Q: I have not been very good about keeping up with the maintenance services on my car, and now I’m told it needs a lot of work just based on time and mileage. In particular, I need a timing belt and shocks and struts, which are expensive. Should I just buy a new car?
A: That depends. If you’re tired of your current car and can afford to buy a new one, maybe that would be best. But if you are thinking about buying a new car because of the cost of repairing your current one, following are some points to consider.
• Buying a new car will increase the real costs of vehicle ownership significantly.
• Your new vehicle will depreciate in value the minute you drive it off the lot, most dramatically within the first three to five years.
• Both your vehicle insurance and registration costs will be much higher.
• If you need to take out a loan to purchase your new vehicle, take into account the interest you will pay in addition to the principal payment.
These are all major, real, out-of-pocket expenses.
It is much more cost effective to correctly maintain the car you have. The key is “correctly maintain.” This means keeping up with oil and other fluid changes when due and being aware that “cheap” or “quick” oil changes may not be your best bet.
Note that today’s engines and drivetrains require lubricants with specific standards. It is not like the old days when any lubricant would do the job. Correct lubricants today cost more money and are not usually used as part of a low-cost oil change. Using the wrong lubricants may not have an immediate impact, but over time it will cause engine components to fail prematurely.
Timing belts must be changed at certain mileage or time intervals. Many vehicles will suffer internal engine damage if the timing belt fails, which is much more expensive than replacing the timing belt when recommended.
Replace shock absorbers and shock struts at approximately 80,000 miles, before they become unsafe and cause uneven tire wear.
The bottom line: If you have neglected maintaining your vehicle, there may be what seem like high costs to pay. But if the required services are performed the right way, using correct and high-quality parts, your car will give you many more miles of reliable service at a much lower cost than the purchase of a new vehicle.