When to get rid of a car?

My son is considering replacing his car and asked for my advice.

I told him that economically, it is always better to repair the one you own, rather than buy a new or used one - that you can do an awful lot of with the amount of money it costs to buy.

With 2 exceptions: Body damage (such as rust or accident damage) and difficult to diagnose electrical issues.

But there is the frustration factor and inconvenience factor, both of which weigh heavily in the decision. This depends on what your circumstances are (like having a spare car), and whether you do your own repairs - AND how much risk you are willing to accept.

Some folks (me included) will keep a car until something major breaks (engine, tranny, etc.), but some don’t want to even take that chance. Others replace a car every 3 or 4 years, so where the point is seems to be highly variable.

I’m interested in the thoughts of the community.

I’m very close to this, but I dump the car when it shows that something major is about to break.

This way our family last 2 Nissans with CVT were dumped: once I’ve noticed transmission started slipping, I did not wait 5 grands repair to show up, it was dumped immediately. It took almost 8 years for one and 11 years of another car age to get to that point.

Minor repair and maintenance? No a problem for me too.

I think circumstance has everything to do with it. I would drive it until major repairs are needed also, unless I didn’t do most of my own work. I would also need a back up vehicle in case something went South on a high milage car. Also the ability to replace it in short order. If I couldn’t meet these conditions, I would try to replace the car before 100,000 miles.

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From a financial viewpoint:

  1. When the car is no longer safe to drive.
  2. When repairs exceeds 6 months of expected new payments on a 5 year loan.
  3. When a vehicle no longer fits your needs. Tough to fit your spouse & a newborn into a Miata.

But in addition:
4. When your transportation is inappropriate for your career.
5. When you just plain hate what you’re driving.

Overall it’s a “life stage” decision and your vehicle should be appropriate for your needs.


Depends on circumstances as well as economics.

The last car we sold was 17 with 108K. Fixing the AC was more costly than the car was worth and it was an orphan - Saab. Parts were becoming an issue. Huge emotional issue for my wife but she understood the problems.

Some cars I sold no longer fit my needs, or I got tired of them, or a large repair bill was coming up and the rest of the car didn’t deserve that repair.

Personal economics only came into 1/2 the decision to buy only one car. Gas was $4.50 a gallon, my commute was 90 miles a day and my vehicle got 15 mpg so I partially justified a (used) 4 cylinder convertible sports car because it got 27 mpg!

Many of my wife’s friends have asked me that question. The full answer depends partly on the owner.s ability to keep an old car going.

In general, it’s best to replace an old car when:

  1. A very major repair makes it uneconomic to do a repair. However, if the transmission went out on an older car with low mileage and in mint condition, such a repair may be warranted.
  2. The car is no longer able to meet government safety or tailpipe inspections.
  3. The car has corroded to the point where it is unsafe.
  4. The car is a model for which parts are no longer available due to age or it being an orphan.
  5. The car has many small repairs that nickle and dime to owner to death
  6. The car has become unreliable to the point that it is unsuited as a daily driver
    7.The car has become so unsightly because of rust that it has become an embarrassment to drive. In many European countries such a car would be ordered off the road.

A friend of my wife had an Oldsmobile which had a nice body and good paint, but many gremlins and a poor ignition switch recall program rendered the car so unreliable that she traded it for a Toyota. Some amateur mechanic may now be driving it as a second car and debugging it
So it somewhat depends on the use of the car and the owner’s ability to cope with breakdowns.

A colleague once owned a British car and it broke down so frequently that the AAA now longer answered his call.

Hope this gives you some reasons for unloading a car or still keeping it for a while.

For me the answer is “It depends”. Do I like the car? Do I have an emotional attachment to the car? How close do the cost of the repairs come to the value of the vehicle and what is the probability of the vehicle needing more repairs in the near future? For my 97 F-150, it had been nickel and diming me for years, and it got to the point where there was so much rust on the underbody (very little rust on the visible exterior though.) It got to the point where the truck wasn’t worth much (per it’s age) and the cost of repairing the rust and other mechanical repairs that were no doubt forthcoming greatly outweighed the value of the truck. So it made sense to replace it. Coincidentally, I may be looking for a replacement for the 2014 F-150 as my brother is interested in buying it off me (he and his wife are expecting their third child next month and his 2003 F-150 with over 300k on the clock has about had it.)

I replaced my older 2003 Mustang with my current 2016 Mustang when the 2003 Mustang starting on a steady string of repairs. It was uncanny; like clockwork for about 8 months every 4-6 weeks something new would crop up. It was never anything major, but I could see the writing on the wall.

I’ll probably never get rid of the TR6, it’s been in the family since new and over the years thousands have been put into it’s restoration (the pace of this restoration can best be measured on a geologic time scale). It’s not a practical or reliable car, but I have a strong emotional attachment to it which trumps any practical reasoning.

When it comes to replacing my current Mustang. I probably won’t keep this once as long as my other daily drivers. Simply because at this point in my life I can afford to get a new car every 4 or 5 years or so (If I want to do so) and not have it be a financial big deal. The current plan is to keep the 2016 Mustang until the new Mustang comes out , if it interests me then I’ll wait a year for the first-year bugs to be addressed and then get a new one. If the new Mustang isn’t any good, then I’ll either hold on to what I have or look at something else.

In my post I did not go into the personal aspect of being “attached” to a particular car.
At the other end of the scale there are those who constantly want something new. I had a boss for 5 years who “changed cars when the ashtrays were full” so to speak. During those 5 years he had a Nissan ZX-300, an Alfa Romeo, A Corvette, and a Mustang. When I left the company he was looking at a used Ferrari!

This post is about making rational decisions as to when to trade or scrap a car.

Personally, here are some:

  1. 1965 Dodge Dart, scrapped in 1978 with 154,00 miles on it and rusted out.
  2. 1976 Ford Granada V8 with 98,000 miles. Thoroughly unreliable and wife was tired of the anxiety of getting to work on time.
  3. 1977 Dodge Colt, 90,000 miles. Parts no longer available; sent to crusher.
  4. 1984 Chevy Impala. 300,000 miles; given to son in 1996 as college car. He kept ti for 4 years and then sold it for $700.
  5. !994 Nisan Sentra, 220,00 miles. sold for $700 in 2012; body rusted out and ready to cave in. Jack could no longer raise the car.
  6. !988 Caprice, 300,000 miles. Good car, sold in 2007 for $1400 when I needed a better car for work.

I’ve never let a car nickle and dime me to death.

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For me the deciding factor is the risk of a breakdown, as I often drive by myself late at night in any weather an hour or more from home, so I generally keep my car (properly maintained) for about nine years and 100,000 miles. I know the car still has quite a bit of life left at that point, but luckily I’m in a financial position where I can replace the car without guilt then.

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I agree with the other thoughts here… but for me, reliability is near the top of the list.

If the car starts preventing me from getting to or from work everyday, its days are numbered.

That’s not the only deciding factor, but a big one.

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That used to be my main decided factor, before we’ve got a “spare car” in our stall.

Getting a spare “old beater” also helped to stop buying cars which have to fit multiple uses, as I do not need to burn gas on 4WD and big body for everyday drive, but need these features often enough to own the older SUV.

I typically start looking after 10 years, by then my needs/wants have changed enough that I can justify it to myself. But the decision has seldom met any of the strict criteria outlined above…

In the last couple years a great many safety features have made their way into even moderately priced vehicles. The better likelihood of avoiding accidents and surviving them is a valid reason to get something newer.

That was a complaint on me from my “car guru” relative when I was shopping for my first car: “everybody seem to pay more attention to how car DRIVES, you select yours on how it would CRASH” :slight_smile:

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I get a new car every three years. I have no tolerance for out of warranty repairs.

I shoot for 200k miles, unless the vehicle has a major failure before 200k. I feel like I’ve gotten my use out of it by 200k, and by that mileage a major repair is probably eminent. 200k is the new 100k, in my mind.

Of course, if money were no object, I’d just trade whenever I felt like it. I do enjoy that poisonous chemical off gassing (new car smell).

I’ve never really had a vehicle “nickel and dime” me to the point that I considered replacing it. Maybe I’ve been lucky. But it takes a lot of nickels and dimes to replace a vehicle with a new one.

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Quite agree there! I spent 15 years in marketing and business development and my car had to start in the morning and be reliable the rest of the time. In the past company cars were traded every 2 years since reliability was important. Today’s cars are vastly more reliable and a 4 year cycle is common.

Now that I am virtually retired, as well as my wife no longer working, we cam be more tolerant of breakdowns. We both carry AAA cards and cell phones when on the road.

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That is why I got rid of my GMC pickup early. I was consulting at the time…and almost every other month I was addressing a problem with that truck. It was costing me money in lost wages and time. I either had to have someone fix it or fix it myself…either way it was costing me a lot of money. I couldn’t rely on the vehicle any more. Sold it with only about 100k miles on the truck. Bought my first SUV (1990 Nissan Pathfinder). That vehicle lasted well over 300k miles. Best automotive decision I’ve ever made. NEVER EVER left me stranded. And that GMC pickup was the last GM product I ever bought.

Back in the day I bought a Ford Topaz, very used. I was replacing parts in that think monthly, sensors, suspension, alternator, etc etc. I was to the point that I’ve done enough to this thing that there’s nothing left to wear out. Then something else did. 3 times more. I finally sold it to a neighbor who lived a couple miles away with full disclosure for very very cheap. I seen him 3 years later and he told me he had no problems since he bought it. Oil changes only. :confounded:

We’ve done it for varied reasons. The Volvo purchased from my grandparents went away after 2yrs because it was costing us $200 or more a month in repairs and constantly in the shop.Last sighting after we sold it was parked in front of the mechanic’s shop.

The bulletproof 1990 Mazda Protoge was donated to the local community college after 19yrs and close to 200K still running and driving very well but without A/C and the driving position no longer comfortable for mom (back injury not helped by shifting gears) it was finally replaced with a new 2010 Prius which had all the comfort and safety features we wanted for her next car.

My dad traded in his 2007 Honda CRV that except for a 30 minute limit before the driver’s seat made him pull over and take a break it only needed normal wear and service items in 12yrs of ownership. Traded for a 2019 CRV with all the new safety gear he was looking for and an improvement in MPG on the daily loop.