Let’s face it. Cars are expensive! Between the initial costs of buying a car, putting gas in the tank, paying for insurance and making sure it’s maintained, owning a car can be one of the most expensive things in your budget.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be so costly. Many of the things you’ve been taught to do for your car are less for your vehicle’s health and more to help retailers drain your wallet. We’ve collected the top 10 ways your car is draining your money so you can avoid some of these rather pointless monetary wastes in the future:
- Premium Gasoline
It might be tempting to shell out for the most expensive gasoline available. We get it — you love your car and want the best for it, but premium gasoline is not the way to go unless using a lesser octane is causing your engine to knock. Trust your owner’s manual on this one: If it doesn’t specifically recommend high octane gas, you’re just throwing your money away.
- Dealer Repairs
If you’ve got a warranty that already covers all of your repair costs, then disregard this one. For the rest of us, though, going to the dealer for repairs or routine maintenance is a huge waste of money. Independent shops, at least those that employ ASE certified mechanics, do the job as well or better than the dealership without the excessive cost.
- Oil Changes – Part 1
This tends to be a two-fold problem. One, you’re probably changing your oil too often. Many manufacturers’ recommend waiting until you’ve reached 5,000 miles or in some cases even longer to change your oil. The 3 months/3,000 miles rule is a marketing ploy at this point.
- Oil Changes – Part 2
The second problem most people run into with oil changes is spending too much on the service. This may be because you’re going to the dealer (as mentioned in #9) or because you’re not doing it yourself. If you’re handy with a wrench, changing your oil yourself can save you a ton of money in the long run. Otherwise, look for sales at your local shops and get it done then!
- Check Engine Lights
We’ve all done it — ignored a check engine light or even put a little piece of electrical tape over the dash so we didn’t have to look at it anymore. That can be a costly mistake because small issues that may trigger the check engine light can become worse if ignored. Many parts stores, like AutoZone or Advance, offer free code reading, so you’ve got nothing to lose!
- Neglecting Your Filters
We all know to change the oil and air filters, but when was the last time you changed your fuel filter? A clogged fuel filter can become an expensive repair and compromise your car’s fuel efficiency.
- Underinflated Tires
Walking around the car to check the air pressure in each tire can be a pain, but it’s a great way to save money in the long run. Improperly inflated tires affect fuel efficiency, wear out quickly (often requiring costly replacements) and can even blow out if not correctly maintained.
- Idling Your Car
Sometimes idling is unavoidable — at a stop light, in slow-moving traffic or when trying to warm up your car in freezing temperatures. However, restarting your engine uses less gas than idling your car for 10 seconds. When you can, don’t idle.
- Flushing Coolant
Yes, you do periodically need to flush out your cooling system, but it’s not nearly as often as you think. Most new coolant only needs to be changed every 5 years or 50,000 miles, but that may vary because of your car’s make, model or year.
- Expensive Extras
Sure, that onboard navigation or movie system might be tempting, but you probably have a smart phone or tablet computer that does all of that and more for a fraction of the price.
Onboard navigation can cost thousands of dollars. You can buy a Garmin or other dashboard GPS for less than $200, or simply use your phone to navigate. Think about that the next time a car salesman talks about all the benefits of onboard navigation!
While things like coolant and oil changes are necessities, there’s no reason you should have to break the bank to keep your car on the road.