Car Trouble: To Repair Or Not?

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Should you fix that car or buy a newer one? That's the frustrating question we've all faced at one point in time and it can be tough to tell which is the best choice for you and your aging automobile.

Depending on the problem, car repairs can run hundreds or even thousands of dollars and, sometimes the bill can ring up to more than the value of your car. Deciding whether to pay for those repairs can be a tough call.

"It's really a function of the age and how many miles and the condition of the car," Larry Tanner, of West Hartford, said.

"For what the economy is today, sometimes if you have one you better off fixing it," Devon Channer, of West Hartford, said.

When he's not testing cars on the job for AAA, Jim MacPherson cruises around in a 1985 Volvo. It has about 120,000 miles on it and is valued at $1,000 dollars. His advice is that just because repairs might run more than the value of your car, don't rule them out.

"Would I, for example, put over $1,000 into repairs? Absolutely, because of the transportation value that the car would offer me. If I thought that the $1,000 was just the first installment of multiple repairs that were coming, then I might think twice," MacPherson said.

Something else to think about is, if your car is worth $3,000 and your repairs will run $2,000, but you can find a better car for $5,000.

"You're better off moving on," MacPherson said.

One reason you might want to upgrade to a new or slightly used car is safety.

"There's been a huge advancement in technology and you may want to avail yourself even though perhaps traditional economic rules of thumb would not suggest you do it," MacPherson said.

With the economy stuck in park, car repairs are on the rise, according to Ronald Jones, the owner of Jones Automotive in East Hartford. They may not be cheap, he says, because, as technology improves, repairs become more complicated.

"Certainly it depends on the repair, the type of repair you're doing, obviously the cost of the repair," Jones said.

If you're not quite sure what to do, consider asking your mechanic to check over your car for other problems that might pop up down the road.

"If we find that it's getting too far along, maybe we shouldn't be spending money on it, we'll tell them we shouldn't do this repair, maybe time to change cars," said Jones.

Tim Lyons, of Tim's Automotive in Simsbury, said there is a point where you won't get the return on your investment.

"Once a car gets more than ten years old and starts to approach 70 to 80 percent of its value for repairs, it's best to consider getting another vehicle," Lyons said.

Cars do last 15 years and sometimes even longer these days, according to Lyons, but he cautions there is a point where your wheels will turn into a money pit.

"Sometimes I'll do a repair such as $800 in a $1,000 vehicle, then something else will go wrong and now you've married the car and it comes back to bite you," said Lyons.

If you take good care of your car and follow recommended maintenance guidelines, you could get upwards of 160,000 to 200,000 miles out of it, if not more, both Jones and MacPherson said.

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