Let’s divide the car-buying universe into two camps: those who keep a car until it drops, and those who think a new car will change their lives.
To the first, a round of applause. There’s nothing short of the bus that’s cheaper than keeping a car until it crumbles into a pile of rust. Almost any car can be nursed to 200,000 miles without endangering your life, and even a new engine is cheaper than all but the cheapest used cars.
To the second, another round of applause, because the 16 million or so new cars they buy every year instantly become used cars soon available at a considerable discount to those in Camp 1. And a moment of silence, because a new car will change their lives in ways they never foresaw on the dealer’s lot.
If you’re in a drive-until-the-muffler-is-dragging wannabe, read on. We’ll look at ways to keep your car on the road longer and realistically weigh the costs of upgrading.
I’d love to keep my old car, but …
Never skimp on maintenance
Pay special attention to the things that will cost you a fortune if they break. That means regular oil changes, tire rotations and transmission tune-ups, even if the car is running fine. Timing belts, for example, are spendy at as much as $600, and replacing one for no other reason than that the odometer has turned 90,000 miles might seem wasteful. But let one break and you'll find that repairing bent valves could cost you three times that. Replacing torn CV boots, those plastic housings that keep grime and grit out of the car’s constant-velocity joints, costs about a third as much as a CV joint repair. (If your owner’s manual is long gone, MSN Autos has a free online service that tracks your car’s service schedule.)
The repair costs more than the car is worth.
A $1,500 engine rebuild that keeps your ’83 Toyota on the road still makes good financial sense. It’s at this point, however, that all but the flintiest drivers begin to think about upgrading. Which brings us to our next question:
Am I ready for a newer car?
Your first step is to do nothing except write a check to yourself in the amount you’re thinking you can afford every month. Put aside a car payment every month for three months (long enough for at least one of life’s little emergencies to crop up).
To pass the time, make three phone calls: one to your bank, to find out what kind of rates they charge on loans to people with your credit history; one to your insurer, to ask the rates for comprehensive insurance on a model you think you’d like to buy; and one to your local DMV, to see what registration and licensing would cost.
At the end of three months, ask yourself these questions:
If the craving for a shinier car hasn’t passed in three months, at least you begin the shopping process with a few months’ worth of car payments and a more realistic idea of the hit your wallet will take.
MSN Money Online
Article By Des Toups
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