Household Finance – Saving on Car Maintenance

In today’s western world, it’s usually pretty hard to get around if you don’t have your own vehicle. When you do, maintenance for your vehicle is an expense you have to plan for if you’re going to get your house in financial order. If you’re on a tight budget, or trying to economize so that you can start a business, take a vacation, or just build up your savings, then there’s a number of things you can do to reduce the cost of your car’s upkeep. This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it should prove helpful.

You’ll have to plan for maintenance, and a good way to do this is to set aside a small amount every month toward this expense. If you can learn to do some of it yourself, you’ll be able to save yourself a good deal of money. If not, plan well, and learn what you can to prevent costly maintenance up the road. very often on Kiji or Craigslist you’ll find good ‘shade tree’ mechanics who can do a lot of your maintenance at a reduced cost, as well.

1. Change your oil regularly

Your engine oil is what keeps engine parts from grinding each other down. Dirty oil can make your vehicle run poorly, use more gasoline, or even have a complete engine seizure. I knew a young lady who could never remember to change her oil. Not surprisingly, her engine seized, and she needed a new engine or another car. Especially if you don’t have a lot of money to throw around just yet, and even if you do, it’s poor stewardship not to care for your vehicle. Find out what the recommended interval is for your car, and stick to it. In many cases, if you use a high quality oil, you can go as much as 6-7000 miles between changes, but a lot of that is going to depend on how you drive and under what conditions. City driving is harder on your car than highway, for example. Find someone who knows about cars and pick their brains.

2. Learn to drive conservatively

I’m not saying you need to turn into the granny who can’t seem to go more than 20 MPH, but rather that you should drive smarter. A lot of sudden acceleration and hard braking puts more wear and tear on your suspension, steering components, brakes, engine, transmission, etc. There are times when you need to accelerate quickly, but the truth is a lot of us do so needlessly. I often joke with my wife that people are ‘racing to the red light,’ because a good number of people tend to hit the gas hard and when the light is about to turn red and they’re 200 yards back, so they end up having to brake hard. This means they are using more gas, and they’ll have to replace their brakes sooner. For those of us who can’t do a brake job ourselves, this can be pretty expensive. When the light goes amber and I know I’m too far back to make in through the intersection, I’ll coast to a stop (within reason, of course). I do the same when I know I’m coming to a stop sign. I’ve had brakes last 3 years or more this way, while other people I know replace theirs every 12-15 months. Also, less wear and tear means you’ll be just replacing rotors and pads while others have to replace the entire brake.

3. Change your air filter.
The better your car breathes, the longer it will last, the better it will run, and it will get better gas mileage.

4. Buying Tires

Bald tires aren’t just unsightly, they areĀ dangerous. Tires that are worn down can cause your vehicle to handle poorly, lose its grip on the road, and more. However, the truth is we’re not always in a position to put down $300-600 on a new set of tires. One way you can save money is by buying used tires. Especially in the case of a car you’re not going to keep for more than two more years, it just doesn’t make good economic sense to buy brand new tires if your money’s tight. This doesn’t mean you have to buy bad tires, though. There are many shops which sell used tires, and very often you can get a set with most of the tread still intact. The same goes for winter tires. In either case, you’ll save 50% or more. Recently, I needed to buy winter tires (a necessity in Canada), and so I looked around on Kijiji and elsewhere to find shops that sold used ones. After 3 or 4 calls, I’d located a set of four tires with about 70% of their tread intact and in good condition, meaning they’d last me 2-3 winters, for about half what I would have paid for new tires. My car doesn’t know the difference, and neither will yours.

I’ll be adding more to this document in the future, but for now, I hope this helps.