4 Signs You Need to Buy a New Car This Year

New Car
200,000 miles and still going (mostly) song - though note the 'check engine' light. Credit: Amanda Jones for AGirlsGuidetoCars

New year: new car.

Cars aren’t cheap. According to Kelley Blue Book, the average new car runs $33,560 in the United States. Ouch! No wonder so many drivers choose to drive the same car for more than a decade. It’s nice to see drivers get so attached to their automobile, but sometimes it’s best to embrace change. Here are four signs you should definitely buy a new car this year.

1. Several mechanics have failed to solve your problem.

New Car

What’s under the hood could determine when you need to buy a new car.

Your engine makes a strange sound before breaking down. You go to an auto shop and explain the situation. The mechanic gets you back on the road. A few days later, the sound returns, and you get stranded again. You call a tow truck. It takes you back to the auto shop. This time, a more experienced mechanic gives it a try. Your car comes back to life, but dies (yet again) in less than a week. Bad news: your vehicle might be beyond help. If multiple mechanics can’t fix your car, it’s time to move on.

2. The repair costs more money than your car is even worth.

Some repairs cost more than others. Fixing an oxygen sensor (the most common cause of the ‘check engine’ light) isn’t too bad. You’ll have to pay about $200. Engine replacements are a completely different story.  Those could cost anywhere from $2,000 to $4,000 depending on what vehicle you drive. Don’t say, “Ok,” to a repair until you know it’s a wise investment. Google (and other search engines) make it really easy. Type in, “value of (make and model).” If your car’s value is equal to or lower than the repair price quote, you should probably count your losses.

3. Being a passenger makes people feel afraid and anxious.

Here’s a fact about life: people get so used to their everyday situation that it seems perfectly normal (even when an unbiased second party would quickly identify a problem). If you’re not sure what I mean, imagine somebody you know who hoards (compulsively collects ‘antiques’) and acts like it’s no big deal. They see absolutely nothing wrong. Everyone else sees chaos and clutter. Big difference, right?

What does that have to do with driving? I’ll show you. Let’s say your car occasionally swerves to the left or right. Obviously this is a big problem. But you’ve been busy, money is tight, (insert your excuse here), so you put off a trip to the repair shop. Your passengers act frightened and you claim to not know why. It’s because you have accepted an unacceptable situation. Passengers should feel 100% safe and secure inside your vehicle. If that’s not the case, a) get your car fixed or b) buy a new one.

4. You relocated, had a baby, got a new job, or had a significant life change.

Your car is a clunker and that’s not a big deal, because you can walk to work every morning… but then you get a promotion that requires a thirty minute commute in each direction. It’s time for an upgrade! You drive a hot red convertible, which is super awesome (especially in summer)… but then you have twins or triplets. Better trade that convertible for a minivan! Your car should fit the context of your life. The next time your situation changes in a big way, consider this question: “Will this car meet my needs?” If not, you should definitely buy a new car this year.

By Audra Fordin, owner of Great Bear Auto Repair in Queens, New York, and founder of Women Auto Know.