Personal Finance

5 Tips to Save Money on Car Maintenance

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Everything is more expensive in today’s marketplace, and you likely have a high monthly car payment to go along with all your other expenses. If you’re about to purchase a new vehicle, that number could be alarming.

According to data from Edmunds, the median monthly car payment on a new car reached an all-time high of $702 a month as of July 2022. The average length of those auto loans was 70.4 months – just shy of six years.

With costs high for purchasing a vehicle, saving has never been more important. Consumers have a vested interest in extending the lives of their vehicles. With that in mind, here are five ways you can save money on car maintenance.

1. An Oil Change Can Usually Wait Past 3,000 Miles

All your life, you’ve likely been told to change your oil every 3,000 miles. It’s outdated advice, and especially if you have a newer car, you can hold out significantly longer before changing your oil.

Make sure to check the owner’s manual for your car, but most modern engines only need an oil change every 5,000 to 7,500 miles. And if your car requires full synthetic motor oil, you could drive up to 15,000 miles in between oil changes.

Oil changes are the bread and butter of service shops, and they want you to get your oil changed often because it provides them more opportunity to upsell you on different services. Get your oil changed only when your car needs it, so that money stays in your pocket. Depending on your car’s manufacturer requirements, this could save at least half the money spent on oil changes annually.

2. Negotiate on Every Service

You may or may not be comfortable with negotiating. But keep this in mind: It’s not just when purchasing a car that negotiating is an important tactic – it’s useful for every single service done to your car.

Here’s the thing about car services and repairs – whether it’s an alignment, tire rotation, oil change, or anything else, the service writer has a price they want to sell it for and a price they can’t go below. You want to pay the latter of the two. Of course, you won’t know that number, but a good rule of thumb is to ask for a steep discount and let them tell you how far they can go down. Anything you get helps you save money.

Before you head to the dealership or auto repair shop, do some homework online to determine a fair price for the service, including what competitors in your area charge. Keep in mind that dealerships usually charge the highest prices on all types of repairs and maintenance services. Check their website for coupons and discounts.

Having these prices at your disposal gives you power. You always have the ability to walk away from any dealership or auto repair shop. And if you tell them you’re going somewhere else, it could magically bring the quoted price down and save you money.

3. Keep Your Tires Properly Inflated

Preventative maintenance is often the most effective maintenance. One of the easiest things you can do to save money is to make sure your tires are properly inflated

Having the proper amount of air in your tires not only saves you money, it also helps keep you safe on the road. If your tire pressure is too low or too high, you are at an increased risk of an accident. Maintaining the correct pressure level (psi) also prolongs the life of your tires and helps you to maximize your gas mileage. Tires also wear faster if they are not properly inflated, which means you will replace your tires more often and pay more money.

According to the Tire Industry Association, you should check your tire pressure once a month and before you go on any long trips. The appropriate air pressure levels for the tires on your vehicle can often be found on a sticker on the driver’s side doorjamb or on the tire itself. You can also check your owner’s manual. Many gas stations and tire centers will let you check and fill the air in your tires for free.

4. Do Not Flush Your Money on Flushes

To be clear, this isn’t to say you should never have any fluid flushes. However, dealerships and auto shops may tell you that a transmission or coolant flush is recommended every so many miles. Well, who recommends it? And do you really need it as often as they say?

With transmission fluid, manufacturers often recommend a flush every 100,000 miles, while some Ford transmissions can go up to 150,000 miles. Mechanics may suggest a transmission fluid flush every 50,000 miles. Consult your owner’s manual, since the numbers vary depending on make and model.

There is no universal standard for how often to flush engine coolant. A general rule is every 30,000 miles or two years, but check your manufacturer’s recommendation, as you may not need it that often. Sometimes your car will tell you that it’s time to get the coolant flushed.

If your coolant color is brown instead of green or orange, that is a clear sign it is time to change it. Coolant tubes being clogged is another clear sign, but that is rarer and usually only occurs after a very long period of time between flushes.

5. Get Aligned Only When Necessary

If you go into a tire shop for any type of service, they will likely recommend a wheel alignment. They may even try and sell you on a package where you pay up front to have multiple alignments done over the course of two or more years.

A general rule is to get an alignment once a year, but your vehicle may not need it that often. Consider factors such as how many miles you drive each year, what kind of tires you have, and what kind of road conditions your car normally encounters.

Some mechanics or tire shop staff members will try and convince you that you need an alignment every six months. The truth is that the way your car drives – if you notice it veering to the right or left when your hand is off the steering wheel – and other factors, such as if you run over a large pothole, will dictate when you need an alignment. You can also check your tires to see if the tread is wearing unevenly, assuming you rotate your tires at normal intervals based on your manufacturer’s recommendations for your vehicle.

These are just a few tips for saving money on your vehicle. While monthly payments and gas prices are higher than normal, it helps to look for savings wherever you can find them. If you need more flexibility to get the monthly car payment that fits your budget, Axos Bank offers auto purchase loans and auto refinances of up to 96 months.

5 Tips to Save Money on Car Maintenance

This blog post was published by Axos Bank on January 4, 2023, and last updated on January 13, 2023.

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