With the average monthly car payment now at $712, it makes sense to keep your old car running as long as possible! Estimates are that prices for new and used cars will remain sky high well into 2023. So now is a terrible time to buy another vehicle. In most cases, you’ll be miles ahead by repairing the old one. We’ll tell you the best way to do that today on MoneyWise.
- Right now, AAA is advising vehicle owners to budget at least $100 a month for maintenance and repairs. That’s a lot of money, and we might expect the bulk of that spending to be on the back half of a vehicle’s life.
- It’s a good idea to keep a separate budget category just for repairs. You can let it build up in the early years when repairs are few … because the odds are you’ll need that money later.
- That said, you should also shop smart for repairs to keep your heap running. How do you do that?
- HOW TO KEEP REPAIR COSTS DOWN
- The best way to cut repair costs is to prevent them from happening. You can’t prevent all repairs that way. Parts do have a limited life span and they’ll eventually break or fail, but proper maintenance can stretch out their life and cut down on repair costs.
- Obviously, if your car is still relatively new, make sure you follow the maintenance schedule to keep the warranty in force. But did you know that you can shop around for lower prices on maintenance procedures? It doesn’t have to be done at the dealer where you purchased the car. Just make sure the work is done on time and keep proper records.
- Now, what if you don’t know a reputable repair shop in your area? How do you find one?
- Most dealerships and independent repair shops are honest businesses. But it only takes a few bad apples to make people wary of mechanics in general. That’s changing with websites like Yelp and TripAdvisor. They have lists of repair shops in your area with customer reviews and ratings. It’s more difficult these days for a dishonest business to stay in business.
- But don’t forget about word of mouth. Ask folks at church where they have their repairs done. Odds are good you’ll find a great shop with reasonable prices.
- ROUTINE MAINTENANCE
- So, what are some of the routine maintenance items you need to take care of? Let’s start with oil changes. Auto shops don’t make much on oil changes, so often they’ll try to sell you other things while you're there. That’s not necessarily bad. If you go in for an oil change and the mechanic points out your bald tires, thank him or her and start shopping around for the best deal you can find. But if you're not sure whether a repair or maintenance procedure is needed, get a second opinion.
- Now, there are some things that you can easily do yourself, even if you’re not mechanically inclined. For example—changing an air filter. It’s a snap on most cars, and there’s probably at least one youtube video showing how it’s done for your make and model.
- For that matter, there’s probably a youtube video showing you how to do almost any repair or maintenance procedure for your vehicle, including an engine overhaul, so you’ve got to know your limitations. Don’t take on a repair project unless you’re sure you can complete it properly.
- Once upon a time, tune-ups were a mainstay of vehicle maintenance, but with modern auto technology, cars generally no longer require tuning. So if a mechanic says you need a tune-up, find out what that means. You can also have the car checked out on a diagnostic machine before paying for anything called a tune-up.
- Of course, another big maintenance item is brakes. Check your brake pads every 12,000 miles, even if they’re working properly. Most manufacturers recommend replacing them if there is 1/8 inch or less of the pad lining remaining.
- The key to keeping expenses down with brakes is to understand that most of the time, you’ll only need to replace the pads. If a shop recommends a more extensive brake procedure, get a second opinion.
- The bottom line, you need to perform routine maintenance to avoid bigger expenses down the road. Just be a smart shopper, always looking for the best prices on repairs and maintenance, or if you’re able, do the work yourself.
- That’ll keep your vehicle on the road. And as our friend Howard Dayton likes to say, the cheapest vehicle is almost always the one you already own.
On this program, Rob also answers listener questions:
- What should you look for when comparing home refinance options?
- How do you determine whether to pay off a debt more quickly vs keeping more in cash reserves?
- Does the threat of a cyberattack necessitate a larger cash reserve?
Remember, you can call in to ask your questions most days at (800) 525-7000 or email them to Questions@MoneyWise.org. Also, visit our website at MoneyWise.org where you can connect with a MoneyWise Coach, join the MoneyWise Community, and even download the free MoneyWise app.