You’ve budgeted, saved, researched, shopped, negotiated, secured financing, and are FINALLY driving your car off the auto dealership lot here in Utah. Whew! The feeling of completing a car sale transaction can’t be beat. Once the initial thrill of your new car has worn off, it’s time to ensure that the new car you dreamed about will last a long time.
Nobody enjoys spending money on car maintenance. Some new or used car dealers will set you up with a service package on your new car making car maintenance super simple. But if you are looking to save money while keeping your car in optimal shape, there are some basic things any car owner can do to minimize car maintenance costs so your hard-earned money stays in your pocket.
1. Read Your Manual
Do people really do this? Yes. Wise car owners will take the time to read their car’s manual to become familiar with the intricacies of their vehicle. If you live by what’s in that manual, you will understand the car manufacturer’s maintenance and upkeep schedule. Mechanics and service departments may suggest a more frequent maintenance interval than is really necessary, and all those trips to the shop add up. See! Reading the manual has saved you money already. If your used vehicle did not come with a manual you can almost always find it online.
2. Regular Maintenance
The cost of emergency repairs are typically much higher than the cost of catching something before it breaks. Regular maintenance keeps your car in great shape and allows skilled mechanics to spot problems before they arise, saving you a ton of money in the long run.
3. Pay Attention to Your Check Engine Light
Yes, it’s pesky. Yes, it could mean something minor, like low fluid levels. Yes, it’s annoying that you have to pay to interpret what it means. But the thing about check engine lights is that they alert you that something isn’t operating quite right in your engine. What may be a quick and easy fix could escalate into a bigger problem if you ignore the check engine light. Next time you see the check engine light, don’t wish it away. Have it checked out promptly, potentially saving you from hefty repair bills.
4. Find a Good Mechanic
While any car dealer will tell you that you should have all your repairs done under their roof, you will also pay a premium for their services. Service departments at a dealership notoriously cost way more than an independent mechanic. Finding a certified mechanic who is an expert in car care and repairs will save you significant money. The hard part is finding a mechanic who not only has refined skills but is also ethical and honest. Consult your friends, neighbors, or local social media groups, and ask for personal recommendations from someone you can trust. Over time, developing a relationship with a mechanic you trust will be invaluable.
5. Don’t Pay for Labor Twice
Your mechanic (that you trust because you spent lots of energy finding a great one) may be doing work or maintenance on your car and proceed to suggest additional work that you weren’t expecting. Don’t panic; this isn’t always a scam. In fact, it may save you money in the long run. If your mechanic has opened up a specific part of your engine, they may be able to identify potential future problems. Allowing them to do the work now saves you the labor costs of reopening that area of your engine down the road. If the mechanic suggests additional repairs, it’s ok to ask how urgent that repair is and if it would save you money to take care of it now.
6. Shop Around for Parts
Did you know that you can sometimes supply your own parts for work a mechanic is doing on your car? This allows you to shop around and find the best deal on the parts your vehicle needs. It’s often a better option than being stuck paying the standard rate from the parts distributor your mechanic uses, which may be heavily marked up. You should communicate your plans with your mechanic and follow their specifications while hunting for price-saving parts.
7. Maximize your Vehicle’s Warranty
Spend time getting to know the ins and outs of your car’s warranty. Know what it covers and what it doesn’t. When you get to the end of your warranty coverage, you can take your vehicle to an independent mechanic for an inspection to help you identify any potential issues before your warranty expires. It will save you a lot of money if your car manufacturer picks up the bill for any repairs.
While doing certain aspects of your own car service may seem overwhelming, it can add up to significant savings. While you shouldn’t be attempting to do massive repairs on your car, you can save money by learning some car care basics: oil changes, topping off fluids, changing out spark plugs, and filling your tires. These small tasks can add up to huge savings long term.
9. Invest In Roadside Assistance
You can purchase roadside assistance coverage from a variety of sources. AAA notoriously has excellent service, but you can also get coverage from your car insurance company, car manufacturer, or even your credit card company. In the event you need a tire change, run out of gas, or need a tow, someone will come to you promptly, and you won’t have a big bill at the end of the day.
Car maintenance can be intimidating and overwhelming, but it doesn’t have to be. Learn as you go, take things one step at a time, be proactive with things you can control, and set aside savings for unplanned car repairs. You will be ready for anything that comes your way.