How to Budget for Car Maintenance & Cost Savings Tips
A car allows you to travel freely, including to and from work, without relying on rides. However, along with the perks of car ownership comes the responsibility of preparing for the inevitable breakdown. Whether you buy a new or used car, vehicle parts wear out and eventually need repair or replacement. In addition to monthly car payments, car insurance, and gas, owning a car involves paying for maintenance and repairs. But you can avoid being caught blindsided by car repair costs. By knowing what to expect, you can budget for car maintenance costs and save money where you can.
Car Maintenance Repairs
A well-running vehicle takes intentional effort and following a routine maintenance schedule. Eventually, your vehicle will need repair, which makes planning for the repair a necessity. Before setting a budget, you’ll need to know your vehicle’s average car maintenance costs.
Here are a few regular maintenance services to consider. However, your vehicle’s specific maintenance schedule may vary slightly. Follow the maintenance schedule that is in your vehicle’s owner’s manual:
Weekly Car Maintenance
Weekly car maintenance and operating costs depend on lifestyle, vehicle make and model, usage, and more. However, in general, most people need to fill up with fuel, whether it’s petroleum gas, diesel, biodiesel, or electricity. In addition to fuel costs, you’ll want to consider the cost of keeping your car clean. Getting regular car washes at a shop or home can help improve safety and boost your car’s resale value. It also protects the paint and prevents rusting.
Weekly Car Maintenance Checklist
- Fill up with gas or recharge the battery
- Clean the windshield
- Wash the car
Monthly Car Maintenance
There are predictable car ownership costs each month, including the monthly car finance charges (your car payment), insurance, and any applicable parking and toll costs. In addition to paying for everything on time, performing your vehicle checkup at least once a month is a good habit of getting into. A routine checkup allows you to catch a minor repair before it becomes something much more significant.
Monthly Car Maintenance Checklist
- Check fluids (oil, brake, coolant/antifreeze, windshield washer fluid)
- Check tire pressure and tread
- Check lights (headlights, turn signals, parking brake lights, and parking lights)
3-Month/ 3,000-5,000 Mile Car Maintenance
Quarterly vehicle maintenance is due every three months to keep your vehicle running at its best. A monthly check can detect car issues such as oil leaks, but more thorough maintenance is needed after three months.
Quarterly Car Maintenance Checklist
- Change engine oil and filter
- Test the battery
- Check fluids (automatic transmission, power steering, transfer case, and differential fluid)
- Inspect belts and hoses
- Change engine air filter
6-Month/ 6,000 Mile Car Maintenance
Every six months requires more advanced maintenance for your vehicle. By this point, your car has endured significant wear and tear and requires attention to keep it free from malfunctions or breakdowns.
Bi-Annual Car Maintenance Checklist
- Tire rotation
- Check suspension components and joints
- Replace the cabin air filter
- Chassis lubrication
- Check engine coolant levels
- Check windshield wiper blades
- Replace spark plug wires
12-Month/ 12,000-15,000 Mile Car Maintenance
Annual expenses such as vehicle registration fees, property taxes, and state inspections (if required) can be expected each year. However, in addition to these annual fees, more extensive, routine maintenance is essential to your vehicle’s life.
Annual Car Maintenance Checklist
- Check brakes and wheel bearings
- Check the air conditioning system
- Inspect steering and suspension
- Inspect spark plugs
- Wheel alignment
- Check timing belts and chains
- Inspect the exhaust system for rust, holes, or excess wear
Long-Term Car Maintenance
While plenty of minor maintenance needs to occur more frequently, there is more considerable, routine maintenance that is essential to your vehicle’s life. These larger tasks require more time and effort that should be done less frequently. Doing these larger maintenance tasks every 60,000 to 120,000 miles will help ensure your vehicle runs smoothly and safely for many years.
Long-Term Car Maintenance Checklist
- Brake System
How to Budget for Car Maintenance
Today, one-third of car owners cannot afford unexpected car repairs. While maintenance costs upfront, it often defers or eliminates the need for expensive car repairs, ultimately saving money. Knowing that car maintenance is required to keep a car running smoothly, maintenance costs don’t have to become an emergency. Car maintenance can become routine without breaking the bank with proper planning and budgeting.
Build an Emergency Fund
Building an emergency fund is essential to preparing for whatever happens on the road ahead. Expensive car repairs can happen anytime, seemingly at the worst moment. Most experts recommend setting aside $50 to $100 each month to help cover the cost of expensive engine repairs. Setting a designated amount aside each month is like paying yourself, giving yourself peace of mind that your vehicle is protected no matter what happens.
Create a Car Maintenance Fund
The car maintenance fund is a separate savings account used to cover the ongoing costs of maintaining a car, such as oil changes, tire rotations, brakes, and other regular maintenance items. This fund is not to be confused with an emergency fund, which is a savings fund used to cover the unforeseen costs of an unexpected mechanical breakdown or an expensive engine repair. Both are important, as regular car maintenance can help keep a car running efficiently, and an emergency fund can help cover any sudden and significant expenses that may arise.
There are two different ways to calculate how much you should set aside each month:
- Set aside $50 each month, according to AAA
- Calculate last year’s expenses, then divide it by 12 to estimate a monthly budget
Invest in an Auto Protection Plan
Car maintenance and repairs can be a costly and time-consuming endeavor. With a vehicle protection plan or vehicle service contract (VSC), you can have the assurance that any major repairs, as well as some routine maintenance services, are taken care of. One convenient, fixed monthly payment makes it easier to stick to a car maintenance budget.
VSCs provide comprehensive coverage for your car, ranging from engine and transmission repairs to electrical and air conditioning systems. They may also include coverage for regular oil changes, brake and suspension maintenance, and more. Having a VSC can give you the confidence to keep your car running smoothly and reliably for years.
Tips for Saving on Car Maintenance Costs
Although car maintenance and repairs can be costly, there are several ways to save money on how much you pay for these services. One way to save is to perform regular maintenance on your vehicle. This includes oil changes, tire rotations, and other routine maintenance tasks. Additionally, it’s vital to be proactive about preventive care by regularly changing fluids, rotating tires, and replacing filters when necessary. This can help you avoid costly repairs and maintain the value of your car over time.
Performing some of the maintenance and repairs yourself with the proper knowledge and tools can save you a significant amount of money and help you become more knowledgeable about the inner workings of your vehicle. If you need more time to tackle maintenance, you can also save money by finding a reputable mechanic who charges reasonable rates and discounts on labor. Research your local repair shops to see if you can find any deals or discounts.
Another way to save money is to use quality parts from reliable suppliers. Although purchasing generic or aftermarket car parts can be cheaper than buying the manufacturer’s parts. They often will only last for a short time as more durable and reliable parts, resulting in more frequent repairs and higher costs in the long run.
Consider an auto protection plan that offers discounts or complete coverage for parts and labor costs in the event of a mechanical breakdown. If you have a new car, you may be covered by a factory or extended warranty. Additionally, you can get extra coverage and benefits from Endurance Warranty or other third-party providers if you have a used vehicle.
Finally, you can save money by shopping for the best deals on parts and services and by taking advantage of coupons and discounts. With some planning, you can save significant money on car maintenance and repairs.
Endurance Warranty Can Help You Budget for Car Maintenance
The cost of car ownership is more than just a monthly car payment. It includes regular car maintenance and repairs, such as oil changes, tire rotations, and brake pad replacements. These costs can add up quickly over time, so it’s essential to budget and ensure you have the funds available when the time comes. Consider getting an extended car warranty to help cover the cost of any unexpected repairs. Endurance Warranty provides protection from expensive car repairs by covering a variety of parts.
Endurance offers a range of auto protection plans to suit your needs and budget, with flexible payment plans, so you can rest assured that you’ll be covered for any unexpected repairs. In addition, each coverage plan comes with a suite of additional benefits such as roadside assistance, rental car reimbursement, and more. Endurance customers can save even more by activating a free year of bonus perks with Endurance Elite Benefits. For a low activation fee of just $20, you’ll enjoy additional benefits, like tire replacements or repairs, key fob replacements, collision discounts, and more.
With Endurance Warranty, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that you will have the protection you need in the event of an expensive car repair. Even if you have a luxury vehicle or one with high mileage, an older vehicle, one with a salvage or rebuilt title, a Canadian grey market vehicle, or a hybrid, you can find coverage. Then, when it’s time to use your benefits, your car can be repaired by any ASE Certified mechanic, repair shop, or dealership you prefer, ensuring you get the most qualified technicians working on your repairs.
Prepare for an emergency before it occurs – and before you’re stuck on the side of the road facing an expensive car repair. Call (800) 253-8203 to request a FREE quote or shop online to find the auto protection plan that is right for you.
You can also visit the Endurance blog for answers to your frequently asked questions about how much to budget for car maintenance, including how much is car maintenance per month, the average cost of car repairs in the United States, and vehicle comparisons (like if a Range Rover is more expensive to maintain than a Nissan).
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