Ask yourself two very important questions:
- How much do you spend on vehicle maintenance and repairs every year?
- How much should you be spending on vehicle maintenance and repairs every year?
Odds are, the answer to the second question is lower than the answer to the first question. The reason you are probably overspending on repairs and maintenance is because you aren't having regular preventative maintenance performed on your car.
If you are like the average car owner, you car receives an oil change three to four times a year and is inspected and repaired, as necessary, once a year. While this may seem like the best way to save on yearly costs, it actually is likely costing you more money in the long run. Regular preventative maintenance, performed roughly as often as you change your oil, is almost certain to lower the repair and maintenance costs over the life of your vehicle.
Is Regular Preventative Maintenance Really That Important?
In a word, yes.
Both manufacturers and experts in the vehicle repair industry agree that specific parts of your car should be inspected more regularly than yearly. In fact, a standard service schedule includes over 40 parts that should be inspected every nine months or less and roughly a dozen that should be inspected every three months. These aren't trivial parts, either. Parts like your timing belt and exhaust are critical components that can cause thousands of dollars in repair work if they fail unexpectedly.
Just to put it in perspective, replacing a timing belt costs, on average, about $750, due to the significant labor costs involved. That may seem incredibly expensive, until you consider the consequences of the belt snapping. In many cars, if a timing belt snaps at any speed over roughly 10 miles per hour, the car will suffer piston damage requiring you to replace the engine. Replacing an engine is likely to cost $3000 or more, if it is even possible.
How Much Does Regular Preventative Maintenance Cost?
This is a rather tricky question to answer. Technically you save money on regular preventative maintenance in the long run, either because your car lasts longer, has a higher value when you finally sell it, or simply doesn't require major repairs. However, long term is only one consideration and you should understand the short term costs.
A regular complete inspection, performed while your car is also receiving an oil change, should cost about $30 to $50 more than the oil change alone. Furthermore, you should expect to incur small repair costs of no more than $100 on any given checkup, though likely no more than twice a year. You would have had to pay the repair costs, all in a single lump sum, during your annual inspection, so that cost isn't additional, just stretched across the year. The three extra inspections are your added costs.
However, even in the short term, these costs are alleviated. Due to regular preventative maintenance, your fluids are cleaner, your tires have better air pressure and alignment, and your car is simply more efficient and responsive. This translates to better fuel efficiency and less wear and tear. If the better fuel efficiency saves you even as little as a gallon of fuel a week, that is roughly $125 you are saving on fuel costs, given current fuel prices. Combine that with fewer major repairs and you are definitely saving money.