• Aug 2nd 2010 at 6:05PM
  • 51
Purely from a personal financial perspective, if you have a older car that is paid off, it makes a lot more sense to maintain that vehicle and keep it running than to buy a new vehicle. This is especially true when you look at the price of new cars which is rapidly approaching an average of $30,000, even in today's still-struggling economy.
Over the last 25 years, vehicles have become much more reliable and durable and the average age of the total vehicle fleet in the U.S. is now over 10.6 years. For the cost of one or two car payments a year an older can be kept running well for years. If the car gets 25 miles per gallon, and the car is driven the average 15,000 miles a year, it will only cost $1,800 a year in gas at $3 per gallon. A 35 mpg car will cost $1,290 per year and older cars that get 30+ mpg are not uncommon.

Of course, a 7-10 year old car is unlikely to be as efficient as a new car, especially one with a hybrid or electric powertrain. It certainly won't have technologies like electric power steering, brake energy regeneration or automatic start-stop. An older car really makes the most sense for those people that don't drive much and the energy to produce it has already been expended. The introduction of more expensive, better-equipped smaller cars like the new Ford Fiesta and Chevrolet Cruze will only amplify the new vs. old debate and make it tougher to justify a new car.

[Source: CarCare.org | Image: KB35 - Flickr]


Hanging on to Current Vehicle vs. Buying New is a No-Brainer

Consumers Save Thousands a Year

BETHESDA, Md., July 26 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- With the average cost of a new vehicle creeping closer to $30,000, spending a fraction of that money on making your current vehicle last longer makes good financial sense, reports the Car Care Council. By simply budgeting the equivalent of just one new car payment, consumers could cover an entire year's worth of basic maintenance.

"In the early 1970s you could buy a house for $30,000, and the average vehicle cost $3,900, but they didn't last anywhere near as long as they do today," said Rich White, executive director, Car Care Council.

The average age of passenger vehicles on the road today is 10.6 years, the oldest ever. With proper routine maintenance, the typical vehicle should deliver at least 200,000 miles of safe, dependable, efficient and enjoyable performance, according to the Council. Consumers spend an average of $706 a year on vehicle repair and maintenance, according to IMR Inc.

"Hanging on to your current vehicle allows you to redirect money you would spend on a new car to pay off credit card debt, college loans and other bills or beef up savings or even take a road trip vacation," White said.

The average price of a new vehicle this year increased by $1,057 or 3.7 percent to $29,217, and used car prices rose 5.5 percent, according to Edmunds.com.

The Car Care Council is a national non-profit organization providing information for the "Be Car Care Aware" consumer education campaign that promotes the benefits of regular vehicle care, maintenance and repair. For more information, visit www.carcare.org.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 5 Years Ago
      > For the cost of one or two car payments a year an older
      > can be kept running well for years.

      This may be true in some cases, but it's utterly false in many others. If you drive a lot -- say ~18,000mi/yr as lots of people with long commutes do -- then a 10+ year old car is likely to need $500-$1000+ in maintenance each year, and often it's more like $1500-$2000. It's a simple fact that the older a car gets, the more stuff on it starts breaking, and the repair bills add up quickly. If you keep a 10+ year old car running on $250-$500 per year then you probably don't drive it very much.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yes, if you have the knowledge, skills, experience, and time to do your own repair work -- and a second car to use while you're working on the first one, if it's any kind of a serious repair job -- then your maintenance costs will be lower. But as you say, the average person is not in that position.
        • 5 Years Ago
        You must also live outside the rust belt.

        I live in Canada and we use a lot of salt on the roads. After 10 years everything starts to fail from rust. Like complete exhaust systems, fuel systems (I replaced fuel tank and filler on my 99) and I have a lot of body rust.

        Replacing a 10 year old rust bucket, isn't about gas mileage. It is about not wanting to drive a rusty POS anymore.

        • 5 Years Ago
        I don't think it's a yearly expense of $1000-$2000 to maintain an old car.. it's just a matter of knowing what's going on with it. The reality is that rubber seals, suspension bushings, things like that are all ready to go in 10-15 years and if you don't replace them, and change your fluids on schedule.. you are indeed in for $1000-$2000 a year maintenance because things will break catastrophically and expensively.

        Even still, that beats $100-$300/mo payments.

        I do my own work, and fix things preventatively.. so my used cars are smokin' cheap to own. But for the average joe, things aren't so smooth..
      • 5 Years Ago
      Love my mid 90's cars honestly.. easy to work on.. cheap to buy.. good performance potential.

      I've been holding out on buying a new car because fuel economy has been pretty stagnant since then. I keep my cars in very good shape. A newer car would literally do nothing for me other than upgrade my status on the outside..

      Good thing this is changing in 2011. Now there's actually a reason to upgrade..
        • 5 Years Ago
        Middle Way: "Love my mid 90's cars honestly.. easy to work on."

        That's kind of funny. When I got my 1992, I opened the hood and said "I won't be working on this one". Now, it doesn't seem so bad.

        Nozferat: "emissions of the new cars is FAR FAR less than whatever your POS 90's car"

        First and foremost, your calling it a POS suggests that you can't be taken seriously. Secondly, my old cars perform extremely well on emissions testing. We're talking about cars from the 90s, not cars from the 60s.

        Is it really better to scrape the earth of natural materials and pollute the air by building me a new car?
        • 5 Years Ago

        It doesn't matter if you take me seriously or not....what you need to get into your head is that no 90's car, regardless of how well it's maintained, is going to come close in terms of clean emissions of a new equivalent car.

        And most emissions of a vehicle come from operation...not building....so get your facts straight first before you decide to keep your POS.
        • 5 Years Ago
        It's not just fuel mileage that should be the reason to buy a new car, it's also the emissions of the new cars is FAR FAR less than whatever your POS 90's car is producing.

        Since no one gives a sht about the environment, even here amongst the "green" people supposedly, it's clear as to the thinking about keeping one's car. Fuel mileage and CO2 emissions are but one part of the crap cars spew out of the tailpipe...anyone even care about the rest?
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'm sorry, but the main difference between an OBD2 car circa mid 90's and a 00+ is precats and that's it. The only thing bad about early OBD2 cars is cold start emissions and if you drive only long distances and carpool like i do, the difference is very null.

        I have seen smog checks from early 90's Maximas hung up on a smog station's wall out in CA. They were current as of a year ago. Showing that some 19 year old Maximae were putting out the same emissions numbers as a '03 Ford Focus and a '04 4 cylinder Camry.

        Not all older cars are pigs.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Got a new catalytic convertor on this car though so i am not too concerned. It's also CA spec. And i live in Oregon where you do not need CA spec convertors.
        I put a new catalytic convertor in my BMW when i had it. Also CA spec.

        Neither cars came with precats, so cold start emissions suck for a few minutes... but i do not take short trips just for that reason.

        Just so you know, people do exist that actually care. I bike to work and do that for short trips.

        But... most people give far less of a crap, and/or do not have the money to repair their 'pos 90's car' like i do.
      • 5 Years Ago
      This doesn't just happen in a vacuum. If more people buy used cars and skip new, then new cars will have more resale as the supply of them into the used market drops. So that'll push more people back into new cars.

      I kept my last car for a decade and the one before for 9 years. At some point, I just got tired of driving the same car. And the repairs on a 10 year old German car aren't as cheap as you might hope, even wrenching a lot of stuff myself.

      I could easily have kept my Saturn longer though and probably should have. I sold it because it required almost $800 worth of repairs in a year. That seemed like a lot to me. Boy was I wrong. On top of that, if I kept it, it could easily have gone the whole next year with no further repairs with a little bit of luck.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I takes about 73GJ to manufacture a new car. (roughly 10% og lifetime consumption)
      1 kg gasoline contains 45 MJ. To make up for the energy used to build a new car,
      you would have to save 1 kg of gas every day for 4.4 years, which you never will.
      So, stay with your old clunker :-)
      Data source:
        • 5 Years Ago
        DM, I don't understand how you arrived at that conclusion, my example was just to show that it would not be practical to recover the energy used to make a new car over a rasonable time.
        You have to make up for the 1622 kg of gas used to make the car. If you want to do it over 10 years, you would have to save 0.44 kg every day. Not likely.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Those figures say 68% of the total energy into a car over its lifetime is the gas you put in. They also say 11% is the energy to manufacture it. They also say 22% is the energy to get the gas you put in to the pump.

        So, 89% of the energy actually is used to fuel it. 11% is used to build it.

        Sounds like if you can save 11% in fuel (of the total, not the 89%) then you come out ahead.

        So that's .11/.89 = 0.123. If you can replace your car with one with 12.3% better mpg, you will end up over the life of the car (you or the later owners) saving enough energy to make building the car worth the energy it too.
        • 5 Years Ago
        If the energy to make a new car is 10% of lifetime consumption, and saving the 1kg of petrol takes 4.4 years to cover that, then the average lifetime of the car would be 44 years!
        Something wrong with one or the other of the figures there, I think!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Paging Captain obvious.

      • 5 Years Ago
      Has there really been that much inflation in the past 10 or so years that the average small car now costs $30k, or are manufacturers just better at gouging us? I know it's not a great car, but if Tata can make a $2,500 car, why can't one of the big 4 make something for less that $15 in this country? Just curious, thanks.
        • 5 Years Ago
        CPI has basically been zero (not really, but pretty close).

        It's more content. Off the top of my head, this is standard now on all but the crappiest cars: A/C, power locks, windows, steering, brakes, cruise, AM/FM/CD, 35 airbags, side impact reinforcements, superfluous un-needed emissions crap to satisfy the CARB fascists, pedestrian impact protection, high-strength steel for torsional rigidity, extra sound insulation to satisfy NVH concerns, multiple cams, 5+ speed trannies...

        Tata can't make a $2500 car that's US safe and US emissions compliant. By the time the feds are done with them, it'll be $6k easy. And I still wouldn't let my family ride in the car.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Truthfully, gas mileage is a tiny part of the TCO for any personal vehicle. Unless you're the UPS truck, there's no scenario where it makes financial sense to replace the vehicle for a gain in gas mileage, even a major one.

      There can be other considerations, though, especially reliability. A few towing incidents can make up for the savings from keeping an older car. Not to mention lost wages if you're not a salaried employee. There's a reason the most reliable cars are also the most consistent sellers.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Ahh.. but you don't know whether a car is really reliable or not until 5-10 years of it's life, that's the paradox :P

        You're totally right about the gas mileage being a small part of it. For now, anyway. When the gas prices start rising, i think it'll be a different story..
      • 5 Years Ago
      That's all true, unless you don't want to be black-mailed on the next gas price spike. A defensive play, is to buy a hybrid now, before the spike. Because during the spike no hybrids will be available, especially at list price.

      Of course, waiting for a hybrid with a plug or an EV is also a good strategy.

      But, yes, low mileage buyers can just hold on as long as possible.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I have an older car, it's a dodge neon 2005 5 speeds without any options like mag wheels, air conditionner, leather seats, double tips mufflers, bass subwoofers, gps, brusched aluminium pedals, ajustable leather steering, power windows, strips, ajustable shocks absorbers, cold air intake, tinted glass, refrigerated alcool bar, electric trunk opening, air scoop, side skirts, programmable engine computer, turbo's, titanium valves, titanium exhaust collectors, rear disks brakes, etc. It's really a plain boring econo-box.

      But it's easy to transform it in a green car, no need to buy another car. One option is to add a lpg-methane tank and modify the carburation system on the engine to accept it and still keep the gasoline tank, that way it become a bi-fuel ( green) car. But the stupid local mechanical shops don't offer that product. It cost only 1 000$ to 2000$ approx. I would really want to keep my old neon because it's paid and it's not necessary to change it for a costly boring prius that consume only 10% less gasoline. The natural gas conversion should be offered everywhere to all cars, new or old.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Dump the old gas guzzler and by a used Prius. End of discussion.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I'm not a battery alarmist (would love to buy a new hybrid if I could afford a new car at all!), but I would not buy a used hybrid. Well, or at least any older than a year or two.
        • 5 Years Ago

        Ok, that makes more sense.
        • 5 Years Ago

        Nonsense. They last for a couple hundred thousand miles on average. Brand new Prius batteries are under $3K:

        "2004-2008 second-generation Prius battery is reduced to $2,588. Prior to this most recent price reduction, both batteries were priced at $2985. "

        That is new from factory. You can get reconditioned ones cheaper.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I think he meant $10k for a used Prius. Why buy a new $18k Cruze that gets 35 MPG (combined) when you can get 46 MPG used Prius for $10k?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Prius batteries are starting to die at the point, at least the first gen ones.
        A second gen will run ya 'bout $10k.

        I think there's a middle ground between driving a v8 monster and a Prius though...
      • 5 Years Ago
      And they did last that long if you took care of them.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I"ll stretch my lovely 10 years Saturn SW2 at least (and maybe beyond) until a Chevy Volt or another EV range extender becomes available in my area. I love my SW2 : +/- 35 mpg average, decent power / weight ratio (124Hp@5,600 rpm & 2,400 lbs), lot of space, easy & cheap to maintain without talking about the polymer body panels, it was ahead of its time.
        • 5 Years Ago
        My mid 90's BMW still runs like a top and gets ok (25) gas mileage. I've got a place-holder on a Leaf but I hesitate on the looks and the Gen 1 issue. Haven't decided if I'll go ahead with the Nissan or wait and see what the Megacity or maybe the Ford plug-in amounts to in a few years.

        It's a little hard to commit to the Leaf when you know there's going to be so many more options with plugs just a year or two later
        • 5 Years Ago
        I had a 96 BMW. 170k on the dash. Ran like an absolute champ. Woulda kept it, but wasn't happy with the 25mpg i was averaging. And honestly, it had too much power for this area.. we've got a 55mph speed limit.. bad news, lol.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Yeah, i'm right there with ya.

        I know *much better* cars are on the horizon, so i've been in no rush to buy anything newer.

        I really want a Scion IQ for the good balance of MPG and power it should have, but another part of me is thinking i should just hold out for electric..
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