Join Date: Nov 2012
Location: Plainfield, IL
Car: 2007 Outback 2.5i
Feedback Score: 0 reviews
Your question, al be it vague, is not an easy one to answer since the question (as I see it) as to how long you should keep (fixing) a used car is based on a number of factors.
a.) how much you know about the car
b.) how much history you have on the car
c.) how much cash on hand versus monthly discretionary money is available to you
d.) mechanical skill/knowledge/willingness to learn
e.) many other things I won't delve into
How much you know about the car
If you are the original owner of the car, you know (or should know) everything about the car. You know how it drives, how it feels, what it sounds like, what it looks like, what it's hit and what it smell like. You might have become (and therefore be careful about) accustom to certain sounds and smells but you general have the best understanding of what is going to go next. And you can base your repair and replacements on that knowledge - planning ahead. In this situation, you drive/repair the car beyond the point of those repairs costing more than the value of the car. You basically drive it until it becomes illegal to drive it (rust or unable to fix electrical issues that might leave head, brake lights, or other safety related features from operating).
If you aren't the original of a vehicle and you can't seem to "catch up" to the issues you are having. Then you have no choice but to get rid of it when/before the next repair is of a value greater than the car's worth.
How much history you have on the car
As stated before, if you are the original owner, you should have all this as I am referring to the actual mechanical history - not the experience or sensory knowledge as in my previous point. So as an original owner you will know what mechanical issues have been dealt with and therefore can better establish (if not already) a long term preventive maintenance plan.
However, if you are not the original owner you may not have a complete record of the vehicle maintenance that has been done. Even if you have a ton of receipts in the glove box, you can't always be 100% sure of it. You don't know the mechanics that worked on the car, you didn't interact with them so you can't be 100% confident in the work they did - you HAVE to assume the worst (to protect your investment in this car).
Obviously, the more repair history you have the better - unless it's history is shady and not just filled with a bunch of Jiffy Lube oil change receipts - and even then you may be scared to see a bunch of them.
How much cash on hand versus monthly discretionary money is available to you
If you vehicle is coming into disrepair more and more frequently then you need to look at the amount of cash you have for these repairs - depending on my previous two points you should have an understanding as to what might or is likely to still go wrong. If you are saving $100 and pretending it is a car payment and are putting it in a savings account dedicated for the car (like many financial planners would suggest but no one realistically does) then you can transition into a car payment easier. If you haven't but just have a good regular savings account then its going to boil down to the first two scenarios.
Cash on hand can be used for repairs or a down payment. Available monthly funds, or the ability to make room for one, will make it easier - if not force you - to give up on the car, regardless of what my first two points yield.
Mechanical skill/knowledge/willingness to learn
If you are mechanically incline or willing to become (with some variable costs related to errors you make) then you're back on the side of keeping a car until it dies. If you have two left thumbs and have only "popped the hood" so the AutoZone employee can top off your windshield wiper fluid, then you might lean more toward selling/replacing the car.
I prefer to buy and drive until they die. The only real legitimate reason for someone with that mindset to replace an aging, well-maintained vehicle would be to take advantage of new safety standards.