to buy automobiles is buy a leased vehicle that has 30,000 miles.  It's usually broke in and any electrical issues are usually worked out.  My last purchase is a 2008 Toyota 4 Runner.  Probably the best vehicle I have ever owned. Gets 22 mpg.  Has 100,000 on it and still has the original brakes.  I will probably never buy another brand new vehicle.  They have gotten outrageously expensive and I tend to have less problems with used ones. 
Aug 28, 2014 4:16PM
What about this: Here in So Cal I have a 97 Corolla (150,000 miles) in fair condition that runs well but needs a complete set of new struts and new tires and alignment. If I do the struts myself that's $600 (mechanic will do it for a $1000-1200), tires =$300, alignment $70. Total cost= $1000-$1500. Car is worth $1000. Fix or buy a car? What say you?
Aug 28, 2014 3:08PM
Repairs, safety,appearance outside and/or inside as well as mileage. Key question is where do you live and the driving conditions. We all know how long that new chariot looks new depending on where we live. Fortunately, some areas of the country are conducive to longer lasting vehicles. in the Southwest a ten to twenty year old car still looks pretty good. Shocks, brakes, tires, oil changes and filters are normal repairs. The AC system will last about 10 years before major repair. Every 50,000 miles have all fluids drained, filters replaced or cleaned along with your serpentine belt. Biggest expenses would be rebuilding an engine and transmission. After ten years if you are spending 20K or less, buy new. if you are thinking of 30-60K for new and six years payments up to $700-900 a month, spend the $7-8000 to rebuild the engine and tranny if needed. Don't forget the sales tax in most states is 5-7% on top of the new vehicle price.
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