My question is – when should I sell my current car? Our family runs a 2004 Pontiac Vibe with 109k miles. It is our only car and it seems to run better since it broke the 100k mark. It has been exceptionally reliable, cheap to own, and gets excellent mileage – I get 29mpg average! We like being a one car family and intent to keep it that way unless we suddenly become independently wealthy.
I gave up my ’06 civic coupe for the Vibe in a purely pragmatic move to accommodate our newborn child and high energy dog in the back. I didn’t expect to like it, but it has turned out to be a really good car and I seem to like it incrementally a little more each day. Although we’ve grown to really like the car (to our surprise), it is basically an appliance to us. We use it to commute, get groceries and the occasional road trip.
I read in the Fiesta ST Review that engines are often engineered to last 150k miles, and I’m often pondering when is the typical right moment, miles-wise to let go of the Vibe and replace it with some other reliable used car.
The way I see it, there are the first three years or so of car ownership where the cash expended in depreciation is way higher than the utility returned. Then there is a sweet spot of value which lasts about 10 years where the car is actually giving back the most for the money spent. After that, there is a mystery period I have yet to experience where, while the car is cheap as dirt to run, a great deal of time is spent with it out of service getting growing maintenance repairs.
Is this an accurate evaluation of the car value timeline? And if so, can you give some insight into when (in miles) is a good time to let go of the car in a one-vehicle house hold.
Your general timeline (second to last paragraph) is fair, can’t say the same for the 150k miles reference: there is far too much variance in engine design, driving conditions and ownership maintenance schedules to draw that line in the sand. So to speak.
A car’s “value timeline” is a good resource for accountants planning a company/government vehicle depreciation schedule. For everyone else, I think it’s a crock. A pot-hole beaten suspension may cost $3000 to restore in 10-15 years, but will the owner even notice enough to care? Will one vehicle need the same repairs as another? An extreme example is comparing an AMG Benz driven on brutal NYC roads versus a Honda Accord in a far tamer rural/suburban setting. One size fits all is simply a notion that cannot exist.
Another issue: some body/trim levels need less repair than others. Compare your heavier Vibe to the light Corolla from whence it came. Or take my 2011 Ranger regular cab to any other truck: with the same brakes (4-whl discs) and suspension as an Explorer from the Clinton Era but with about 800lbs less weight on its shoulders, my need for brake/tire/suspension reconditioning shall be far less frequent. In two years and almost 20,000 miles, my truck’s tires and brakes look new: they are completely overbuilt for the tiny truck in which they reside. I don’t expect my truck to need repairs like an Explorer, or even a super cab Ranger with a big V6, longer wheelbase and rear drum brakes.
But will the anomaly of an Overbuilt Economy Variant of a common platform be represented on someone’s spreadsheet? Not likely.
Back to the point: there is no “one size fits all” timeline. The schedule is different for everyone, and everything they may choose to drive. And where they drive it. And, most importantly, one’s irrational/unexpected need to want something new for reasons yet to be explained. You ain’t never gonna find that on a timeline, but it happens all the time: marinate on that.
Send your queries to sajeev@thetruthaboutcars.