Fix it or ditch it? Mechanics, car salesman offer advice on repairing vs. buying new

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FORT WAYNE, Ind. (WANE) – A big financial decision many families face is the choice to pay to fix up a car or trade it in for a new car payment. WANE 15 asked local car experts what their advice is for those facing the decision.

“It’s very intimidating,” Tom Kelley of Kelley Automotive Group explained. “And even in today’s world, I don’t know what it takes to repair some of these cars. So you have to have really good, solid people working for you who give you good honest advice on what are the options and what are the best options.”

“I think you have to look ahead and see how many more years you’re going to get out of the car you’ve got before you invest a lot of money in the car you have versus picking up a little bit of a car payment,” Fox & Fox’s Dick Fox added.

It’s a call that many people have gotten – the mechanic has finished looking at the car and the bill will be costly. Do for up for the fix or break down and pick up a new car payment?

“If it’s got really high miles and it’s beat up and the body is rusting it’s probably not a good financial move to pull a trigger on a high dollar repair like a motor,” David Goddard, the owner of The Import Doctors told WANE 15.

Maintenance costs

Expensive repairs aren’t the only costs car owners come across in the lifetime of a vehicle. Those that budget for cheaper routine maintenance can get a good idea how the costs compare to a monthly car payment.

“Every car needs maintenance, Goddard added. “That’s how you get tons of miles out of them. If you maintain a car, it will tend to last a lot longer than if you don’t.”

According to Consumer Reports, there is a significant difference in the amount people pay for work on their cars, depending on the age:

  • 3 years old – $83 per year
  • 5 years old – $200 per year
  • 10 years old – $458 per year.

Most new car warranties last three years.

“It’s not always dollars and cents, but I think that’s a really important side of it is what’s it going to cost to keep the car and how long can I keep it before I hit a big ticket item,” Fox said.

The average age of all cars on the road is more than 11 years. That is up from 8.5 years in 1995. The Consumer Reports experts also reported that keeping a car running to the 200,000 mile mark could save a car owner $30,000. It could take 15 years to get to hit 200,000 miles.

The people at NerdWallet compiled a pros and cons list that you can use when considering your future options.

Fixing your car:

  • Faster than shopping for and buying a new vehicle.
  • No change in insurance costs.
  • The car’s history is known.
  • You won’t waste time and money advertising and selling your car.
  • Your repaired car might soon need more repairs.

Buying a newer car:

  • Purchase can include warranties and sometimes maintenance.
  • Recent cars have advanced safety features.
  • Younger cars are more reliable.
  • You’ll stop wasting time schlepping to the repair garage.
  • But a new car loan is a long-term financial commitment.

Advice for customers

“We get it on the rack,” Fox explained about what his business does for car owners. “We look at it closely. We look at the body for rust and corrosion, things that aren’t easily fixed. We look at large ticket items like the transmission, engine, and then we drop down to the items that aren’t so expensive, that are kind of considered routine maintenance and get an overall picture of the kind of money that is going to have to be invested.”

“We really try to do a good assessment with the customer on ‘here’s what it’s going to cost to repair your vehicle to a safe, normal standard,” Kelley added. “Here’s what a replacement vehicle, a similar kind of vehicle would cost, here’s what a newer pre-owned car would cost, here’s what new options to lease or buy would cost,’ and we try to help the customer walk through all the possible potential phases of that decision rather then say ‘we want to make a bunch of money to repair your car or we want to make a bunch of money by selling you a car. At the end of the day, my dad always said to try to treat each customer as your best friend and give them the advice you’d give your best friend. That’s what I try to tell my people.”

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