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You & Your Car

When should you part with an old car? Add to ...

I have a 2003 Hyundai Santa Fe with 115,000 kilometres on it. However, in the last two years there have been increasing maintenance costs for unusual items. I wonder if it is now time to trade in? Are kilometres the major contributor to car problems, with the given that I perform regular maintenance/oil changes. – James

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Obviously as the kilometres pile on, maintenance costs do as well. Generally speaking, mileage is the determining factor for moving parts, which includes the engine, transmission etc., while Father Time gets the blame for things that age.

Proper care and preventative maintenance will stretch the life of the moving parts. In addition to its lubricating properties, oil also acts as a coolant, drawing heat away from critical parts running within close tolerances. It also carries tiny little wear particles to the filter where they can be removed and kept from doing harm. Frequent changes and high-quality oil are a main factor in prolonging the life of engines.

Other moving parts that bear watching are belts and chains. If they wear or stretch, the result can be costly. And when it comes to things like rust and other age-related issues, the best bet is again regular care – in these cases cleaning plays a big role.

I’d be a wealthy man if I could pick the point in time or mileage when it’s time to part company with a vehicle. There are studies that say keep it forever, that even repeated and expensive repairs cost less than the depreciation and carrying charges of a new vehicle. Once the vehicle is paid off, trading for a new one will cost several hundred dollars a month or thousands a year – every month until it is paid off.

If you don’t have to borrow or finance, the money could be used elsewhere. Arguably, if you have reached that cost point with the old car it would be time to drive something new. So driving a vehicle into the ground may make the most financial sense. But then you’d have to be content to drive something like that.

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