If you want to avoid nasty and unexpected surprise maintenance costs, sticking to a regimented schedule of preventative maintenance
is something you are going to want to get used to. The reason being is simple – frequent maintenance will keep your car in good health, ensuring you get the most out of all those expensive-to-replace parts. While it might sound counterintuitive, the best way to reduce maintenance costs is to stick to a prescribed maintenance schedule.
Keeping your vehicle's fluids new and clean is priority number one when it comes to minimizing future costs. Frequent oil changes can prevent the buildup of harmful deposits that rob your car of fuel economy and power, as well as make internal components work harder. A harder working engine is one with a shorter life span.
Unless you plan on doing engine surgery on your own, engine work is going to cost you a huge pile of money. For example, using DriverSide’s What to Pay for Service
feature, we can see that a new oil pump for a 2006 BMW 3-Series
(a part that commonly fails as a result of infrequent oil changes) will cost a hefty $815. This is easily avoided simply by changing your oil every 3,000 miles, which at a local lube shop will typically cost less than $40 per visit.
Even if your vehicle is brand new, it is a good idea to check the oil every few hundred miles. If the level slowly gets lower between oil changes, you might have an issue with your engine. The same applies for your vehicle’s brake fluid, clutch fluid (if it’s a manual transmission) or your automatic transmission fluid.
While keeping an eye on your vehicle's fluid levels is a good first step toward improving your investment's longevity, sticking to the recommended service intervals in your owner's manual is equally important.
A good example of this is a timing belt replacement. Timing belts and chains keep the different parts of a car’s engine in sync with each other and on average should be replaced every 60,000 miles. Because of the infrequency of a timing belt change, it can be easy to overlook this vital service – especially considering it often requires over $800 in labor alone. However, waiting another 5-10k miles is not advised, as the results could result in a catastrophic engine head failure, a repair that could cost you over double the amount of a timing belt service.
Different manufacturers allow for different time periods between required maintenance. While it may look expensive to go about replacing your air filter, changing your oil and rotating your tires every few thousand miles, the preventative care saves you money in the long run. For a general idea, you can check out our guide to car maintenance.
That said, there are a few ways to trim dollars from your regular maintenance schedule. By and large, private, independent shops
charge less than licensed dealers because they have access to less expensive aftermarket parts as opposed to typically pricier Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) parts. If your vehicle is out of warranty there’s little reason to use the dealer over a local shop, and if the local guys are charging less money, then by all means use them. You can use DriverSide to find and rate local mechanics for your specific vehicle.
Don’t forget to save all your service receipts. Not only are they good to have for reminders, but having them available for potential buyers will also increase the residual value of your car.