Color of Money: Many owners have their own rules for deciding when it's time to kick their car to the curb

Michelle Singletary on

WASHINGTON -- Having a car loan can be a pain, and you're probably looking forward to the day it's gone from your budget.

But then comes the time that your once-new car or new-to-you used vehicle starts acting like a tantrum-throwing toddler. There are the constant whining noises, or the car won't move when you want it to.

Finally, your car's crankiness leads to this question: Should I keep fixing it -- or let it go? (The analogy doesn't work with a toddler because, well, you can't trade in your kid.)

However, just like dealing with young children and their tantrums, you need to have a strategy for a car that is straining your nerves. It helps to have a rule of thumb for deciding when it's time to get rid of your car.

I recently wrote about how I personally decide whether to repair or replace my vehicle. I call it my "three-strike rule," and you can read about it here:

I also asked readers to share their rules of thumb for when it's time to break up with their cars. Here's what some had to say:


"My rule of thumb has been when the annual repair costs exceed 50% of a new car payment," one reader wrote.

For Jack Quinn of Morris Plains, New Jersey, it's all about the electrical system and the never-ending battle to replace certain components.

"Aside from age, the freeze-thaw cycle -- expansion/contraction -- does a number on wire insulation and rubber/plastic bushings," he wrote. "That first electrical failure due to cracked insulation is a warning shot. Many more will follow. Likewise for rubber components."

For a lot of vehicle owners, the first sign of rust means that it's time to bail.


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