As some of you may recall, my car hasn't been in the best shape. I got it for free from family (it's a 2001 SUV, and that model doesn't have the reputation for reliability). They had to put in a thousand dollars in repairs every few years, and so it seemed like the car would be OK for me. I could drive it for a few years, and at worst I'd be out a thousand, right? Then I can sell the car when I'm ready to move on to something else.
It didn't work out to be the case. Over the last 2.5 years, I've had to send the car to the shop for 12 times, and I've put in about $3,800 in repairs. That's not counting the repairs I needed from an accident ($1,900). The current Blue Book value of the car is around $3,900. So I was thinking, no more repairs! No sense in paying more in repairs than the worth of the car.
I just need a car to take me around town -- shopping, work, dentist trips, etc. Since I will relocate by July, 2014, it seems like I just need the car to last another year.
Today I took the car in for some stuff to be checked out, and they spotted some immediate safety issues. Repairing them would cost $560. There are some additional problems that could cost another $400 to fix, but they are not immediate. So I'm not sure what to do -- fix it or junk it?
Reasons for fixing it
-- I need transportation, and it's way, way more convenient with a car. I can go to the gym whenever I want. I can go to the doctor more easily (without calling and waiting for a taxi).
-- Maybe $560 will be the last time I have to put in any major money into the car???
-- If I want to sell the car, I should get the safety issues taken care of first. It sounds like the repair shop is worried that a part of the car might break at any moment, and that will cause an accident.
Reasons against fixing it
-- The car may just keep breaking down. It looks like I am paying about $1000 per year in repairs.
-- I can get by on public transportation. It won't be fun. It will be time-consuming (a ten-minute trip to the doctors could take 40 minutes, and my work commute will be 45 minutes instead of 15.) I'll have to limit a lot of my activities (i.e., not doing a whole lot). In other words, it's a carless life. But I did it for years.
-- It's cheaper not to own a car. No more repairs, gas, parking, insurance. I'll be able to save on the repair cost in addition. I'm estimating a saving of $2,600.
-- Even if I go with the minimal repair, I'll need to take the car in once a month to rotate the tires if I don't want to take care of the less immediate issues. I think that's going to cost something.
I've aksed the repair shop to take a look at the car overall and see whether they expect problems to develop over the next year. But when I've asked for that sort of advice before, they always tell me they think the car should be OK, but there are no guarantees. (Of course it's against their interest to say, yeah, you're going to face major repairs, so just junk the car.)