SHOULD I FIX IT . . OR TRADE IT IN?

Posted by + on Oct 9, 2013 in Cost of automotive repairs

Sitting at the front counter of Simmons 4×4 AutoServiceCenter, that’s one of the questions that I hear and try to answer every single day.  In trying to answer that question, there are a couple of things that have to be considered.  Are we talking purely financial and economic figures, or do we have to factor in the emotional commitment you may or may not have to your particular vehicle?

This is a decision I found myself having to make a few years ago.  My old 1990 Ford F150 was starting to lose oil pressure after about 200,000 miles. Even though I change the oil on a regular basis, and follow a strict maintenance program, engines wear out, and mine was worn out.  Since I test drive a lot of diesel trucks that are in for repair, I figured it was about time to step up to the plate and get rid of my old gas burner.  So I headed down to my friendly Ford dealer and started pricing out a new diesel.  When all the options were added up, I was looking at about a $50,000 truck, and this was 4-5 years ago.

If we are talking purely financial numbers, then it is almost always better to repair your vehicle than purchase a new one.  Buying a new vehicle is one of the worst financial decisions you can make.  It is estimated that new vehicles lose about 45 percent of their value within the first year.  So from purely financial terms, would you invest your savings in a fund that was going to lose 45 percent of its value in one calendar year with no hope of ever getting it back?

With this in mind, I had to decide how much I loved my old truck and how much I really wanted a diesel.  I put pen to paper, priced out what it would cost to replace the engine in my old Ford, rebuild the transmission, transfer case, rear differential, and suspension components and came up with a workable figure.  Then I figured out how much it would cost me to insure a new diesel truck, how much it would cost me to register a new truck and put together a “pros & cons” list to look over with my wife.

Her first question gave me the answer I needed.  “I thought you loved Big Red.  Why would you want to get rid of him,” she asked.

So we brought the emotional factor into the decision.  Financially it made much more sense to repair my old Ford than it did to replace it.  Literally 10’s of thousands of dollars a year.  Money that could be used for traveling and seeing this great country of ours.  Money that could be used for recreational purposes like playing some of the great Tucson golf courses.  Money that wouldn’t disappear into the thin air of depreciation, registration and insurance fees that I would never see again.  And I do love my old truck.  It’s taken me camping and fishing.  It moved all my belongings to Tucson.  It’s always started and gotten me where I wanted to go.  Why would I consider kicking it to the curb and replacing it with a shiny new moneypit?

Financially, and emotionally it was an easy decision to make.  I decided to keep Big Red around.  I replaced the engine, rebuilt the transmission, transfer case, and the differential.  I did it all for less than 2 years of payments on a new diesel.  My insurance costs go down each year, and it costs me $20 a year for registration.  We continue to take camping and fishing trips together, and I don’t have to worry at all about any new “Arizona Pinstriping”.

Aftermarket manufacturers have engines and transmissions for nearly any vehicle you may drive.  They come with 3 year/100,000 mile nationwide warranties.  The seats can be reupholstered, and sound systems can be upgraded.  If you want to add a paint job then you can.  It sounds like a lot of time and work, and it is.  But it’s a decision many of us will have to make.

For me, when I considered the fact that I love my old truck, and weighed the costs of repair against buying a new one it became a simple decision.  Every person and every vehicle is different though.  How will you decide?  Should I fix it or trade it in?

Simmons Auto Repair is a one-stop auto repair facility serving Tucson since 1974.  Specialize in general repair and maintenance including undercarriage fabrication.

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