In the early to mid-2010s, the estimate was that an average family earning $55,000 per year would pay about $750 for auto repairs annually. That’s 1.5% of the annual income. It might not seem much, but given that the average American family has nearly two cars, the cost might add up. Deciding whether to buy a new car, instead of continuing to spend on rising maintenance costs of your older car, depends on your financial priorities and available resources.
If you have limited resources and since it’s a bit more challenging to get creative in saving costs when buying a new car, you might opt with just continuing with maintaining your vehicle. That is where you can have more flexibility to save costs.
The Cost of Car Ownership
In the annual income cited, roughly 1.85% goes to gasoline. That is about $1,017 per car. Add another 1.1%, and you get $605 per car for insurance. You can get creative on how you use your vehicle to save on gas (e.g., join carpooling or use public transport on certain days of the week), and you can also look for a cheaper insurance provider.
Saving on Maintenance Costs
First, one of the cost-saving steps that you can do is to maintain your car regularly. Don’t wait till it’s making a different sound or prolong the changing of oil for an additional 50 miles. Follow what the manual says about the schedule of maintenance. But as the driver, you should also have a feel of how your vehicle is performing.
- Don’t over maintain. Counter-check boomer mentality and practice with current engineering trends and development. Just because car owners of a different generation changed the oil when the odometer reaches 3,000 miles, it doesn’t mean you have to for your modern car. Today’s car won’t require oil change until about 7,500 miles are logged. Michael Calkins of the American Automobile Association (AAA) also strongly recommends car owners to follow the recommendations of the in-dash lights. He says that the engineers that put them there know what they are doing.
- Look for industrial surplus buyers or shops. If your car is really old and a part breaks down, there’s a chance that a new replacement might not be readily available. It will have to be imported, and the cost you pay will be higher than usual. There are buyers of surplus parts for cars, which then sells these parts to end customers or automotive retail stores. Look for one, and you might end up paying for a cheap deal.
- Family-owned auto-repair shops. Big chains or even regional brands of automotive repair shops will most likely charge you more vs. smaller family-owned shops. Look for one in your community and establish a good relationship with both the owner and the mechanics working on your car.
- DIY the little things. If you do the minor things that don’t require a mechanic’s expertise, you will also save some money. Changing oil is one thing that you can do. Make a list of items like these, e.g., changing light bulbs and wiper blades.
The way you drive directly impacts car maintenance. If you’re more careful with how you drive, there will be less wear-and-tear. Having some knowledge of car maintenance will help. But these key ideas can reduce your maintenance costs.