Car Care: Replace or repair
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Regardless of your car’s age, it’s only a matter of time before the issue of maintenance or repair raises its head.
As they mount up, is there a point where we say “enough is enough”? Do we fix that blown head gasket? Do we replace the cambelt?
There’s no crystal ball to help you work out if delving into the depths of your wallet this time around will keep your old faithful motoring along for a few more years, or if another expensive job is just around the corner.
However some maths and level-headed reflection helps to evaluate whether you’d be better off paying for an upgrade.
The one grand benchmark
The annual cost of maintaining the average vehicle — one without any problems — can come in around $1000.
This covers minor repairs or replacements (such as bulbs or wipers), vehicle servicing and tyre replacement cycles.
Of course, there will be some years where the figure is higher and others when it’s lower, but this is a good benchmark for what you should be spending.
If you’re seeing the cost for general maintenance and repair blow this figure out of proportion, there’s your first sign that you should start looking for something that’s a little easier on the finances.
Of course, to get the best price for the car you’re selling, you’re best to make sure any issues are remedied. This means that you may end up having to spend more than you’d like, or can afford in the first instance.
That’s why it’s important to seek advice or help if you have financial concerns, but do think about what you’re likely to save in the long run — particularly if the car is consistently showing that it’s unreliable.
Costs to repair different systems in vehicles can vary significantly and it’s also sometimes easier to rely on the old “better the devil you know, than the devil you don’t” thought process.
Jumping ship from a car that you at least know the ins and outs of, to one that’s an unknown is a daunting prospect. Likewise, if you’ve invested money into your current vehicle or are paying off finance on the purchase or any repairs, it’s not an easy prospect to consider “losing” that money.
The big one
Your heart sinks while the vehicle is being towed to the repair shop with steam streaming out from under the bonnet. You know it’s going to need a big repair.
In a few days, you will be faced with a decision to “scrap or repair”. In some cases the answer will be clear. If the cost to repair it is worth more than its running value, sell it to the scrappies and take their offer.
Sometimes it’s not so cut and dried. In working order, your car may be worth $6k, for example. A hefty repair job will set you back $3k
but, without that investment, it’s only worth $1k in its current pre-repair state. In this instance, it may be better to repair. Why?
Well, first, by spending the $3k, you don’t lose $5k. Secondly, you still have a car you know the history of and it now has some new parts fitted.
Another bonus of repairing instead of replacing is that you could be extending the life of that vehicle. If it gives you another few years of motoring, you can use that time to save for an upgrade.
What’s peace of mind worth?
The flipside of replacing that vehicle that has turned into a bit of a lemon is peace of mind.
If you can’t venture out the driveway without worrying the engine will overheat, it may be time for change. There are no guarantees that a newer vehicle won’t run into repairs like the old one but the odds are reduced.
Due diligence when scouring the used-car market should prevent you buying a banger. Tick all the boxes when it comes to checking its history and servicing documentation, consider investing in a pre-purchase inspection and request receipts for any completed repair work.
You may even buy a car that comes with a warranty or breakdown insurance so all you need to worry about is getting it serviced.
Upgrading to a more modern vehicle also improves chances of getting a car with better fuel economy, more technology and extra safety systems.