So your have an old car. When does old become too old? How do you know when to sell or junk that old car?

So you’re driving an old car, but when does old become too old? How do you know when to sell or junk that old car? Consider the following factors when deciding if it’s time for something new.


Older vehicles can face safety issues that are difficult or impossible to repair. Sure, wear and tear safety items like brakes and tires can be replaced, but a rusted frame can’t—at that point, you’ll need something new. You can’t patch holes in the floorboard easily, either. Other safety items that could be fixed may simply cost too much.

When your vehicle is unsafe for you and others, it’s time to remove it from the road.

Repair Expenses

One of the easiest ways to know it’s time to say goodbye is when the repair bills start piling up to the point that you’re paying more to keep your car running than it would cost you to purchase a replacement car. Consider the various costs when deciding if it’s time to retire your current car.

Take some time to sit down and do the math: How much are you paying for repairs and maintenance compared to the cost of a new or used car? Don’t forget that there are other costs associated with your car being in the shop—lost wages if you’re taking time off work or the cost of rental cars or other transportation alternatives while your car is in the shop. There’s also a time consideration involved—how much time is being lost while you take your car back and forth to the shop or spend all your free time working on it?

Major Component Failure

Engines and transmissions can be very expensive once they fail, with cost figures ranging into the thousands of dollars in some cases. It might be better to use the money that would otherwise be spent on a new engine or transmission as a down payment toward the purchase price of a new or used car.

If your car needs work on its major components, it’s likely that a new or lightly used pre-owned car will last longer than your current vehicle, even after the addition of a new engine or transmission.

Cost Versus Benefits

Safety is even more important than the time and costs of dealing with a failing old car. But in the end, it comes down to a cost-benefit analysis, and if the old car is costing you more than it’s benefiting you, it’s time to retire it.

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About the AuthorTim Healey

Tim Healey is a writer and reporter specializing in covering the automotive industry and reviewing new cars. He also has experience covering sports in a past journalistic life. The Chicago-based journalist loves cars, sports, and music, and can write passionately and knowledgeably about all three topics.