The Driving Me Crazy mini-series continue today with me making the huge decision to keep keeping my car.

I never thought I would an SUV driver. I love the earth, I had a small Mazda. But a car-moose collision and the need for a car a week afterwards meant I needed to buy something reliable and quick.

The used Subaru Forester was bought off a dealer and was originally owned by a priest (and I may have misunderstood but this priest may have made a hasty exit out of the priesthood). Talk about bad Carma.

So after long deliberation, I have decided to keep the Subaru even though it is not the most fuel efficient car. Here's how I made my decision, in hopes it will help someone else who is wondering if they should walk away from their car or stay and try to make it work.

1. How much is your car worth?
The Kelly Blue Book is of course the standard which these things are decided. My car is worth between $5,000-9,000. Besides the Kelly Blue Book, you can also look at eBay Motors. For my car, mileage, and model year, the prices seem to be around $7,000. To further refine prices, you can look at websites for area car dealers. So my car is worth let's say $6,000 (it's in fair condition and has doggy-ness all over it).

2. How much maintenace does your car require?
This is a very individual question. You can haul out your reciepts, credit card statements, or budget to figure this out. I've had oil changes and one major repair every year since having this car, which have cost me around $700 a year. When my car hits over 100,000 miles in the next year, I'm sure this will increase slightly but even $900 or $1000 spread over twelve months is much less then a car payment.

3. How much money do you spend on gas?
I've been spending between $75-100 a month on gas for the past six months. Added to maintenance, ($1200 in gas a year + $1000 maintenance divided over 12 months), $183 is still less then a car payment would be. Here is a good little gas calculator you can use to figure out your costs.

4. Is your car a lemon?
If something is constantly breaking in your newish car, it's probably more then bad luck. I was reading the letter of this poor guy online who is having major issues with a new Neon. The response to his letter has some good ideas if you suspect your car is defective, including writing a detailed letter about the history of car troubles to the owner of the car dealership. Essentially, start on the lowest part of the scale and slowly escalate your efforts (though hopefully you won't need to).

5. It is most cost effective to drive your car into the ground but sometimes other forces are at work.
Kiplingers has an interesting calculator that shows costs of a new versus used car over time. One thing not in the calculator? Gas costs. Another? Your happiness. But with some numbers in front of you and some introspection, I'm sure you'll make the best decision for you.

So for now I keep the Subaru. What about you? Are you keeping your car?

Tomorrow: Car insurance demystified. At least I hope.

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