From gas to repairs — the cost of keeping your vehicle on the road sure can add up fast! Some things are worth the extra cash, but a lot of fixes don’t have to be so expensive. To help you keep those bills low, we polled the pros on savvy ways to save hundreds on car expenses.
Do easy car repairs yourself.
“Air filters (located near the front of your engine) need to be changed about every 30,000 miles. And you can perform this easy maintenance task in under 5 minutes, saving $60 on labor. Need new windshield wiper blades? Save $70 by changing them yourself,” says money-saving expert Andrea Woroch. “Visit YouTube to find step-by-step videos to guide you through these simple jobs.”
Save money on gas.
Jeannie Assimos, car savings blogger, advises us to save on car expenses by staying fuel efficient: “Sure, you know that finding a gas station with the lowest price will save you on fuel. But there are also simple techniques you can use to ensure fuel efficiency! In fact, just being gentle on your gas and brake pedals can decrease your annual expenses by $500 to $1,000! This means slowly pressing down instead of stomping on the pedal while accelerating and braking, or slowing down early instead of slamming on the brakes at the last minute before coming to a stop.”
Let students do the work.
“Looking at a big repair? Call trade colleges that teach automotive classes in your area and see if you can get your car fixed there. The work is mostly done by a teacher or under supervision, and most allow you to bring your own discounted parts,” says Forbes Finance Council member Anthony Martin. “A dealership will quote rates as high as 50 percent more to do the same work, plus charge for marked-up parts.”
Extend your car battery life.
Automotive expert Matas Buzelis tells us that when cars are “left to sit, corrosion (grainy, whitish or light-blue buildup) around the battery terminals at the front of the battery can cause the battery to short-circuit. To avoid the need for a replacement, which can cost $250, clean any corrosion by brushing a mix of baking soda and water onto the terminals with a clean toothbrush. Also, be sure to tighten cable connections, an easy task that will help extend your battery’s life as well.”
Keep tires inflated.
“Tires low on air require more engine power to rotate, causing them to wear out quickly, and costing $80 to $150 a pop to replace, warns Richard Reina, product training director at CaRiD, an automative parts and accessories company. “And driving with tires that aren’t properly inflated creates a ripple effect of issues on other areas of your car, like the brakes (new brake pads can cost $150 each). The cheap fix: Check the suggested pressure for each tire, usually located in the driver’s door jamb, and use your local gas station’s air pump (some are free, some cost about $1) to refill tires at least once a month.”
Consider pre-owned equipment.
Replacement car parts are always expensive, especially for those of us who live in wintry climates — the salt on the roads, the ice and snow — these are all hard on your car. Car expert Andy Jensen tells us not to be afraid of pre-owned car parts. “In need of a new door or window? You can find used ones in perfect shape for less than half the price of brand-new. For important engine parts, such as fuel injectors or alternators, it also pays to opt for rebuilt parts instead of new ones. Similar to certified pre-owned cars, rebuilt parts have been examined and offer a warranty with a price tag that’s typically 20 to 40 percent less than new. Simply ask your mechanic if they can find pre-owned parts for you or call your local salvage yards or used auto parts stores to buy them yourself.”
Head to the dollar store for low-cost cleaners.
When it comes to car cleaning products, mom of three Jenny Adams says it’s worth it to stick to generic. “Keeping a car’s interior dust- and crumb-free ensures air vents don’t clog and cause the heater or A/C to work harder, upping gas use and the need for repairs. So I hit Dollar Tree’s automotive aisle for things like wipes and Armor All and the toy aisle for slime — it’s what detailers press against crevices in your car to get every last bit of debris out!”
Fuel up when the tank hits here.
“As your gas tank drains, the fuel pump — the tube that sends gas from the tank into the engine — becomes hotter and hotter. So when you fill an empty gas tank, the cold fuel coming in against the hot pump can give the car and the tank a shock. Doing this regularly can cause your car’s fuel pump to burn out prematurely,” says travel blogger Sylvie Coleman. “The typical cost to repair or replace it? More than $1,000. The simple solution: Instead of waiting until the yellow ‘empty’ light comes on to fill up your gas tank, strive to always keep your tank above one-quarter of the way full. This will ensure your car continues to run in optimal condition.”
This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.