The Cost of Owning an Aging Car

A few weeks back, I wrote a post about the importance of having a good mechanic that you can trust.

My background is not in cars. And with owning and driving the same vehicle for the past 16 years … I have needed a mechanic plenty of times.

I was able to change my own oil a few times and replace the occasional headlight. I even changed the battery one time.

But any work outside of that type of maintenance is out of my expertise … unfortunately.

The transmission problems I was having last month were definitely out of my skillet. So I found a reliable (and dependable) mechanic I could trust to take a look.

Problems with My Transmission

Last month, I had a transmission fluid leak that I needed to get fixed. At the time, I thought my car had finally bit the dust. But I decided to try and give it one more go and have a mechanic take a look.

All together … the towing cost, parts and labor to get my car fixed at the time ran under $120. This was a temporary fix to get my ride back on the road.

I know that if I took it to a service center (like the ones I used to go to), the costs would have run several hundred dollars more.

At that time, I felt the money was still worth the value of getting the car in working shape.

Unfortunately … that fix didn’t last.

Just this past weekend, I busted another transmission hose and even worse, the car started leaking oil!

So … I am sad to say the time has come to replace my car.

Years of Rising Maintenance Costs

For the past several years, I have watched my maintenance costs rise as my car put on each mile.

Every time it came for repairs and maintenance … I would ask myself … “are these costs worth it?”

And each time … I answered – “yes”.

Maybe I should have said NO sooner?

But the thought of another car payment made my head hurt. We already have one family car and I didn’t really want to take on debt of another.

So I kept answering NO when it came to replacing my car.

But this time … my answer is YES“it is time to replace my car”.

Time to Make a Change

When my car had it’s latest problems, I decided to do a quick lookup on it’s value.

Now, this was a very estimated figure … but I guessed my 16+ year old car was maybe worth $500. The range actually gave me $275 to $525.

Funny thing … I think the tires that are 1 year old I put on last year are worth more on their own!

I have always heard that a car is worth more in it’s parts than as a whole. And after doing these calculations … I completely see how that is.

Comparing the value of my car ($500) versus the expected costs for repair (way over $1,000) .. the time has come to say goodbye.

It is no longer worth the rising maintenance costs versus not having a car payment.

So we have decided to take on more debt (ouch) and buy a new vehicle. This will have a direct impact on our net worth … lowering it by a good amount.

We were fortunate to get 0% financing on the new car … so in the end it isn’t all that bad.

Plus with me driving 60+ miles per day for work … it gives me the piece of mind that I have a reliable car.

The Downside of Older Vehicles

So as I write the final chapter on my car, I think it offers an important lesson.

I have been very proud of keeping the same vehicle for over a decade and a half. The last time I made a car payment was about 10 years ago!

But in those 10 years, I was spending more and more money each year on keeping it running.

So in the end … I believe there comes a turning point when keeping an aging vehicle (or anything else for the matter) is no longer worth it.

I will probably grumble when my first car payment is due on my new ride. But I will also have the piece of mind knowing my car will still run, get me from point A to point B, and keep me and my family safe.

Note – Personally, if we could downsize to one vehicle … that would be our perfect scenario. However, that just isn’t possible based on my job, where we live, and our 3 children. One of our long range goals is to become location independent … which means we no longer need to rely on having a car (let alone two).

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