When it comes to fixing your car, always weigh the cost of repairs with the vehicle's value.

It’s inevitable that every car owner must eventually decide if they want to repair their current vehicle or trade it in for a new one. But how do you know what the right choice is for you?

The first question you need to answer: do the repairs cost more than the vehicle is worth? If the repairs are more expensive than the value of the car, obviously it makes sense to trade it in and invest your money in a newer model. You can go online to sources like Kelley Blue Book or AutoTrader to approximate the value of your current vehicle and compare it the price of the repairs.

Take inventory of your feelings regarding your current vehicle and what you want out of an ideal car. “Consider how are you emotionally connected to this vehicle? Are you happy with the vehicle? Do you enjoy the vehicle? Do you like its features? Its comfort? That all weighs into a customer’s decision,” says Michael Behrmann, department chair of automotive technology at Southern Illinois University, Carbondale.

While it’s important to understand what you want and need from a vehicle, many experts caution car owners from becoming too emotionally attached to their vehicles. No matter how long you’ve had your car, a vehicle isn’t a member of the family or a friend. “It’s metal and plastic and rubber, you need to keep those things straight because you may have a tendency to spend more on a vehicle than you should,” says Ray Cox, head automotive technician for AutoMD, Carson, California.

The most expensive repairs that will put you over the car value threshold typically involve the engine or transmission. An average engine replacement costs somewhere between $2000-$5000 (AutoMD.com) and a transmission between $1500-$3000 or more. Electrical problems, especially with more modern vehicles, can also get pricey since a diagnosis is rather time consuming.

Maintenance is key to preventing costly repairs and getting the greatest number of years out of you vehicle. The first step to avoiding unnecessary costs is listening to your car when it tells you something’s wrong, like when the check engine light goes on or the brakes feel strange.

Understanding your vehicle’s specific needs also can help it age gracefully. Owner’s manuals should contain a service schedule created by the manufacturer and tailored to your car. Sticking to a schedule and getting your vehicle regular, professional service will improve its performance quality and increase the car’s lifespan. If you have misplaced or cannot find your owner’s manual, you can download a free generic schedule online from the Car Care Council.

Finally, a skilled professional will be able to offer guidance about car care, repair costs, vehicle value and provide insight into what the future may hold for your vehicle. Find one you trust.

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