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How to Tell if It’s Worth Fixing Your Car

These tips will get you thinking about your best option

A driver places a red triangle at the side of the road

I personally spent $5,000 to repair my regularly maintained, trouble-free 2006 Mazda MPV (which had 190,000 kilometres). The money mainly went for professional bodywork and repainting; over the years, rust had slowly eaten into the MPV’s fenders, door pillars and back hatch.

That was my judgment call. But which solution should you choose when it comes to your vehicle? “The smartest way to decide whether to repair or replace is to take your car to a CAA-approved expert to be checked,” says Fred Furman, technical advisor at CAA’s Consumer and Technical Services (CATS). “They’ll test drive it to identify problems, plus check out the mechanical systems and the body, so that you can make an informed decision.”

Assuming that your reliable old car has been consistently maintained to date, rust repairs are likely your biggest life-extending cost. “$3,000 is the maximum most people will spend, if that,” says George Iny, executive director of the Automobile Protection Association.

How to Tell if It’s Worth Fixing Your Car 

Here’s a checklist to help weigh your choices:

Reasons to Repair Your Car

• Your car has been well maintained and has had few problems during its lifespan.
• The car has no more than 200,000 kilometres on it. “These days, the average odometer reading on most vehicles with their original engines is almost 300,000 kilometres at scrappage,” says Iny.
• All major systems (engine, transmission, suspension, brakes) are in good shape.
• You have “Krowned,” or rust-proofed, the body annually, and rust is minimal and/or non-serious.
• The car is paid for.
• The frame is safe and sound, and you have had no major accidents.
• Resale value is less important to you than avoiding monthly payments.
• You are comfortable with the extra repairs and possible breakdowns.

Reasons to Replace Your Car

• The car has not been properly or regularly maintained.
• Your car is showing serious structural rust problems that would cost too much to repair.
• A major system like the engine or transmission is showing signs of imminent failure or needs to be replaced.
• The interior is falling apart, and the exterior isn’t much better.
• The car has been in a major accident and repaired.
• You can’t afford the hassles of breakdowns and unforeseen problems.
• You want warranty protection on major systems.
• A monthly payment is worth the predictability of a reliable new car.
• You want a higher resale value, or you lease and won’t sell the car yourself.

Have a question? 

CAA Members can speak to a CATS specialist by phone at 1-866-464-6448 or email cats@caasco.ca.

If you consider yourself a car enthusiast, check how much you know about cars with our fun quiz. Also, be prepared for winter driving with these pro-approved tips.