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HOW TO SAVE MONEY ON VEHICLE MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR

“Do you want to spend less on vehicle maintenance? With just a bit of forethought and by following these tips, you'll save on auto care.”


Most of us who own a vehicle find ourselves wishing we could spend less on auto care. And, if you're like most of us, owning a vehicle is a necessity. It provides you with transportation to and from work and allows you to meet your daily obligations to your families.

Not to mention, owning a vehicle can be a source of freedom and pleasure in itself. Especially, for example, when you enjoy a vacation with friends and family.

For most owners, vehicles are not a luxury. When they malfunction, you're denied access to the many activities in your life that are crucial to your happiness. Anyone who has lost the use of their car while it sits in the repair shop for even a day knows how true this is.

To minimize vehicle repair and maintenance costs and reduce servicing downtime, you must first consider the long-term solutions as well as the daily out-of-pocket maintenance and repair costs.

Read on to learn how electric vehicles are a long-term solution to saving money on vehicles. Or, skip ahead to one of the following sections:

electric car charging

A LONG-TERM SOLUTION TO CUTTING COSTS: CHOOSING THE RIGHT VEHICLE

A long-term solution that can save you the most money involves choosing the right vehicle.

Research which models and brands of cars are likely to be more dependable and which makes and models are cheaper to maintain.

AN ELECTRIC REVOLUTION

As you look toward the next decade, you’ll see a revolution approaching. It will completely overturn the existing total cost of ownership of automobiles.

This revolution is unstoppable and is based on the recognition that the entire world is going electric.

Electric vehicles (EVs) offer a huge advantage for lowering maintenance and repair costs. This is simply because they incorporate far fewer parts. And, not having an internal combustion engine makes them more dependable.

Not only do EVs offer savings on maintenance and repair costs, but adoption of EVs can also lead to lower healthcare costs in two ways:

  • First, electric vehicles reduce air pollution in cities and towns. Less air pollution means less air pollution-related illnesses, like asthma, COPD and lung cancer.
  • Second, since maintenance and repair worries are reduced, EV owners will enjoy life without this significant source of stress.

The EV revolution is being driven by the 'plummeting cost of batteries'. In 2015 alone, battery costs decreased by 35 percent and are steadily falling.

The declining prices are a result of technological advances and steadily increasing investments in battery technology in countries like the U.S., China and Germany.

This means, in just a few years the average car owner will have the choice to shed gas or diesel and instead choose to buy an electric vehicle.

Why should you now begin to consider EVs as a possible solution to lowering maintenance and repair costs?

The answer is that often consumers and experts alike tend to underestimate how quickly the adoption of new innovations overtakes existing technology. Electric vehicles are likely to be the next example of just this kind of revolution.

MAKING INFORMED DECISIONS

For those who wish to make your next vehicle purchase a gas, diesel or hybrid, your choice of make and model is still important if you wish to minimize vehicle repair and maintenance costs.

Various websites provide useful information based on past performance of a wide range of vehicles. Prospective buyers can easily research this data before making informed decisions about which vehicles might be more reliable and cost less to maintain.

AN OVERVIEW OF MOTOR VEHICLE OPERATING COSTS

When considering the operating costs of owning a vehicle, there are several areas you want to pay close attention to.

Fuel

The EPA provides estimates for fuel consumption based on type and weight of the vehicle.

According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable energy, it's likely that gas and diesel fuel costs will continue to remain low. This is especially true as the adoption of EVs leads to a near-term decrease in oil demand of up to 13 million barrels per day.

Still, if you choose wisely, then you can often save enough on fuel to pay for repair and maintenance.

Tires

You can easily compute the expected cost of new tire purchases. Just divide the cost of tires by the expected life of the tires in miles. In addition, choose a lighter vehicle and drive conservatively, and you'll minimize the cost of new tire purchases.

Maintenance and Repairs

Total maintenance and repair costs are due to a combination of the expected and unexpected.

There's always the unexpected, such as accidents, flooding or vandalism - maybe even overzealous valet parking attendants.

The expected costs of maintenance, which you can predict with reasonable certainty, include normal wear and tear and routine factory maintenance. Things such as oil changes and oil, fuel and air filter changes for those who have not yet switched to an EV.

It has been suggested that the best data for estimating repair costs are records of your own past repair expenses. Thus, keeping good records of past repair and maintenance costs can help you make better vehicle servicing decisions.

old beat-up car

SHOULD YOU KEEP YOUR OLDER VEHICLE? OR, SHOULD YOU BUY A NEW ONE?

From a money-savings perspective, this is always a difficult decision. You must evaluate many variables, not just cost.

For example, you must consider the downtime involved when your vehicle is in the shop, what it takes to arrange alternative transportation, and the frustration which inevitably happens any time you must face negotiations with vehicle service and repair shops.

It is often difficult for the average vehicle owner to reasonably arrive at the best course of action when faced with this dilemma.

Good repair/maintenance record-keeping can help because it allows you to accurately add up the many expenditures you often wish you could forget.

In so many cases, the choice to buy a new vehicle becomes emotionally charged. We all prefer driving a new car because it makes us feel good. Even though the data from our record keeping might prove that we should wait another year before making a new purchase.

Sometimes, it's helpful to ask an accountant friend or someone who does your taxes to help estimate, from a cost perspective, what might be best. They can also help calculate other hidden costs of ownership, such as depreciation and vehicle-loan interest.

Or, you might decide that the purpose of your car or truck is to experience the pleasure of driving something exciting which makes a statement. In this case, cost savings may become secondary to maintenance and repair costs.

Either way, careful evaluation of maintenance and repair costs will better ensure that you remain satisfied with your choice of vehicle.

mechanic tightening lugnut on wheel after tire rotation

HELPFUL TIPS FOR REDUCING VEHICLE MAINTENANCE AND REPAIR COSTS

1. Be alert.

Accidents, even minor fender-benders, can lead to major unanticipated repair bills. They can also cause days or weeks of downtime while the damaged vehicle is being repaired. Defensive and alert driving can go a long way in minimizing expensive and needless vehicle-related expenditures.

2. Check the owner’s manual.

Some dealerships and repair shops will attempt to sell owners more (parts and services) than is actually recommended by the factory. For example, in most cards, transmission fluid needs replacing only after 100,000 miles. Yet, some service shops will offer this service before it's recommended by the vehicle manufacturer.

3. Drive conservatively.

Aggressive driving leads to increased brake and tire wear and also is directly associated with road accidents.

4. Rotate tires when necessary.

Most car owners can easily rotate vehicle tires themselves. This can help save significant money. Follow the standard rotation sequence by checking the owner’s manual.

5. Replace the air filter.

This is another DIY operation easily performed by most owners. Doing it yourself can save up to $60 in labor costs every 30,000 miles. If you drive in a heavily dust-polluted area, you should change the air filter sooner.

6. Change the oil.

Motor oil changes are not needed as often as some dealers might say. Modern engines using high-quality motor usually only require oil changes every 10,000 miles. This information can be corroborated by checking the owner’s manual or contacting the service number provided by the vehicle manufacturer.

7. Don’t skip required vehicle servicing.

The vehicle manufacturer provides important information to help owners know when required servicing should be done. Skipping these servicing recommendations can lead to unnecessary and avoidable expenses, such as when a worn-out timing belt breaks and causes damage.

8. Create a car-repair spreadsheet.

As previously noted, keeping good records of vehicle related maintenance and repair history is important for estimating future costs and for deciding when to buy a new vehicle. There are ready-made spreadsheets available which can be easily downloaded from the internet.

9. Ask questions.

Read the owner’s manual and question everything you are unsure about. Just as when visiting the doctor’s office or after admittance to a hospital for surgery, don’t be intimidated. Ask questions about what is or is not needed to fix the problem. This process can sometimes be stressful, but cost savings will almost always result. Negotiate and bargain. Not all mechanics are created equal, and shopping around for a reliable service center is time well spent.

10. Do your research.

Use the internet to research before servicing. Often fair maintenance and repair costs can be easily estimated after just a few minutes of research. This will provide helpful information when negotiating with the service manager.

toco vehicle service contract benefits

SAVE ON AUTO REPAIR WITH VEHICLE SERVICE CONTRACTS

Vehicle owners can buy a vehicle service contract (VSC) to cover maintenance and repair costs at any time, even after the original manufacturer’s warranty has expired.

The contract provides protection similar to an insurance policy and will pay for any covered vehicle-related expenses. You pay a premium to obtain coverage.

Each plan provides different coverage options with premium policies usually providing more extensive coverage, such as for electrical systems or roadside assistance.

Some coverage options may include:

  • Engines & Transmission
  • Electrical & Cooling Systems
  • Air Conditioners
  • Roadside assistance
  • Rental car benefits
  • Trip interruption

In order to find a plan with the best coverage for your needs, do your research and contact reliable brokers who can explain the various benefits. Make sure to ask about deductibles, down payments, interest rates and premiums.

It's best to go with a policy provider that doesn't require down payments or charge interest, like Toco's Auto Warranty which offers pay-as-you-go plans.

Just as with the purchase of medical and life insurance, the choice to buy VSC coverage for your vehicle can be a good decision which provides peace of mind as well as cost savings.

It can also be tailored to meet the needs of individual owners and older vehicles. For example, the VSC policy can be adjusted to offer only drive train protection or other vehicle systems.

VEHICLE MAINTENANCE TRENDS

Motor vehicles have continued to become more reliable during past decades. This trend will continue, especially once electric vehicles become much more common. However, repair and maintenance will always remain an important part of vehicle ownership.

The wise consumer will take advantage of all available opportunities to minimize costs in time and money, including options such as buying a vehicle service contract policy.