Written by Budget Auto Repair and published on https://www.budgetautorepair.com/.
You know that sinking feeling when you see the “check engine” light illuminate your dashboard or hear strange noises coming from under your hood? That’s the dread of having to take your car to the shop and not knowing how you’ll pay for the repair. You know that sinking feeling when you see the “check engine” light illuminate your dashboard or hear strange noises coming from under your hood? That’s the dread of having to take your car to the shop and not knowing how you’ll pay for the repair.
HOW TO BUDGET FOR CAR REPAIRS
If you’ve ever experienced a situation where automotive repair or maintenance has stretched your finances to the breaking point, you know the importance of factoring possible car repairs and maintenance into your household budget. Automotive maintenance can run from hundreds of dollars to over a thousand dollars and, if you’re not ready for it, you can easily get in trouble when juggling other bills and expenses.
If you manage your budget, I’m sure you’ve included any monthly car payments and your auto insurance in that budget. But have you also set aside money for automotive repair and maintenance? If not, that’s a hole in your budget that can leave you short on money when you least expect it.
It would be nice if owning an automobile didn’t require so many payments and costs, but the reality is that driving a car can be inherently expensive. It’s important to make sure that you’re anticipating the cost of keeping your car running smoothly and reliably.
Making a Household Budget
Hopefully, you’re already in the practice of making a household budget for all your expenses and income sources. If not, you might want to strongly consider starting to do so. You’ll see that by creating a household budget, your expenses will suddenly stop being so unexpected and you’ll no longer feel so stressed about money.
Without a budget, you’re going by a gut feeling for how much you’re spending versus how much money you’re bringing in. The problem is that a gut feeling can only be so accurate, and from time to time you’re going to end up surprised by an expense, maybe even having to take out a short term loan to make ends meet. In the long run, making a household budget puts you on sure footing when it comes to your personal finances.
So, what goes into a household budget? Rent or mortgage payments, utilities like power and water, groceries and other food items are in a budget. Any kind of insurance you pay for is also included, as are cable, phone, and Internet bills. You’ll also want to factor in entertainment options like going to the movies, attending sporting events, and other outings. And you’ll definitely want to include some money for periodic automobile repairs and maintenance.
The Importance of Automotive Maintenance
We all know the nightmare scenario as a car owner: An unexpected breakdown that takes the car out of commission and costs hundreds of dollars or more to fix. In some cases, there’s nothing you can do to prevent an automotive breakdown. But, following a regular schedule of auto maintenance can prevent many serious automotive breakdowns and issues.
This regular maintenance prevents little problems from becoming big problems. Spending smaller amounts of money to stay on top of the health of your car can pay big dividends in avoiding the kinds of major car trouble that take a huge bite out of your finances.
The good news when it comes to budgeting for automotive maintenance is that most types of maintenance are recommended at regular intervals. That means you can anticipate months in advance when you’ll need to bring your car in, and make sure your budget accounts for it.
Routine Automotive Maintenance
Your car works harder than any piece of machinery you likely own, logging hundreds or thousands of miles at high speed each month. Your tires, engine, brakes and all other car components are put under repeated stress on a daily basis.
That kind of wear and tear takes a toll, eventually. In order to keep your car running smoothly, it’s necessary to replace and adjust certain systems in the vehicle over time. The following are a summary of some of the periodic automotive maintenance items you should anticipate in order to keep your car in tip-top shape.
(Please note that with all of the below items, the average cost is based on a nation-wide average. You may find prices to be slightly lower or higher depending on your region. And in addition, there are always certain extras or special circumstances that can result in a higher or lower price.)
Recommended Interval: Every 3,000 Miles or Three Months
Average Cost: $46
Perhaps the most iconic routine auto maintenance item is the oil change. Clean engine oil is essential to keeping your car running smoothly, and neglecting to change your oil can lead to engine problems like overheating that, in turn, leads to costly damage to your car.
It’s possible to change your car’s oil yourself if you’re so inclined, though the process is somewhat messy and time-consuming. Given its low cost, bringing your car into a service shop for an oil change is a reasonable alternative.
Average Interval: 50,000 Miles
Average Cost: $637 for Four Tires
The tires are your car’s only point of contact with the road, and bear the brunt of all the stopping and turning. Tires are made with sophisticated tread patterns that enhance traction and allow you to maneuver your car safely and reliably.
Over time, your tires wear down and are eventually no longer as safe or reliable. At that point, it’s necessary to replace your tires. Tire prices vary based on the type of vehicle you drive – If you have a truck or SUV, for example, expect to pay more for the right tires. There are also a wide range of tire options for differing driving conditions and related factors.
You should also be aware that the interval of tire replacement could be more or less frequent, depending on how well you keep up with other automotive maintenance as well. For instance, having periodic tire rotations can prevent uneven wear on your tires, meaning you’ll be able to go further and longer without having to replace them.
Brake Pad Replacement
Typical Interval: 25,000 to 50,000 Miles
Average Cost: $150
Brake Fluid Flush
Recommended Interval: Every 2 Years
Average Cost: $96
One of the hardest working system in your vehicle is the braking system. All that friction and heat generated by bringing over 3,000 pounds of car to a halt over and over takes its toll. There are a number of areas of the braking system that can require maintenance, and it’s important to stay up on all of them.
The two most common items of brake maintenance are replacing brake pads and getting a brake fluid flush. If you service your brakes regularly, you will greatly extend the life of parts like calipers and rotors. Repairs to other parts of the brake system tend to be far more expensive than replacing brake pads or flushing the fluid, so it pays to be attentive to routine maintenance.
Recommended Interval: 3,000 to 5,000 Miles
Average Cost: $30
The front and rear axles of your vehicle each support a different weight load. As a result, over time the front and rear tires wear at different levels. If left unchecked, driving on unevenly worn tires can cause issues with your car’s suspension and can also be less safe.
Having regular tire rotations keeps all four of your tires in roughly the same shape, which has two benefits. Number one, you avoid suspension issues and have a safer and more responsive vehicle. Number two, your tires last longer and you avoid having to replace them as often.
Recommended Interval: Every 2 Years and When Getting New Tires
Average Cost: $65
The wheels on your car are set to very specific angles so that they roll freely and correctly. Having properly aligned wheels is important because misaligned wheels will lead to significant uneven tire wear and can cause problems with your suspension components.
The biggest culprit in a vehicle’s wheels losing proper alignment is any kind of sudden impact. This can be anything from hitting a pothole to bumping into a curb or other stationary object to getting into a car accident. Not all impacts have the same effect on wheel alignment. A massive impact can throw alignment way out of whack instantly. With smaller impacts, the effect is gradual and cumulative.
It’s a good idea to have a wheel alignment every time you install new tires to make sure your wheel system is optimized and to do follow up maintenance having the wheels aligned every few years.
Recommended Interval: Before the Start of Each Winter Season
Average Cost: $35
You rely on your wiper blades when traveling in harsh weather conditions. It’s important to make sure your wiper blades are working properly when you need them. The rubber in your blades wears out and also dries out from summer heat. It’s a good idea to check and replace your wiper blades before bad weather starts.
Heating and Cooling System Inspection
Recommended Interval: At the Start of Each Summer or Winter Season
Average Cost: $75
Traveling in harsh conditions, whether it be heat or cold, is bearable only because of the creature comforts of your car’s AC and heating systems. Before the appropriate season, it’s a good idea to get the system you’ll be relying on checked to make sure everything is in good shape. You’re going to be using your AC or heat on a regular basis, depending on the particular season, and you want to make sure it’s not going to fail when you need it most.
It’s sometimes okay to go a year without inspection with newer vehicles. But if you haven’t had a check last year, it’s probably a good idea to bring your car in for an AC or heating inspection before the next summer or winter driving season.
The above items cover some of the most significant and important routine maintenance your car needs to run smoothly over time. Other issues will come up from time to time, whether it’s other fluid changes or changing windshield wipers. Speaking with our Automotive Experts can give you an idea of any other maintenance that might be on the horizon.
Budgeting for Unexpected Issues
The previously discussed maintenance items tend to follow a fixed schedule. That makes it easy to budget for them in advance. But to go along with budgeting for routine items, it’s also a smart move to build in some extra savings for any unexpected auto repair.
The sad fact is that sometimes a system or component in your car might just break down. Even with full vigilance and a robust maintenance schedule, sometimes a part will unexpectedly fail. Since you never know for certain when a breakdown might occur, the only way to protect yourself financially is to set aside a sum of money (typically a few hundred dollars) for use if an unexpected auto breakdown or issue occurs.
Fitting Auto Maintenance into Your Overall Budget
While this list of auto maintenance items might seem daunting or overwhelming, budgeting auto maintenance into your overall household budget isn’t all that tough to do.
Certain auto maintenance tasks have a set interval of every year, every few months, or every 2 – 3 years. For those items, it’s simple: Pick a month where you’ll begin to get that maintenance done, and then budget for that cost every future month where the cycle ends again.
For example, if you’re going to get an oil change every three months starting in March, budget for an oil change in March, then an oil change in June, then September, and so on.
For maintenance tasks with a mileage benchmark rather then a time period, you’ll need to pay attention to how many miles you drive in the average month. Once you have an idea of that, you can easily figure out when you expect to hit certain milestones requiring maintenance. The dollar figure can then be put into the appropriate timeframe so that you’re ready for it to come up.
Once you’ve assigned all routine maintenance within an expected timetable, you just need to budget for unexpected problems. At that point, you’ll have integrated auto maintenance into your overall household budget. And this will be a big step toward not having to dread the strain your car puts on your finances.
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