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Whether your car is on the older side and potentially near the end of its days, or you are dealing with sudden damage from an accident, extreme weather, or some other unexpected event, you probably have lots of questions you’d like answered before you decide whether to repair or replace your vehicle.
Refer to this article for help answering some of those questions so you can get the most bang for your buck as you seek to resolve your car troubles.
Repairing vs Replacing Your Car: Factors to Consider When Assessing Vehicle Repairs
How Old is Your Vehicle? How Many Miles Does it Have?
One of the first factors you must consider while assessing damage on your vehicle and deciding whether to repair or replace is the age of the car. This is especially so if you are not the vehicle’s first owner. If the damage in question is simply the result of extensive wear-and-tear from years, perhaps decades on the road, and not some acute, unexpected incident, you may want to consider saying your goodbyes.
It’s often not worth it to invest hundreds or thousands of dollars to one or two faulty parts on an old vehicle when there could be a few more parts on deck waiting to fail at any moment. If the car in question is on the newer side, and it is damaged but not totaled, you should definitely try to repair it rather than replacing it.
A Car’s First 100k Miles: “The Cinderella Years”
In a perfectly-maintained vehicle, the engine and transmission could keep functioning properly for as long as 300k miles (or longer) without requiring any major repairs. But for most individuals, the first 100k miles are the most worry-free in terms of service needs for the vehicle. You’ll need oil changes every so often of course, and it’s likely that the car will need some brake work as well.
You also might need to change a tire or two during the first 100k miles, but there’s no reason to expect serious damage in major components like the engine and transmission, unless something were to cause that damage like a collision or water flooding the engine.
The Next 100k+ Miles: Be Ready for Repairs
Once a car has experienced more than 100k miles on the road, a lot of factors come into play for someone who is deciding between repairing and replacing the vehicle. With perfect maintenance, the Cinderella Years could potentially last longer than 100k miles.
But for most people, this is when the possibility of needing major, costly repairs starts becoming more and more likely. If you manage to put more than 100k miles on a leased car before reaching the end of the agreement, you’re going to want to strongly consider looking for a new car rather than buying yours out.
Is The Car Leased or Owned?
Another thing you must consider when determining whether to repair or replace your vehicle is whether you have full ownership of the car or not. If you do have full ownership, you’ll have more freedom in deciding how to address the issue. Things get a bit trickier if you have a lease with a lot of time left on the vehicle in question.
If you are still making monthly payments and are nowhere near the end of the lease or loan, you should do your best to get the faulty parts repaired rather than replacing the vehicle, unless the cost of repairs exceeds the amount of money remaining on your lease.
What to Do When Your Leased Vehicle Needs Repairs
If the leased vehicle can be repaired for a reasonable cost, the first thing you should do is review the lease agreement’s service and maintenance clauses. It’s possible that your vehicle’s service needs are completely covered in the agreement. There’s also a chance that only part of the repair costs is covered (or not at all), depending on the specific problem to the vehicle and the nature of the lease agreement.
What Happens When You Total a Vehicle You Are Leasing?
If your leased car has been totaled, your car insurance policy may allow you to recover the current, actual value of the vehicle. Ideally, this will cover the remaining cost of your lease — but that’s not always how it works out. If insurance only covers part of the remaining amount on your lease, and you don’t have gap coverage, you will likely have no choice but to ‘cover’ the ‘gap’ yourself. So, if you only get $20,000 from the insurance company, but you have $25,000 remaining on the lease, you will have to pay the $5,000 leftover out of pocket.
Has the Vehicle Been Maintained Well?
When trying to determine whether to repair or replace a vehicle with considerable damage, keep in mind how well you have maintained the vehicle during your time owning it (and if you bought it used, the condition it was in when you first made the purchase knowing the history of repairs. If you know that the vehicle has always been maintained exceptionally, it could be worth it to get even some-more costly repairs rather than replacing it, as that would mean the car is in otherwise good condition and likely to have some more years left in it once it’s repaired.
But if the car hasn’t been maintained well, and there are other essential components aside from your immediate concern that are also bound to break down due to subpar care, you should consider starting fresh with a replacement.
How Much Money Have You Invested in the Car?
If you’ve invested a lot of money into the vehicle, whether it be on modifications, upgrades, or a strict maintenance routine, this is probably one of the main things on your mind as you choose between repairing and replacing your car. You’ll probably want to do everything you can to preserve a vehicle you’ve put a lot of your hard-earned money into, and understandably so.
As long as you are confident that the car is in good condition aside from the damage in question, and that it won’t turn into an ever-deepening money pit that requires more and more repairs as time goes by, getting those faulty parts repaired or rebuilt could be your best move.
Are Any Critical Parts Damaged Beyond Repair?
As we discussed in some of the previous sections, a lot of this is going to depend on the specific component(s) in your vehicle that are damaged, and the precise extent of that damage. Below, you’ll find a list of some key vehicle components that, if seriously damaged, could be the decisive factor(s) as you determine whether to get your vehicle repaired or replace it entirely:
- Engine Block: If you don’t follow the vehicle manufacturer’s maintenance recommendations, or your engine sustains severe damage in a collision or even while driving through flood water, it’s possible that the cost of repairs will come close to (or exceed) the price of a reliable new or used car. But as we stated earlier,
- Transmission: You want to be absolutely sure that you make the right decision when determining how to address a damaged transmission. Why? Because having a faulty transmission repaired or rebuilt is expensive, so make sure the other components of the vehicle are in good condition.
- Frame: Assess the frame for rot or cracks which could make your decision of replacing your vehicle.
- Steering System: While your car’s steering system isn’t the most critical component on this list in terms of costliness or likeliness to total your vehicle if damaged, a damaged steering system can lead to a number of other costly issues.
- Suspension: Your suspension plays an important role in the steering of your vehicle. It’s common for older vehicles to deal with worn components in their suspension system, but your suspension can easily become damaged in a collision or after running over an unexpected pothole. As long as the engine, transmission, and other major components of the vehicle are in solid working condition, getting repairs on the suspension is recommended over replacing the vehicle.
Reasons to Replace Damaged Parts Instead of the Whole Car
While the cost of replacing damaged parts and systems in your vehicle will often come close to or even exceed the price tag of a used vehicle, you shouldn’t dismiss this option right away. In a scenario where you are weighing such options, there is more at play than simply the cost of replacing your car’s broken parts vs the cost of a replacement vehicle. For instance:
- Insurance Premiums: Buying a new car will likely cause your insurance premiums to rise. Replacing the damaged components in your car, however, will allow you to maintain your current insurance coverage.
- Registration Fees: The cost of registering newer vehicles (and renewing registration) tends to be higher than that of an older vehicle. If you opt to replace broken parts instead of ditching the car entirely for a new one, you won’t have to worry about increased registration fees.
Schedule a Complimentary Vehicle Inspection
Still not sure if you will be able to repair the damage on your car or if it would make more sense to replace the vehicle entirely? Schedule one of our complimentary inspections at Kneble’s Auto in Mays Landing, NJ, for help assessing the damage so you can rest assured that you got a professional opinion before pulling the trigger on a decision.