Buying a new car is expensive and a luxury not everyone can afford. Unfortunately, buying a used car nowadays isn’t much easier. At the end of 2021, new car prices shot up to record highs, and the demand for used vehicles is driving up their cost even more, too.
Because of these high price tags and the overall state of the economy, now is a good time to hold off on buying a car and focusing on extending the life of your current vehicle.
Guest Post by Katie Brenneman. Photo by Connor Forsyth
You don’t need to be a mechanic or even have much knowledge about car maintenance to properly care for yours and get the most out of it. Even if you currently drive an older vehicle, taking care of it properly can extend its life by thousands of miles. By the time you’re ready to trade-in or sell, the market might be different and you can afford something newer.
In the meantime, if you’re trying to save money, let’s cover a few helpful tips that can make it easier to extend the life of your car.
Perform Regular Maintenance
Don’t let looking under the hood of your car scare you. Again, you don’t have to know a lot about how your vehicle works to learn a few DIY maintenance hacks. Not only can doing certain things yourself save you money, but you’ll feel more confident in driving an older vehicle, knowing you can take care of small issues whenever they might arise.
Some of the easiest car repairs and maintenance techniques that you can learn quickly include:
- Changing brake pads
- Replacing the battery
- Changing your oil
- Replacing spark plugs
- Changing broken windshield wipers
- Changing the air filter
Most of these fixes are quick and easy for mechanics, and the parts needed don’t cost much. Unfortunately, labor can cost quite a bit, especially when it’s in high demand. Brake pads, for example, only cost about $35-$150 each. But, a mechanic can charge up to $300 to install them. By learning how to do it yourself, you’ll be able to put the money you save toward a different car in the future.
All it takes to perform routine maintenance and repairs on your vehicle is a little time, training, and tools. If you have a specific issue with your vehicle that you know needs attention, do your research on how to fix it. Watch video tutorials, read manuals, and don’t be afraid to ask a friend or family member who is familiar with car maintenance for help.
Most importantly, don’t wait for your car to break down or have serious maintenance issues to give it the care it deserves. Keep up with fluid changes, rotate your tires, and check the engine health regularly to make sure it’s in top shape. Waiting until you have a bigger problem might require you to take it to a mechanic, and you could end up having to spend thousands of dollars on something that could have been an easy fix before.
Change Your Driving Habits
In addition to keeping your car in shape, it might be time to “shape up” your driving habits.
If you’ve been getting behind the wheel for years, you might be raising an eyebrow in confusion right about now. But, your habits on the road can impact your car more than you realize.
For example, how you drive can affect how much gas you use and how quickly you use it. You can optimize your driving (and your gas consumption) by:
- Avoiding rush-hour traffic (stop-start traffic is hard on your car and burns more fuel)
- Combining errands into one trip
- Using your vehicle’s technology to maximize fuel economy
- Avoiding idling
- Coasting whenever possible
Finding ways to reduce your fuel consumption will help you to save money, and most of those habitual changes are easier on your vehicle, too.
You can also adopt driving habits that will extend the life of your engine – the heart of your vehicle. Things like driving the speed limit, staying away from rough roads, and driving regularly for increased circulation can all keep your engine in good shape and help you to avoid any major issues with it that could cost a lot of money to repair.
The most important thing to keep in mind? Drive safely, slowly, and smoothly. You’ll have an easier time extending the life of your car if you don’t accelerate too quickly, drive too fast, or start down the road before your car has a chance to warm up. Be patient as a driver, and your car will reward you for it.
Keep it Clean
You might not immediately think the cleanliness of your vehicle has a lot to do with how long it lasts. But, it can make a difference.
Keeping your car’s interior and exterior clean might not make the engine last longer. It won’t boost your tire pressure or make the vehicle more fuel-efficient. But, as with everything else, taking proper care of your vehicle will make it feel newer longer. If you ever do end up selling it or trying to trade it in, you’ll get more money back if it’s clean. Having stained seats or floors will instantly lower the resale value.
The exterior is even more important to keep clean. Think about everything your car is exposed to regularly, including:
When things like salt and sand aren’t washed away from your car, they can end up eating away at the finish. Water and snow can cause rust to develop, and certain types of road sludge can leave behind stains on light-colored cars if it isn’t washed away quickly. So, rather than strictly focusing on what’s under the hood or in your fuel tank, make sure you pay some attention to the care and cleanliness of your car.
Save Money on Expenses
Keeping your car well-maintained and cared for is the best thing you can do to extend its life and get the most out of it while you’re driving. But, if you’re trying to keep it road-worthy long enough to afford a new vehicle, think of ways to save extra money along the way.
Everything we’ve talked about, from DIY maintenance to being more fuel-efficient can keep money in your pocket. You can take things one step further by saving money on car insurance. Shop around for the best deals, look for discounts, and consider improving your car’s security for better deals.
Additionally, you can save money by shopping around for things like economy tires and cheap fuel. Doing a bit of research or downloading apps that can help you find cheap gas and discounts on certain car parts will make a big difference. You might only save a few dollars at a time, but things like that add up quickly.
There’s no denying that the new-and-used vehicle market isn’t exactly consumer-friendly right now. While things are bound to change and even out, there are things you can do to extend the life of your car while you’re waiting to buy something different. Keep these ideas in mind to keep your car safe and healthy on the road, and save a little extra cash along the way.