What to Do When You Think Your Car is on its Last Legs

MHUB - April 17, 2018
What to Do When You Think Your Car is on its Last Legs Picture: Image of obscured man in blue jeans looking into hood of blue car on side of the road.
It may be a grinding noise, a stutter or a feeling in the pit of your stomach, but it’s always scary when you think your car is on its last legs.

If your car has reached the point of no-repair, every drive may be a dangerous gamble. You can (and should) get advice from a trusted auto mechanic, but getting rid of your car is a decision you’ll have to make all on your own.

How to know if your car is on its last legs

When you’re deciding whether your car is worth keeping around there are a few things to consider.

  • Your car’s value – You won’t be able to make a decision about whether to keep your car until you know your car’s value. Check Kelly Blue Book or NADA for estimates that can help you through this process.

  • Depreciation – If your car is an older model, to begin with, you may want to consider depreciation. The longer you keep your car around, the less it’s worth. This comes into play when evaluating whether repairs are worthwhile.

  • Reliability – How much have you had to invest in your car over its lifetime? And about what percentage of that was in the past year? If car expenses are adding up while your car value is going down, it may not be worthwhile to invest another penny.

  • Repairs at hand – If you’ve had your car evaluated recently, you may know the total cost of repairs. If you don’t, it’s probably a good idea to take your car to a mechanic. Ask him to evaluate everything and give you an estimate. He should check the brakes, engine, transmission and even the tires and battery. You’ll want to count every expense, even the minor ones that seem somewhat routine. If the total cost of repairs you’ll need to make within the year exceed the car’s value, it’s time for a new car.

How to get rid of an old car

If you’ve decided that your car isn’t worth the money it’ll take to repair, other people will likely come to the same conclusion. If you do decide to sell your car privately, be honest about its conditions. It’s possible that an auto mechanic or a DIY’er may buy the car for parts or to repair and sell.

If you don’t have any luck finding a buyer, you may be able to trade it in. Typically, you won’t get as much on trade-ins as with private sales, but that may not always be the case (especially if you can’t sell it privately).

And if selling your car doesn’t work out, you can always donate it to a charity. There are many charities that will gladly accept auto donations, including the Salvation Army, the Make-a-Wish Foundation and Kars4Kids.

Are you worried that your car is on its last legs? How do you think you’ll handle it?

Trevor McDonald is a freelance writer who’s written for a variety of automotive, travel, and lifestyle publications and is currently writing for Audi Marietta. An auto-enthusiast and self-proclaimed “gear-head”, Trevor loves working on cars and writing about the ensuing test-drive. In his free time, you can find Trevor working in the garage or lifting weights at the gym.