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To Buy or Not to Buy

      Written By Archie Varone from A and J Auto Maintenance Center


          So you’ve had your car or truck for a while.   If it’s been good to you, it’s probably because you’ve been good to it.  A dependable vehicle is like comfort food.  The feeling you get when you have it is good, yet after awhile, you wonder what it’s costing you.

          Being in the auto maintenance business, this article may seem self-destructive; however, I like to sleep at night.  I’ve noticed that many of my newer customers have brought me vehicles that have had what I feel is an excessive amount of work done to cars that should have been euphemized years ago.  Some of these vehicles have frame and unibody damage so bad, it has scared me that someone actually put a current state inspection sticker on it.

          With that said, let’s look at some ways we can make some better decisions … keep it going or replace it!  A wise consumer will know when to throw in the shop rag.


(1) Understand cost of ownership

          When I was a little tike, many people kept a car only a few years.  Cars back then required much more maintenance than today’s cars do.  Reaching 100,000 miles was a milestone and no one blamed you for trading in your old horse.  Today, reaching 200,000 is a similar feat of maintenance.

          The cost of ownership varies from vehicle to vehicle, type and make.  But doing a little homework will let you know where you stand.  If you’ve had the car a few years, you have a history that may help you determine costs.  If your car is a “new to you used car”, your owner’s manual, a good maintenance check sheet and a thorough checking over by a qualified mechanic can help narrow down the dollars this vehicle may cost you over the time you plan on keeping it.


(2)  Do the Math

          Take the vehicle cost, general maintenance costs and allow 10% of maintenance costs for the unexpected repairs.  Example, for a NEW car:  $18,000 vehicle cost + $4,500 maintenance costs + 10% ($450) = $22,950.  Divide by 100,000 miles = 0.2295 cents per mile.  100,000 miles divided by 15,000 miles per year = 6.6 years.  $22,950 divided by 78 months = $294 per month.

          These numbers only reflect if you bought the car new and did proper maintenance, drove at average mileage and don’t need an engine, transmission or any other major repair.  Here again, proper maintenance and non-aggressive driving should easily net you 200,000 or better in today’s cars without failure.  After 200,000 miles, it all becomes a crap shoot.  Some cars/drivers fair better than others, just like some people I know.  (Oops – did I write that out loud?)

          If you’ve had your car for a while and bought it used, you are in a situation that requires a sharp pencil, a sharp knowledge of maintenance costs and a maintenance check list.  If your owner’s manual does not have one in it, a quality repair shop will be able to print one out for you.


(3)  Before You Buy Used!!!

          Please people I do mean BEFORE YOU BUY THE CAR.  I have had to watch really good people cry, after I inspected the great deal they just bought.  I really don’t like handing nice people an estimate for $3500 after they spent their last dime on that great deal.

          A quality auto maintenance center will offer, for a small fee, a thorough examination of your car’s condition.  If it’s in good to fair condition, determining what it would take to get in a dependable safe condition, before assessing future maintenance cost.  If the car is in poor condition, consider buying a fresher ride.  Only you can make that decision based on the miles you drive, the practicality of the car and what your budget will allow for monthly car maintenance/costs.


(4)  New vs. Old

          Generally, a new car meant taking the depreciation hit hard and a 1-2 year old car was a bargain.  Today, however, is the year of “what the heck happened?!”  The restructuring game that the car makers are playing created a window of opportunity for many people who always wanted a new car.  Right now, special purchase vehicles, dealer’s fire sales, and low financing have created a great many cars that will sell far below the depreciation of past years.


The money you save on the initial price may greatly offset the long-term cost of the vehicle.

So do your homework, sharpen your pencil and make a decision!