Enjoy Cars

5 Things You Can Do To Help Your Car Last Longer

Meaghan Hunt  |  December 10, 2021

Car prices have gone from high to haywire during the pandemic. Here are some tips for keeping you in your car – and out of the car market – for as long as possible.

The pandemic has done strange things to the economy, including the used car market. Since March 2020, used car prices have increased by almost 40%. And whether you own your car outright and are factoring its value into your net worth, or you’re just starting to shop for a new ride, such a spike is likely to impact your wallet somehow. 

With cars in both new and used condition garnering higher prices, you may wish to hang onto your 10-year-old sedan for just a little longer, at least until the market levels out. So how can you make sure you’re getting the most from your vehicle? What are the best tips for making your used car last longer? We’ve pulled together five of the top ways you can ensure you’re doing what you can to drive the ride you’re in for as long as possible.

1. Keep Up with Maintenance

Whether it’s a trip through the car wash on your lunch break or taking her in for scheduled maintenance, doing the “little things” can add up to a lot of savings, especially after you cross the 100k mark. These include:

  • Regular oil changes
  • Tire rotation – One easy way to remember this is by doing it along with each oil change.
  • Routine maintenance – See your owner’s manual for a checklist of recommended services by mileage. Check these services against what your mechanic proposes before getting started. Ask for a print-out you can check by line-item, so you can ensure you aren’t receiving (or paying for) any unnecessary parts or work.
  • Regular car washes and interior cleanings will keep your car’s paint and upholstery in the best condition possible, helping your car to retain its maximum value.

Keeping up with regular costs may feel tedious, but these expenditures are worth it in the long haul and easier to budget for than an unexpected check-engine light. 

2. Plan for Replacement Costs

Over time, you’ll need to replace your car’s “wear items”:  tires, breaks, and spark plugs, for starters. Further down the line, you’ll face belt replacements and other, more costly work. As with betting on routine maintenance, planning out these costs in advance will help– preventative replacement is almost always going to make more financial sense than waiting for a part to fail. A sinking fund is an excellent approach for saving toward these expenses. Consider setting a bit of money aside with each paycheck so that a $1,500 or $3,000 cost you can predict years in advance won’t set you back. 

3. Zero To 60 in 5.2? Not So Fast. 

Give your car a minute upon startup, no matter how new or old it is. This allows the oil to warm to the right temperature and prime through the engine, says Alex Leanse of YourMechanic.com. “Waiting a minute for this to happen prolongs your engine’s lifespan,” says Leanse. So while you’re fiddling with your GPS, queuing up your podcasts, and adjusting your sunglasses, give your car a moment to breathe. Doing so will be best for the engine– and will score you bonus safety points for getting settled before hitting the road.

4. Learn Something Small

Even if you aren’t a hands-on sort of car owner, learning a couple of key routine fixes can help you to save big bucks over time. Buddy up with a handy family member, roommate, or heck, even your friend’s S.O. to learn how to replace your windshield wipers or cabin air filter. Even if handypeople don’t surround you, the folks at your closest auto parts retailer can probably sneak to the parking lot for a quick lesson– and there’s always YouTube, of course. Once you’ve learned to do these things once, you’ll likely use the knowledge over and over. So whether it’s replacing a bulb or swapping out the battery in your car’s remote, learning something small can be shockingly easy– and empowering. You’ll save a trip to the shop while you’re at it.

5. Make Friends with Your Mechanic

Sooner or later, it’s going to pay off if you have a regular mechanic. You’ll build a rapport with someone who knows your car, is familiar with its quirks, and has experience troubleshooting issues on similar vehicles. Having a particular point-person for all things automotive can also ensure you address issues as soon as they come up– and refrain from driving around with that weird squeak every time you hang a left-hand turn. 

Ask around to find someone with a good reputation. Pick the brains of your co-workers, your book club members, and others in your regular orbit– do they have a local mechanic they like? Once multiple sources point to the same person, ask yourself: are you comfortable talking to them? Is this a person you can ask questions of? Like you would with a solid hairstylist or veterinarian, find someone whose expertise you trust. They know as well as you do that good advice will eventually play in their favor.

Adopting some small, regular habits will save you money over time — and keep you in your car longer. Even if you don’t have a track record of bringing your car in for consistent maintenance and repairs, you can start now! Consider the few-hundred bucks you’re saving each month by not having a car payment, and that extra stop for an oil change on the way home won’t seem like such a hassle. 

Most of us can’t point to a glove box full of perfectly-kept maintenance records, and that’s okay. Expected, even. What’s important is that you tune in now to the anticipated needs of your car and plan accordingly. Your ride and your wallet will thank you!

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