1986 Toyota Van

Nine Signs That It’s Time to Break up with Your Car

Breaking up is hard to do, especially if your “love” has four wheels. Yes, we Americans are infatuated with our rides, so much so that one-fourth of us give them names according to a seminal 2013 Nationwide Insurance survey.

That attachment, however, can come with a steep financial cost, especially if your car is old, is in need of extortionate repairs or drinks fuel like a camel. If you need reasons to ditch your ride this Valentine’s Day, then read on.

1. You can’t catch a date. No girl will go out with you and that fact has absolutely nothing to do with the way you look, talk or flirt. What bothers her is your use of duct tape to hold up the rear bumper, patch a hole or to secure a faux hood scoop in place. Seriously?! Unless your car is spotless inside and out, it won’t matter to her how well you break it down to Uptown Funk.

2. You drive an unrestored classic. You call your car an unrestored classic, but everyone else says it is a wreck. Unless you plan to restore your 1987 Chevy El Camino, continuing to use it as your daily driver makes little sense. It’s time to get off the fence and restore your ride or sell it to someone who will.

3. Transmission slippage portends a major repair. Your car has gone through every warranty, including its powertrain, and now its extended warranty. When you step on the gas, you notice a delay in acceleration. Further, it takes multiple attempts to shift into reverse and there is an odd smell emanating from somewhere underneath the vehicle. Changing the transmission fluid might help matters, but if you’ve already done that, you’re looking at a major repair, one that could cost you more than what your vehicle is worth.

4. Engine problems are ongoing and pervasive. Besides the transmission, the engine is the other most costly repair for vehicle owners. Even with normal wear and tear, an engine will eventually come to the end of its useful lifespan and need to be overhauled or replaced. And both options will cost you dearly. Among the signs of pervasive engine problems include: inordinate oil consumption, smoke emitting from the tailpipe, low oil pressure or compression, tapping or knocking sounds, and leaks. Unless you can rebuild the engine yourself, you’re looking at an exorbitant cost.

5. Your ride cannot pass inspection. Some states are stricter than others when it comes to emissions repairs. Lest you can secure a waiver for failing inspection, you must get your car repaired. Otherwise, you will have to park it until it you can afford that cost. And those repairs can be expensive. Indeed, if the catalytic converter is damaged, it will need to be replaced and that cost can top $1,000 with parts and labor.

6. Air conditioning is just another term for driving fast with the windows down. Repairing your car’s air conditioner may be one of your least expensive repairs, but it is only a slice of the under hood maintenance your car needs. New hoses, wiring, a battery, timing belt, cooling system and gaskets will eventually have to be replaced too, turning your ride into a money pit. Many newer cars come with zoned climate control and an allergy inhibiting cabin air filter, and none of the headaches of your old car.

7. Getting lost and lousy music choices are just no fun. Your car was built before GPS navigation systems were the norm, and your audio system has a broken CD system, no auxiliary input jack or a USB port. Most cars built within the past three years have comprehensive infotainment systems with audio, navigation, climate control and other features tied in with a central control panel. Today’s cars are veritable entertainment boxes on wheels, bringing in satellite radio, Pandora, Stitcher, accurate navigation, traffic and weather reports, and other features. And, yes, you can usually sync that system with your smartphone to extend its usefulness.

8. Safety features can save your life. Your car may have front airbags and anti-lock brakes, but you may be missing out on safety features that have become prevalent over the past five years. Nearly all cars now come equipped with front, front side and side curtain airbags. They may also have stability control, traction control, brake-force distribution, and brake assist. Moreover, you can now buy a car with adaptive cruise control, lane keep assist, lane departure warning and a host of other driver assistance features. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tests and grades today’s vehicles for crashworthiness as well as for crash avoidance and mitigation. Consider whether your current car provides the protection you and the ones you love deserve by checking those ratings.

9. Nothing beats that new car look, smell and feel. When was the last time you purchased a new car? Remember the look, smell and feel that stayed with it for the better part of a year? You don’t need a specific reason to buy new and your current ride doesn’t have to be the wreck we described earlier. There is something to be said about running your hands across the maple or redwood burl trim, adjusting the instrument panel to reflect the information you want, or syncing your entire music library with the car’s infotainment system. You’ve put up with your old ride longer than needed. It is time to sell, trade or donate your vehicle and shop for something new or gently used.

Just Break Up

Before you make the break with your driving past, find out what your current vehicle is worth. Add in a sizable down payment, explore your loan options, and begin to shop for a car. If you choose used, insist on a CARFAX Vehicle History Report. Then, have a mechanic independently verify the car’s condition.

Yes, breaking up is hard to do, but your current ride’s problems may be enough for you to sever that emotional attachment.