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2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid (Petrina Gentile Zucco/Petrina Gentile for The Globe and Mail)
2007 Toyota Camry Hybrid (Petrina Gentile Zucco/Petrina Gentile for The Globe and Mail)

You & Your Car

Keep the old car but salt away cash for repairs Add to ...

QUESTION: My husband has been laid off. He got a package and we are wondering if we should keep the old car or get a new one.

Obviously we don't want to spend the money on a new one but our Camry is two years old and has about 50,000 kilometres on it. He's worried it will start to cause problems and high expenses. I'm saying we should keep it. - Mary

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ANSWER: It sounds as if your husband has new-car fever. This is the classic situation that most individuals and families face with regard to vehicle ownership.

The easy answer is that, on a purely fiscal sense, when it comes right down to the bottom line as to which is less expensive: keep the old car until it rots beneath you.

But I say that only if you salt away money each month into a fund that can be used to pay for the repairs that will be necessary and the replacement cost when it finally does become unusable.

Obviously that is an extreme and one that not many people will stomach, especially when the vehicle becomes so dilapidated that you don't want to be seen in it.

The more realistic approach is to ensure proper maintenance procedures are followed from new, the most critical among them changing fluids according to a schedule recommended by the manufacturer. That includes not only oil but transmission fluid, brake fluid, coolant etc. and any related filters.

The trap most people fall into is letting maintenance go until there is a problem. By this point, the cure is likely to be very expensive. For example, changing transmission fluid at the appointed mileage may seem a waste if everything is working well. But putting it off while that old fluid continues to circulate means it will have lost most of its ability to lubricate and be filled with the accumulated bits and pieces collected over the years - causing premature wear.

Skipping oil changes can lead to a new engine. A couple of hundred dollars saved can turn out to cost a couple of thousand.

If the car has been properly maintained, it should easily last for a few hundred thousand kilometres. There will be points along that journey where it may be necessary to incur some rather healthy bills, but averaged out over the life of the vehicle that is less expensive than the payments on a new one.

Finding a mechanic

QUESTION: How do I find a good mechanic?

Ralph

ANSWER: I'm assuming you have had a bad experience with a dealer and want to go elsewhere. If that is the case, what about another dealer?

If not, ask around. Keep your eyes open for someone driving a vehicle similar to yours. Take a moment to ask them where they get service and if they are pleased with it.

It is difficult, and expensive, for an independent technician to stay abreast of all the technological developments in today's vehicles. Many will specialize in a certain make based on experience.

With all the dealerships that are being closed as the industry restructures, there will probably be a flood of highly qualified technicians opening their own shop or working for an independent. They have received extensive training and updates from a particular manufacturer and the right one may be your solution.

Don't forget to check with the Better Business Bureau to see if there have been problems or complaints about the shop or individual.

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