Should It Stay or Should It Go? Is it Time for a New Car?
by Jay Ramowski
I am often approached by acquaintances asking a similar question that usually starts something like this: “Hi Jay, I have a model year such and such, mini van, sports coupe, wiener mobile, pickup truck, hearse etc. with 89,000 miles on it. Wondering if I should keep it or trade it in on something newer.”
My reply is usually always the same regardless of the person asking. Do you love it? Is it reliable? If the answer to either of those questions is “No,” then my recommendation is easy. I would guess the average person spends between one and two hours per day in their car, so that time should be at least reasonably enjoyable (traffic jams withstanding). If you live in constant fear of a breakdown (and medication hasn’t helped) or you get an instant frowny face as you walk to the parking lot and your car comes into view, get rid of it and buy something that makes you smile. Life is too short to drive a car that makes you sad.
But if that persons reply is “Yes” to both questions, then the answer becomes much harder. Sometimes a person will use fuel economy as the rationale for considering replacement (likely perpetuated by our nearly constant bombardment of sexy new car ads touting the virtues of high mpg). I recently pointed out to a friend, who has a beautiful, low-miles, six-year-old British luxury SUV (with no monthly car payment), that unless her potential new car would save her 232 gallons of fuel per month (possible only if she were to drive about 13,000 miles). It simply wont offset the added monthly payment and insurance increase of a newer car she was considering that got 10 miles per gallon better economy.
Sometimes the question is tougher and involves a rather major, regular scheduled approaching maintenance bill. A client recently asked if I felt it was worth spending just over $20,000 to do a major service, plus new tires, brakes and a turbocharger seal on his out-of-warranty Porsche SUV. In this particular case, he loves the car, but wondered if spending half a car’s trade-in value on a service bill was wise. We decided that he was better off trading it in on a two-year-old Certified Pre Owned version of the same SUV with full warranty and using the $20K he set aside for service, instead to make monthly payments.
If you drive a reasonably modern, well cared for vehicle, it should still be running and making road trip memories long after the odometer has passed 100,000 miles.
Keep driving it and you save money, not only because you don’t have to make payments on a new car, but also because insurance premiums, registration fees and personal-property taxes are lower.
I generally recommend that if a you’re spending more per month on car maintenance than a new car payment would be, it’s likely time to part with your dear old friend.