How do you know when to give up on your old car and buy a new one?

I have a 2002 Jetta with about 71,000 miles on it. It needs about $6000 worth of work on the transmission and to get a new oil pan. I’ve already spent about $3000 this year on rear brakes, the ignition coil, new plugs and wires, a timing belt, and a new water pump. I really don’t want to buy a new car, but I’m nervous about sinking $6000 more to keep the car running. How do you know when you should give up and buy a new car? My car is only 6 years old. I’d like to drive it into the ground, but I don’t want it to bankrupt me in the process. However, I figure I’ve almost rebuilt it from the ground up this past year… What to do?

$6000 for a trans and an oil pan seems very high priced. Shop around.

I agree to get other estimates. But in truth, serious tranny problems would always cause me to want to give up on a vehicle.
Unless I lived near Transman. I’d trust him to fix it right first time.

Why do you need a new oil pan? Been off-roading a little?

It depends of who you ask because the folks who fix their own cars will never give up on one and those who choose not to are forced to play this card game of knowing when to fold. If you aren’t going to turn your own wrenches then you must shop around, a lot! $6k is WAY too high. I’d say, find a different mechanic. Try to find someone who is more considerate of your means. I’m guessing that a brand new tranny is less than $3K tops (less labor).

fixing a car is almost always cheaper than buying a new one, both long and short term. your decision depends on how everything else is, especially the body, and how much you like the car. I would also shop around; you can probably get a used transmission for a lot less. i recently got a used transmission for my subaru, $1600 installed. all things considered, if the body and motor are good, i would do it. if unsure, have the compression checked, look for oil leaks…

If you can fix it cheaper they buying another like it, then fix it. That is if money and a totally non-emotional decision is what you want. In reality we make decisions on a number of factors including emotions. Nothing wrong with that, but only you can really say when it is time to sell.

If you want to approach this in a business-like manner, forget what you have spent so far; it is a “sunk cost”, in accounting terms. The only value it has is that those parts will not likely fail for some time. Agree that the $6000 quoted is rather high; shop around.

Car ownerhip should be viewed with a long term plan!

We had a previous post on this, where I suggested the following:

  1. Do you like this car well enough to keep it. (Marriage counselors ask similar questions!)
  2. Aside from what you have to repair immediately, what other things are wrong to your knowledge?
  3. Is the body in good enough shape to last another 5 years? This is often overlooked.
  4. Does your job allow enough time off to tend to frequent repairs?
  5. Does your wife or significant other feel secure driving the car from a reliability point of view?
  6. Since VW dealers only use factory new parts, and have high overhead you need a dedicated independent mechanic who knows and likes VWs.

Usually repairing is less expensive than buying another car. This is only true if the car was sold in sufficient quatity to generate after-market spares, and the car itself is not an orphan. You can get parts for a 1958 Chevy truck, but not a Borgward Isabella! This will not be your problem, since parts for your car are readily available.

As a car ages, it will need closer attention and care. This is not necessarily expensive or take a lot of work. I sold a 19 year old Caprice this spring, not because it was unreliable, but because the body would have needed significant repairs soon.

If you are willing to stay with the car and repair things as they break, you will come out ahead. There are still many 15 year old Jettas on the road. Where I live it is a ski-bum’s favorite transportation. Almost all of them have roof racks on them.

Good advice. Thank you. I know that about $600 of work needs to be done on the struts at some point and that I’m up for tires soon. The body of the car is fine, and I do like the car overall. At this point I’ve put in new plugs, wires, timing belt, ignition coil, water pump, and soon to be transmission and oil pan, so I guess a lot of parts at this point are now new…

Do you have any recommendations on how to find a good independent mechanic in the DC area who knows VWs?

Sorry, I live in the West, but Tom & Ray have a website to search for a good mechanic by region and city!