Home > Personal Finance > 3 Signs It’s Time to Buy a New Car

Comments 2 Comments
Advertiser Disclosure


Are you holding onto an older car or truck, hoping to squeeze a few more months (or a few more thousand miles) out of it, all the while wondering whether it’s time to start shopping for a newer one?

Maybe your vehicle is paid off and you aren’t anxious to have a car payment, or perhaps you are worried your credit may keep you from getting a good car loan. The average car payment is just under $350 a month, according to Experian Automotive. And payments on some vehicles can top $400 a month, so for most people it’s not a decision to be taken lightly.

How do you know when it’s time to start looking for a new set of wheels? Here are three signs it may be time to start car shopping.

1. Your Vehicle Isn’t Safe.

My friend was driving on the interstate when her minivan inexplicably started slowing down. I was riding next to her at the time, and was terrified as we slowed to a crawl while traffic whizzed around us at 80 miles per hour. She told me it wasn’t the first time that had happened, but it was the first time it happened on the highway. Not too long after, she got a new vehicle.

“If you fear that it will break down and leave you stranded on the side of the road, you should replace it with something safer and more reliable,” says LeAnn Shattuck with Women’s Automotive Solutions.

2. Repair Costs Are Mounting.

It’s almost always going to be cheaper to keep fixing an old car,” says Gordon Hard, senior editor with Consumer Reports. But a big, expensive repair, or a long series of repairs, can quickly throw a wrench in the budget and make a monthly car payment seem very attractive, especially if you’re not prepared or backed by an extended warranty.

That’s what happened with my previous vehicle, which like my friend’s, began to stall at traffic lights, and then in traffic. I would get it repaired, only to find the same problem happening again. When my mechanic sent me to another mechanic, who also tried to fix it without success, I realized it was probably time to throw in the towel.

The reliability of your vehicle is one factor to look at when making the decision whether to continue to driving it. Has it been good to you all along or does it seem you’re constantly getting something fixed?” asks Hard. “If it’s trouble-prone, get out of it sooner rather than later,” he advises. Extensive reliability data on used cars is available through Consumer Reports. “On average, some models are a lot less troublesome than others,” he notes.

And keep the hassle factor in mind as well. “If you frequently worry that your car won’t start in the morning, causing you to be late for work or other important activities, it’s time to consider buying a new one,” Shattuck says. A car payment may be far preferable than losing your job over a car that won’t start time and again.

3. It Doesn’t Work for Your Life Anymore.

I recently drove the truck my dad purchased from me some 15 years ago. It has 137,000 miles on it now but it’s been reliable and has worked great for him. He bought it from me after I became pregnant with my daughter and realized there was no place for a car seat. And I inherited it from my husband after the bed proved to be too small for the supplies he needed to haul for his work.

There are plenty of lifestyle changes that may force you to re-evaluate what you’re driving. For example: You take a job farther away and need better gas mileage. Your family grows and you need a larger vehicle; or your kids move out and you don’t need a large vehicle anymore. Or your car is involved in an accident and can’t be repaired.

Before You Start Shopping

Regardless of your reason for getting a different vehicle, giving yourself enough time to research possible choices will increase the odds you’ll make a choice you’re less likely to regret

In addition to researching vehicles, check your credit reports and credit scores. (You can get a free credit score and analysis of where you stand at Credit.com.) Ideally, you’ll want to get your free credit reports at least a month before you start car shopping, to give yourself time to address any mistakes or problems you may find. This guide explains how to fix credit report mistakes.

While you are at it, get pre-approved for a car loan. That way you can focus on negotiating the best deal on your vehicle. If the dealer offers you a better car loan — perhaps even 0% financing — great, but you’ll know what you qualify for walking into the dealer. You can find credit unions that offer auto loans nationwide here.

More on Auto Loans:

Image: Fuse

Comments on articles and responses to those comments are not provided or commissioned by a bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by a bank advertiser. It is not a bank advertiser's responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.

Please note that our comments are moderated, so it may take a little time before you see them on the page. Thanks for your patience.

Credit.com receives compensation for the financial products and services advertised on this site if our users apply for and sign up for any of them.

Hello, Reader!

Thanks for checking out Credit.com. We hope you find the site and the journalism we produce useful. We wanted to take some time to tell you a bit about ourselves.

Our People

The Credit.com editorial team is staffed by a team of editors and reporters, each with many years of financial reporting experience. We’ve worked for places like the New York Times, American Banker, Frontline, TheStreet.com, Business Insider, ABC News, NBC News, CNBC and many others. We also employ a few freelancers and more than 50 contributors (these are typically subject matter experts from the worlds of finance, academia, politics, business and elsewhere).

Our Reporting

We take great pains to ensure that the articles, video and graphics you see on Credit.com are thoroughly reported and fact-checked. Each story is read by two separate editors, and we adhere to the highest editorial standards. We’re not perfect, however, and if you see something that you think is wrong, please email us at editorial team [at] credit [dot] com,

The Credit.com editorial team is committed to providing our readers and viewers with sound, well-reported and understandable information designed to inform and empower. We won’t tell you what to do. We will, however, do our best to explain the consequences of various actions, thereby arming you with the information you need to make decisions that are in your best interests. We also write about things relating to money and finance we think are interesting and want to share.

In addition to appearing on Credit.com, our articles are syndicated to dozens of other news sites. We have more than 100 partners, including MSN, ABC News, CBS News, Yahoo, Marketwatch, Scripps, Money Magazine and many others. This network operates similarly to the Associated Press or Reuters, except we focus almost exclusively on issues relating to personal finance. These are not advertorial or paid placements, rather we provide these articles to our partners in most cases for free. These relationships create more awareness of Credit.com in general and they result in more traffic to us as well.

Our Business Model

Credit.com’s journalism is largely supported by an e-commerce business model. Rather than rely on revenue from display ad impressions, Credit.com maintains a financial marketplace separate from its editorial pages. When someone navigates to those pages, and applies for a credit card, for example, Credit.com will get paid what is essentially a finder’s fee if that person ends up getting the card. That doesn’t mean, however, that our editorial decisions are informed by the products available in our marketplace. The editorial team chooses what to write about and how to write about it independently of the decisions and priorities of the business side of the company. In fact, we maintain a strict and important firewall between the editorial and business departments. Our mission as journalists is to serve the reader, not the advertiser. In that sense, we are no different from any other news organization that is supported by ad revenue.

Visitors to Credit.com are also able to register for a free Credit.com account, which gives them access to a tool called The Credit Report Card. This tool provides users with two free credit scores and a breakdown of the information in their Experian credit report, updated twice monthly. Again, this tool is entirely free, and we mention that frequently in our articles, because we think that it’s a good thing for users to have access to data like this. Separate from its educational value, there is also a business angle to the Credit Report Card. Registered users can be matched with products and services for which they are most likely to qualify. In other words, if you register and you find that your credit is less than stellar, Credit.com won’t recommend a high-end platinum credit card that requires an excellent credit score You’d likely get rejected, and that’s no good for you or Credit.com. You’d be no closer to getting a product you need, there’d be a wasted inquiry on your credit report, and Credit.com wouldn’t get paid. These are essentially what are commonly referred to as "targeted ads" in the world of the Internet. Despite all of this, however, even if you never apply for any product, the Credit Report Card will remain free, and none of this will impact how the editorial team reports on credit and credit scores.

Your Stories

Lastly, much of what we do is informed by our own experiences as well as the experiences of our readers. We want to tell your stories if you’re interested in sharing them. Please email us at story ideas [at] credit [dot] com with ideas or visit us on Facebook or Twitter.

Thanks for stopping by.

- The Credit.com Editorial Team