As much as we might love our cars, no one likes shelling out money for expensive repairs and automotive maintenance.
Of course, it doesn’t take long for even routine service costs to add up.
And while some repair fees might be unavoidable, there are some habits that you can hone to help you cut down on your service and maintenance expenses in the long haul.
Whether you’re cashing in oil change coupons in Cincinnati or mastering a few do-it-yourself car maintenance tasks, you can keep the costs of owning your vehicle under control.
Don’t Throw Money Away
Okay, who invited Captain Obvious?
Of course you don’t want to throw money away when it comes to servicing your car, but what does that mean?
First off, you don’t want to schedule your car for service it does not need. Paying for unnecessary car maintenance, like getting an oil change every 3,000 miles, adds up quick with little to no return.
The 3,000-mile oil change myth is a money-maker for service departments and is routinely rebuked by reputable mechanics and dealerships.
Only schedule services for your car based on what is listed in your owner’s manual. Read it and consult it whenever you’re unsure exactly what your car needs. Depending on what the manufacturer recommends, your car likely needs oil changes every seven to ten thousand miles.
Think about that.
If your car manufacturer lists oil change as a suggested service every 7,000 miles and you were operating off the now-debunked 3,000 mile myth, you just paid for an extra oil that you didn’t need. Your car doesn’t benefit, you’ve created excess oil waste, and your wallet’s now lighter for no good reason whatsoever.
Establish a Trustworthy Connection
When it comes to mechanics, many of them, like used car dealers, get a bad wrap. Sure, there are some scumbags out there, as there in all professions.
The trick is finding a trustworthy mechanic at a reputable auto shop.
Don’t go it alone on this one. Ask folks in your area, friends, family members, colleagues, about where they take their car for repairs and what their general impressions are about the place and the employees.
Go online and do some research, read reviews, and consult independent sources for honest feedback on trustworthy mechanics in your area. Some popular websites you might want to try include, Angie’s List, Yelp, and Edmunds.
When you think you’ve found one, check out the shop, which should be clean and orderly. Furthermore, the staff should consist of certified technicians, who are all certified in at least one of the eight repair classifications, like brakes, engines, or steering and suspension.
If you are happy with the place you’ve chosen and the technicians who will be working on your car, stay loyal to that business and refer friends and family. Make yourself a valuable customer and foster a respectful, professional relationship so that you have a place for all your repair needs, whether small, unexpected, or serious.
Pinch Pennies by Preventing Big Repairs
Kind of like eating right, getting enough sleep, exercising, and popping a vitamin here and there, your car’s health and functionality depends on preventative measures.
Avoid more costly repairs on your car by keeping up with manufacturer-recommended maintenance. Preventative maintenance should pay off in the long run.
And pay attention!
If you see a light illuminated on your gauge cluster, do not ignore it. Yes, it’s tempting to do this, especially if money is tight and we know we don’t have the extra cash for repairs immediately on hand.
But, the danger here is waiting because you risk requiring more extensive (read: expensive) repairs.
For example, no one wants to see the “Check Engine” flash on, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate a major issue. Take it to your new mechanic buddy right away and see what’s causing it to light up. Again, it could be nothing, though it might be something. Either way, waiting will certainly result in something. The trick is avoiding a big something.
Just remember, ignoring a problem (no matter its size) never makes it go away. You’ll likely be in for more trouble the longer you wait.
Do It Yourself
Now, this suggestion is one that will indeed save you money, provided you won’t need to pay anyone to fix what you’ve done.
In other words, DIY projects can be great little money savers, but they do require that you have a realistic view of your skills.
As with any first-time endeavor, start small. Limit yourself to some manageable tasks like changing your windshield wiper blades or air filters.
Leave the big fixes to the experts.
If you’ve been a DIY-er for a while and are comfortable say, taking care of your car’s oil changes, make sure you dispose of the used oil properly, and follow EPA guidelines for doing so.
If you are going to give at-home DIY automotive maintenance a shot, shop around for the parts you need. Oftentimes, you can get great deals on discount parts if you check online.
There’s no need to break the bank when it comes to replacing certain parts on your car.
Check out sites like Discount Auto Parts or the Auto Channel for an inventory of inexpensive replacement car parts.
Keep a Cosmetician Close
Similar to your trusted mechanic, take the time to locate an expert who can address any cosmetic concerns visible on your car for a reasonable rate.
Your car will collect its share of dings, scratches, and chipped paint, oftentimes through no fault of your own. Some of these scars are unavoidable and outside of your control.
But the good news is, they can be fixed. Buffed out, smoothed, or repainted to look brand new.
The trick though is not going broke doing so.
Ask the sales team at your local used car dealership to find out who they call for quick and affordable cosmetic repairs.Get a hold of that person and be a loyal customer, refer your friends, foster that connection.
Think of all those runaway shopping carts in the grocery store parking lot, just waiting to ding your paint job. They’re not going anywhere, make sure your cosmetic specialist doesn’t either.
Knowledge is Power
Maybe that’s a cliche, but it’s true.
Much of the stress associated with car maintenance comes from uncertainty, coupled by that sneaking suspicion that you’re getting the short end of the stick. Just as you’ve taken the time to research and connect with a reputable mechanic, invest in some of your own education when it comes to your car and what it needs for optimal performance.
No, you do not have to go back to school to feel confident in a mechanic’s shop, but if you understand what it takes to keep your car on the road, you’ll feel more secure scheduling appointments and, if necessary, disputing suggested services or charges.