8 Signs It's Time To Buy A New Car

By: Jack Sackman

Some people will hold onto their car forever. And those people should be applauded. Studies show that the longer people drive their car without payments, the further ahead they are financially. Everyone knows someone who is driving around in an extremely old car that has more than 300,000 miles on it and is covered in rust. However, eventually even the sturdiest vehicles wear out and it becomes impractical to keep them running. At some point, common sense needs to kick in and motorists need to accept that it is time for them to purchase another car—whether a brand new one or a slightly used vehicle. Here are eight signs that is it likely time to let your old car go and buy another one.


8. Breakdowns and Repairs Occur Frequently

The occasional breakdown on an older vehicle should be expected, and paying for needed repairs every once in a while is reasonable. However, when a car starts breaking down with increasing frequency, it is likely time to start thinking about getting another vehicle. As a general rule, you don’t want to experience more than two breakdowns a year. And by breakdown, we mean incidents that prevent the car from being driven and require major, costly repairs. We’re not talking about having to replace the windshield wiper blades or the air filter. We’re talking about replacing radiators, exhaust systems, and fixing major engine malfunctions. If you get to a point where your car is breaking down every two, three or four months, then you’ve got a serious problem on your hands.

7. The Interior of the Car Starts Crumbling

U.S. President Barack Obama likes to tell people that he drove a car in college that was so old and rusted out that people could look through the floor while driving and see the road passing by underneath the vehicle. Passengers in the car, including his wife Michelle, had to be very careful about where they placed their feet. This is a clear sign that the car needed to be replaced. When the interior of a vehicle begins falling apart, it is likely that the car is no longer salvageable. We’re talking here about holes in the floor, ripped and torn fabric, knobs falling off and windows and sunroofs leaking water. If being inside the car feels like a hardship, then chances are that you need to head to a vehicle dealership as soon as possible.

6. Your Friends and Family Are Ashamed to be Seen With You

We’ve all heard the term “rust bucket” to describe an old, rusted out vehicle. And this terminology exists for a reason. Many people will continue driving a car even when it is in truly unsightly condition. And while the owner of the car may be oblivious to how the car looks parked in their driveway or cruising down a highway, chances are that friends and family are all too aware of how bad the vehicle looks. If you find that your family and friends are embarrassed by the car you drive, and ashamed to be seen with you, then take it as a sign that you need to get a different car. And no, rusted trunks and different colored car doors are not cool. You may be immune to your car’s appearance because you’ve had it for so long, but trust us when we say that other people are embarrassed on your behalf.

5. The Car Will No Longer Pass Emissions Tests

A clear sign that your car is outdated is when it will no longer pass environmental emissions tests. Newer vehicles have been built with various “drive clean” technologies that make the emissions coming from the tailpipe better for the environment and atmosphere. Older model cars do not have these technologies and many will not pass emissions tests that are required when motorists renew their license plates. Some drivers have to spend a lot of money having new technology added to their vehicle just to get it to pass an emissions test. And, depending on the age of the car, some vehicles will not even be allowed to take an emissions test. If this happens to you, then you may want to consider replacing your car rather than shelling out big bucks to get it to drive cleaner.


4. You’re Spending More Time at the Gas Pump

The older the car, the less fuel efficient it will be. Each year, a new crop of cars come out and each one is a little more fuel efficient than the previous year’s models. If you’re driving a car you bought in the early or mid-1990s, chances are you’re spending a lot more time at the gas station than your neighbor who’s driving a 2015 Toyota Prius gas-electric hybrid. And while you might not be making payments on your car any longer, all those trips to the gas pumps add up in terms of costs to operate the vehicle. It depends on how many miles you drive a week. But if you find yourself at a gas station more than two times each week, then you’re spending too much money on gas and should consider upgrading to a vehicle built in this decade.

3. The Cost to Insure the Vehicle Keeps Rising

It’s a fact, older cars are more expensive to insure. Newer cars qualify for a host of safety features that are not available in older model vehicles. And even if you have a spotless driving record, the older the car gets the more the annual insurance premiums creep up—especially if you use the car to commute to and from work. Paying attention to the insurance premiums on your car is just as important as the other costs associated with operating the vehicle, such as gas and repairs. You don’t often think of your monthly insurance premium, but you should. It can be more expensive than you realize.

2. Safety is Becoming an Issue

No matter how well maintained your car is, eventually it will become unsafe to operate. Not only will the car become unreliable and prone to breaking down at dangerous times, such as when you’re driving on a highway, but older cars do not have many of the advanced safety features that are found in newer model cars. We’re talking here about things such as side airbags, electronic stability control, rear view cameras, blind spot monitoring and forward collision alert. While it can be argued that many of these advanced safety features are optional and not necessary, it can also be argued that a car that is so old the muffler falls off should not be driven at all. If you, or the passengers in your car, have a general feeling of uneasiness when in your vehicle, than it is time for an upgrade.

1. Repairs Cost More Than the Car is Worth

The tried and true reason to replace an old car is when the repairs cost more than the car is worth. If you need to spend $2,000 for an engine repair, and the car is only worth $500, then it would be foolish to pay to have the vehicle fixed. You can also do the “tire test” on your old car. When it comes time to put new tires on the vehicle, ask yourself if the car is worth the cost of a new set of tires. If the answer is “no,” than you should head out to buy a new car. This test of whether it is time to buy a different car is a practical one and comes down to dollars and cents. But there can be no arguing with the math involved. When paying to repair an old car is getting expensive and you are unlikely to see a decent return on your investment in the car, it is time to send that old car that has been so reliable over the years to the scrap yard.