To Trade or Keep an Older Car?

My ’98 Saturn sedan will be hitting a milestone in less than 100 miles.  She’s turning 100,000!  WOW! 

This trusty chariot has been through quite a bit in her 13 years: three trips from Atlanta to Florida; two trips from Atlanta to Omaha; a trip from Omaha to Denver; several shorter jaunts here and there; carpools; two wrecks; spilled milk in the trunk; spilled mulch in the trunk; a new clutch; and a cat for a short while.  She’s weathered her years and miles well.

Some say it’s time to get a new vehicle.  Her bumper’s cracked, the rear window doesn’t go up or down, and she smells like little boys.  And old plastic.  She’s been bumped around a few times, with some scratches to show for it.  She’s needing more frequent “extra quarts.”  She disappears behind big SUVs, and is at just the right (or wrong) height to suck in their exhaust.  She’s very low to the ground, which poses a bit of an issue in gravel parking lots and road construction zones.  And there are no more Saturn dealers to turn to for expert care and advice.  Should I trade her in, get a new, lower-mileage vehicle I can really roll with on the snowy streets?

With #1 getting his learner’s permit soon (OMG!), we’ve been planning on allowing him to use this car for school and activities, and getting a newer vehicle for me.  This car is great, despite its creaks and rattles.  It’s front-wheel drive, which really does help in the snow and ice.  It’s a manual tranny, so it’s fun to drive, and efficient — I still get 30 mpg with my Saturn!  My mechanics tell me she’s “in great shape.”

I found the best upholstery cleaner/deodorizer (Blue Coral), and glass cleaner (Sprayway).  A few years back I got a set of detailing tools, so I can even get into all the little crevices once or twice a year.  (A little mascara, and she’s good.)  I do keep her bathed and in good hygiene, so she’s more than serviceable.

So here’s the plan: next week she gets her birthday checkup and annual exam.  Barring any terminal diagnosis, we’ll keep her, and have any necessary work done.  Except tires — these will last one more year with monthly attention to the teeny-tiny leaking one, and next year we’ll get four spankin’ new ones.  (Never mind that today she had another screw-ectomy during which they removed a giant fastener and repair her vital organ.)  I’m told the tune-up/checkup and expected service will run us about $300.  You know, that’s only about a car payment.

I haven’t had a car payment in ten years.  I kind of enjoy not paying that bill.   When #1 starts driving next fall, I’m still going to have to get another car.  It may be a clunker for him, or a nicer used mini-SUV for me.  Either way, I hope to avoid a big loan.  So keeping the old car in good shape, with proper maintenance, is going to pay off.  She’s a keeper!


2 thoughts on “To Trade or Keep an Older Car?

  1. Great tip!

    Well, now #1 wants to buy his own (to-be-parent-approved) clunker so he can have “his own” car. Read between the lines: “won’t have to keep it clean or follow our rules.” Okie-dokie! We’ll see how that goes when we visit CarMax and see what costs what. But if it works, then I’ll just keep drivin’ my baby! For the cost of new tires, I’m good.


  2. I too would keep her if she is in good condition. My car payment is $250.00 so your right about the payments. If you do have to buy a car. I have a couple of hints for ya i learned. I purchased our car from Classic Chevrolet in council bluffs. I went on a Sat and it was chilly and rainy that day. So HELPFUL in my case, less car sales for the sales men and they are desperate. Then, i kept telling them i was not going to buy i would like to research my car more. After the salesman went in 5x to make a deal w/ the manager the Manager came in and delt w/ me myself.
    He knocked the price down $3,000 then they had it listed for, gave me a waranty that was certified, free oil change for life and a free tank of gas that day. Good luck on whatever you decide.


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