Preventative Maintenance = Frugality

14 Feb

Whether you like it or not your car is likely going to be one of the biggest investments that you will ever make.  That statement will likely be true throughout every stage of life too.  If you’re making $10,000 working part time as a college student, a $2,000 hand-me-down car is still pretty pricey.  The same is true if your making over $100,000 a year because the average new car carries a price tag of over $30,000, still a hefty chunk of change.

After spending as much as a quarter of your yearly income on a car, it can become pretty easy to put off the other aspects of car ownership that cost money.  “I just spent $4,000 buying this car last month and now I’m supposed to spend another $1,200 to replace the timing belt and water pump?”  The truth is, you do.  More than likely your car has an owners manual gathering dust in the glove compartment.  Many of these handy, under appreciated booklets rarely see the light of day, and yet they are full of useful information.  Information such as required maintenance and intervals are often found in the first few pages of the owners manual.  If it can’t be found there, an affordable repair manual for your car can be purchased for as little as $20 or $30.

What most people don’t realize is that by doing regular preventative maintenance they are actually saving themselves a great deal of money.  Today’s vehicles are considerably more efficient and reliable than those of yesteryear; however, that doesn’t mean that they can be neglected.  The average car from the 1970’s was old and worn out by 100,000 miles.  Today, a car with 150,000 is just breaking a sweat, and if it is maintained properly can easily break well over 200,000 miles.  Big and expensive problems can come to any car, new or old, if basic things like oil changes are neglected.

Motor Oil

Just running a few numbers will show how much misery and money can be saved by putting in the effort to maintain your car.  Engine oil is the lifeblood of your car.  Not only does it lubricate the moving parts of the engine to reduce harmful friction, but it also suspends harmful substances like dirt, so that it doesn’t damage essential moving parts. Oil also helps keep engine temperatures down to avoid overheating.  As a general rule it is wise to change your oil every 3,000 miles or six months; plan on spending anywhere from $20 to $50 each time depending on if you do it yourself or take it to a shop.  Changing your oil regularly is probably the single most important part of preventative maintenance.  As an example, a technician at a Subaru dealer had a 2009 Tribeca come in with a completely blown engine.  The owner was upset that the engine had gone bad after only 17,000 miles.  After further investigation the technician found that the oil had not been changed once in during that time.  Six oil changes, probably costing the owner a total of $240 would have saved him over $5,000.

Avoid letting your belts get like these

Oil isn’t the only thing that needs to be changed either.  Tires should be rotated, usually around every 7,500 miles; belts should be replaced somewhere between 60,000 and 90,000 miles, and all fluids should be flushed regularly throughout your cars life.  Spending a few hundred dollars here and there to make sure your car is in top running order will ultimately save you thousands over the long haul.  Putting the effort into maintaining your car is wise no matter what you drive.  In reality, a Geo Metro can last just as long as a Toyota Camry if you take car of it properly.

When maintaining your vehicle it is also wise to put the money into quality parts and pay a quality shop to do the work if you can’t do it yourself.  What is saved in money buying a cheap aftermarket part is lost in time and money when you’re forced to replace it two or three times as often.  Many car owners hesitate to spend an extra $50 to $100 on an original equipment (OE) part even though more often than not the cheaper aftermarket products cause headaches.

1990 Geo Prizm

Don’t allow the temptation to put off maintenance prevail, no matter how old or new, and no matter what make or model.  What many people don’t realize is that many cars are the same as others with different names.  There is a bad habit among automotive consumers to treat their vehicles differently depending on what it is.  The Toyota Corolla and Geo Prizm are perfect examples.  These two cars are virtually identical, down to the same engines and transmissions.  The only difference is one says Toyota and the other says Geo, but both were essentially built using Toyota parts.  The owners that bought the Geo variant tended to neglect maintenance, thinking that they didn’t want to spend extra money on a Geo.  The Toyota owners tended to take better care of their car because they knew that Toyota had a great reputation for being reliable and they wanted to make sure that they took care of it.  The result is that Prizms are nearly extinct and Corollas are everywhere to be seen.

1989-1991 Toyota Corolla

The bottom line is that if you’ll take care of your car, it will take care of you.  Penny pinching on preventative maintenance will only cause financial pain in the long run.

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