If Your Old Car Has Any of These 12 Problems, Consider Buying a New Vehicle

These red flags should be urging you to part ways with your old wheels.

A dad and a son looking at a car engine
Updated July 18, 2024
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It can be hard to let go of your current vehicle. Maybe you don’t have the cash to get a new car, or you’re sentimental and want to hold on to the old one.

Or perhaps you think that there’s no reason to get a new vehicle if you can fix your current car instead.

But some repairs might be too expensive to justify. So, if you want to avoid wasting money, consider skipping the following repairs and replacing your old car instead.

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Bad brake rotors and drums

pdsci/Adobe Closeup of a mechanic's hand replacing a disk brake pad in a close-up shot inside a car garage.

New brake pads are a relatively inexpensive fix and should be a regular part of your maintenance schedule.

However, you might face higher costs to replace rotors and drums. If your car is getting long in the tooth, it might make sense to get a new car instead of paying for this repair.

A faulty alternator

Viorel/Adobe A mechanic installs generator back into the car's engine after fixing it.

The alternator provides the juice for most of your car’s electronics. A bad alternator can lead to an even worse repair.

Alternators may need to be replaced every 50,000 miles to 100,000 miles. But if your car is especially old, it might make sense to skip this fix and head to the dealer lot.

An engine that needs a rebuild or replacement

Frank/Adobe  A blonde long-haired female mechanic fixes a motor vehicle engine in a car repair shop.

A bad engine is pretty much the end of your car unless you are willing to dig deeply into your wallet.

An engine rebuild or replacement will likely cost you several thousand dollars—money that could be used for the down payment on a new car.

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A bad head gasket

WESTOCK/Adobe An Indian male customer describes a car engine problem while a mechanic notes it down at the garage.

The head gasket is a specific engine component that could also cost you serious cash if it needs replacing.

The head gasket seals the engine cylinders. That protects the rest of the car from leaking fluids and coolants.

This fix can cost you $2,000, which might not make sense in a car that is not worth much more than that.

A wonky transmission

Patcharanan/Adobe Frustrated Asian man waits for assistance with broken car engine on street.

Transmission replacements or major transmission repairs can be costly in terms of both parts and labor.

Don’t be surprised if you have to pay $5,000 for the repair. At that point, it’s probably better to use the cash as a down payment on a new car.

A stolen catalytic converter

Sergey/Adobe A car thief donning a black mask steals an automobile in the city's street at day time.

Catalytic converters contain precious metals such as platinum, palladium, and rhodium, which makes them a prime target for thieves. 

Repairing a catalytic converter, which reduces harmful emissions, can be a costly fix of a couple of thousand dollars.

If your catalytic converter is stolen, you may want to check with your car insurance company to find out if it will cover the replacement cost. If not, it might be time to shop for a new vehicle.

A deployed air bag

saravuth/Adobe Air bags inflated after a sensor detected a front-end crash severe enough to trigger their deployment

If your airbags go off in a crash, the replacement cost can easily run you around $3,000. That’s expensive enough to make you think twice about keeping your car.

In addition, it’s likely that an accident caused your airbags, so you might be facing other repair costs.

A bent frame

Mr. Music/Adobe A mechanic at a car repair service center examines shock-absorbing components such as springs and dampers

The frame is the foundation that the car sits on. Issues with a bent frame could lead to problems with the rest of the vehicle.

You might easily face a $10,000 bill to repair the frame, so your best bet might be to get a new car.

A cracked engine block

Dragana Gordic/Adobe  A focused female mechanic is working on a car in an auto repair shop.

Cracks in your engine block are a serious issue and aren’t easy to fix.

The bill can add up to thousands of dollars, and most people will likely opt for a new car instead.

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A bad radiator

suttisuntorn/Adobe A woman mechanic in red overalls is repairing the car engine and inspecting the radiator's water level.

A radiator helps to cool your engine. So, issues with your radiator can cause you serious problems.

Replacing a radiator can cost at least $1,000. That’s not hugely expensive, but repairing a very old car might not be cost-effective.

Steering rack issues

Stella/Adobe A woman car service technician checks and repairs a customer's car at an automobile service center, inspecting the underbody and suspension system.

If you’re having trouble steering your car, it could be a sign of issues with your steering rack.

But a repair can cost up to $2,000. So, think long and hard about whether this repair is worth making on an old car.

An electric car battery that needs replacement

ake1150/Adobe An environmentally-friendly vehicle hybrid electric car's battery is being charged by a sustainable energy source. .

The batteries that run an electric car are not as quick and easy to replace as that little car battery under the hood of a vehicle with a combustion engine.

You don’t have to worry about oil changes, but you should factor in the cost of replacing electric car batteries. That cost can be anywhere from $5,000 to upward of $20,000.

Bottom line

Serhii/Adobe A delighted African couple is selecting a luxury car at a vehicle dealership and examining the interior.

Many car fixes are worthwhile. But if your car is especially old or a repair is costly, it might be time to buy a new vehicle.

So don’t be afraid to get a new car if repairs become too expensive. Counterintuitive as it might seem, it is possible that buying a new vehicle could lower your financial stress and keep more money in your pocket over the long haul.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen

Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.