UNITED STATES—If your car has started showing signs of trouble like a strange new noise under the hood or new indicator lights turning on, you may be worried about what to do next. Mechanical problems can be stressful, but with a clear  plan you can tackle this unexpected bump in the road.

  • Get a Diagnosis

You won’t be able to make a decision about how to proceed with your vehicle if you don’t know what exactly is wrong with it. That strange noise you’re hearing could be a quick fix or set you back several thousand dollars. It’s important to get your car into a reputable mechanic as soon as possible so that the problem doesn’t have the chance to get worse. 

Be sure to ask up-front about the fee for performing a diagnostic inspection so you can account for that expense ahead of time. Remember also that cars are complicated machines, but it’s important to trust your gut. There’s never harm in getting a second opinion if the quote you receive seems inaccurate. 

  • Determine The Current Cash Value

Beyond preventing additional damage in your vehicle, going to a mechanic early gives you numbers you’ll need to assess your car’s value if you were to sell it for cash as-is rather than repair it. If you’re facing major repairs or your car is older, this assessment is an important one. Making continuous costly repairs on a vehicle that’s not worth much will cost you more down the road. 

To determine your car’s value, use a tool such as Kelley Blue Book to see what cars of your year, make, and model are selling for in your area. Take this value and subtract your mechanic’s estimate for repairs and you’ll get a rough value for how much your car is worth. 

  • Decide to Fix or Sell

This may be the trickiest step on the list, but it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.  If you’re quoted for cheap or simple repairs, that’s great and an easy decision to make. For more expensive repairs, however, you should consider the age and value of your car against the repairs you’d be getting now. If your car is old and this is the first of many repairs you’ll be financing as time takes its toll on your vehicle’s various mechanical systems, it might be time to move on to your next ride. 

You should also consider the ratio of the repair costs to the value of your car. This is the same assessment your car insurance company makes when you get in an accident, and is where the word “totaled” comes from. A car that is totaled has repair costs exceeding a certain percentage of the value of the car, usually 50-70 percent. Depending on your car’s value and your financial situation, that number will be up to you. Generally speaking, never spend half or more of your car’s value making repairs. 

  • Choose How to Sell

Selling a mechanically damaged car is a bit different than selling one in good running condition. If you’ve decided to sell it because the car is totaled or too old to be worth repairing, selling to an individual may not be your best option. Consider the extent of the damage to your car, and its condition besides the mechanical problems. Is the interior still clean and new looking? Does the car have cosmetic or structural problems? Once you’ve decided how much you’re willing to accept for your car, you can explore your options.

Selling to an individual is a good way to set your own price and can be less stressful than negotiating with professionals. However, it requires the effort and knowledge of advertising your car, negotiating, transferring the title, and towing it. 

You could also sell to a scrapyard or an online buyer. If you pursue either of these routes, do your research. Reputable businesses will provide guaranteed quotes that include the cost of towing, and require a title for sale.

  • Make Your Sale!

No matter how you sell your car, there are a few things you’ll need to complete the sale and precautions you should take to protect yourself legally and financially. First, be sure to clean the car and remove any and all personal belongings. Remember to cancel or transfer your insurance, as well.

Never sell your car without properly transferring the title, and contact your DMV to make sure you’ve completed all the necessary steps. Only accept cash if possible, and never accept offers for deferred payment. People who offer to make payments digitally or send you a check by mail may be trying to scam you. 

Congratulations on selling your damaged vehicle! That cash will be helpful in getting you into a newer and more reliable car.