How do I know when it's time to sell my used car?

Dear Car Talk

Dear Car Talk | Dec 01, 1995

Dear Tom and Ray:

I have a 1986 Toyota Camry with 140,000 miles on it. There are no apparent problems. It has always been serviced by the dealer with emphasis on preventive maintenance. However, considering the mileage, do you suggest it's time for a replacement? If so, can you recommend possible choices in this size/price bracket? I have always been well satisfied with the Camry, but the price increase has to be considered.

RAY: I certainly don't suggest you run right out and dump this car, Martha. I've seen well-taken-care-of Camrys go 240,000 miles. So there's no reason to believe that this one is going to fall apart just because of the mileage.

TOM: However, if reliability is an issue, then you're right to think about trading it in. Things are going to start to break one of these years. And while they might not be catastrophic problems (a fuel pump here, an alternator there), they may start to come at inconvenient times. There's a degree of uncertainty that comes with owning an older car, and you have to accept the possibility that you may get stranded somewhere.

RAY: So if that disturbs you, then I'd recommend a 1996 Camry. It was a good car in 1986, and it's an even better car now.

TOM: If the price is a real concern, I can think of three options for you. One is to lease a '96 Camry (which would give you lower monthly payments), and if you like it, buy it when the lease is up.

RAY: Another option is to buy a '95 or '94 Camry, which would still have many good miles left in it.

TOM: Or, just keep driving your current car until it really gets unreliable. And while you're doing that, start socking away some money for a bigger down payment. Who knows, by the time this old Camry finally dies, you may be able to afford a Lexus!

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