Should I pay for major repairs or buy a new car?

Drivetrain car engine
  • Weigh up the outlay before deciding to repair your car

  • If the cost of repairs are higher than the market value of your car, it might be worth considering a reliable replacement car

  • The 6 signs of serious engine problems

Unless your car is a classic or has sentimental value, working out whether to pay for major repairs, or to sell and buy a new car, should be based on economics: which option will be less costly in the short – and long–term?

  • Get three quotes to carry out the repair work on your car

  • Find out what your make and model is usually worth

  • Look at potential replacement cars and weigh up the overall cost

A major failure under warranty, while unwelcome, is at least covered by the manufacturer. You’re more likely to encounter major mechanical problems with an older model, in which the warranty is long gone.

The potential repair bill should be compared with the market value of the car which, if it’s more than 10 years old, will only be a small fraction of the new value. You should also factor into your decision that a car with high mileage is likely to continue to develop problems due to wear and tear.

Selling the car ‘as is’ won’t get you close to the normal market value for the make and model, but in some cases is a better way out than completing the repairs and trying to get a better price, which can leave you even further out of pocket.

It’s worth weighing up the cost of a reliable replacement car – if a newer model in better condition with lower kilometres is not within your budget, you could well end up back in the same position.

That said, used cars are bargains in Australia. Cutting your losses on your old car then shopping smartly for a five-to-10-year-old, low-kilometre Japanese or Korean Car in good condition can be the best way to put the financial loss behind you and avoid big repair bills in the future.

Six symptoms of a serious engine problem

  1. Excessive white, blue or black smoke from the tailpipe

  2. The need to top-up the oil frequently

  3. Knocking or tapping sounds from the engine

  4. A low oil pressure reading on the gauge

  5. Signs of engine coolant in the oil

  6. Large puddles under the car that indicate significant fluid leaks

Regular maintenance and servicing will prolong the life of your car and help you identify problems before they result in a large repair bill. When in doubt you can always contact an NRMA mobile mechanic to discuss your options.

Or if you’d like to start by chatting to an expert, our motoring advice team provides professional advice. You can reach them on 13 11 22 (Monday to Friday, 8.30am to 5.00pm).

Is your car due for a service?

NRMA mobile mechanics can service your vehicle at your home or workplace.