Cars tend to depreciate as soon as you drive them off the lot, but there are things that you can do to make your car last longer and protect its value. One of the best ways to save on car costs is to keep your car in good working order for as long as possible.
Skipping maintenance can lead to expensive problems, and buying a new car comes with added expenses like financing charges or increased insurance costs. You can keep your car on the road longer with these 11 tips and tricks.
1. Get Oil Changes
If you do nothing else to maintain your car and make it last longer, change your oil on time, every time. Without proper oil changes, your engine could seize up and no longer function. Repairing or replacing a seized engine will cost you more than nearly any other car repair, so keeping your engine moving smoothly with regular oil changes can save you big.
Cost: $35 to $125
Frequency: Change according to your vehicle's service instructions
2. Wash Your Car and Get It Waxed
While drive-through car washes can damage your paint, hand washing and waxing your vehicle can protect its paint job and even prevent rust. This is especially important if your paint has been exposed to a damaging substance, like sap from the tree you park under or salt on winter roads.
Cost: $20 to $30 per wash; you'll only pay for the cost of supplies and water if you do it at home
Frequency: Wash biweekly or as needed; wax every one to three months
3. Watch Your Speed and Braking
One of the best ways to maintain your vehicle is to watch your speed and braking. Excessive speed and too-frequent braking can put undue stress on your vehicle. You may need to replace parts like your brake pads more frequently. Driving more conservatively can help your vehicle last longer.
Frequency: Every time you drive
4. Keep Up With Routine Maintenance
Keeping up with the regular suggested maintenance schedule for your vehicle can help extend its life. Some routine maintenance may include:
- New tire installation
- Air filter replacement
- Transmission fluid check
- Belt inspection
- Wiper replacement
Cost: About $0.10 per mile driven
Frequency: As needed (check your vehicle's owner's manual for specific guidance)
5. Schedule Tire Rotations and Alignments
To prolong the life of your tires and protect your vehicle's performance, regular tire rotations and alignments are a must. Rotating your tires helps spread out the wear on different sections of each tire. Alignments make sure tires are in contact with the road correctly and can make for a safer, more efficient and smoother ride.
Cost: Rotation: $35 to $100; alignment: $20 to $30 on top of rotation cost
Frequency: Rotation: every 7,500 miles or 6 months; alignment: yearly
6. Remove Salt
If you live near the coast or in areas where roads are salted during the winter, removing the salt is a low-cost chore you should consider doing frequently.
Cost: Supply costs of about $50 for a hose or sprayer and salt-removing spray or vinegar
7. Stay Mindful of Moisture
Don't drive through water, and try to avoid parking on dirt to preserve the undercarriage of your vehicle. That's because exposure to dampness can cause rust in undercarriage parts or through the floor of your vehicle and leads to pricey fixes.
Driving through very deep water can also lead to mechanical issues. If you see a road flooded over, err on the side of caution and don't drive through the water. It's a good idea to do this anyway for safety reasons.
8. Prevent Pests
Cars can provide a safe place for pests to take shelter. Taking steps to keep mice or bugs from infesting your vehicle can save you a lot of discomfort, prevent damage to your car and keep things sanitary. Consider steps such as:
- Clean all food items, wrappers and containers out of your vehicle every day. These can attract rodents and bugs.
- Block any broken seals or holes in the vehicle. Securing your vehicle stops the problem before it starts.
- Set traps and monitor them. If you set a trap in your vehicle for mice or bugs, make sure to enclose it and check it frequently to prevent further mess.
- Have your upholstery professionally treated. If you suspect an infestation in your upholstery, perhaps by something like bed bugs, get professional treatment from an exterminator.
Cost: $5 and up for DIY supplies, $100 or more for professional treatment
Frequency: As needed
9. Properly Inflate Tires
Monitoring and maintaining the proper inflation on your tires can prevent premature wear on the tires themselves as well as damage to your suspension. Check your vehicle's documentation to determine the correct pressure. Many gas stations have free air with a tire pressure gauge attached.
Frequency: Once a month
10. Condition Leather Seats
If your vehicle has leather seats, routinely applying a conditioning solution can keep them in good condition. In the event your vehicle is totaled, you can receive the best payout if your vehicle is in excellent condition.
Cost: $15 to $20 for DIY supplies or about $40 to $70 for professional service
Frequency: Every one to two months
11. Use a Windshield Shade
If you must park in the sun regularly, consider a windshield shade to help prevent melting and cracking on your dashboard. It can also help prevent upholstery fading.
Cost: $15 to $20
Frequency: One-time purchase
The Bottom Line
There are concrete, affordable ways to make your car last longer. Maintaining your vehicle can keep it safe and increase its longevity. Budgeting for maintenance costs can help you keep your car longer and therefore save more over time.
Another way to save money on your vehicle costs is to get the best possible savings on your car insurance. But comparing policies can be difficult and time-consuming. That's why you may want to try Experian's auto insurance comparison tool, which can get you quotes from over 40 top insurance providers.
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