True cost of not maintaining your car
Getting the best deal
It's a mistake to delay routine maintenance simply because your budget is tight, Reed says. Instead, he recommends learning more about your car's basic maintenance requirements before you take the car to the shop.
"I don't want to tell anybody to skip anything. Instead, the best way to save money when you're going to get your car serviced is to know exactly what's required, and have that done and nothing more," he says.
People who know little about their cars sometimes are persuaded to undertake repairs that may not be necessary, Reed says.
"I recently took my truck in to be serviced, but before I went, I looked online and saw that the estimated cost should be $152," Reed says. "When I went in, the service person tried to recommend that I get extra work done that would bring the total to $382. I challenged him, and he literally tossed the higher estimate in the trash and told me I was right. He did that because I did the research and had the verification."
Lynn agrees that a car owner can save money simply by knowing what routine maintenance is required on the car and when the maintenance is scheduled.
Another way to stretch your dollars is to find a good, trustworthy mechanic, she says.
"There is a fear factor people have when it comes to taking their car to the shop," says Lynn. "To get over the fear, you've got to find an auto repair shop that you're comfortable with. Get recommendations from friends. Then, ask the mechanic about his or her credentials."
Following your car manufacturer's recommendations for oil changes, tire rotations and routine checkups requires relatively little upfront cost. However, the benefits can pay off in the long run with better fuel economy, an engine that runs well and a longer car life.
Must-do car maintenance
When it comes to car maintenance, pinching pennies in the short run can lead to hefty repair bills down the line. The following slideshow compares the cost of five types of maintenance against the price of repairs that may be necessary if you ignore the car's suggested service schedule.
Total cost of maintaining car
Total cost of not maintaining car
|Regular oil changes|
Regular oil changes help keep your engine clean and lubricated. Oil cuts down on the friction that can literally wear away the parts of the engine. Change your oil every 3,000 miles or three months, or follow the manufacturer's recommendations for your specific car.
One year of oil changes
Cost of engine replacement
Rotating tires -- switching the tire position from front to rear and vice versa -- helps them wear equally. A tire rotation should generally be done every 6,000 miles, or as often as the car manufacturer recommends.
Tire rotation every 6,000 miles
|$350 - $600
Cost of tire replacement
|Timing belt replacement|
Replacing the timing belt at the manufacturer's suggested interval can save big bucks. If the timing belt fails, the engine will cut off and the car will slow down until it stops. A lucky car will only require a belt repair. An unlucky car could suffer severe engine damage.
Replacing timing belt
Repairing valves and other parts
Brake disc pads and shoes eventually wear down. Checking your brakes annually allows you to spot wear before it's too late. By contrast, neglecting regular brake work could eventually lead to more costly rotor or disc replacements.
|$150 to $375
Replacing brake pads or shoes
|$300 to $600
Repairing rotors or drums
|PCV valve replacement|
The positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) system regulates the flow of fumes around the engine, which helps protect the seals and gaskets on an engine.
Replacing PCV valve every 30,000 miles
|$100 to $1,000+
New valve cover and/or head gasket
|Changing plugs, filters|
The best way to improve the odds of passing an emissions test is to maintain your vehicle. A well-maintained engine is usually a clean engine. Such basic maintenance includes changing the spark plugs and filters.
Cost of changing plugs, filters
|$335 to $700+
Cost of getting car to compliance