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May 29, 2013

On the Money: Car Maintenance

By Matthew Keegan

Once your new car warranty expires, you may begin to encounter a series of small repairs that can quickly become large projects if you do not address these problems at once. Car maintenance can be costly, but putting this off can lead to even more expensive repairs. Happily, if you budget accordingly, you can pay for your maintenance as needed, avoid expensive repairs and keep your car in top shape for longer.

1. What you spend. What did you spend on car costs last year? Pull out your maintenance and repair costs from your total costs, separating auto insurance, registration fees, fuel costs and taxes from the pack. This will be a good starting point to anticipate what you might spend in the coming year. Yes, have a calculator on hand as you can tabulate your figures with accuracy and ease.

2. Consider upcoming costs. If you have owned your car for some time, some of the more significant maintenance issues may be due. This can include replacing your timing belt, installing a new muffler, buying a new set of tires or something else. That something else may be listed in your owner’s manual, so pull that book out too. Look at the manufacturers’ maintenance schedule and compare it with your odometer. Plan to handle maintenance issues you have missed as well as those that are coming up in the next 12 months.

3. Divide and conquer. With last year’s figures in hand and your projected costs known, add these together. Divide that number by 12 to calculate your monthly average. For instance, if you estimate that maintenance will cost you $1,800 in the coming year, then you will need to set aside $150 per month to cover your expenses.

4. Stash your cash. You know how much is needed for the next 12 months and how much each month that you should set aside. You can break this down further by dividing the annual total by your number of paychecks and set that amount aside for car maintenance. Thus if you get paid ever other week than divide that $1,800 by 26 to arrive at nearly $70 per pay period. Open up a savings account and plan to fund it accordingly.

Looking Ahead

You may also want to set aside additional money toward the down payment on your next car. In fact, with careful planning, you may be able to pay cash for your new car too. Don’t put off your car maintenance savings plan or the work that needs to be done. A well maintained car will last longer and keep you and everyone else safe as well.

Matt Keegan is a freelance automotive writer. He is also a contributing writer for Andy’s Auto Sport and affiliated websites, an aftermarket supplier of quality auto parts including Flowmaster Exhaust and Injen Intakes.

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