I love my car. It's a 2002 Hyundai Accent Hatchback that I bought in 2004 with 4,000 miles on it. I did have to take out a loan to pay for it, but I paid the loan off in 2 years, and it's been all mine since 2006. My little car was very inexpensive (around $7500). It gets great gas mileage -- about 30 in town and close to 40 on the highway. And I can fit just about anything in the hatchback -- I've moved a desk, a couple of couches, and boxes galore. The excise tax is $25.00 per year, and my car insurance is also very low. I can park anywhere -- I've taken my little car to Montreal and NYC a couple of times and drive to Boston regularly, and I can fit in tiny little city parking spaces.
My check engine light came on recently -- right before I needed to get my annual inspection. So I brought it to the dealer. They fixed the problem (some sort of exhaust pipe) for $500, and gave me a long list of other stuff they suggested I fix. The repairs totalled around $1500 (on top of the $500). I have just passed 80,000 miles on the car, and I was hoping to get 150,000 out of it -- or about five more years of driving (so I could save up for a new one in that time).
I decided to take it to an independent shop for a second opinion. The guy at the independent shop told me which things on the list were important (timing belt) and which I could ignore (struts and steering bushing), but he said around 100,000 miles, it would get too expensive to keep fixing and I should think about a new car. So I brought it back to the dealer for the timing belt ($300), and I asked someone at the dealership how many miles I could expect out of the car. She said she's got a customer with an older version of my car with 400,000 miles, and I should get at least 200,000 out of it.
I figured that both shops had a vested interest in my keeping the car (the more repairs I need, the more potential new business they get), but that the dealer also had an interest in getting me into a new car. If the dealer says I can shoot for 200,000 without a lot of problems, that's news I can use! I may have an emotional attachment to my ca, but I also don't see any reason to get a new car when I can fix mine up here and there and keep it running. I guess I have to decide how much per year I'm willing to pay in repairs, and whether putting that money towards a new vehicle makes more sense.
I had three big fixes this year -- brakes (needed on any car), the timing belt (suggested every 60,000 miles -- I hadn't done it before), and that exhaust pipe (an old age repair). These totalled around $1,000, and I'm hoping I won't need anything big anytime soon. I think if I start paying more than $1500 per year in repairs, it's time to get a new one, but then I think "well, I won't need a new one of those (whatever I got fixed) anytime soon, so I should keep it."
Does anyone have a system that they use to evaluate when keeping an old car is no longer an economical choice?