With the expense of new vehicles on a never-ending climb, many motorists are choosing to keep their vehicles longer. And while it may have a few more dents and scrapes, it can still serve a useful transportation purpose. Some folks may not quite grasp the concept of throwing good money into a bad vehicle. Here are some considerations you should make before keeping or parting with Old Reliable.

Why don’t you love it anymore?

They say that we don’t know when love starts, but we sure know when it ends. For whatever reason, your current ride just isn’t doing it for you anymore. Before you grab a For Sale sign, make a list of what you like, dislike, and absolutely abhor about your vehicle. We all have different wants and desires. Perhaps you hate the colour, or maybe you’re cheesed at a recent transmission overhaul. Whatever the case, write them down. Let’s analyse some popular complaints.

Exterior cosmetics: a paint job dulled by UV rays and pollution can usually be brought back with a good power buff. There are countless reconditioning outfits that can return your car to its former glory. Minor dents can often be removed without costly bodywork. Most paint chips and scratches can be cured with a bottle of touch-up paint. A complete re-paint should only be considered if there are no major rust issues. As you may have heard, it never sleeps.

Rust: it affects some provinces more than others. If your car is sound, exercise preventative maintenance by having it “oiled” annually. A lightweight oil is sprayed on the inner panels and undercarriage. It may have a little seepage after it is first applied, however there is no after-odour. If the rust has already taken hold, oiling the car can help delay its advance. Where the rust is can be a major safety concern. As most vehicles today utilize a uni-body construction, things such as rusted-out rocker panels can seriously affect a vehicle’s crash performance. Suspension mounts are a favourite of the brown and crusty, as well as gas tanks and frame rails. Oil it now, drive it longer.

Interior: upholstery can fade and tear. Luckily, today’s seat renewal is less about hand stitching and more about clips and the odd zipper. In some cases, complete upholstery kits can be ordered for a vehicle. You can even spec leather if it’s time for some ego massaging. Most upholstery shops can also install heated seat elements. Tired of AM talk? The aftermarket audio market can provide everything from headrest DVD screens to GPS navigation systems.

Mechanicals: just because it’s not new doesn’t mean the maintenance should slip. If your dealer isn’t sending out friendly reminders, consult your owner’s manual for the proper service intervals. A key item to be on top of is timing belt changes, a failure of which can result in costly engine repairs. Failure to flush cooling systems can lead to a blown radiator, while a plugged automatic transmission filter can result in excessive wear and gear slippage. Unless you have been cursed with an all-out lemon, most catastrophic mechanical snafus could have been prevented by regular upkeep. It is the classic example of cause and effect.

The lesson everyone should learn is this: owning a vehicle costs money. While every vehicle will vary, proper maintenance can average about $600 per annum. A transmission flush for $100 a year sure beats paying for a $2500 transmission after 5 years of neglect.

“I just spent a ton of money on it, and I want out!” It never ceases to amaze me that so many people sell vehicles that have had all their major problems corrected. A brake job should last at least 50,000 kilometres. A rebuilt transmission: at least 100,000 kilometres. In many cases, major repairs carry impressive warranty coverage, including parts and labour for the life of ownership. If you want to give someone a present, don’t give them your car. Unless it’s a vintage muscle car that’s been stored in a plastic baggie, the last thing you’ll make is money when you sell.

While the new car smell can be quite inviting, don’t forget to do the math. Countless people tell me that they want to lease something new because there are “no headaches”. Consider a typical lease. For anything with equipment, expect to pay $300 to $400 per month, plus taxes. To get the payments reasonable, you may have to put money down. Don’t forget to factor in insurance, which is usually higher than what you’re paying, unless you’re going from a 5.0 litre Mustang to a Focus. Make some rough calculations on your current gas mileage, and how much you would save or lose with the new vehicle.

If a vehicle is used for business expense, you can write off depreciation on the one you own. Even with a major overhaul expense per year, you’re still farther ahead to have the pink slip instead of a payment.

And nothing beats down that old car depression than an old fashioned car wash. You might have to spring a toonie for the new car smell.

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