Some cars have 9 lives and can be repaired easily and continue to run for years. Others have one random break and are done for. The difference between these two often depends on the type of repair needed to get the car in working condition again vs. the value of the car. You don’t want to ever spend more to fix a car than the car is actually worth -- that’s just money down the drain!
If you think through your car repairs and clearly weight the cost against the value of the car -- either as a trade in, resale, or scrap -- you can make the best decision on whether you should fix your junk car or sell it.
To start off, you want to know what your car is worth. There are multiple tools online to help you determine the value of your car, such as Kelley Blue Book or Edmund’s. This is a great starting place to then figure out the true value. Have you tricked out your car in any way? That may increase the value. Is there body damage or other repairs needed before the car would be ready for resale? That will decrease the value. Using a few simple calculations, you can get a rough estimate of what your car would get when sold.
The next thing to do is to determine what the issue with your car is. Some things can be ignored or modified so the car will continue to work. If you have a dent in the side, but the car still works, it is likely not worth the money to fix. If the air conditioning is broken, you can either pony up the cash for a new system, or just drive around with your windows down.
Other broken parts will cost you money to fix, but how much depends on the problem. You may need to go to a mechanic or ask a mechanically-minded friend to determine what the actual issue is. An issue with the transmission is likely not worth fixing, as it will cost you upwards of $4,000. Unless you have a newer car in great shape, the price is not right. However, other common issues with the brake lines or catalytic converter may only be $1,000. This could be worth ponying up the cash for a few more years in your car. Other issues may only look bad -- a dead battery may only cost you a few hundred and is easily replaced.
It is smart to get a quote from a mechanic before making any decisions, as you may be able to get a deal that balances the scales on cost vs value. Sometimes an issue will seem worse than it actually is, and you’ll be back on the road in no time.
Ultimately, you want to be careful before making any decisions on your car. The value of your car is important to know, and it’s always smart to have a good mechanic.