How to Determine If It’s Worth Paying to Repair Your Car

How to Determine If It's Worth Paying to Repair Your CarWe’ve all heard the horror stories. Your rich uncle was sideswiped in his new Porsche, and the fender alone costs enough to total the car. But just because the insurance company’s preference points to cutting the cord doesn’t mean you’re forced to part with your prized vehicle.

The cost of parts is one of the largest factors in determining your insurance rate on a vehicle. However, it’s not the only thing you should consider if your car is damaged in a crash. Even if the immediate cost is high, you could still be smarter in the long run to repair your car and continue driving it.

Your Car’s Longevity

Today the average age of cars on the road is not quite eleven years old, and they’re capable of going well over 100,000 miles. These figures have increased, and decreased significantly since the inception of the Cash for Clunkers program, but they likely still fail to represent just how reliable modern cars are.

Which brings us to our next point. If you drive a car built in the last ten years, there’s a great chance that it can be repaired following a minor to moderate accident and continue to provide safe, reliable transport. Let’s explore some of the questions you should consider when you decide if you need a new car.

Is It Paid Off?

This is the first thing to consider if you may be ditching your current ride. A paid-off car is more attractive to repair because doing so gets you back to a happy life of no car payments. If you’ve got a number of payments left and the car has suffered damage that’s likely to result in additional repairs down the road, ditch that thing before you sink even more cash in.

Of course, it’s not that simple every time. You could be within months of paying off a vehicle you really like. In such a case, you’ll have to evaluate the damage. How much would your payment for a new car be? Do the repair costs constitute enough to put a down payment on a comparable vehicle that hasn’t endured the same damage? If the answer’s yes, consider changing cars.

Is This Your First Repair?

We oftentimes assume that because a car is built by a reputable maker, it shouldn’t require repairs. A good mechanic will tell you that in the long run, every car is different. Yes, some brands seem to resonate with people for reliability, but if you’re hoping to see your Toyota suddenly straighten up and fly right after the sixth major repair in six months, you might need to move on.

Counterpoint to this, if you’ve enjoyed a long stint without the need for repairs and need to pony up for a significant wrench job, such as a blown head gasket that costs $2,000, you might still be saving compared to the cost of a new vehicle. This is where the next question comes into play.

Is It an Isolated Problem?

If you know for certain you’ve identified what’s broken and by replacing that part or group of parts, you’ll resolve the issue and restore your vehicle to safe and sound operation, then go for it. The difficult thing is knowing with confidence how much you’ll spend.

Some parts fail and are designed to fail, but when you have an accident and suddenly things start breaking, it can be difficult to be certain what’s wrong. You might begin with your engine software, follow up with a rear-end service, and then find out your mechanic thinks you need a new transmission. Be cautious about chasing the tail of an issue that won’t go away. You could be smarter to change cars.

Do You Feel Safe?

Easy question. Even if the car has plenty of value left, certain repairs just leave you without confidence in a car. For example, if a fuel line breaks and causes a major fire hazard, you could have anxiety every time you start your car. It’s not worth living through. Make a change to something different, because the monetary difference won’t be so drastic that you can’t justify your own well-being.

It would be great if we never had to worry about fixing our cars, but it appears we’ll have cars that drive themselves before they fix themselves. This will bring a whole slew of new items to repair, but hey, don’t fret. You can always rely on these simple questions to help you in the event something breaks.

About The Author

Anum Yoon is the founder and editor of Current on Currency. She loves all things personal finance, which is why you'll find her work all over the PF blogosphere. Catch her updates on Twitter @anumyoon!

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