Another post about cars means that I did not write it….this one is by Darius, my resident car owner and expert!
You’ve done it! You researched, test drove, budgeted right, and got a great deal on the perfect ride. You drive out of the dealership under all kinds of pomp and circumstance, then you rear end another car because you were trying to figure the radio controls out. Insert WTF face here! But, really, it is the most common cause of accidents on the road. New owners distracted by their shiny new car.
Car ownership costs are one of those nebulous things that can sneak up on you if you aren’t careful. Here are some things I learned the hard way.
After you buy your car, call your insurance company before you even turn the engine on. Then drive right into a parking spot, put it in park, grab the Owner’s Manual from the glove box and spend a few minutes reading about the stuff you want to use for the trip home. You can read more once you get home. Where the radio controls are and what they do, where the climate controls are, the windshield wipers, etc… This 10 minutes can save you up to $3000 worth of repair costs. Money well saved!
Maintenance That Will Save You Money
-Tire Pressure: Most modern cars will have a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) and will display the current tire pressure (and the optimal tire pressure). The only thing on your car that touches the ground are your tires. Tire pressure is critical for efficient motoring and safe vehicle driving so, when that little orange tire light with the exclamation point illuminates, DO NOT IGNORE IT. As an example; four tires on a car that are under inflated by only 2 pounds per square inch (psi) will cost you an additional $150 in fuel costs per year.
-Oil Changes: If the car manufacturer tells you to change your oil every 5,000 miles with a full synthetic. DO IT. Motor Oil not only lubricates your engine mechanicals but it also absorbs lots of heat and removes and retains engine deposits. That is why oil goes in a golden color and comes out jet black. If you don’t change your oil regularly, your engine will slowly destroy itself. The first thing to go will be your fuel economy followed by the engine seal that keep the oil where it should be. Finally, the metal components may sieze up. So, that $50- $100 oil change could save you $300 in additional fuel expense, $4000 in engine work, and up to $10000 for a new engine. Money well saved!
-Check Engine Light: When the little orange engine light comes on, get it fixed IMMEDIATELY. That one light is attached to a very powerful and sophisticated computer that monitors over 170 different functions and sensors. There is a reason it is there and a resaon why it came on. For example, your light comes on and you ignore it. The light came on because the oxygen sensor in your emmissions control system went bad. No biggie, right? Well, that sensor controls how much fuel is used by your engine under every condition. So, it may cost you more fuel every time you drive. On GM cars and trucks, if you have OnStar you can get the exact reason why your engine light came on. That is pretty convenient.
Maintenance You Can Ignore
-Gasoline Brands: All US gasoline has to meet a very strict federal standard. Some big name brands put additives in their gasoline but there is no real benefit to the consumer. The benefit is to the oil company in the form of revenue. Don’t be fooled by the name of the gasoline, it could cost you an extra $1500 per year. Also, if your car says it just needs regular gas in the owner’s manual, there is no need to pay for premium.
-Some maintenance is super easy to do yourself. Replacing windshield wipers at an oil change place can set you back $30-$50 a blade, but buying them at the store costs about $20 each. Just read the manual for the right type and then snap them on. Everyone can do that on their own!
-Aftermarket products: Just don’t do it! You want to put some 20s on your Cruze? Skip it. Remember that sentence above about cars needing to be efficient by law. When you change the parameters of the car, many things can go wrong. Bigger wheels are heavier. That means, more energy is required to get them moving, stop them, and turn them. You car was not designed for that. So, those fancy wheels and tires you bought for $600 could cost you up to $500 in extra fuel every year, $900 for a brake job you wouldn’t have needed before, and up to $2000 for new suspension components. Besides, bigger wheels make your car slower (unless they are made for exotic lightweight materials which most of us can’t afford anyway).
You car is a big chunk of money out of your budget. Understand you car by reading the owner’s manual and take care of it just like the manual says and that car could run indefinitely.
A great story to read about: