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. Kiran and Pallavi Patel commit $200 million for Clearwater medical school

    Real Estate

    CLEARWATER — Tampa Bay philanthropists Dr. Kiran Patel and his wife, Dr. Pallavi Patel are spending $200 million to create and promote a Tampa Bay regional campus for the private Nova Southeastern University.

    Drs. Kiran and Pallavi Patel, prolific Tampa Bay philanthropists, are putting up $200 million to create and run a new medical school under Nova Southeastern University. Here is a rendering of the proposed campus [Courtesy of Southestern Noval University}
  2. USF to rename sports management program for Vinik family


    The University of South Florida will name a business program for the Vinik family at a Tuesday event.

    Tampa Bay Lightning owner and chairman Jeff Vinik and his wife, Penny, in 2010.
  3. Tonight: Hear ideas for remaking downtown Tampa interchange


    TAMPA — New concepts for rebuilding the downtown interchange will be discussed at a Florida Department of Transportation community meeting Monday night.

    The Florida Department of Transportation renamed its controversial Tampa Bay Express plan, also known as TBX. The plan is now known as Tampa Bay Next, or TBN. [Florida Department of Transportation]
  4. Target raising minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020


    NEW YORK — Target Corp. is raising its minimum hourly wage for its workers to $11 starting next month and then to $15 by the end of 2020 in a move it says will help it better recruit and retain top-quality staff and provide a better shopping experience for its customers.

    Target Corp. is raising its minimum hourly wage for its workers to $11 starting next month and then to $15 by the end of 2020
[File photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images]
  5. PolitiFact Florida: How would Florida fare in Graham-Cassidy health care bill?


    Following a sharp rebuke by late-night talk show host Jimmy Kimmel, Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., hit the airwaves to defend his bill that would undo much of the Affordable Care Act.

    Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.