Consumer Reports on How to Make Your Used Car Last Longer

Right now is not the time to buy a new car. If you want to make your used car last longer, Consumer Reports has some tips to keep you on the road. Finding a good car repair shop can be a headache, but hopefully, these tips can make the process easier.

Consumer Reports suggests weighing the cost of repairs to the vehicle’s value

Consumer Reports wants your used car to last longer
An AAA used car auto repair garage is on display at the LeMay-America’s Car Museum | George Rose/Getty Images

Consumer Reports knows there is never a good time to pay for a significant car repair bill. Depending on what broke, the age of the car, and the type of repair needed, there are a lot of variables that can impact the situation. You can weigh your options using the Consumer Reports’ car value estimator tool and the repair estimate tool.

If you find that the value of your car is still relatively high while the repair estimate isn’t astronomical, it might make sense to fix the car. John Ibbotson, CR’s chief mechanic, says, “It’s almost never a good idea to pay for repairs that cost more than your vehicle is worth.”

One example Consumer Reports uses is repairing a 2007 Toyota Corolla with 15,000 miles. The value estimator tool says the 2007 Corolla is worth about $7,000. A head gasket repair might cost between $1,300 and $1,6000, which would still be advisable. If the engine goes, the cost would be around $7,000, making it a poor decision to replace the motor on your old car. Using the tools, you can weigh the options on your personal vehicle and the cost to repair the car.

The part might have a warranty, Consumer Reports suggests checking ahead of time

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The parts make a big difference in the repair, but don’t forget to check the warranty. Consumer Reports says that repair shops might offer new parts, remanufactured parts, or off-brand parts to complete the repair. Ibbotson says it is good to check the part’s specific warranty. “Sometimes factory parts have a better one, and other times reman­u­fac­tured parts can be a little better,” he said. It depends on the make and model of the specific car and where you end up having it repaired.

CR says to review the terms of the coverage and compare that to how long the part’s warranty lasts. It is also worth checking out how many miles are covered and if the labor for replacement is included if the part fails. Used parts can be a good way to get a better deal on a repair, but many of these parts don’t offer a warranty. An original equipment manufacturer (OEM) part might cost more, but it also might cover you down the line.

Having some funds set aside can be a huge help

It can be easier said than done, but having a rainy day or fix-it-fund can be a huge help. Major repairs on any vehicle can be costly and tend to pop up at the worst times. The older the car gets, the more likely it will need a major repair at some point. Consumer Reports says fewer than 40% of people in the U.S. have enough money saved up to pay for a $1,000 emergency.

While some larger repair shops have financing available for significant repairs, the interest rates can approach 30%. Having an emergency fund set aside can save you from a stressful repair situation. If you do this and don’t end up needing to repair anything, you can always use it for a down payment on a new vehicle later on. A larger down payment can help lower the month-to-month payments as well.

If you don’t have a rainy day fund, this is your sign to start one. If that isn’t your style, check when your next oil change and routine maintenance is due. Keeping up with your vehicle’s maintenance is a good way to catch an issue before it becomes a major problem. This also helps establish a relationship with a shop ahead of time. Consumer Reports wants your used car to last longer, so don’t fall behind.

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