When Your Car Dies – Repair or Replace

When you go to a car lot, always keep in mind: The people helping you want to move inventory. This is how they pay for their livelihood. Not everyone is out to get you, but you will run into some goons.

It’s another typical evening. After a long day of work, you notice that your car isn’t acting like it normally does. A putt-putt here, a gurgle there, but you continue on. Shrugging it off in the moment, and after another few miles, the car jerks to an awkward stop.

It stopped working.

You turn the key and nothing happens. It’s in no condition to drive home and you’re forced to push it off to the side of the road. After an hour or so, a local tow company comes out to deliver it to your mechanic and you finally make it home by calling in a favor. You can at least rest easier knowing that your baby is in good hands.

After settling in with a drink, you get a call from your mechanic. Your luck hasn’t changed and the car is going to cost a couple thousand dollars to repair. In a panic, you consider buying something, anything that gets from A to B, to get your life back to normal.


However, we strongly urge you to rent or borrow a car during these stressful time. Think through your options. Sometimes it makes sense to have a vehicle repaired. If the car is paid for and there is no frame damage, it may be wise to replace or rebuild certain components. This can help you avoid that high payment for a new car, along with the greater insurance coverage that’s required on cars bought with loans. When you pay a car in full, only liability is required; depending on the value of your car, this type of coverage could make sense. And unless you have some major couch change, you’re most likely looking a loan of some type.


If you happen to decide that only a new or a nice used car will do, go online to KellyBlueBook.com to determine the market value of any car you might consider buying. Put in some effort here. Go as far a researching car insurance to see if that upgrade to a sports car is really worth the extra costs for you. Yes, it’s true. If you buy certain types of “risk” cars, your insurance will be higher due to the formula insurance companies use to guess the likelihood of you getting into an accident. Someone with an economy hybrid is most likely a lower risk driver than someone with a rare sports car that’s known to be modified.


Armed with information on vehicle values, knowledge of insurance charges on the types of vehicles you prefer, and pre-approval on a car loan it is time to go shopping. The internet is still your best friend at this stage. Find dealerships that you’re willing to drive to and make a list. Search their online inventories and save every car you’re interested in. Any listed price is NOT the price you want to pay. If it happens to be in your budget, that’s great. But you still have room to negotiate. It’s their dream to have every customer simply pay the asking price.

You’re not that customer.

With your research in hand, you can confidently make your way to a dealership. While there, be sure to test multiple cars and make sure you negotiate if you’re honestly interested in something. Remember: The best position to be in is one where you can walk away.

You don’t “need” a car, the sales person need you to make a sale. At least they should think that.

Right? Yeah, just keep repeating “I can walk away” to yourself silently.


However, here’s the truth. If you have no game, don’t hustle. Ignore what we just said. Seriously, if you are a shy person that can’t keep a straight face, work on that before jumping into a big deal. In your situation, work with the sales person if you feel like you have a good rapport going with them. Some sellers will absolutely understand what you’re going through and do their best to get you a fair deal, but don’t expect us to tell you who these fantastic people are, they don’t come with labels on their forehead–this is all a gut feeling.

If you can afford to walk away, then do it. Leave your information with the seller, but don’t jump on the first offer made. You can give them a price range that you’re looking for, but don’t give them a hard number unless you’d be happy paying exactly that.

The best deal is the deal that you can be happy with. 

We say that because it’s true. You might not shave off those extra $1,500 dollars, but if you were looking to only spend $19,000 on a new car and you get a deal of $17,000, consider it. You can walk away if you’re willing to call someone’s bluff, but not everyone has the nerve to walk. If you’re anxious about losing out, get the best deal that you can in that moment.

Bonus: Things that can help you

If you have cash, you’ll have a lot of negotiating power. However, like most of America, you’ll most likely have to get a loan to buy a new car. To get the best possible financing, get pre-approved for a vehicle loan before stepping onto a lot. At this point, you’ve been researching and know what you’re willing to spend. When you go car shopping with financing already in place you are in a much stronger negotiating position. This also means you had the chance to look for the best terms and institutions to deal with.


After you get your new car, sit down to understand your warranty. It’s tempting to want to give the new car a little love. And if you’re a car enthusiast, this is like a blank canvas for you to play with. As much as your hands will itch to modify your new toy, control yourself. Look at the warranty and understand what voids them. Once you do that, you can do what you want.

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