Q: My 1999 Honda Accord has been a great car, but it now always seems to need something. I am spending about $200 every month or two to keep it on the road. The car has gone 370,000 miles. When is it no longer a good idea to keep an old car?
A: Most car owners would probably tell you that after 370,000 miles, the car owes you nothing. Still, is it time to move on? There are several factors to consider.
First, what kind of problems does your car have, both those that lead to your frequent repairs and others that might remain unaddressed? If it is rusted out, has severely worn suspension parts, bald tires or sketchy brakes, safety demands that you make the necessary repairs or junk the car. Before doing repairs, however, consider the condition of the entire vehicle. It might make sense to have your mechanic go through the car as if you were planning to buy it used. Get a list of everything that needs to be done, and then make your decision.
Another approach to making your decision is to determine the monetary value of your car right now, without doing any repairs. Add to that sum the amount you would spend to make the car safe to use. If this total would buy you a better car—not in need of repairs to operate safely—logic suggests you should move on.
But, what about safety features? Your 24-year-old car is probably missing more recent innovations such as antilock brakes, stability control, forward collision warning with automatic emergency braking and pedestrian detection, and lane keep assist. That means it is missing a long list of safety features that have been shown to reduce crashes as well as decrease injuries and deaths in traffic accidents. To get these safety upgrades, you will have to buy a new car.