For many of us, we don’t think about our car maintenance outside of tires and oil changes. It’s only when our cars start acting up do we think, ‘hmm, maybe I should look into that.’ If you’re looking to save money on car maintenance and repairs, RSG contributor Tyler Philbrook outlines the top 10 ways you can save money on car maintenance and more.
Whether your car is old or new, chances are you will have maintenance and repair costs to manage eventually. If you’re looking to save money on those costs, it’s my goal to help you figure out the best ways to do so.
Here are 10 ways you can save money on car maintenance and repairs.
How to Save Money on Car Maintenance: 10 Tips
1. Purchase The Right Car
The best time to lower your maintenance costs is not after you bought the car, it’s when you’re deciding which car to buy.
When deciding which car to buy, don’t just look at how much you’ll pay to get the car. Look at the long term costs. How much will the oil change, brakes, tires, etc. cost? Even if you’re getting a “good deal” on a high-end car, in the long run you may spend thousands of dollars maintaining it.
Not sure what your budget is for a car? Check out our article on How Much Car Can I Afford here.
Here are the top 5 most expensive and least expensive brands to maintain over 10 years according to Autowise.
Cheapest Cars to Maintain: Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, Nissan, Subaru
Most Expensive Cars to Maintain: BMW, Mercedes-Benz, Cadillac, Volvo, Audi
Not sure if you should lease or buy? Check out our article on Lease vs. Buy a Car: What’s the Best Option?
2. Follow Through On Maintenance
Little things can quickly become big things.
I knew nothing about cars when I got my first one, not even that oil needed to be changed. I got the car with 73,000 miles on it.
At 94,000 my “check engine” light came on, which for older cars like that meant there was no oil left in the car. Silly me kept driving for well over a week before going to get the oil checked.
As you can imagine, that car didn’t last much longer. With my next car I made sure to get the oil change done every 3,000 miles or 3 months. I also asked what other things needed to be maintained and educated myself.
Not sure which maintenance to pay attention to with your car? Check out our car maintenance tips here.
Maybe it isn’t that you don’t know, maybe it’s that you “don’t have time”. If you don’t have time to maintain your car, consider investing in a mobile mechanic that comes to you. You can set up scheduled, regular intervals, plus some companies like Rideshare Mechanic will come to you.
Check out our Rideshare Mechanic review here if you are interested in this type of service.
3. Don’t Use The Dealer
Dealers have great mechanics, and they have factory parts. However, so do most other shops! The difference?
Other shops won’t charge nearly as much as a dealer and they typically don’t take as long.
Even something simple like an oil change, which can be done in 15 minutes, can take hours at a dealership and cost twice as much.
The only caveat here is if you’ve bought your car from a dealership and they give you an excellent deal on car maintenance. For example, a friend of mine bought a new Honda and as part of the sales package, the dealership offered maintenance for life. My friend has the most well-serviced car of anyone I know!
That’s not a common offer among dealerships, but if it’s an offer for you, consider it!
4. Use The Right Mechanic
All mechanics are not created equal. If you look online and see something should cost $500 to fix, and someone tells you they can do it for $250, there is probably a reason it costs less.
This isn’t always the case, as some people are starting their own businesses and looking for referrals, while others just charge less. Do your homework though, and if it doesn’t sound right get out of there.
Looking at Google or Yelp reviews can help narrow it down. The best way I’ve found is to ask friends and family who they use.
5. Do Some Work Yourself
I know I said I didn’t change the oil in my first car for over 20,000 miles, but even I can do some basic auto repair now.
If the check engine light is on, take your car to any auto parts store such as Autozone, Advanced Auto, or O’Reilly’s and they will tell you whatever the problem is for free. Usually, they’ll also tell you how to fix it as well.
If not, you can watch YouTube videos. Some great ones to follow are Humble Mechanic,and Rustbelt Mechanic.
YouTube works! For example, my wife’s washer fluid wasn’t working. We called our mechanic to see how much it would cost and it was around $100. She looked it up on YouTube got the part for $10 and fixed it herself in less than an hour.
By doing some of the work yourself, it can save you a ton of money when you do need a professional to do the work later.
6. Take Advantage Of Warranties
Just like you take into account the cost of maintenance when purchasing a car, do the same when you buy parts.
You could spend a little more when you get a part replaced and have a warranty that could save you the cost to get it fixed again if it breaks.
If something does break, check to see if you have a warranty on it. Just this week we found a nail in one of my wife’s tires. When we got the tires, we bought a warranty on them and they fixed them at no charge.
Just make sure to save this paperwork in a safe place! There’s nothing worse than knowing you have a warranty for something, but not having paper proof of it. Depending on how you got the warranty (paper or emailed to you), you can save it on the cloud or save it in a folder in a safe place in your house (we have a filing cabinet).
7. Use Used Parts
If you don’t want to or can’t spend the money on new parts, a lot of the time used will do. Even things like tires can be bought and last long enough for you to get the money to buy new.
Air conditioners, doors, handles, etc. can all be bought second-hand online, or by going to a junkyard and looking for used items for your car.
8. Use The Same Mechanic
It’s important to make sure you’re getting the best deal, but if you can find a mechanic you can trust, who does a good job every time, it can save you thousands. Most of the time, they’ll end up doing some work for free if it’s easy enough.
My mechanic has replaced lights, fixed belts, or just looked at cars I wanted to buy at no cost because I’ve been using him for close to 10 years, and my family has been using him for even longer than that.
It’s a lot better for mechanics to keep a customer, then make money on someone who will never come back.
9. Read Your Owner’s Manual
If you don’t know about your car, or any car for that matter, read the owner’s manual. It will tell you all the maintenance needed for the car.
Your owner’s manual is a wealth of information, including how often you need to get the oil changed, transmission flushed, brakes done, tires, etc.
Once you’ve read through it, follow-through! Do all the maintenance when it needs to be done. Budget for it. If you have 20,000 miles until $500 worth of maintenance needs to be done, start putting money aside for it now so you don’t have to wait when the time comes.
One way I do this is just a simple calendar: I go through my owner’s manual and plug into my phone’s calendar when things need to taken care of. I also put in estimates of when I need to schedule my oil changes (this can fluctuate depending on how much I drive in a period of time, so I put it as a date and then plan around scheduling the service from there).
10. Shop Around
As much as mechanics don’t like to hear this, you can take your car for multiple estimates. Just because a mechanic quotes you “$500 for X” doesn’t mean you have to stay there and pay for it – unless, of course, your car isn’t running. Then you might have to take it or pay for a tow!
Websites like Kelley Blue Book, RepairPal, or RepairSmith can help you see how much your repairs will cost.
Wondering what it’s like using a repair site like RepairSmith? Read our RepairSmith review here.
They’ll also give you trusted mechanics in your area that will stay within the estimate they give you.
Rinse And Repeat
For many of us, cars are one of the biggest investments we will make. They take us where we need to go, protect our families, and we can even make money with our cars.
We need to make sure that we take good care of them. One way to do that is to buy a reliable car, read your owner’s manual, and make an effort to stay on top of the ‘little things’ so they don’t turn into big, expensive things.
What are your top tips for saving money on maintenance and repairs? Let us know in the comments below!
-Tyler @ RSG