I spend a lot of time in my car on road trips. As a result, I put a lot of miles on my car. With all those miles, when should I sell my car and upgrade to a newer one? After all, I don’t want my car to finally die on me when I’m 300 miles away … on a road trip.
The best solution to this predicament is the Maintenance Cost vs. Car Value Rule. Here’s how it works. At the end of the year (or on an anniversary you choose), add up of the maintenance costs you spent on the car for the past year. This would include any deductibles for warranty work. If the total amount spent on maintenance in one year is greater than half the value of the car, sell the car.
Here’s an example. Let’s say you did the following things to your car last year; oil changes, fluid changes, a new battery and new tires. You also paid a $100 deductible to replace a broken windshield wiper motor. (The warranty paid for the rest.) Add it all up and the total cost for last year was $1,100. You then go on Kelly Blue Book (or some other car value site) and you find out your car is worth $2,000. The $1,100 spent on maintenance is more than half your car’s value. Time to sell. The car is costing too much for its value.
Share if you know another rule for selling a car.
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A lot of road trips can kill the value of your car. I had a conversation last night with a friend who was not a happy camper! He’s trying to sell his car and was shocked to learn the car lost $12,000 in value in 2 years. Why … a lot of road trips. He has a short commute to work but he hits the road at least once a month for weekend stays.
He purchased a used car two years ago with 11,000 miles on it. He paid a little over $18,000 for the car. Today, the car has 91,000 miles and was appraised at $6,000. Wow! That’s a lot of value lost in 2 years. Should he have rented cars for all those road trips?
The question you have to ask yourself is do you care about the value of your car? What type of car owner are you? Are you the type to buy a car and drive it until it dies? If you are, you probability don’t care about car value. One day you’re mechanic tells you it’s time to replace the old set of wheels. You call some nonprofit to tow it away and buy the next car. You don’t need the value on the old car to help buy a replacement car. If this is you, go road trip crazy and drive your own car.
Is your car leased? Or, do you plan to trade-in your old car for a replacement? If the answer to either question is yes, your car’s value is important. Here’s what you need to think about.
How many miles do you drive per year? The average American drives 12 – 15 thousand miles per year. Let’s use 15,000 (or 15K) as a nice round number. Miles driven is not the only factor in determining the value of a car but it’s an important one. At the end of each year you own your car, how many miles did you drive? If you added less the 15K, GREAT. You slowed the rate of decline in value. If you added more than 15K … OUCH! It’s like tying a brick to your car’s value. Bottom line … if your road trips will take you over that 15k mark in any one year; fly, take the train or RENT A CAR. Don’t put those miles on your car.
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“It’s better to have it and not need it, than need it have not have it.”
Words of wisdom I like to keep in mind every time I take a day trip in my car. Here are some things you should have for your next day trip:
1 – Visit the ATM before you leave – Cash is still king in many small towns and roadside stops. My wife and I tried to attend a community fair on a trip 2 months ago. There was a cash only entrance fee and no available ATM’s. Many stores, gas stations and food outlets have minimum amounts for credit or debit card charges. A few bucks in your pocket will be very helpful in times like this.
2 – Get an E-ZPass for your car – I know some people feel they don’t travel enough or go through toll booths enough to justify an E-ZPass. They forget that convenience has a value and stress has a cost. I love being able to zoom by the toll booth in the E-ZPass lane! Without the E-ZPass, I would go crazy if I had to wait behind a long line of cars at each toll booth. To me, a less stressful vacation is worth the small cost for the E-ZPass.
3 – Join the American Automobile Association (AAA) – The benefits are enormous; travel information, travel discounts and travel insurance. They’ve even added identity theft monitoring as an option. The main reason to join … roadside assistance! I locked my keys in my car on one trip and had my car breakdown on another. In both cases, all I had to do was make one call.
4 – Store a small first aid kit in your car – There are many first aid kits available for car use. Buy one! “Better safe than sorry!”
5 – Buy bug spray (or check the expiration date) before you leave – You never know when you will need this. I’ve been attacked while pumping gas! Flying critters are always on the lookout. Don’t be their next victim! I always have a can or some wipes in my trunk during road trips.
6 – Give your car a quick checkup – Read my post on this, “AAA’s Easy Maintenance Checks for Motorists“.
7 – If you need a partner for the road trip – Read my post on this, “Find Travel Buddies“.
I hope this helps! Vacations are about building memories. These tips will help make them good memories. What tips would you add?
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Here are 7 easy car maintenance checks for traveling motorists from AAA:
- Check Brake Fluid Level and Color
- Check Engine Air Filter
- Check Windshield Washer Fluid
- Check Windshield Wiper Blades
- Check Tire Pressure
- Check Tire Tread
- Check Battery
Read the article for more details.
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