Make us your home page
Autos | Car maintenance

Fix it? Or is it time to buy a new car?

Buying a car is a big decision — but how do you know when you've made your last repair and when it is time to replace your ride? Angie's List, a provider of consumer reviews and ratings (, talked to some of its highly rated auto service companies and offers the following helpful hints for drivers. Angie's List

Before buying, consider

Affordability: When two consecutive years of repairs exceed the annual cost of a replacement vehicle — including payment, increased insurance cost, maintenance and service — it's time to go car shopping.

Safety: Your car's chassis structure, sometimes called the frame, is designed to help absorb impact during an accident and damage to it could compromise safety for everyone in the car. That chassis can rust from exposure to water, salt and smog. When rust to the vehicle body or chassis becomes extreme or it becomes unsafe structurally, it is time to replace the vehicle. Also, if you have an older car without safety features like air bags, you might want to consider an upgrade. Think about how you feel about your car, too. Do you still trust it to be safe? Or, do you feel like there's always something wrong with it?

Avoiding costly repairs

The most expensive areas of your car to repair are generally the engine and transmission. Keeping your car in top running condition is vital and will save you money in the long run.

Oil changes: Oil is the engine's blood, and is critical to a car's long life. Your vehicle's oil should be changed, depending on your driving habits, typically every 3,000 to 7,000 miles or around 3 to 6 months. You should check your oil about every 1,000 miles.

Tire maintenance: Properly maintained tires improve the steering, stopping and traction of your vehicle.

• Tire pressure should be set to the manufacturer's specification. Over- or under-inflated tires wear out faster, affect fuel consumption and are a safety hazard.

• Rotate and balance your tires every 6,000 to 8,000 miles and get an alignment check every year to make sure there are not suspension problems.

Fluids: Transmission fluid, brake fluid and coolant can break down over time and lose their effectiveness. All fluids should be checked and topped off every oil change. Have your transmission fluid flushed out every 50,000 miles, depending on your driving habits.

Brake check: Brake inspection should be part of your vehicle's ongoing maintenance to ensure safety and reliability. You should have your brakes inspected at least once a year; more often if you experience grinding or shaking when you brake. Regardless of care, brakes will likely need to be replaced every 20,000 to 30,000 miles.

Scheduled maintenance: Failure to follow the manufacturer's recommended maintenance schedule could lead to breakdowns, poor fuel economy and higher costs in the long run. Having a certified professional inspect your car according to these schedules is an opportunity to catch problems before they escalate into larger repairs.

Build a relationship with a shop or mechanic: Bouncing from shop to shop may save a few dollars on particular jobs, but in the end the only one who will have any responsibility for the condition of the car will be you. A good mechanic who is familiar with your needs, your expectations and your car will help you get the most from your car.

Fix it? Or is it time to buy a new car? 12/29/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 29, 2010 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Legalized medical marijuana signed into law by Rick Scott

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott on Friday signed into law a broader medical marijuana system for the state, following through on a promise he made earlier this month.

    Gov. Rick Scott signed legislation on Friday that legalizes medical marijuana in Florida.
  2. Line of moms welcome Once Upon A Child to Carrollwood


    CARROLLWOOD — Strollers of all shapes and sizes are lined up in front of the store, and inside, there are racks of children's clothing in every color of the rainbow.

    At Once Upon A Child, you often as many baby strollers outside as you find baby furniture and accessories. It recently opened this location in Carrollwood. Photo by Danielle Hauser
  3. Pastries N Chaat brings North India cuisine to North Tampa


    TAMPA — Pastries N Chaat, a new restaurant offering Indian street food, opened this week near the University of South Florida.

    The menu at Pastries N Chaat includes a large variety of Biriyani, an entree owners say is beloved by millions. Photo courtesy of Pastries N Chaat.
  4. 'Garbage juice' seen as threat to drinking water in Florida Panhandle county


    To Waste Management, the nation's largest handler of garbage, the liquid that winds up at the bottom of a landfill is called "leachate," and it can safely be disposed of in a well that's 4,200 feet deep.

    Three samples that were displayed by Jackson County NAACP President Ronstance Pittman at a public meeting on Waste Management's deep well injection proposal. The sample on the left is full of leachate from the Jackson County landfill, the stuff that would be injected into the well. The sample on the right shows leachate after it's been treated at a wastewater treatment plant. The one in the middle is tap water.
  5. Honda denies covering up dangers of Takata air bags


    With just a third of the defective Takata air bag inflators replaced nationwide, the corporate blame game of who will take responsibility — and pay — for the issue has shifted into another gear.

    Honda is denying covering up dangers of Takata air bags. | [Scott McIntyre, New York Times]