Should You Repair or Replace Your Car?

Just because a car (like this Aston Martin) is old does not mean it should be replaced when you are confronted with a hefty repair bill.

This is the first part of a two part series on whether to keep or replace your vehicle.  The second part can be seen here.

So there you are, staring glumly at your car – one you’ve owned and enjoyed for a long time – while holding an estimate from your repair shop.  The cost of repairs is very high, the value of your car (if repaired and in moderately okay condition) is less than the cost of repairs.  In an extreme case, perhaps the repairs would require you to spend $10,000, maybe more, and end up with a vehicle you could sell for only $5,0000, maybe less?. What to do?  Repair or replace?

But wait.  There’s a lot to consider before you answer that question.  Indeed, the chances are you’ve already made the first of potentially several mistakes – mistakes which the auto industry, one of the most powerful economic forces in the US, are happy to see you make.  Reread the first paragraph and see if you can spot the error.

The error is where we talk about the value of your present car.  Sure, you can look up on a car valuation websites and in some considerable detail get a guesstimate about what your car is worth if you were buying it from a dealer or a private party, and what it is worth as a trade-in if you sell it.  But your car’s value – believe it or not – is almost irrelevant.

The more relevant consideration is how much it would cost to replace your car with something more or less equivalent but newer – not identical in age and everything else to your present car, but what you’d choose to buy if your present car vanished and you needed to get yourself a new vehicle.  This is the other part of the equivalence you must consider.  On the one hand, you repair your current car, and you know the outcome of that will be a car that is now repaired and hopefully likely to keep working well for some time into the future, at a cost in line with the estimate you’ve received.  The alternative however is not considering the value of your car, either as is or after repairs, but rather, the replacement cost if you choose not to repair your car and get a different car instead.

Needless to say, the replacement cost for an alternative vehicle is almost certainly much higher than the realizable value of selling your car – particularly in its present condition, prior to spending a lot of money on it!

So, what do you do?  Now that you more accurately understand the twin outcomes of repair or replace, you’ve essentially got four choices.

  • Should you repair your car, or is that “throwing good money after bad”?
  • Should you get a brand new car, with everything “state of the art” and a lovely long new-car warranty on it, too?
  • Should you get a slightly used car, priced way below new, after the initial depreciation hit of 20% – 30% in the first year has already happened, but still nearly new, and with lots of factory warranty?
  • Or should you get an older car that has depreciated still further, but with moderate miles and a realistic expectation for many tens of thousands of miles more of relatively trouble-free motoring, with only moderate maintenance costs?

As part of working out what to do, there’s another thing to keep in mind.  We’ve been assuming that the “worst case” scenario is your present car is essentially worthless.  But there is an even worse case scenario you need to be aware of, too.  It is unlikely, because we’re assuming you’ve owned the vehicle for some time, but let’s check, just to be sure.

Are you still making payments on the vehicle that now needs expensive repairs?  If so, if you sold or junked the car, what would you end up having to pay the finance company?  With many car purchases, both new and used, and especially with the longer term car loans often extended these days (to obscure the fact that cars are getting more and more expensive) there are typically a few years in the early part of the loan where you end up owing more than the car is worth, but later in the period of financing, that changes and the car is worth more than the amount owing on it.  If you’re in the period where you owe more than the car is worth, there’s actually an immediate cost – maybe even thousands of dollars – fo you to stop owning your car.

The Biggest Difficulty – Guessing the Future

In theory, you’d hope there’d be some sort of formula or rule of thumb to apply that guides you to either repairing or replacing a car.  While there are indeed plenty of formulas and rules of thumb, none of them are very useful, no matter what their advocates say.

The problem is your decision involves a lot more than the simple repair/replace choice right now.  It requires you to guess into the future, about what future costs each option might carry with it as well.

At one extreme, if spending a large amount of money now gets you a “like new” car that will run reliably for some more years, that’s a positive outcome and encourages one to spend generously on car repairs.  At the other extreme, if the high costs now imply ongoing similar high costs extending without end into the future, then that of course causes one to choose to replace rather than repair.

The second similar problem is not knowing what to expect if you buy a replacement used car.  At least, if buying a new car, you have a many-year warranty that gives you “peace of mind” – albeit at enormous cost.  But if you are considering buying a used car as a replacement for your present car, that introduces its own unknowns – after all, one of the main reasons a person sells a car is because it is starting to become unreliable!  (This could be a reason to buy an off-lease car, where a person leased a car for three or so years, and at the end of the lease, turned the car back in, rather than cashing the lease out and keeping the car.  On the other hand, if they loved the car, maybe they’d have chosen to keep the car, although many people who lease do so with the plan up front and desire to be able to keep leasing new cars and never own an older one.)

About all we can say when it comes to the challenge of guessing the future is that no matter how much you are spending on your vehicle now, you should realistically expect more expenditures in the future.  You should also expect that any non-warrantied car that you buy as a replacement will also have repair costs, although hopefully (because it is probably newer and with fewer miles driven) at a lower level to your present car.

In these two respects, it is helpful if you can find someone in a repair shop who is familiar with working on the type of vehicle you have and who can give you a sense for what the future might hold.  For example, they might say “Oh, yes, we find that the XYZ generally needs replacing after ??,??? miles, and that costs about $?,???; and the PQR seems to come due for replacement at about ??,??? miles and that costs about $?,???”.  That is very helpful information – it isn’t guaranteed, of course, because the various component groups in any given car might have been well or harshly treated, and might have been made at the high or low end of the quality tolerances associated for the unit in the first place.  But when faced with an otherwise unguessable future, any data is helpful.

Another source for this type of data can be enthusiast groups and their forums/chat groups on the internet, although beware – sometimes opinions and guesses are disguised as facts on such places.  Plus enthusiasts tend to be more forgiving of their cars and their challenges than “regular people”!  You need to consider all such advice as being approximate and subjective rather than guaranteed and exact.

When Does it No Longer Make Sense to Keep Repairing a Car?

Back to our main question again.  Some people cite “rules of thumb” such as “it is time to replace a car when the cost of repairs is greater than its value“.  We don’t think this is at all a helpful rule of thumb, and as we mentioned at the very beginning, the current value of your current car is almost an irrelevancy.  A rule of thumb which says “it is time to replace a car when the cost of repairing it is greater than the cost of replacing it“, on the other hand, would be a helpful consideration.

There are a number of factors to consider, some more subtle than others.

The obvious answer to the “when does it no longer make sense…” question is the rule of thumb we modified immediately above – “when the cost and hassle of repairs is greater than the cost of buying a replacement vehicle”.  That’s an easy sentence to write and read, but what does it actually mean in dollar terms?

There are problems with assessing the cost/hassle of continuing to repair your present car, and the alternate cost (and hassle – no-one likes buying a car) of buying an alternate vehicle.

The problem with repairing your present car is as we touched on in the preceding “guessing the future” section.  You don’t know how long it will be before it needs another item repaired or replaced.  I had an old car, a couple of decades ago, and every few months, I’d spend a considerable sum repairing or replacing something, and each time I’d drive it back from the repair shop, happily telling myself “Now I’ve got a car that is back to ‘as-new’ condition, yay!”.  I’d tell myself “This part, now replaced, lasted 75,000 miles before needing replacing, I’ve now got a trouble-free 75,000 miles to sit back and enjoy”.  But, all too soon, something else would fail and need a costly repair.

Update Feb 2022 :  It is almost exactly a year since I wrote this and the second related article.  It was a “thinking out aloud” exercise to help me understand if I should keep or replace my 2006 Land Rover, which at the time was facing some major repair costs.  I allowed myself to be persuaded to keep it, in part because of the cost of replacing it, in part because I liked the car, and in part because the owner of the repair shop that services the car told me many Land Rover owners regularly get way over 200,000 miles from their vehicles and mine was at only 165,000 miles.

But I should have considered the paragraph above these updated paragraphs.  I’ve had a never-ending series of ongoing issues and costs in the last year, and now, a year later, the repair shop owner is counselling against further repairs – a $5,000 item needs replacing, and who only knows what other items will continue to need replacing, on almost a monthly basis, into the future.  This steady drip drip drip of $1000+ repairs quickly becomes financially exhausting and destroys the remaining “pride of ownership” and enjoyment of use.

With hindsight, I should not have kept the car a year ago, although am now struggling to “let go” now.

It is truly astonishing how many expensive parts there are in a vehicle!  I hope you never need to find out.  And sometimes it is little seemingly insignificant and easily ignored items that can be as costly as the major obvious items.  Plus there’s the duality – there’s not just the cost of the replacement parts, but the cost of the labor to replace them as well, which brings us to a “heads you lose, tails you don’t win” issue.

Labor Costs and Standard Hours

Most of the car repair shops in this area are charging $130-150/hour for their labor, and invariably they use “standard hours” to base their charging on.

A “standard hour” seems to have fewer than 60 minutes in it – these time allowances are standard times to do standard jobs, and sometimes it is possible for a skilled mechanic to work much faster, and to have everything go smoothly, and get it done in much less time – but the standard time is still charged.

In theory, that is supposed to be a two-way street – if a job takes much longer, you should still be charged only for the standard time, but my guess is that if there are unusual complications, the repair shop will say “Ah well, yes, the standard time is for the standard job, but your car took more time to work on because (insert excuses here) and so our labor charge reflects the actual fair reality”.  (Notice how they snuck the word “fair” into the concept of “If the job is easy, we still charge the standard time, but if it is hard, we charge more”?)

I’ve had cars in a repair shop for, say, four hours, and when I collect the car, discover I’m being charged for six or more hours of labor.  I know the car wasn’t immediately worked on when I dropped it off, and I know it was finished some time before I returned to collect it, but I don’t know how you can get six hours of labor into a car that was on-site for less than four!  This is where the “standard hours” concept becomes hard to disguise.

So, the point here is that repairing items on an older vehicle can become a seemingly endless process, which if ever finally completed, with everything replaced, may have you back at the point of needing to start to replace the replaced parts!

There’s a useful concept to keep in mind here when thinking about repair cost trends.

Comparing Your Car to a Bathtub

This curve, from Wikipedia, shows what is known as a bathtub curve – the blue line on the chart, which is the summation of three separate failure rate curves.  It applies to many different items, not just cars, with the key characteristics being an initial period of improvement, then a nice period of low maintenance, then an ever increasing amount of maintenance in the future.

The question is at what point in the rising blue line do you reach the pain point where you decide to stop repairing your vehicle and replace it with a newer one.

We suggest the answer to that is partially financial and partially a convenience/reliability consideration.  If you are having your vehicle breakdown, unexpectedly, that is a very negative situation, especially if it is a vehicle you need to rely on for not just around-town driving, but for long journeys, too.  You must have a reliable vehicle.

If the repairs are of the “gets progressively worse” variety – leaking radiators, failing a/c units, strange noises in the transmission – then while still costly and unwanted, they are easier to accommodate and respond to.

From the financial point of view, you shouldn’t think only of the repair bill estimate you’re staring at presently.  You need to consider how much you’ve spent on your car in the last year or two or three, and whether the rate of expenditures is increasing or staying steady.  A $5000 repair bill, all at once, is impactful, but if it is the first time you’ve spent money on the car in two years, you need to factor that into your perception.  Maybe it is better thought of as if you’d been setting aside $200/month for repairs.

As part of a repair estimate, you should ask the shop to assess other pending repairs too.  Don’t let them think you’re considering whether you repair the car or not, because they don’t want to talk themselves out of the repair work you’re considering today and might be more optimistic about the vehicle’s condition, than if you made it seem like merely a planning exercise for how much to set aside for the future.  But it is helpful to know if there are other challenges coming due.

You probably already have some idea of the condition of your car.  Are there strange noises or new behaviors?  Is the engine seemingly less powerful, or less fuel-efficient?  Is it harder to start?  Does it sometimes idle roughly?  Are the gear changes all smooth?  Is it sometimes hard to engage Drive or Reverse?  Does the steering pull to one side?  Are there sometimes funny smells?  Is it burning oil or leaking coolant?

You also have some sort of idea about how long before the brake pads and rotors need replacing, and the condition of your tires and battery too.

The Hidden Cost of Your Car

So, maybe you are at a point where some of the things to consider are starting to become apparent :

  • The cost of currently needed repairs
  • Any possible future repair costs in the foreseeable future
  • The historic cost of repairs over the last few years
  • An approximate cost of buying a replacement vehicle

But there’s one more cost factor, too.  Indeed, overall, and particularly for cars in their first ten or so years of life, it is the highest cost of all.  I’m referring to the depreciation cost of your current car and of any potential alternate vehicle you might buy instead.

It is no surprise to be told that cars go down in value.  They drop based on their age, and their mileage.  Other factors also apply, but these are the two key factors – every year, even if you don’t drive your car a single mile, it drops in value.  And the more you drive it, the faster it drops in value.

But there comes a point where the car’s value has reached as close to zero as it will ever get.  Indeed, there’s a hoped for happy point where, for some car makes/models, the value starts to climb again because it has become a collectible car.  We’ll ignore that because it involves a bunch of other factors, and probably, for your car today, is not something likely to happen for another decade or two, if at all (some car makes/models have the potential to become collectible, others obviously don’t and never will).  Another often overlooked factor is that for a car to become valuable as a collectible, it needs to be in a high standard of condition in all respects.

When your car has dropped down to somewhere close to $0, you are no longer incurring additional depreciation costs each month.  If you went out and bought a replacement vehicle – whether new or used – you immediately start another series of monthly depreciation costs, until it too has dropped down to almost zero value.

So when you are considering your alternatives, on the one hand, with your present vehicle, you have an ownership equation comprising the monthly depreciation cost, an allowance for repairs, and all the other associated costs of ownership (gas, tires, brakes, insurance etc).  You can perhaps largely ignore many of the other associated costs of ownership because they might be reasonably similar, whether you keep or replace your car.

Say your choices are between your present vehicle, which might be depreciating at a rate of $50 a month, (or maybe nothing at all), and a replacement car – either a used car costing $18,000 or a new car costing $40,000 (which is about the average cost of an average new car).  The used car will probably depreciate at a rate of about $250/month to start with, and gradually slow down as it drops in value.  The new car will probably drop at a rate of about $750/month in the first year, $450/month in the second year, $350 in the third year, and then perhaps $300 in the fourth year, and so on.

Depreciation rates vary very widely, based on car make/model, and many other factors too.  This source suggests cars depreciate an average of 39% over their first three yearsMost of that is in the first year.

The point is that if you keep your older car, you might be saving $200/month in depreciation costs compared to a used car, and $700/month compared to a new car.  That would pay for a reasonable amount of ongoing repair costs.  Consider also that a used car probably no longer has any warranty, or at best, a three month probably limited warranty, and of course, any used car is susceptible to needing repairs too – you’re not replacing your current car with a “guaranteed no trouble ever” alternate, you’re merely replacing it with a “hopefully won’t be quite as troublesome for a while” alternate.

If comparing to the used car, you’re saving $200/month in depreciation, perhaps, and then you have to allow for what the replacement car might cost you in repairs, too.  Perhaps that should be another $100/month allowance.  So keeping your present car now represents as a $300/month saving compared to buying the $18,000 new car (and we’re ignoring the up-front purchase price per se in this equation, other than as represented by depreciation).  Is your present car likely to require more than $3,600/year in repair costs?

Not all Repair Costs are Relevant

You should distinguish between “consumable” items that wear out and need regular replacement, and long-life items that semi-randomly fail on no particular schedule.

Consumable items include everything that is changed in regular periodic maintenance events – oil, lube, other fluids, filters, belts, hoses, and so on.  Plus brake pads and rotors, tires, alignments, and battery, and other items such as bulbs and wiper blades.  Maybe, like with most of my cars, you know that usually every summer you’re going to need an a/c recharge.  Longer term, there can be other things to factor in such as belts and hoses, wheel bearings, suspension and shock absorbers, for example.

These are predictable items that you can build into your cost per mile of driving, and, most of all, they are costs which don’t necessarily vary over time, and not necessarily much between similar types of vehicles, although for sure a luxury car’s consumable costs will be very much higher than those for a Toyota Corolla.  While we all most visibly see the number on the display at the pump, with low fuel prices and high mileage efficiencies these days, it is possible that the other consumable items now cost more per mile than the gasoline does.

So if it happens, by coincidence, that you need to replace the brake pads and rotors, plus the tires, and the battery too, all at the same time, and you’re also giving the car an oil and lube, and find yourself with a $2000 invoice, that’s not actually a “repair”.  That’s a regular running cost, and is probably no higher than it ever has been right from the day you bought the vehicle, and perhaps no higher than it would be if you bought a new car (keep in mind that most new car warranties don’t cover these types of “consumable” items).

But if you need a transmission replacement and a cracked head replaced, both at the same time, those are indeed repair costs to consider in your keep/don’t keep evaluation.

An Opposite Perspective

If you have a high mileage vehicle, have owned it for most of its life, and know its service history, and are at a point where you’re now replacing an item which is expensive to replace, but which has never been replaced before, that is not necessarily a cause for concern.  You can say to yourself “Sure, I just spent $2000 on a new differential and associated parts, but I got 150,000 miles of life out of the first one, and probably will get another 150,000 miles out of its replacement”.  It feels awkward to have added a new $2,000 replacement part with 150,000 miles of probable life, but not to get any value from it – there’s a disinclination to now sell the vehicle.

The thing is your car’s resale value, if you were to sell it, probably doesn’t adjust much for whether you have recently replaced the diff or not, but its value to you, if you were to keep it, has definitely improved because you know there’s very little chance you’ll need to replace it again for another 150,000 miles.

But beware of another fallacy in the previous two paragraphs.  Sure, if a diff is lasting 150,000 miles, that is a good thing, but will you really keep the vehicle for another 150,000 miles – all the way to 300,000 miles?  If you know that for some reason or another, at the very most, you’ll only keep it another three or so years (say less than 50,000 miles) that puts the cost per mile of the diff replacement in a very different category, doesn’t it.

Some Reasons to Replace Rather than Repair

Don’t think we’re advocating holding on to your old car for any longer than you should.  While we become quite sentimentally attached to our cars, and we’re definitely not advocating premature replacement, there are also definite reasons for replacing your present vehicle that are difficult to cost out or exactly value and equate to simple dollars and cents.

Newer cars are sometimes safer.  They may have more airbags, for example.  The days when a car had only two airbags – one each for the driver and front seat passenger – have long since passed.  Some cars now have over a dozen airbags, which, we’re told, is a good thing.  They might also be two-stage airbags and open more gently with less explosive shock to you and your skin.

Traction and stability control is becoming commonplace – electronic stability control was mandated in 2011.  Since September 2013, antilock braking systems have been compulsory.  They are also, theoretically, a good thing – although in practice, there has been less reduction in accidents than expected, because some people are now driving more aggressively to “compensate” for the better braking of ABS.

The last five or so years has seen a steady roll-out of “driver assistance” features – starting with adaptive cruise control, and now extending to much more sophisticated types of systems for keeping cars in their lanes, and avoiding other cars, and so on.

Cars continue to become more fuel-efficient.  Maybe your current car does 25 miles per gallon, and a replacement would do 30 miles per gallon.  At, say, $2.50 a gallon, and 12,000 miles driven a year, the replacement would save you $200 a year in gas costs – not exactly a life changing amount, and no way could that by itself justify spending some tens of thousands of dollars on a new(er) vehicle, but it is still another small bonus, which combines with assorted other small bonuses too, and reduces the regular pinpricks of pain we all suffer at the pump at present.  Newer cars also need fewer oil changes, and don’t need to be tuned as often.

Cars are becoming much more “intelligent” in terms of their automation.  At the simplest, they probably have Bluetooth connection capabilities for your phone.  Maybe they have a phone type operating system on their dashboard that will put your phone’s display onto the dashboard display (make sure that such capabilities match your preference for either iPhone or Android phones or else it won’t be nearly as useful).  Maybe the car has GPS or can display your car’s GPS on a screen.  Perhaps it has HD Radio as well as regular AM/FM.  Maybe there are cameras all around the car – great when backing and parking (this has been mandatory since 2018).

Talking about convenience and safety aids such as cameras, a surprising cost saving for many people, when getting a newer car, is insurance.  You might think that newer cars are more expensive because it would seem if you have a $100,000 car, the insurance company is risking up to a $100,000 replacement cost if you write-off the vehicle, compared to if your car is worth only $1,000.  But that is only one element of the very many risks a car insurance policy covers, and only one of the many cost line items.  Other significant issues include things like newer cars being safer than older cars, older cars being more expensive to repair due to increasing difficulty in finding parts for them, and a possible correlation between the standard of care/safety of drivers of new cars and old cars.  Several readers have reported their older cars cost them more a year to insure than their newer cars.  Of course, the insurance saving on a newer car is likely to be small rather than large – the key point is not to assume insurance will be more on a newer car – it might be the same or even less.

One other possibly appreciable point of difference is if you’re in a state where your annual license/registration cost is based on your vehicle’s assessed value (such as is the case for me in WA).  That can make a sizable difference between a $1000 (or higher) annual cost of registration and a $100 (or lower) cost.

There’s another reason to consider replacing your car, too.  Perhaps your life-style and vehicular requirements have changed since you bought the current car.  Maybe you’ve become an empty-nester, or maybe the opposite – you’ve gone from a single person happy with a two door convertible, and now have a partner and young kids, needing a “sensible” four door vehicle.  And so on.  Perhaps a different style of vehicle would better match your new situation and circumstances.

As a side-comment only, because it is a complex topic, but something to also consider is whether you might be better off with two vehicles rather than one.  Some people choose a single vehicle that will do everything for them – it will go everywhere in the snow, tow a heavy load, fit seven or more people in it, has huge capacity for carrying things, and who knows what else.  Unfortunately, that can end up with some impossible compromises and becomes an overly featured vehicle that does many things moderately well, but nothing very well.  Perhaps your needs are better served by a small “around town” vehicle and a larger “working” vehicle, or in some other way and allocation of features, two vehicles rather than one.

Read more in part two of this two part article, which looks at total cost of ownership considerations, a spreadsheet to calculate your options, and – yes – the ultimate answer to the opening question, “Should You Repair or Replace Your Car?”.

9 thoughts on “Should You Repair or Replace Your Car?”

  1. Two comments:

    The value of the car does matter in the unfortunate event of an accident. Most insurance policies only pay up to the book-value of the car. They don’t care about the repair bill the week before the accident. This adds some unknowable risk to the keep argument. And they will report the car as totaled, so you can not keep it and drive it legally (once reported as totaled, the registration is invalid).

    The second point is the trend, mostly in nice to luxury cars, of people to lease them for 2-3 years. There can be times when a glut of cars coming off leases creates a buyers’ market for these cars (basically selling for less than the normal depreciation). Plus since the manufacturers have a stake in moving the cars, there can be things like extended warranties. But buyer beware, if there is a shortage of cars coming off lease, the price can be much higher than you would expect given normal depreciation.

    Funny thing on the prices for cars coming off leases is that over time, it seems about 2 out of every 3 years are a good value and the third year is terrible.

    1. Hi, Corey

      Largely agree with everything you say.

      With leases, the lease and car companies try and guess the future value of the car at the end of the lease, so they know how much depreciation to add in to the lease payments. It is as harmful for them to guess high as it is to guess low.

      As you observe, sometimes they guess right and sometimes they guess wrong. The very definition of “market price” is such that they seldom/never can sell cars for more than they are “worth”, but sometimes a shift a few years ago to leasing, or aggressive promotions on new cars, can make for a glut of sorts, and so the price – market value – on ex-lease cars will drop. Whether that’s a good deal for a new buyer or not is a complex consideration, and one I’ll be considering next week. :-)

  2. A helpful and very detailed article, and while I should probably wait for Part II, a few thoughts.

    Completely agree with you about the many “unknowables” but there are some possible ways to get more information. A few years ago, my tranny died (it ended up being replaced by the manufacturer), but I needed a tow to the dealer. The thought occurred to me to ask the very experienced driver if he saw any patterns in the cars he picked up, any “frequent flyers”, so to speak. He chuckled and told me he saw a lot more BMW’s and Mercedes than you might think.

    I have also become addicted to Scotty Kilmer’s videos – he’s a mechanic who has become a millionaire by living at the intersection of depreciation, repair cost, replacement, and reliability. He lays out the arguments for individual cars and is a straight shooter. He makes some helpful assessments about the reliability and manufacturing quality of different makes/models, which vary widely. It seems to me that if you have a make/model that has worse than average expected reliability and higher than average repair costs (and yes, you bought this car anyway!), those are very helpful to know.

    I liked your assessment of future trends as factors that should influence your purchase decision. There are some negative future trends that perhaps we should also consider:

    Some brands are shifting to cheaper and lower quality parts (replacing metal with plastic, replacing long-life belts/hoses with shorter, timing chains with timing belts).
    In the search for higher fuel efficiency, going with smaller engines (making a 4 cylinder engine do the work of a previous 6 or 8, adding turbos). I have spoken to several mechanics and they agree that higher revving, hotter running engines will prematurely wear out. Volvo is going to a turbo 3 cylinder engine, even in their large SUV’s . Also, the “instant on/off” starters that shut off the engine when idling will create extra wear and tear.
    The shift to higher complexity. I think we can agree that electric vehicles should be cheaper and easier to maintain. But have more complex software issues. Hybrids seem to retain the worst of both. All the challenges of internal combustion and the software challenges of electric.

    Because we are on the cusp of newer technologies, I would argue that also complicates the fix or replace decision.

    1. Your comments, as always, echo some of my own as-yet unexpressed thoughts. In particular, there may be a trend back towards shorter-lived parts (I must include a shocking Tesla link next week), and less durable engines.

      I’m very sensitive to the fact that when I replace my Landrover, I’ll probably be shifting from an “unbreakable” low-revving 4.4L V8 to a much higher-revving turbo-charged much smaller displacement V6, or possibly even a 4-cylinder of some type. While I’ve surely helped my repair shop owner to pay her mortgage many months (yes, a woman owns and does a great job running this specialty Landrover repair shop), I’ve never needed to spend a penny on the engine itself (so far, touch wood). I’m not sure the smaller harder-working engines will offer the same faultless experience.

      Your point about software vs hardware is interesting. Tesla is famous for its perhaps too-frequent new software distributions that are sent out “over the air” – you get in your car one morning and find things have changed overnight! But surely software is easier to repair than moving physical parts, and essentially – hopefully, with self-driving becoming more of a thing – less likely to “wear out” over the years?

      I didn’t know of Scotty Kilmer. I do now, thank you. Here’s a link for others to check out, too :

  3. While Tesla being able to remotely update your car is very cool (assuming they don’t turn it into a brick), the software complexity I was referring to is basically locking independent repair shops out of the business. And who wants to be locked into a monopoly dealer relationship?

    1. Your point about the inability of private repair shops to work on Tesla vehicles is a very good one.

      Mind you, the proprietary software that controls many modern cars has been used as a barrier to entry by all the car manufacturers these days. Sure, in most cases, a specialty repair shop can get the necessary diagnostic/repair software for any given car, but often at high cost, making it impractical for the “I fix everything” type small corner garage type repair shop of yesteryear.

      I certainly know that at my dealership, the most expensive labor rate applies to “diagnostics” – which is actually the easiest part of everything. Plug the diagnostic computer into the OBD-II connector on the vehicle, wait a minute or two, and then read the plain language diagnostic data off the screen.

  4. Replace an ‘old’ Aston Martin DB5!!! I’ll take it.

    Of course, in a pinch, I could settle for a new Valkyrie. But I digress.

    To this day I regret passing on my baby, a 1958 MGA 1800. What can’t be overlooked in cold light of the balance sheet is the is the emotional attachment of laying on an open hood, pulling on the throttle linkage and tuning a couple of SU down draft carburetors. But I did have fun in my Pontiac Firebird GT – but still not the same.

    1. Hi, Mike

      Well done to identify why Aston Martin the picture was of. I wasn’t sure, myself. And, like you, I’d not think twice to accept a Valkyrie, although the upkeep costs might provide plenty of material for another article in this series!

      Amazing how attached we get to our cars, isn’t it…..

  5. Carleton MacDonald

    I used to own Saabs. I loved them, but I also remember one posting on a Saab owners’ forum after a particularly difficult repair experience: “My mechanic’s kid is going to Harvard.”

    The above arguments are very insightful, except there is the intangible: What do you do if you own a car that you absolutely love (like the above-pictured Aston Martin) but it is costing you your kid’s college fund to keep operational?

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