It doesn’t matter whether you’re a first time car owner or you’ve been buying cars for years now, you should know one important thing about cars—they need repairs sooner or later. The price of a repair can range from a couple of bucks to thousands of dollars. And not all of us are capable of fixing every trouble our car will encounter. If you don’t set aside a car repair budget now, a car trouble can lead you to a lifelong ordeal especially when you are working on a tight budget. And it doesn’t take a genius to know that you can avoid this kind of stress. It always pays to be prepared for a rainy day.
If you are the type of person that waits for something to happen before doing anything, you are about to get in big trouble. You don’t know when your car will start making weird sounds or showing odd behaviours, so why not make some preparations, like saving for a car repair budget? When that day comes, the only thing that will determine the outcome is if you ever saved and prepared for that day.
If you have not prepared anything you’ll be surprised to know how stressful it is to look for a car repair service that will suit your budget. In these events you will come to realize how important it is to set aside a car repair budget. Here’s how:
Prepare for what lies ahead
Car repair and maintenance expenses are inevitable. They can take you by surprise in the most unfortunate time. Now is the time to save for those events. There are other expenses you need to be mindful of in owning a car like registration, insurance, gas, and so on. To avoid any difficulties in handling these issues, you have to know certain things.
First, you need to familiarize yourself with two of the most common car expenses: the routine maintenance and the repairs.
The Routine Maintenance
It refers to any maintenance task done regularly to identify and prevent problems before they cause any trouble or equipment failure, or worse, accidents. Routine maintenance expenses include oil and filter changes, brake pads, wiper blades, car battery, tires (rotation, alignment, air pressure, balancing), and replacements of all wearing components of the car and of course the labor.
Whether you are a seasoned car owner or it’s your first time owning one, you can always imagine the nightmare when your car suddenly breaks down. When your car stops working, it gets out of commission, and the cost for repair and labor leaves you no choice but to loan money from your bank or somewhere else, you will come to realize that doing routine maintenance could have saved you from spending more because of bigger car issues.
Doing routine maintenance on your car helps you prevent an automotive breakdown, but in some instances there are things that can be overlooked during a regular car maintenance and things beyond your control such accidents can still happen. So saving for routine maintenance alone is not enough.
As your car ages, you should expect more and more parts will be needing replacement and repairs, such as head gaskets and CV joints. Repairs also include the unforeseen repairs that can result from things like your transmission wearing out.
Owning an older car means a higher probability of you seeing your auto mechanic more often in the coming year. In this case, the most sensible thing to do is increasing your allocated amount. If you have spent a considerable amount over the past few months and your estimated expenses will be a little less for the coming year then you can lessen your allocated amount.
According to experts, setting aside at least $50 per month will greatly help car owners pay for the repair costs. Experts also encourage car owners to look for a repair service facility that they can trust before trouble arises.
Manufacturer’s recommended maintenance schedule
According to a previous survey conducted by AAA, one out of three car owners in the U.S will delay or skip routine services on their car, which in the long run can lead to serious and more expensive problems. It may look like they are saving money by skipping maintenance and repairs, but little do they know that cutting corners will only lead to debt since major repairs like suspension and transmission repairs costs hundreds to thousands of dollars.
Your primary guide to know how to budget for car maintenance is your vehicle owner’s manual. But sadly, it is said to be the least-read book in the Western world. It provides you the layout on how frequently you should get certain work done. If you do not have the manual, you can always check your manufacturer’s website for a digital copy and you can download it for free.
In the event of an unexpected repair, experts recommend that car owners should always get an estimated cost for the work. Owners are also advised to make sure they know what work is needed to be performed on the vehicle. Like in the medical field, it is good practice to get a second opinion to confirm the diagnosis before doing anything that you are unfamiliar with.
Tips from the experts: Always ask for any type of discount the shop may be offering or a payment plan that can help you lessen the burden of immediate out-of-pocket costs.
Collect all your car maintenance records and add them all together
Second, if you are a seasoned car owner, you should collect all of your car maintenance records for the past year. This is to help you get an estimate of how much you might need to set aside for the coming years’ routine maintenance costs.
On the other hand, if you do not have any maintenance records, whether you’ve lost track of them or simply don’t have one because it’s your very first car, then all you have to do is get the price range for each component or part that needs replacement. Routine maintenance records include checkbook register, maintenance receipts of credit card statements. It depends on how you pay for things. Car payments or insurance are never considered maintenance costs.
After gathering all the maintenance records add them all together to get the total amount you spent on maintenance during the last year and divide it by 12 to get your average monthly expense. If you spent $600 in the past 12 months, you should budget at least $50 a month for car maintenance.
When working on a tight budget
You should separate your car maintenance allocation from other money. Use this allocated funds just for the specified purpose of car maintenance. Ideally, the car maintenance funds should be kept in a savings account until you need them. You should add to this budgeted amount every month so you will have the money readily available when it comes time for maintenance and when the need for repair arises.
For first timers, taking note of the price range for each component of parts that needs replacements will help you develop a car maintenance budget.
Please note that the prices for each of the items below is based on a nationwide average and will vary depending on your region. In addition, these prices can be affected by special circumstances and can become higher or lower.
Recommended schedule: Every 3,000 Miles or Three months
Price range: $25 to $50
Oil change is the most common and notable item among all other routine maintenance items. It is highly essential to keeping your car in good working condition. Cutting corners on this one can lead to serious engine issues like overheating which in turn, leads to costly damage to your vehicle.
You don’t have to be an auto mechanic to do an oil change. You can do it yourself if you are willing and don’t have a lot on your plate. Just remember that the process of oil change can be time consuming and messy. Considering its low cost, bringing your vehicle into a service facility can also be a good alternative.
Recommended schedule: every 50,000 Miles
Price range (all-season tire): $80 to $150 per tire / $320 to $600 for four tires
Tires are especially made with revolutionary tread patterns that improve traction and allow you to maneuver your vehicle safely and reliably. In the long run, your tires will wear down and are eventually no longer as reliable or safe. When that happens, it’s necessary to replace them. Keep in mind that tire prices will vary depending on the type of vehicle you drive. For example, if you have an SUV or a truck, it’s safe to say that you will pay more for the right tires. You can choose from a wide range of tire options depending on the driving conditions and related factors.
You should also keep in mind that the schedule for tire replacement could be more or less frequent, depending on how well you manage other auto maintenance needs. For example, to prevent uneven wear on your tires you can have periodic tire rotations. This means you will be able to go longer and further without having to replace them.
As a general rule, the difference in the tread depth between two tires in the same axle should not be more than about 1.58mm. If that is the case, replacing just one tire should be fine. But if you are not comfortable replacing just one tire, then replacing 2 tires is also a good idea.
Recommended schedule: 3,000 to 5,000 Miles
Price range: $24 to $120
The front and rear axles of a vehicle support a different weight load. That being the case, in the long run the front and rear tires wear at different levels. If neglected, it can cause issues with your vehicles’ suspension and will put you, and even your passengers to danger. So driving on unevenly worn tires is a big no-no.
To keep all of your four tires roughly in the same shape, you should have regular tire rotations. It has two benefits. First, you will have a more responsive vehicle making it safer to drive and avoid costly suspension issues. Second, your tires will last longer and you can steer clear of replacing them often.
Recommended schedule: Every 2 years and when getting new tires
Price range: $50 to $75 for a two-wheel alignment, double that for a four-wheel
For the wheels on your car to roll freely and correctly, they should be set to very specific angles. Misaligned wheels will lead to significant uneven tire wear and can eventually cause serious problems to your suspension components. That is why having properly aligned wheels is important and should not be overlooked.
Recommended schedule: Before the beginning of each Winter season
Price range: $6 to $50
You should have a set of reliable wiper blades when traveling in harsh weather conditions. Summer heat dries out the rubber in your blades shortening its life. Petroleum-based solutions also shortens the life of your blades when used frequently since they can dissolve rubber. Make it a habit to check and replace your wiper blades before bad weather strikes.
Brake Pad Replacement
Recommended schedule: 25,000 to 50,000 Miles
Price range: $100 to $300 per axle
Brake Fluid Flush
Recommended schedule: Every 2 Years
Price range: $73 to $104
Your car brake system is one of the most important systems on your car, next to the engine itself. Over time, the components of your brake system will wear down after all that friction and heat generated by bringing over 2,800 pounds of car to a halt. You can greatly extend the life of parts like rotors and calipers if you service your brakes regularly. In this case, you will also avoid expensive brake system repairs.
HEATING AND COOLING SYSTEM INSPECTION
Recommended schedule: At the Beginning of Each Summer or winter Season
Price range: $79 to $89 for all types of vehicles
Your AC and heating systems will give you comfort even when traveling in harsh conditions. So it’s good practice to have them checked before the appropriate season starts to make sure they are in good working condition.
The items above give you a general idea of how much components and parts will cost and how to develop a solid budget in setting aside a car repair fund. You will fully enjoy the outcome of this guide if you follow these simple tips to a tee.