Betsy, your trusted family car, is older than most of your children and you are now wondering if the time has come to part with her. This decision will depend on a number of criteria, so hopefully, the following questions will help you think this through.
Why am I considering selling her?
Did you catch car fever when you spotted your neighbor’s new car? NOT a good reason. Does she need a major repair? See discussion on repairs below. Has Betsy outlived her purpose? Do you need more room for your growing family? Do you no longer trust her? Why not?
Does driving a car with more than 100,000 miles on it make you uneasy? Thirty years ago, vehicles with 100,000 miles on them were usually worn out. However, today’s cars, with proper maintenance, are often reliable at 200,000 miles or more.
Obviously, some reasons are quite valid and some not so much . . . the important thing is that you clearly understand your reasons.
What are your options if you sell?
If replacing Betsy with a new car is your plan, that’s okay, but you should pay cash. On the other hand, If you are about to borrow $39,000 for a new car, along with the $619 monthly car payment (as some friends of mine recently did), you might need to reconsider.
If you think your can afford $619 payments, why not start paying yourself $619 every month for the next year? Yes, Betsy may break down occasionally, but $619 a month will pay for a lot of repairs. You should have a nice nest egg in a year, and my guess is that, after you have been paying yourself $619 a month, you will opt for paying cash for a used car instead of continuing to fork over huge payments for years to come on a new one.
Is Betsy a problem child?
I once had a 1996 Chrysler Town and Country van which ate transmissions. Fortunately for me, each transmission replacement was covered by a warranty, but when it happened the third time, I decided to fix it one last time and get rid of it. If you have a problem child, you know what I am talking about, and you should probably sell it.
How does she rate?
If you are curious about whether Betsy is apt to become a problem child, you can read both reliability ratings and customer reviews on Edmunds.com. However, keep in mind that you know your car; you have driven and maintained her, so be careful about letting someone else’s thoughts take precedence over your own knowledge.
Can you give her a new job description?
Perhaps Betsy’s years as your family car have run their course, but, if she is still in good repair, you may find great value in keeping her and re-defining her purpose. For example, if you commute to work, why not rack miles up on an older car instead of wearing out your primary car? Or, if you have one or more aspiring drivers, let Betsy become their learning – and driving – car. You may even want to turn her into a work car or a fishing car. You get the idea.
Does she need a major repair?
By major repair, I mean that you need to spend over $1,000 to make her run safely. The challenge at this point is to determine, even if you are ready to sell her, whether you would be better off making this repair first. Obviously, her market value is greatly diminished without the needed repair, so do your homework by getting a few repair quotes and then comparing her repaired value on KBB.com to that of her market value without the repair. If the difference is substantially more than the repair cost, you should make the repair.
Do you love the car?
I realize this is a subjective question, but it is nevertheless valid because – consciously or subconsciously – you will take better care of a car you love, meaning that if you decide to keep her, you will baby her and thus increase her life expectancy.
A Short Story
About two years ago, my beloved 1999 Cadillac DeVille d’Elegance needed major repairs and I was debating on whether to sell it or keep it. I loved the car, but, because of a head gasket issue, it needed an engine. After limping it around for a year (I couldn’t go out of town because it would overheat), I finally opted for a Jasper rebuilt engine at an installed cost of (gulp) $5,400. Today, I have had zero regrets. I had babied my Caddy for years, keeping it in nearly pristine condition, and now I plan to keep driving her far into the foreseeable future. Besides, that 3-year, 100,000 mile parts and labor warranty is sweet.
A Killer Question
Before selling your old car, ask yourself this question: “If I didn’t own this car, would I be willing to pay this much money to buy it?” For me, that question cinched my decision to repair and keep my Caddy. It also validated my desire to rid myself of my 1996 Town and Country.
Deciding whether to keep or sell your car is a big decision. Hopefully, all of these questions, along with the Killer Question, will help you make the decision which is right for you.
What other thoughts should go into the decision of keeping or selling your car? What good (or not so good) decisions have you made on your older cars? Leave a comment!