A College Kid’s Guide to Saving on Car Maintenance
As a frugal college student with a lot on your plate, you might be putting off a much-needed oil change or new set of tires for your ride. But by avoiding basic car maintenance, you could actually be setting yourself up for much more expensive repairs and replacements down the road. Don’t miss these helpful tips on how to save some cash while keeping your vehicle well-maintained.
- DIY as much as you can.
If you’ve ever gotten repairs done by a professional, you know that labor costs can add up very quickly—sometimes exceeding the cost of the replacement parts themselves. That’s why it can really pay to do simple car maintenance tasks yourself. There are plenty of easy online tutorials about changing your oil, spark plugs, filters, and fluids so that you don’t have to pay through the nose for basic upkeep.
- Find a trusted mechanic.
For the car maintenance you can’t complete on your own, like when your car shakes when accelerating, it’s wise to research an affordable, reliable mechanic in your area. Honest business practices and competitive prices can save you thousands of dollars in the long run (not to mention a ton of hassle). Check online reviews, and speak with friends and family to see who they recommend. Your auto insurance company may also be able to help you find a trusted garage.
- Don’t change your oil too often.
Did you know that the vast majority of cars on the road today don’t actually need their oil changed every 3,000 miles? This myth comes from a time when it actually wasn’t a myth at all, but rather a good rule of thumb given available oil technology.
Fast-forward to today, and you’ll see huge tech improvements that allow for much longer intervals between changes. Even a lot of older vehicles can go between 5,000 and 15,000 miles between oil changes, given normal driving conditions.
- Never ignore warning lights.
Some of your car’s warning lights are notoriously vague, so they tend to get ignored (we’re looking at you, “check engine” light). But even if the issue is as simple as a loose gas cap, it’s important to investigate any potential problems as soon as possible after a warning light comes on.
For instance, your oil light could just mean you need to schedule your next oil change—but it could also signal a change in oil pressure that can prove disastrous to your engine if you continue to drive much further. If you see your car’s oil light come on while you’re on the road, safely pull over to help ensure a small problem doesn’t become a much larger one.
Many vehicles have digital odometers that provide trouble codes related to the specific issue at hand, which you can then look up in your owner’s manual or online to narrow down the problem.
- Try shopping warehouse stores for tires.
Warehouse stores are good for more than just a lifetime supply of toilet paper—they can actually offer some of the best prices available when it comes to new tires for your ride, so don’t forget to include them in your search. But it’s also important to note that specialty tire stores might have better warranties and/or other policies regarding rotation, balancing, and damage, so be thorough in your research before finalizing your purchase.
Another pro tip? Keep your tires inflated to the manufacturer’s recommended level, since underinflated tires can wear down faster and negatively impact your gas mileage.
- Bring your own parts.
Did you know that many mechanics will install replacement parts you’ve purchased in advance? Whether you buy them online or at an auto parts store, you may be able to find lower base prices and/or discounts on what you need.
- Keep your battery clean.
We rarely think about our car batteries until they die and we’re stuck on the side of the road. But by keeping your battery clean, you can significantly increase its lifetime. Simply use a toothbrush and a solution of baking soda and water to gently scrub off corrosion from your car battery’s terminals.
Bonus tip: Don’t forget to maintain your car insurance policy
In most states, you can’t hit the road unless you carry current car insurance. But insurance does a lot more than just enable you to drive—it financially protects you and your passengers from a whole host of very real hazards.
So to keep things simple (and inexpensive), make sure your auto insurance policy never lapses. Not only would you be without the protection you legally need to get from A to B, but a lapse also typically means higher insurance premiums the next time you do get a policy.