Fix an old car or buy a newer, used car?

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Dear Driving for Dollars,
I have a 2000 model-year, full-size luxury sedan with about 66,000 miles that I bought brand new. The car runs well, but my mechanic just told me I need a new timing belt, spark plugs, coolant, etc. The total cost is around $1,300. Should I do this expensive maintenance or trade it in and buy a smaller, less expensive car?
— Sue

Dear Sue,
You hit on a key point in your question when you described the items that need replacing as “maintenance” and not repairs. Replacement of these types of items is typically required at about the mileage you have on your current car and is just that — maintenance and not an unexpected repair. In fact, these are probably listed for replacement in your owner’s manual in the recommended maintenance section.

There are many advantages to driving an older car, even if it requires more expensive repairs in addition to its recommended maintenance. You have even more reasons in your situation. Your car has very low mileage for its age and you’ve been the sole owner, so you know how you’ve taken care of it. Even if you buy an inexpensive newer used car, it’s likely your annual costs for that newer used car will exceed the costs to continue to drive and maintain your current car. If you are really interested in getting a newer used car, follow the tips in this Bankrate story on whether you should repair your old car or buy a newer car.

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If you have a car question, e-mail it to us at Driving for Dollars. Read more Driving for Dollars columns and Bankrate auto stories.

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