How To Know If Car Repairs Are Worth The Cost


There comes a point in every car’s life where you find yourself swearing outside the mechanic shop because he says you need new brakes, new tires and (it feels like) new everything. It’s all totally necessary and, of course, going to cost a fortune.

Sure, it can be hard to let go of your vehicle. Plus, there’s the pain of dealing with car salesmen and trying to find a new (or new to you) vehicle at a decent price. You’re not alone in wanting to fix your car rather than ditch it—the average age of vehicles on the road is 11.6 years.

But there are certain situations in which repairing your current vehicle just isn’t cost effective anymore. Here are five factors to consider when deciding whether to scrap your current vehicle or hang onto it.

1. Will the repair extend the life of your vehicle?

If you’re getting work done that will allow you to drive the car, without issue, for a few more years, then it may be worth the money. On the other hand, if you expect you’ll have to pay for other, more costly work on the car in the near future, it may be time to say goodbye.

2. What will a car payment do to your monthly budget?

If your current vehicle is paid off, that’s certainly a plus. It’s important to consider the cost of the repairs (and any anticipated future repairs) against a monthly car payment and any changes you’ll see in your insurance premium. An expensive repair is a one-time cost, whereas a car payment is due every month.

3. How much do you rely on your vehicle?

Do you have other cars at home? Can you carpool if your car breaks down? Do you have reliable public transit? These are all questions to consider when thinking about whether to ditch your vehicle for newer model.

4. Do you frequently park in areas with a lot of activity and traffic?

An older vehicle means less worry about scratches, dents, dings and rogue shopping carts in the mall parking lot, according to Jacob and Vanessa Lumby, who write about personal finance on their blog Cash Cow Couple. And, as the Lumbys point out, if your car is super old (on the outside at least), you won’t have to worry as much about it getting stolen.

“No one would ever choose to steal a 1996 hunter green Saturn with body and paint flaws,” they wrote about their decision to hang on to an older vehicle.

5. Is it safe?

If you’ve been in an accident and the frame is bent, your car isn’t safe anymore and the repairs aren’t worth your money, according to Midgette Auto. Beyond that, if you just don’t feel safe in the vehicle—you’re constantly worried about being stranded on the side of the road or ending up in a dangerous situation—it may be time for an upgrade, says J.D. Roth, who blogged about his old minivan for Get Rich Slowly. Getting repairs done here and there may not give you peace of mind.

“What really got me was that the old van just didn’t feel safe anymore,” he wrote. “Something was always going wrong and I didn’t want something major to happen while my wife was on the highway with our kids.”

About the Author

Sarah Kuta

Sarah Kuta is an award-winning writer and editor based in Colorado. She writes regularly about how to find deals, save money and find side gigs. Reach her at More.

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