Last week we shared some of the best tips we could find from around the blogosphere on how to save money on car repairs. This week, I promised I would sit down with my dad for his best car advice. Everything I know about cars I learned from this man: from how to maintain your car to why it’s sometimes a good idea to buy a brand-new car. He’s busting myths and giving the advice that everyone needs to hear, saving you money on your automotive investment.
So here it is: the best car care tips from a certified automotive technician with over 35 years’ experience.What are some common mistakes people make when caring for their car?
- Not keeping track of regular car maintenance needs. When they first get the car, they do a really good job keeping track of when they need to make oil changes, etc., and then after they’ve had it a long time, they slack off. If you don’t keep up with fluid levels and air pressures in your tires every month, then it can really shorten the life of the car.
- Ignoring a potential car problem because they’re afraid of what it might be. People say, “Well, it’s been making this sound for three weeks, but I was afraid to get it looked at.” Well what if the wheel falls off?! If something really feels different or sounds different, you should get it checked out or else it will cost you money and could be unsafe.
How can car owners save money on auto repairs?
- Follow the owner’s manual for its own maintenance schedule. Each car can vary a lot in what needs to be taken care of and when, so checking that can help you a lot.
- Shop around for tires - that’s a big ticket item that varies in price and sometimes go on sale.
- Keeping track of everything you have done on your car. “I have one customer who keeps a spreadsheet of everything done to her car - oil changes, brakes, fluids, etc. Every time she comes in to get something checked on her car, she prints off the sheet and gives it to me. It’s great because I can see the entire history of the car and won’t do excess repairs. She proactively keeps track of things and saves money that way. She can’t do any repairs herself, but helps us out and saves money because of it.”
- Purchase a AAA Membership, especially if you're driving an old beat-up car that is always breaking down. You will probably save big money in the long run with all the repairs and maintenance you’ll be needing.
What are the most important regular maintenance actions to take on your car?
- If you don’t change the oil, you’re done. Then the engine is ruined and your car won’t be worth anything. “You have to remember that all the fluids are there for a reason, and they have jobs to do. If you let them go too long and wear out, then their job is going to wear out too.”
- Rotate your tires and replace them before they are bald. If you rotate the tires at the proper intervals for that car, then you’ll get the most out of your tires and you’ll get the most money for your tires. This is also a very important safety issue.
- Check your tires’ air pressure. “If people would check their air pressure once a month, they would last longer. At a minimum they need to be checked every season because of climate changes.”
People say that they don’t like to buy a new car because it loses money as soon as it drives off the lot. What is your opinion on "buying a new car vs used car”?
- Most of the time you can find a car that is one or two years old and get a better deal on it.
- BUT you have to weigh that out with the economy - right now used cars are selling sometimes higher than new cars. “Dealers are trying so hard to sell new cars, they are discounting them so much, they have zero miles, and they usually have warranties and protection.”
- “The biggest waste of money on new cars is the special extended warranties they try to sell you on. Those aren’t even worth the paper they are printed on.” They have tons of specific rules that you have to follow, and they have a very specific list of things they will cover.
- Also, extra warranties usually come from third parties, so you have a hard time keeping track of who is paying what. The manufacturer of the car is not the one selling that warranty, it’s done by some other party. And those companies have a high rate of going under.
- People say, “The mechanic says every 3,000 miles, but you can really go twice that before you need an oil change.” It depends on your driving habits and where you are going, but you should definitely check it regularly. Most people need it changed around 3,000 miles, especially if you are just driving around town.
- More expensive oils and synthetic oils do last longer and are better for your car. That is one place where it’s worth it to spend a little extra.
- It’s a total lie, but when you buy a new car, the dealer will tell you that if you don’t go to the dealer for all your service or else your warranty will be void. That is completely untrue: as long as you follow the owner’s manual and keep track of everything you get done, you will be totally fine.
What’s the craziest costly car mistake you’ve ever seen a customer make?
- “The biggest thing is that when the warning lights come on, and things start buzzing, and the car is saying that there is a problem - you really need to shut it down. People say, ‘Well, I was only ten miles from home, so I just thought I could make it.’ But then next thing, your engine or transmission is totally gone and that’s going to cost you a whole lot more than a tow truck.”