Deciding whether your older vehicle is worth another trip to the repair shop.
Oh no! Your older car wouldn't start and had to be towed to a garage. Now, the technician is rhyming off a laundry list of concerns—which will cost almost as much to fix as the car is worth. You can't help but wonder: Is it time to give up on repairs and get a new vehicle?
"I get asked that question often," says Ed Franz, supervisor of automotive technical services at CAA Manitoba. "Let's say your car is worth $5,000 and the repair bill is $1,200. Can you replace the vehicle for $1,200? That's the question you have to answer."
Franz also points out that there's a significant difference between a work vehicle and a commuter vehicle. The former, like a tow truck or delivery van, might have costly fitted accessories, while a commuter car is more easily replaced.
So what are the signs that you and your ride should part ways?
Be aware of rust.
"If there's any rust on the structure—if the frame of the vehicle, or any of the main suspension components, is compromised—the vehicle should be recycled," Franz says. After all, such corrosion would mean failure on the safety inspection that's mandatory for all automobiles registered in Manitoba. "Some superficial rust is probably fine, but if there's a hole the size of your fist in the fender, it's not a good situation."
Engines and transmissions are particularly expensive to replace. Depending on the model and year of a vehicle, its engine will be at least several thousand dollars—and a replacement transmission can cost even more. "Quite often, the repair bill on a newer vehicle transmission can be $4,000 to $8,000," Franz adds. "If you have an $8,000 to $10,000 car, and the transmission or engine repair will end up costing close to that amount, you're throwing good money after bad—even if the car is otherwise pristine."
What to do?
Wondering whether your vehicle's next repair ought to be its last? Have a qualified technician perform a thorough mechanical inspection. It'll cost about an hour's labour, and will identify potential causes for concern before they happen. Trust CAA Approved Auto Repair Services (AARS) shops for an honest diagnosis; they won't exaggerate your vehicle's problems.
An inspection is also important if you're buying a used car and want an idea of its life expectancy—especially if you're buying from a private seller or a small dealership. "People buy their car and then get it inspected. It's the most backward thing I've ever seen," Franz says. "I always tell my clients: You'll make your money back on the inspection because we'll likely find something. And you can use that knowledge when you negotiate the price of the vehicle".