At what point financially does it make sense to get another car?

I hear all the time that people get really costly maintenance problems as their cars get older, and instead of making the repair they get another car. Does this financially make sense though? Lets say I have a car with 200,000 miles on it worth less than 1,000 bucks. The transmission goes out and I can’t go into reverse. So the transmission needs to get rebuilt, that would like 2,000 bucks or so? Wouldn’t it make sense financially to get a rebuilt transmission and spend the 2,000 bucks on a car that’s only worth 1,000 dollars? The cost of the repair, $2,0000 can’t get a good reliable car. If you make the repair you will be driving a car with 200,000 miles on it with one of the most expensive repairs you can make to a car completed, that you probably won’t have to make again. It seems to me that from a financial perspective any mechanical repair should be made over getting another car. The total cost is less.

It would seem that it would make sense to get another car if say for example you get into a really bad accident with your 200,000 mile car, multiple panels are dented and scratched down to the medal, some windows are broken etc, and it cost $10,000 repair. Common sense from a financial perspective would say to take that $10,000 and get a car with half the mileage.

Can you help me out? It seems that from a financial perspective it ALWAYS makes sense to make mechanical repairs because it’s cheaper than getting another car. Am I wrong? I would agree if you get into a really bad accident that costs thousands and thousands of dollars to repair, it makes more sense to get another car with significantly less miles with the money it would cost to make the repair.

John , this subject has been beat to death so many times here that there is not an actual answer. The solution is that a person has to make a choice and just hope it was not the wrong one.

It makes sense to do the repairs if your car is in good condition body-wise, and the alternative would cost more than the repairs. If the car is already beat to hell, or you simply don’t like driving it anymore, then putting any money into it could be a waste.

Strictly financially, it usually makes sense to repair. But that ignores reliability. If getting stuck somewhere at a bad time isn’t a problem, fine. But most folks would rather not go through that.

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Well, a reliable car’s transmission doesn’t go out-so here is where your assumptions are questioned. .

I can tell you my story. My 03 trailblazer got rear ended, new hitch and bumper with used parts $700. Have a CEL that went off 1 month after 2 year emission inspection. Estimate is $600 for filler neck. So I could put $1300 into a vehicle I have done transfer case, front and rear differential fluid, coolant, power steering lines. It needs to make a 1k miles round trip to launch and pull out the boat at the cabins. Getting a little worried about the round trip last year. 2.5 hours north of the Twin cities, uhaul closest pickup trucks are in the twin cities. Going to get rid of the trailblazer, put a tow hitch on the rav4 and buy it out at the end of lease, then new or newer car for the wife. I planned to keep it forever but things change. If it was just a town car, I would keep it but time to move on. Financial sense probably I could get by keeping the black beauty, but reliability wise it is a question mark transporting wife, dog and crap 1k miles round trip 2x a year. Financial sense and reliability is a 2 edged sword.

Because a “reliable car” never has mechanical problems, parts never wear out, etc. Seems the OP isn’t the only one making potentially bogus assumptions.


I didn’t study the question but I’ll add my thoughts. Often you don’t know what the break even point was until it is all said and done which is too late. I put 520,000 on my Buick. I overhauled the trans at 350,000 just because I didn’t want to be surprised. Looking back on my expenses of overall and marginal costs for every 10,000 mile interval, I would have been better off junking it at 350,000, but I didn’t. Same thing with my Olds diesel. After putting the first engine in at 200,000, I never should have done the two head gaskets and second replacement engine. At the time it seems like an OK thing to do but at end of life analysis, I should have quit at 180,000 or no more than 300,000. Plus on a new car, everything works.

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Your $1000 dollar figure is way out of date… Your 200,000 mile car has 200,000 miles on all its parts. Eventually sensors and computers start failing and parts become unavailable. dashes crack, wiring connections fail,seats break, paint fails and you either get rid of it or spend ridiculous amounts on repairs. Then in many parts of the country add rust.

If the car is worth $800 you would receive $800 to replace the car, you won’t get what it costs to repair all of the damage.

The labor to remove and replace the transmission in your Camry will be nearly $2000, add the cost of a rebuilt or used transmission. You should be able to find a better used car for what it will cost to have the transmission rebuilt

I don’t have a vehicle with 200000 miles on it .

Sorry, Firefox just updated itself and it is making Car Talk act strangely. When I replied, your answer was shown as the last one and the blue reply button directly beneath it. Also most of the time when I am typing a reply, the text I am writing is jumping up and down in a dance with a half second beat.

My point is that at 200K miles, when the transmission goes out, then the odds of other major components going out is significantly higher. I do not consider the transmission rebuilt regular maintenance. Brakes, shocks, suspension is a different story. Every car is different, but usually most owners are reluctant to sink more money in a car that is closer to the end of its productive life.

I too place a lot of value on reliability.

Also don’t forgot the value of what your wife thinks. If she’s ready for a new car, that’s all the sign you need.

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What if you don’t have $2,000?
You sell the car to a junkyard for $199, scrape up another $200 and now you have a down payment on a $2000 car, then make $200 a month payments for 3 years, and hope the car lasts that long.

It comes down to educated guessing. Yeah, if the transmission is the only thing that’s wrong with it, and the only thing that will be wrong with it for a good chunk of time, it makes sense to repair. If, however, the transmission went out, and it burns oil, and what it doesn’t burn leaks out the rear main seal, and it needs new shocks and springs, and oh yeah, the steering rack is leaking and the heater doesn’t work, then sinking the money into the transmission would be foolish.

The problem is that all those other problems aren’t necessarily apparent when you’re deciding what to do with the transmission, so you have to hope your crystal ball is accurate enough for you to guess whether or not the car’s gonna need more expensive repairs soon, and you base your repair/replace decision on that guess.


Agree! My wife sends clear signals when she is getting fed up with her car.

Fortunately they coincide with my assessment as well.

Usually it is when the vehicle becomes unreliable; She worked in the medical field where getting to work on time was crucial.

Her last ride disposed of was OK but the power steering was starting to fail and terminal rust was showing on the underside. We sold it (a 1994 Sentra) for $700 to a buyer who just wanted cheap wheels.

Her replacement was a new 2012 Mazda 3 Sport which she really enjoys driving…

Lets say the transmission fails to go into reverse. That is the only thing wrong in a vehicle that otherwise runs very well and has been maintained according to the schedule in the owners manual.

First, don’t assume you need a rebuilt transmission installed. If the transmission runs just fine in the forward gears, the issue could be something as simple as a linkage adjustment, a bad solenoid, or a bad switch. This is where the smart money says get a second opinion and NOT from a chain store that wants to sell you a rebuilt. Find a good independent mechanic that knows his way around a transmission.

Also list the specific car, year, make, model, engine, transmission and specific issue. Then maybe there is a simple fix that someone here would tell you about.

As for economics. Calculate the ownership cost per mile of the current vehicle, that is what you paid and how many miles did you put on. Does that seem good to you? I.e., you paid $8k when it had 100k on it and now have added 100k. So it would be 8000/100000=$0.08/mile. So a $2k repair would need to go 25k miles to break even. If you can expect that, then the repair is justified.

Good financial reasoning! Some years ago, a friend had a nice Mazda 626 he bought for his wife, but unfortunately at a later stage the transmission went out.

The “repair” would be $4000+, while the market value of the car was $3500 at most.

He sold the car for parts, although the mileage was only 65,000 at that time. and the rest of the car was sound.

I would have gone for a repair because of the low mileage and condition of he vehicle.

These decisions are often very personal and emotional, and in a business case a repair would have been in order.

I don’t buy that at all. Could you show me a source on that?