How To Know When It’s Time To Upgrade Your Car


It’s hard to let go of a car you’ve had for years. Sadly, no matter how reliable your car is now, it will eventually have to be replaced. But if the thought of new car payments terrify you, chances are that you plan on driving your car until it’s on its very last leg.

That’s certainly a smart financial choice, but committing yourself to an old car also makes it even more difficult to recognize when it’s time to upgrade. If you aren’t sure whether it’s time to hang in the towel and start searching for a new vehicle, here are some telltale signs that it’s time to upgrade your car:

Maintenance costs

It seems like just yesterday you were driving your brand new car out of the lot. Now, suddenly, you’re taking it in for repairs more often than you can count. The average car lasts for about 150,000 miles, but that rule doesn’t fit for everyone.

If your maintenance costs are beginning to add up to more than half of your vehicle’s current value, then it’s time to consider upgrading. Let’s say your car is worth $5,000 and your latest repairs are going to cost $2,600.

While $2,600 may seem like a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of a new car, that theory only works if you know for certain that you won’t need any additional repairs. Chances are, these aren’t the last repairs you’ll need. Over time, these costs can snowball, so get ahead of the bill and start searching for a well-priced new car before it’s too late.

Car payment

Is your car paid off in full, or do you have a monthly payment? These are questions you must ask yourself before an upgrade. The average used car payment is about $361, so you’d ideally like to stay at or below that target.

This is where your decision gets tricky. Before upgrading your car, map out exactly how much you’d spend a year on car payments alone versus how much you spend on maintenance now. Let’s say your current car eats up $3,000 on maintenance costs a year. When you break it down, you’re still spending roughly $1,000 a year less than you would on an updated car.

But how long will that last? Once a car starts requiring regular large maintenance repairs, you could be gambling with your car’s life span. If it begins breaking down on a regular basis, you set yourself up for missed work, lengthy appointments, a lower trade-in value, etc.

Car goals

Before you even thinking about upgrading your car, write down what you’re looking for in your dream car. Maybe you have a small sedan that’s stopping you from going camping in the mountains. In that case, buying a car with four-wheel drive aligns with your goals and personal interests, so it might be worth the money. Are you thinking of having kids anytime soon? Then, perhaps a larger vehicle might suit your future goals. However, if you just want a new car because you just want one, then you may want to think long and hard about the numbers.

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