We typically see two types of customers. The first budgets for their repairs and the second does not. The condition of the vehicles between these two groups is striking. People who budget tend to have better maintained vehicles than people who don't budget. I suspect this is because they can afford repairs when they are discovered and therefore avoid a small repair turning into a larger one. Well maintained vehicles also have higher trade in values to people who budget are able to afford lower mileage vehicles. As you can see budgeting is a great way to save money on vehicle expenses. Here are 4 tips to help you budget well and save money on vehicle maintenance.
1) Put $100 in a jar every month until you have $1200. Use that money exclusively for auto repairs and replenish it as necessary.
2) Use a reputable auto repair shop with a solid inspection process. Ask to see what's wrong with your vehicle and if it's broken or worn out, fix it immediately. This will prevent one broken part from wearing out another part in the same system. For example, a bad wheel bearing can crack your brake pads and a bad idler pulley can shred your serpentine belt. Fixing problems soon is a simple way to avoid additional expenses. When looking for a reputable shop remember there are 2 ways to be dishonest: 1) telling a customer to repair something that isn't broken and 2) not telling them about something that is broken. Find a shop that cares about your safety and will share the complete condition of your car on every visit.
3) Follow your maintenance schedule, especially fluids. Old brake fluid can cause seized calipers. Old coolant can eat away at hoses and coolant passages. Fluids are important and are much cheaper to maintain than repairing what they can damage.
4) Consider affordable repairs when you buy a vehicle. Imported vehicles often cost more to repair. Trucks cost more than cars to repair. Tire prices increase dramatically with the size of the rim and the weight of the vehicle. There are many more considerations, but choosing a vehicle that is affordable to maintain can make a massive impact on your ability to actually maintain it well.
Following these tips can save you big dollars. I've see customers literally spend thousands of dollars that were unnecessary because they didn't follow one of these four tips. Following all four tips can save you even more.
We get this question a lot here at the shop. It especially comes up when the cost of a repair approaches the value of a car. The best answer is that it is almost always cheaper to fix a car than it is to buy a different one. Only in very rare circumstances such as a transmission or a motor replacement, does it make sense to replace the entire vehicle and even then it can be cost effective to perform the repair. Here's how the math shakes out:
Including depreciation, interest, repairs, and maintenance a new vehicle costs about $5800 per year to own. The same expenses on a used vehicle add up to $3200 per year. That's a savings of $2600 per year! (I excluded license plates and insurance because it varies so much be inevitably a used car is cheaper here too.) The savings is even greater if you have the vehicle paid off because there is no interest to pay.
However, vehicles are emotional for most people. Many of my customers can't bear the thought of spending $1200 on a $2500 car even if it saves them $2600 that year.
The benefits to repairing a vehicle exceed the cost savings in other ways too. First, you know it has been cared for and who cared for it. Second, you might also know that there are no major hidden problems to surprise you. Third, you position yourself to take advantage of the full value of the repairs you've paid for. Fourth, it's also greener to repair a vehicle than replace one. New cars take many more resources to produce than repairing old vehicles, and scrap yards are not exactly environmentally friendly places.
At some point a vehicle will come to the end of its life but that point is usually much farther along than most people are willing to go. At that point we can help you make that determination. In the meantime, consider the significant cost savings and investment of repairing your vehicle. What would you buy with $2600 extra per year?