At some point a car is no longer worth fixing. In Vermont, with a Japanese car this is almost always due to rust issues. Mechanically a car can be fixed and continue to be a good car for well over 200,000 miles. My youngest daughter is driving a 1997 Toyota Camry. Her grandparents bought it new. My wife and I purchased it from them some years later, and we drove it until we turned it over to our daughter when she got her driver’s license. The car has over 273,000 miles on it now, and it still runs like a champ. However, it is starting to get rusty, and we will be retiring it in the fall when she goes back to school for her sophomore year. My oldest daughter got her car in a very similar fashion, and is it still going strong at nearly 180,000 miles, even though it is eighteen years old. I have a 2004 Subaru Forester with 197,000 miles on it. I drive it frequently out of state to car auctions, and to haul my girl’s possessions back and forth to their colleges in the fall and spring. I trust these cars even at the high mileages they are at. They are well maintained.
Purely from a monetary stand point I would continue to drive a Japanese car until it gets too rusty to justify repairs. An older car is going to cost you somewhere between $1000.00 and $1500.00 per year to keep on the road from a repair and maintenance point of view. Some years will be less, some years will be more, but that’s what you can bank on over a period of a few years. At $1500.00 a year this is $125.00 a month, a lot less than a car payment.
Does that mean you should skip buying that new or newer car? Absolutely not! If you want a new car get one! Newer features, nicer paint, a two door now that the kids are grown up, all good reasons to go for it. My only point is that I have, on a number of occasions, had people decide that they are going to replace their car because they feel they are spending too much money fixing it. Most of the time it is not cheaper to replace your car.
However, when the rust starts to get too bad it stops making sense to fix it. Combining mechanical repairs with the body work necessary will make it an unsound investment. We will keep you informed in these situations. We frequently tell people that they will need to start thinking about what their next car is going to be…soon. Rust issues eventually will cause structural integrity issues, and therefore safety issues. Rest assured we are watching this for you if we see your car regularly.