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The following is a staff writer post from MikeS.  He is a married father of 2.  So, with the cat, he ranks number 5 in the house.  He loves numbers and helping people. Please leave any questions or comments below for either Mike or Crystal.

It is not a good sign for the age of your car, when asked how many miles are currently on it and after you respond you get a “Wow”.  Yes, my car is getting up there in years.  I drive a 2001 vehicle with over 155,000 miles on it.  The trouble is I am not quite ready to get rid of it yet.  It is not because I am sentimental or anything.  Replacing my car just does not fit into my financial plan.  If you have learned anything about me and my finances, it is that I always have a plan.

Just an Oil Change

I took my car in recently for a routine oil change.  With a car this old, things are rarely routine.  Turns out, the spring that helps to hold the hood down had broken.  This repair was completely minor, only about $50.  However, the service department also noticed that my break and fuel lines are showing signs of corrosion.  At some point in the not too distant future, they are going to need to be replaced.  The bill for that repair is going to be in the $1,600 range.  The question will be, do I replace the parts and bite the bullet on $1,600?  Or, do I get replace the car for a new one?

My Plan

If my car cooperates, I hope to have it around for another 3 years or so.  You see, I only really want one car payment at a time.  I know I really should not have any car payments.  It’s rarely good to owe money.  My goal years ago was to eventually save enough money and pay cash for a car.  Then pay a car payment to myself for the next car.  Life has a way of changing your plans.  I have finally accepted that while this is a great goal, it is one that I am probably not achieving.  Paying cash for a car is not a high enough priority to siphon money away from some of my other goals.  The way I am thinking, is that we will drive a car for 10-12 years and then replace it.  My wife’s car has about 3 years left on its loan; mine of course is paid off.  So, I need my car to hang on for just a bit longer, without costing me a fortune.

The Math

If I had to replace my car today, I would likely end up with a car payment in the $200 range.  Let’s say $250, to make the math easier.  That means in one year, I would be paying $3,000 in car payments.  The $1,600 car repair does not look quite as bad now.  The trouble is I don’t know if the $1,600 repair is the only thing that my car will need.  I hope it is; it’s running well.  In 3 years, my car payments would total $9,000.  I seriously doubt that I will face $9,000 worth of repairs.  I could possibly see a couple of tires and maybe breaks, totaling about another $1,000.  It is still less than the car payments.

Old, But Reliable

My car has had its share of repairs, but nothing that I would classify as unusual.  This next one is simply due to old age.  Hopefully, I won’t have to have the repair done for a little while.  If I can hold off on the repair until the beginning of next year, I can set aside money from my annual bonus to cover the cost.  If not, then that is the purpose of the emergency fund.  I could reduce some savings amounts if push came to shove, but those savings amounts are higher priorities than a car.  So, I will keep my fingers crossed and hope my car decides to hang on just a little bit longer.