This past summer I had to make a very difficult decision: repair or replace. It’s a decision we face all the time. Sometimes it’s an easy decision to repair, such as when you lose a button off a shirt, or a screw falls out from your glasses. These repairs are very easy and inexpensive. Most people can do these repairs themselves. Sometimes it’s an easy decision to replace, such as when your cell phone charging cord stops working or your toaster won’t toast any more. These things would be difficult to repair but replacing them is very inexpensive.
Things get more challenging when a repair is very expensive and a replacement would be even more expensive. Like when your refrigerator stops working, or your laptop gives you the black screen of death. In my case it was my trusty Subaru. It was a 2004 Forester with nearly 170,000 miles on it. Repairs to get it through inspection would have cost about $1,000. That’s just shy of the value of the car. And within the next two years, two more scheduled maintenance issues would be at least another $1,500. If I just drove it around town, I may have made the decision to repair. But that was my camping car—the one I use to tow my teardrop camper to music festivals near and far. At the time I had a trip to Wisconsin only a few weeks away. The thought of being stranded in some random part of the flatlands of the Midwest with no way to tow my camper because something else went wrong on my ailing Subaru was just too much for me. I started shopping.
I was not financially prepared to buy a car. All I had for a down payment was my ailing trade-in and a few hundred from my savings. And I had very specific needs as the replacement needed to be towing my camper within a short time. I knew immediately that I wanted a Subaru Outback, and my price range limited me to a used car between 4 and 8 years old. I scoured both the local dealerships and the Internet. I test drove a few Outbacks that would stretch my budget too far. I made a list ranking the cars that were in play as possibilities. I made a spreadsheet listing the pros and cons of each car in the running. And I found perfection at a Honda dealership near Pittsburgh. A 2012 Subaru Outback, with a trailer hitch already installed, in the color my husband preferred, with a moonroof as a bonus. And it had less than 60,000 miles on it. Smack dab in the middle of my price range.
I didn’t get the best deal on financing because I was pressed for time. I had to rely on the dealership to help me get a loan on the spot. I’m currently in the process of refinancing that loan with my credit union, which will lower my interest rate by more than 2%. Yes…you can refinance car loans. Keep that in mind if you ever feel like your car loan isn’t your best deal.
Am I happy about the fact that I now have a car payment? No way. Am I happy that I now have a reliable car in great condition that will likely carry me through the next 8 years? Absolutely! It’s sometimes a very difficult decision, whether to repair or replace. But I’m feeling confident that I made the right choice.