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Car repair vs replace

Me and one of my friends had a heated discussion today and I was wondering what people’s thoughts on here would be. The discussion is if you have an older car that runs good but needs body work, is it more economical to get the repairs or buy a new car or newer used car? The topic came up because my friend knows someone who was in an accident and his car was totaled because the value of his car was so slow. This got us thinking. Is it better to put in say two to three thousand on a older car and keep it or is it better to take loan out and get newer car? I think it better to fix old car because it a one time cost and the insurance stays the same. My friend thinks it better to take loan and get new car plus pay whatever insurance goes up to. Is there a right answer? Is it better to go in debt or have a car note again over a one time repair expense? What is everyone’s thoughts on the topic?

It does not matter what is best. What the person wants to do is all that matters.

One usually doesn’t waste money on body work on an older vehicle.

This is because most body work costs exceeds the resale value of the vehicle.

Besides, when you drive a vehicle that needs body work, you don’t usually see where it needs body work because you’re looking out the windshield. It’s the other drivers who see that the vehicle needs body work.

The reason the vehicle was totaled is because the body work required to repair the vehicle exceeded the value of the vehicle.

So, when an older vehicle that needed body is wrecked, you don’t feel any big loss.

I drive my vehicles into the ground before replacing them. And I replace them with another used vehicle with cash. And just have liability insurance on them.

I just make sure they’re mechanically safe and sound.

But each individuals situation is different.


We get this question from posters ALL the time. Usually because they are faced with that problem right now.

If the “bodywork” is rust repair, dump the car. Rust repair is VERY expensive as it is always more pervasive than you think.

If the body damage is cosmetic, like @Tester points out, ignore it and drive on. Only YOU care! That’s part of the “run it into the ground” thing. If its cosmetic and the car is otherwise nice, better to make the payment once than for 60 months. Pretty much the same argument for big repairs like engine or transmission rebuilds.

Lots of people don’t want to do this, as @VOLVO_V70 points out, and will justify a new car to themselves not matter what anyone else says. A leased new car is the most expensive option, financed the next. There is a big drop in cost with a financed used car. The cheapest way to buy any car, all things considered, is to buy a nice clean 3-4 year old used car, for cash, and run it into the ground. Not an opinion, is just the way the math works out, all things, including insurance, considered.

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Agree! We get these questions all the time. Minor rust repairs are OK, but major problems will nearly always exceed the value of the car.

If the car is mechanically sound and rust does not bother you, just keep driving. Many posters keep these cars as “beaters” for winter driving while they keep their good cars in the garage. Think of rust as car cancer!

I have repainted 4 cars over the last 50 years, mainly because they had good bodies and the paint was either fading or peeling.

If you can repair a small rust area with Bondo and repaint it yourself, by all means do it. Having owned two Fords in the past; this was standard procedure until the late 70s.

It’s usually cheaper to keep an older car running than to move to a newer car. There are exceptions, such as if there’s major rust.

Whenever you arguing about what is better, you need to define what means “better.” Cost is one criteria, and usually is the focus. Appearance, reliability, function, and safety are others. You’ll give on cost if the other criteria are important.
Cost is actually the easiest one to calculate. Most of the major expenses (car payment, gas, insurance, regular maintenance, the cost of the immediate repairs) are easy to get. For an older vehicle, you have to estimate (i.e., guess) for repairs. And if it’s a really old vehicle, you may have to guess its remaining life.

I think for the argument the better is that the driver is very comfortable using the car and not comfortable in new high tech cars. Also from money thoughts is it better to spend one or two thousand to fix vs buying new car by getting a loan and having insurance rates go up. My thoughts are that it worth taking a chance on old car as opposed to trying to figure out what car you want and then how to pay for it over time. My friend think it better to go in debt and get new car but I hate being in debt or owing money.

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For an older car, say 20 years old, if there’s quite a bit of body work needed, like if the estimate is considerably more than the current value of the car, you’d probably be better off $$-wise selling it to a part recycler, and buying another used car. It’s possible you might find a car just like it for sale, only one not bent into a pretzel.

However, if you are attached to the car, there’s pretty much not anything which can’t be fixed with enough time and money. Car owners do this all the time, there’s an article in the newspaper this past weekend where somebody fixed up their 1970s Mercedes , cost them to the tune of $50K I think to get it how they wanted it. But they are there on the newspaper page smiling away, so for them the $50 K was money well spent.

i’m hard-nosed about when to get rid of a car. I scrapped or sold the following cars because of rust or lack of repair feasibility: 1965 Dodge Dart, 1977 Dodge Colt, 1948 Chevy, 1957 Plymouth, 1976 Ford Granada, 1966 Chevy Malibu, 1994 Nissan Sentra… In all cases, repairs, if possible, would have been wildly in excess of market value.

In some cases the cars were still mechanically sound, but the bodies were giving out.