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Should I fix my car or sell it? Find out what's best for you

The Costs of Wear and Tear

Even if you’ve taken good care of your car, some high-priced repairs are unavoidable, sometimes due to excessive wear or time itself. Rubber belts and hoses dry out and crack, metal on rotors warp or wear too thin, and electrical parts stop working. Wear-and-tear items such as axle boots, belts and brake rotors will eventually need to be replaced. The timing belt has long been a big-ticket item on high-mileage cars. On many cars, it needs to be replaced at around 100,000 miles. Dealership service advisers will often recommend replacing the water pump and the other drive belts in the car at this point. This “timing belt package” can cost between $600 and $1,000. Repairs such as this begin to surface between 90,000 and 120,000 miles.


Arguments for Buying a New Car

You swore you wouldn’t put another penny into your old car after that last repair. But buying a new car seems like an intimidating prospect. Here are a few reasons why buying a new car might be the way to go.

  • You don’t want to fret about future breakdowns. Old cars can be unpredictable. Repairing a single problem with an older car doesn’t guarantee that another breakdown won’t happen with another part or system. If you buy a new car, its warranty means you’ll have at least three years (and often far longer) before you have to worry about paying for any major repairs. Even buying a more reliable used car, such as a certified pre-owned vehicle, is enough to bring back some peace of mind.

  • You’re tired of the constant trips to the repair shop. Some things don’t get fixed the first time around, while others seem to need constant attention. Either way, trips to the mechanic are costing you too much money and time away from work or family.

  • You’re fed up with your old car. Perhaps it’s so beat that it embarrasses you. It rattles like crazy. Or you have to bang on the A/C to get it working. All these are reasons to move one. Take a look at your budget and make an honest assessment of your financial situation. Let the Edmunds suite of auto calculators do the math for you.

  • You want something safer. New cars have modern safety equipment. Features such as automatic emergency braking, backup cameras, and blind-spot monitoring are increasingly becoming standard fare on new vehicles.

When It Makes Sense to Sell Your Car Instead

Replacing a transmission is expensive, but for many, it’s a good way to delay the bigger expense of buying a new car. There are many other cases though, wherein it makes the most sense to sell a car, especially when it comes to safety.

Your Car Has Visited the Repair Shop A Lot Lately

Your Car Has Visited the Repair Shop A Lot Lately

Before the transmission failed, perhaps your ride’s engine kept stuttering first. Or you’ve seen an increase in the number of times you had to fill up the tank. It’s even possible your brakes keep squealing or the steering wheel always shakes.

Either way, you had to bring your car to the mechanic several times in the last few months. Now that you have a failed transmission, you’re looking to shell out thousands of dollars more.

Calculate how much you’ve already spent getting your car repaired. Then, ask yourself if another huge car repair bill is worth it. Chances are, it’s not worth the trouble or all the headaches that come along with it.

In this case, you may want to consider selling your junker instead.

Your Ride’s Value Isn’t That Much Anymore

Past repair bills aside, factor in the value of your ride without the new transmission. For example, its current value is $3,000.

Now, consider the replacement transmission that will cost you, say $3,000. Your mechanic says this will hike up your car’s value to $5,000. However, there are other repairs or part replacements that you also need to address ASAP.

These other costs will bring your total bill to say $4,000. If you sell it after the repairs and replacements, you’ll make $1,000. You can also keep driving it, but the longer you do, the more it’ll also depreciate.

All seems fair enough, right? Well, if you think about the time and energy you spend bringing your car to the shop and finding a buyer, not really.

So, unless you share a strong sentimental bond with your beater, you may be better off selling it. If there are too many soon-to-be-dead parts, you may get a better deal junking your car instead.

Your Clunker is Becoming More Dangerous to Operate

Every year, about six million car accidents happen on U.S. roads. While not all are fatal, these crashes still injure a whopping 3 million Americans.

And yes, vehicle malfunctions can also cause such accidents.

Take a failing transmission, for instance. This makes it difficult for the car to stay in gear, which can then lead to the vehicle stalling. If this suddenly happens on a busy road, the vehicle behind the stalled car can crash onto it.

That’s only one example, and it’s only for a bad transmission. Now, think about all the other issues your car has, and the risks they put you in.

Your safety — and the well-being of other people you share the roads with — should always be your priority. If operating your clunker has become too risky, it’s definitely not worth driving. But it’s definitely worth selling.

Cost of Transmission-Related Repairs or Part Replacements

Before we get into transmission replacement costs, let’s first take a look at the cost of common repairs. They may look cheap upfront, but again, your own costs depend on the factors we listed above.

Transmission Fluid Flush

Transmission Fluid Flush

While a transmission fluid flush is quite cheap, a Lamborghini Diablo owner once paid $766 for it! If you have a non-luxury ride though, a standard fluid flush should only cost you about $75 to $150. This can go up to $300 if the mechanic needs to use a pressurized machine.

Transmission Leaks

A leaky transmission repair cost usually falls within the range of $150 to $200. Leaks that affect the front seal, however, will cause a considerable spike in the costs.

Shift Solenoid Replacement

A single shift solenoid can cost between $15 and $100. Add labor costs into the equation, and you’ll end up with a $150 to $400 bill. The more solenoids you have to replace, the higher the price tag will be.

Options for selling

Your decision to sell is likely to be affected by how much you could get for your car and how easy it’ll be to shift. If you want to squeeze as much money out of the vehicle as possible, you have a very different choice on your hands compared to someone who wants to shift it ASAP and doesn’t care too much about what they’ll get for it.

If you’re paying a lot of money for your repairs, the chances are that you’re not going to get a lot for it by selling it on. In this case, the focus of the sale is more likely to be on getting rid of the car to avoid pouring more money into it than it is about recouping much of what you paid for it. If you’re looking for a hassle-free sale Jamjar can help you find the best possible deal for your car by sourcing a range of quotes from online car buyers for you to compare. Enter your reg number into our car valuation tool below to get started.

Selling your car privately will often get you more money, but this route is only worthwhile if your car is still valuable or desirable. It may be that you’re simply trying to sell up before you incur larger repair costs, in which case selling a vehicle privately, especially if it’s still fairly young, could be a viable option. Bear in mind that potential buyers will want to scrutinise every angle of the car and its maintenance history, so it’s not worth trying to sell it this way if you know there are recurring issues that an owner will have to deal with.

When Is It Not Worth Repairing a Car?

Many factors must be taken into consideration to determine if a car is worthy of repairs. You must look at the cost of labor and parts. If the total cost of the repair surpasses your vehicle’s value then right away you know it’s not worth the repairs. It is also important to understand that specific issues can trigger a chain of events and can cause other damages down the road.

Should I Fix My Car Before Selling It? What’s worth fixing?

Bad head or tail lightNot every car issue is devastating. Some are easy to fix and won’t cost you much money. These usually require small maintenance or a “quick fix” to get it done. You could even do some of these yourself and won’t require a professional’s assistance.

Bad head or tail light

One of the most common issues on any car is a bad head or tail light. Typically it’s bad light bulb. For most cars, this is a very simple issue to fix and you can find a replacement at your local auto shop for less than a hundred bucks! Some high-end vehicle will have special bulbs that you won’t find at a local auto shop but you can always order them from the manufacture and they can cost anywhere from $100 to $300.

Besides the light bulbs, you can also damage the headlight or taillight assembly. Either from an accident or the sun dried out and cracked the plastic. These assemblies are relatively cheap for common cars and you could always find cheaper aftermarket replacements for it online. On a normal car, you could expect the replacement of a light assembly to cost from $200 to $500 or more for the high-end luxury cars.

Dead Battery

Every battery at one point will drain and it won’t recharge. The first giveaway sign of a bad battery is if your car doesn’t start or crank when you turn the ignition. You must test the battery to truly know if it’s bad. If you do not have the testing unit, then most local auto shops will have one and it’s typically a free service.

To replace the battery is fairly easy for most cars and it usually only two screws! The cost of a battery can vary as there are different tiers of quality. A common battery can cost you between $50 to $150 depending on the size for your car. Premium batteries can run from $100 to $250 depending on what size your vehicle takes.

Bad Alternator

An alternator is what generates electric power for your car and it charges your battery. If your car isn’t starting, interior lights not working, and you’ve replaced the battery then most likely the alternator gave out. This is not a difficult repair as most alternators are clearly visible and require very little tools to remove. Most local auto shops will have this piece in stock and can cost anywhere from $300 to $500 for a common car.

Squeaky or loud brakes

When your brakes start to squeal or make grinding noise don’t be scared. This is just regular maintenance for your car. Brakes have two components that will always wear down from driving. The rotor and pad are designed to make that annoying squeaking noise as a sign that they need replacement.

For a normal car, the cost of replacing all four brake kits can cost you up to $600.00. For high-end vehicles with performance brakes, the cost of replacement can reach up to $1200.00 or more.

Loud Squealing belts

Your car has a series of rubber belts that help move the pulley systems in the car. Not counting the timing belt/chain this issue relatively easy to fix and easy to spot. If you turn on your car and hear a loud squealing sound every couple of seconds then you have a bad belt. Either it was stretched out from wear and tear or it’s cracked.

When the belt isn’t cracked you can tighten the tensioner on the belt this is a quick fix that will temporarily stop the squealing and give you time to fix the issue. The most common belt that needs replacement will the serpentine belt which can cost you from $160- $200 dollars in repairs.

Fix The Car And Take A Gamble

Spending $795 on Moose is taking a gamble that nothing else major breaks down on a 11 year old car.  It would be quite unfortunate if an alternator blew up, costing me another $1,000. Then Moose becomes a serious money pit as now I’m spending 50% of the value of the car on maintenance.

My desire for driving a fancy luxury car has essentially fallen to 0 given the movement against luxury. When it’s time to make the decision again on buying a new car, I will consider safety issues as the main criteria.

In 2021, I am driving a 2015 Range Rover Sport HSE. I plan to own the car until at least 2025. It’s a great family car for my wife and two children.

Related: Plug Or Patch A Tire?