Keep Your Ride Running On A Budget

Did you fall for the Cash For Clunker’s caper? Or did you keep your wits about you and resist the urge to trade in your paid off car for a $25,000 car loan? If you were among the wisest Americans, you didn’t let a temporary government program trick you into going into debt for a newer mode of transportation that loses up to 20 percent of it’s value just by driving it off the lot.

52nd Annual Antique & Classic Car Meet - Stowe, VT The best way to keep a car running well on a budget is:

  • Preventive maintenance
  • A little love

If you’re one of the ones who waited and decided that having NO car note was much more desirable than the fleeting flashiness of a new car, you may now be wondering how to make your current vehicle last. What can you do to keep your ride running … on a budget?

1. Take care of those tires

Tires are where the rubber meets the road (sorry for the pun) and they’re what keeps your car stable. Keep them properly inflated and rotated. Rotating tires can extend their life by up to 25 percent.

2. Get into a routine

Routine maintenance such as changing your fluids regularly (oil, transmission, coolant, etc) is one way to insure your car’s engine and moving parts are properly lubricated and cared for. Those fluids can suffer from viscosity breakdown over time or under heat. That’s a complicated way of saying they just don’t work properly and need to be replaced.

3. Don’t ignore warning lights

When ANY warning light comes on, get it checked out. Many auto parts stores have the computers to do a free diagnostic check and tell you what is wrong. Many times it’s a VERY simple fix but if it isn’t, at least you have a third party telling you what’s wrong rather than a mechanic who might be exaggerating the problem or misdiagnosing it.

4. Drive smart

Aggressive driving – rapid acceleration, hard braking, long period of idling – will wear your car out prematurely. Take it easy on your baby.

5. Respond quickly to any recall notices

That problem you keep having may not be unique to your car. Ask if there have been any recalls that address your recurring problems and respond quickly if there are. Sometimes safety information can arrive from a car manufacturer and look like junk mail, so open anything that looks like it came from your car manufacturer or dealer.

6. Ask about coupons and discounts

Repair shops have jumped on the customer loyalty bandwagon and may offer a frequent customer discount or coupon for regular maintenance items. Check out those bulk coupon envelopes that occasionally come in the mail and see if there are any automotive coupons you could score.

7. Stay on track

Keep up with those maintenance schedules (you can find many of them online). Inspect and replace belts, hoses, and clamps when they show wear. Replace your timing belt when the manufacturer recommends it.

Maintenance and repairs are always cheaper than buying a new car

Sure, the idea of dropping a few hundred — or even a few thousand — dollars into your jalopy may make you wince. But buying a new car could easily set you back $25,000 or even more, especially when you factor in the taxes, registration fees, increased car insurance, and interest on your loan. What’s more, the average new car loses 20 percent of its value as soon as it’s driven off the lot. On a $25,000 car, that’s a $5,000 loss off the top, not to mention the 7 to 12 percent the car will depreciate every year. By way of comparison, it’s hard to imagine sinking $5,000 into car repairs and maintenance.

Photo by pdbreen

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