How Often to Buy a New Car? Every 3 to 4 years tops


Whether your car is new or used, the day will inevitably come when you have to replace it. Since cars are very rarely cheap, for the sake of financial planning, you must know, how often should you buy a new car?

Risk-averse vehicle owners should buy a new vehicle just before the warranty runs out, typically every three years. However, changing a vehicle every four years allows the owner to enjoy a period of both lower depreciation and lower repair costs.

Ahead, we’ll have lots of helpful information that will help you determine when it’s time for a new car, so keep reading!

How Often Should You Buy a New Car?

Honda Civic

You are out one-day running errands when you drive by your local car lot and see it. It’s the most beautiful vehicle you’ve ever laid eyes on, and the price isn’t out of your range either. Should you buy it?

There are two schools of thought here, which explains why there’s no one correct answer for how often you should buy a new car.

Some people don’t hold onto cars long. They want to show off and always have the latest vehicle, just like they need the new iPhone as soon as it drops. They’ll replace their car every year or two, maybe every three years tops.

Car depreciation tends to bottom out at ten years, that’s a long time to hold onto a car.

Depreciation, Maintenace and Repair Costs

No surprise vehicles become more expensive to maintain as they get older. You will also have to increase the rate of repairs, which hurts the wallet.

The following tables attempt to give a flavor of the annual cost of ownership. The tables show annual depreciation, maintenance, and repair costs.

Major faults are also included, they are represented as a percentage, ie how statistically likely is a major failure to occur in that year of ownership. The percentage is then weighted (risk-adjusted) and added to maintenance costs and represented as a dollar amount. I can’t take credit for this work, you’ll find a toon more data on the subject here at Caredge.com.

We’ve taken a Chevrolet Silverado 1500 as an example. Years 1, 2, and 3 are covered under the factory Chevy 3 Year Warranty or 36,000 miles, and so no repair costs are applicable in the first three years of ownership. But service costs still apply. See tables below.

Silverado Year 1 to Year 5 Depreciation & Repair Costs

Cost of VehicleDepreciation /
Maintenance Costs
$41,212 Year 1Year 2 Year 3 Year 4Year 5
Depreciation$5,613 +$2,580+$2,390+$1,154 +$2,790
% Risk Of Major Failure (weighted)3% $3435% $4017% $49410% $64315% $766
Total Dep + repair $5,956 $2,981 $ 2,884 $1,797 $3,556
Source Caredge.com

Silverado Year 6 to Year 10 Depreciation & Repair Costs

Cost of VehicleDepreciation /
Repair Costs
$41,212 Year 6Year 7 Year 8 Year 9Year 10
Depreciation+$2,098 +$1,615+$3,656+$ 1,702+$1,592
% Risk Of Major Failure (weighted) 16% $96118% $135423% $151125% $165730% $1873
Total$3,059$2,969$5,167$3,359$3,465
Source Caredge.com

From the start of year four onwards, the vehicle will be off factory warranty, and the owner will now be liable for all repair costs. Having worked as a GM technician, here’s a list of the likely repairs a Silverado will require. The list doesn’t include items like brake components, tires, service items.

Typical repair work includes the following:

  • U Joint replacement
  • Fuel pump replacement
  • Power steering pump replacement
  • Engine mount replacement
  • Ignition coil replacement
  • EVAP solenoid
  • Power steering hose replacement

If you are risk-averse, then you should change your vehicle just before the warranty runs out (3year old). However, based on the table above, it makes more sense to hold the vehicle until the end of year four (highlighted in green) but replace it before the start of year five. That way you’ll benefit from a low depreciation period and low major failure risk.

Although most new vehicles come with a generous warranty, it is possible to extend it beyond the typical standard three years (5 years or 100,000 miles). However, you should know, many dealers will only extend your warranty if the vehicle is still within the manufacturer’s original warranty. Third-party extended warranty companies are less choosey and will be happy to quote your car outside the manufacturer’s cover.

3 Ways to Tell It’s Time for a New Car

If you’re someone who doesn’t dump your car every other year to keep up with the Joneses, how will you know when it’s time to trade it in or sell it? Keep your eyes peeled for the following signs.

1 It’s Always Breaking Down

Car broken down

Every time you climb into the driver’s seat of your car, you say a little prayer that it will start this time. Then, as you’re driving, you say another prayer that your vehicle won’t break down on the side of the freeway.

Of course, sooner or later, your car does fail to turn on, or the brakes don’t want to work, or a whole litany of issues arises. Frequent problems with an old car are dangerous and expensive.

Once the cost of repairs for the vehicle was even half the car’s value when you buy it, it’s too much. Your vehicle has become a financial black hole, and it will only get worse with time.

Before you know it, you’ll have spent so much money that you could have gotten a new car several times over.

2 Your Car Has Basic Tech or None at All

You sit in your friend’s new car, and you marvel at all the tech in there. They have a backup camera built into the dashboard,, while your dashboard has a cassette tape slot.

It’s not just that new tech is cool, but it’s safe. Whether it’s obstacle detection, blind spot intervention, automatic emergency braking, or adaptive headlights, when your car is from several decades back, it doesn’t feel as safe to drive.

3 Your Odometer Displays a Ridiculous Number

The lifespan of a car is not always 12 years. If you hit 200,000 miles first, then it’s time to start visiting car showrooms. Your car is beyond its useful lifespan, and from here on out, it could start having problems.

Is There a Best Time to Buy a New Car?

Car sales lot in winter

You’ve decided that it’s time for a new car. Although it’s hard to say goodbye to your current one, it’s for the best. Car experts agree that there are certain times of year that are better than others for shopping for a new car. You don’t necessarily have to buy during these times, but if you do, you might be able to shave off some of the costs of your new car!

Here’s when you should visit your closest car showroom.

During a Finance Deal or Rebate Offer

Keep your ears pricked when you hear car commercials on television. Those times of the year when the dealership runs a finance deal or rebate offers are good times to shop. You could get a lease offer, a financing deal, or even cashback, saving you hundreds to thousands of dollars.

The reason that cars are featured in a finance deal is usually that they undersold. That doesn’t mean the car is bad, per se, just that it wasn’t what the manufacturer expected sales-wise.

At the End of the Year

You won’t have the post-Christmas blues if you buy your new car between New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. This time of year, there are typically many year-end sales going on, so you might be able to get a better lease or buying deals than you would once January arrives.

Just don’t be surprised to see the car dealership packed as lots of other people have the same idea as you. If you already have your loan pre-approval, you’re well ahead of the game.

During Specific Months

May, October, November, and December are the four months of the year in which buying a car can be the most fruitful for shoppers.

May is Memorial Day, which is the first sales holiday after a lull. October is when some new cars appear in showrooms, so car salespeople get itchy to sell the prior year’s stock.

November is Black Friday, which is far less chaotic at a car lot than your shopping mall, we promise. December, as we mentioned, is when the year-end deals occur.

On Mondays

Most people save their car shopping until the weekend when they have the day off. This way, they can pore over cars for hours without any time constraints.

By walking into the dealership on a Monday, it’s usually a ghost town. With you and few other customers there, you can ask questions about the car, take a long test drive, and really inspect it. You’ll feel confident in your buying decision.

Conclusion

How often you buy a car depends on if you care more about vanity or if you want a dependable vehicle that can last for at least a decade. You should let your wallet be your guide when determining if it’s time to replace your car. Consider also how well the car runs and if its safety features are current.

We hope this information helps you plan your next car purchase, be that tomorrow or several years from now!

Before buying any vehicle, it’s always worth investing a few dollars to check the VIN number against the vehicle database. An audit with a company like VinAudit (links to VinAudit) will guard against Mileage fraud, Salvage rebuilds, Title washing, Vin cloning, and a ton of other uglies.

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John Cunningham

John Cunningham is an Automotive Technician and writer on Rustyautos.com. I've been a mechanic for over twenty-five years, and I've worked for GM, Volvo, Volkswagen, Landrover, and Jaguar dealerships. My passion is cars. I use my knowledge and experience to write articles that help fellow gear-heads with all aspects of car ownership, including buying advice, maintenance, and troubleshooting.

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