When it is time to let that ‘old’ car go

Thursday June 24 2021

Some car-owners often attach human-like attributes to our cars, too. PHOTO /ISAAC SSEJOMBWE

By Mustafa Ziraba

I  once drove a 2001 Toyota Aristo aka Lexus GS300.

Pretty cool car with a powerful engine, black leather interior, superb sound system.

But the number plate read UADXXXX. And that’s where the party ended for many.

I cannot recall the number of times I was asked to get rid of the car, questioned and ridiculed for driving a UAD with a mileage of 130,000 kilometres. I had acquired it about five years earlier  with  just under mileage of 40,000 kilometres.

I had an intimate connection with this car.

Rocking a 3-Litre twin Turbo JZ engine, it’s extremely powerful with one of the most celebrated engines from the Toyota stable having graced the Toyota Supra too. Being a Toyota, it shared parts with several other cars.


It had virtually all the first generation technologies just making their way into newer cars including but not limited to drive by wire acceleration, Traction Control (TRC), Stability Control (VSC), Active Rear Steering (ARS) etc. It was love winning.

The bills

But every once in a while I would wonder whether it was time to let go? You get a huge repair bill like I did with one of the turbos failing and you wonder whether it’s worth the investment.

But then again considering all the time I have spent with this car driving to work, racing on the Entebbe Expressway against unsuspecting Subaru drivers, doing routine maintenance, repairs and some upgrades, it become simpler to see why I have developed a personal connection

See cars represent so much more than a mode of transport. They hold memories and represent freedom.

They reflect our personality and develop a personality of their own.

We care for them and depend on them and no matter where we go, as long as we have our car, we’ll always have something familiar.

If you are one of those people who feels like your car is an old friend, deciding when it’s time to let go can be agonizing.

Even if you feel like your car is more your enemy than your friend, thanks to expensive and inconvenient repairs, deciding to pull the plug and get a new car can be tough.

Here are some of the tale tell signs that it’s time;

It needs a big repair that will cost more to fix than the car is worth. This really is a no brainer.                                                                                                      

When parts become unavailable. My first car, for 4 Million shillings straight out of University, was a 1989 Toyota Mark II GX81.  When I tell you that not being able to find parts is even scary, trust me. See the need for parts is quite an immediate interest otherwise you are either driving an unsafe car, one on its deathbed or simply a glorified metal box on the roadside.

When your go-to-guy at Kisekka and Ndeeba run out of spares for your ride, you are out of luck unless you have some seriously deep pockets to coax the local dealer to special order one for you.

It remains unreliable even with frequent repairs with something failing every time across the spectrum from annoyance failures like a dead AC to side of the road type with a failed transmission.

See car repairs cost money and these repairs come in a variety of ways. Some are a stream of small amounts but consistent and others are major one off bills. Either way repair consistency is not a buddy you want to Hi-five every weekend. It’s inconveniencing, expensive and outright annoying. If your car falls in that category where it’s always breaking down regardless of what holes you plug, it might just be time.

It has been in a serious accident. If you’ve ever been in a really bad accident, you know that the car often does not resemble a car when all is said and done. Don’t even think of repair, just write it off and get a new one

Let’s face it, while largely cars are looked at as financial pits, they too are great status symbols. If you have vertically moved leagues, why not. Get that car that represents you seamlessly among your new friends. This goes either way, with relegation considerations too.

Faced with an expensive repair bill, how do you know if you should go ahead and get the car fixed, or cut your losses and buy something new?

Thing is at some point, almost every car owner will be faced with repair bills. And as the bills start to add up to a large proportion of a car’s value, many owners start to figure that their car has officially kicked the bucket.

It can seem like a fine line between when your old, well-loved car is costing you more money than a new one would, but it’s not difficult to make the call here.

Part of it is math, and part of it is just taking a good look at your personal situation.

In the end, both factors should determine whether a new (or new to you) car is in your future, or you should stick with your tried and true ride until the wheels fall off.

No matter how well you choose and care for a car, someday it will be time to move on because it’s costing too much to keep on the road or is no longer safe.

Still, saying goodbye can be a tough decision, especially if you’re attached to your car.

Of course, there are no guarantees that a new (or newer) car won’t break down or have the same repair costs that your current one has, but odds are it won’t. You do have to consider some of those “softer” costs and benefits that come with owning a newer car. You’ll ideally eliminate the back-and-forth to the mechanic that comes with high-mileage cars, and you’ll probably get a safer, more up-to-date, more fuel-efficient car by getting something new.

A newer car will be more dependable than your older one and depending on how old that older one really is, you won’t have to worry about it breaking down on you spontaneously and leaving you on the side of the road when you need to get somewhere. Dependability and reliability are worth a lot, at least mentally and emotionally.

If you really must keep that car for the longest time, it really comes down to knowing your car and getting personally involved in as much of the maintenance as possible.


Costly. As cars get older, the mechanics and machinery behind the car start to wear down and often need to be replaced. Yet car repair does not come cheap.

In some cases, an expensive repair could be worth more than the value of the entire car itself!