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How often should I change my car to minimize the total cost of car ownership.

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  • How often should I change my car to minimize the total cost of car ownership.

    I would appreciate some advice.

    My partner and I have been having a debate whether it is better to change a car approximately every 10-12 years and getting a new one vs. fixing it and keeping it longer until it dies. I somehow think that car should be used longer and be fixed rather than buying new ones, but my partner thinks that it is better to put in the money into buying a new car rather than using it into repairs.
    Can someone explain how I can compare the two situation financially? I somehow am not sure if I am right.

    I would like to add more detail to make the math simple.
    We have been buying only Honda- CRVs and are planning to buy the same car each time. We prefer buying new cars rather than buying used ones.
    Currently new Honda CRV is approximately $26,000+ tax. We usually trade in our old car at the Honda dealership when buying a new car.
    We use the car mainly for commute and use it less than 6,000 miles per year.
    We do maintenance checks as recommended by the dealership.

    Can someone explain this in numbers so that we can decide which way we should go?
    Should I change the car sooner rather than wasting money in repair? or should I repair the car and use it longer?
    What other cost should I consider other than purchase price, repair cost in this calculation? Any advice would be appreciated.
    I am happy to add more information/details if it is needed.
    Thank you so much in advance!

  • #2
    There are tables of annual ownership cost that you can look up. But I think you are missing the forest for the trees. Reliability trumps cost eventually, as do safety improvements.


    • #3
      I agree with Shant. The main issue with me as I was on call was reliability to get back and forth to the hospital. The last car I had in practice was a Toyota product I kept for 274,000 miles. Your CRV should have great reliability.


      • #4
        What you are missing: depreciation effect on the trade in - large in the first few years. For a reliable car I’d keep it and drive it into the ground. I have a 2003 Accord. Every now and then a $500 or so something comes up for maintenance. Oil changes are a wash since you’d be doing that anyway. Gas mileage is reasonable. If I went your way I would have spent several thousand more over the life of this car, even after accounting for the trade in value at the time and my random $500 spends. Also depends on the utility you get from a newer car with all the features. I could care less about those things. We’ve gotten too fancy with things. Chips for all this stuff are why we have a car bottleneck problem right now with rising prices. But I want my heated seat! 🙄


        • #5
          Trading in a car every 10 years seems very reasonable. I'd rather pay more for a newer car knowing major repairs are not coming, like with an old car. I despise taking my car to the mechanic.
          Some things are just worth paying for IMO....


          • #6
            I would say keep it longer. That car should not need major repairs until well over 100k miles. I would say replace at 150k. If car is parked in a garage it would probably be even longer before things start to break.


            • #7
              Registration fees go down as the value of the car depreciates. Probably you can pay less for insurance too. But that's fairly minor stuff. I agree with others- driving a reliable Honda/Toyota into the ground at 300k miles is certainly going to cost you less in the long run than periodic upgrades.

              My 2001 Honda civic had zero issues until 220k miles when it suddenly did start to have issues. I didn't fix it, donated it to NPR, got the tax deduction, and got the next gently used Honda that has been chugging along with zero problems.


              • #8
                people rationalize buying cars.

                I had honda civic for 18 years then i bought another used civic for 13k and i have had it for last 5 years.

                Buy a slightly used indestructible economy sh!t box.
                Drive until it dies.


                • #9
                  When you’re talking about whether or not to fix a Honda that you’ve kept for 12+ years on a physician salary (that not right out of training), you’re over optimizing.

                  If you want to fix it, fix it. If you want a new one, but a new one. Having the luxury to make that decision is one of the many reasons you work so hard.


                  • #10
                    Average car on the road is 12-13 years old, Toyotas typically last longer with minimal repairs. The overall cost of ownership will almost always be lower the longer you keep your Toyota.

                    My 15 year old Toyota in the last five years has needed exactly one non wear item fixed, Alternator failed (happened once before around 8 years). That's it. Otherwise just tires, brakes, oil changes, fluid exchanges, etc. From a cost perspective there was no reason to get a new car, i was just ready for something different as a daily driver. It has no Bluetooth, no backup camera, dirty cloth seats, a small gas tank and mediocre mpg. I keep it for skiing and hiking since it has newish snow tires and a ski rack and does well on bad forest service roads.


                    • #11
                      I buy new and use it on and on till I run it to the ground or more likely, give it to someone where it significantly improves their quality of life and ability to find work.

                      I recently gave away our 2000 Accord that looked it age but ran flawlessly. My wife and kid still use the 2007 Camry Hybrid. No point buying new unless you want to throw money or are way beyond FI that you need to spend it before you leave this world.


                      • #12
                        Holding on to a reliable car as long as possible is probably cost-wise, the best way to go. Where I run into trouble is if I factor in my time. The cost to repair my beater car is small, I just can't stand the logistics of dropping it off and picking it up for repairs. Feels like a big waste of time, which is worth a lot these days.

                        Other time wasters include spending the occasional evening patching up a rusting heat shield that's falling apart with laundry vent clamps because a full replace would be $$...little things like that.


                        • #13
                          Old reliable cars become unreliable at an ever increasing rate with age, I get it. At some point (maybe a long time ago) its over optimizing.

                          Lots of takes on this thread that are using precovid logic, now I've never bought a new car, but new cars are often a better value for good ones toyota, honda, resale on used is ridiculous and i've seen them cost more. Now they frankly are more, its nuts.

                          We finally are nearing minivan acceptance stage, but its not a good time to buy a car rn.


                          • #14
                            kind of odd to ask about minimizing cost of ownership and then say you are buying new cars.

                            a 2-3 year old vehicle is an amazing value.

                            last 2 purchases (both under 30k miles)
                            2013 model in 2015 = savings $20k off sticker
                            2018 model in 2020 = $10k off sticker

                            that's a lot of savings for something you literally can't distinguish from brand new


                            • #15
                              It really depends. Every car is going to have known maintenance and components that may have a typical mile and/or known life span. The trick is to get rid of the car before you start having unexpected non-maintenance issues or known life span repairs. It's like timing the market...almost impossible. Like MPMD said, it used to be that buying a gently used vehicle a few years old was the sweet spot for value but I know the current used car market has changed.