Figuring Out the Car Maintenance Budget Puzzle

Owning a car is a big expense. Most car owners make room in their budget for gas prices and monthly insurance fees, but many forget to add regular maintenance in their car-related budget book. But budgeting for preventive car care spares you from costly expenses in the future since you can catch issues early on.

Whether it’s a simple oil change or having a pro make sure your car wheels are balanced using a machine, regular car maintenance could be the difference between a car that starts and one that requires replacement. A well-maintained car requires a little cash and intentional effort but it’s better compared to excessive spending in the future.

Prioritize Car Maintenance Budget

If you don’t set aside a budget for car maintenance, it’s easy to neglect your car’s basic maintenance needs, which may result in serious mechanical issues — problems that could have been avoided with preventive car maintenance and regular upkeep.

Car maintenance items are often done based on mileage, not time. Consider the list of common maintenance items:

  • Wiper blades. Six to 12 months.
  • Three to five years.
  • Hoses and belts.
  • Tire rotation. 5,000 to 7,000 miles.
  • Oil change. 3,000 to 5,000 miles.
  • Engine and cabin air filter. 15,000 to 30,000 miles.

Always follow your car’s suggested maintenance schedule, which can be found in your owner’s manual. This will include other items like transmission fluid, timing belts and spark plus, which will need periodic replacement.

How Much Money Should You Set Aside for Monthly Maintenance?

coins and cash

Keep in mind that maintenance costs for vehicles are periodic expenses. To ensure you cover everything your car needs, set aside at least $100 per month (this does not include insurance and fuel). Depending on the make, model and age of your vehicle, maintenance costs will vary.

  • Make and model. Owners of SUVs, high-profile vehicles and luxury vehicles often spend more on maintenance costs.
  • Car age. Older cars are more likely to need maintenance as their parts wear out.
  • How well taken care of is your car?
  • Driving behavior. Consider the miles you put on your car. Your driving behavior influences the frequency of required car maintenance.

How to Create a Maintenance Budget

So where do you start with your budget? Here are actionable steps for determining the budget you need.

  • Gather receipts and maintenance records. Study your car’s maintenance history and base your current budget on the previous year’s expenses. This way, you can track what has been recently fixed or replaced, as well as get an idea of the services you may need soon. To start, gather your records from the previous year and see how much you spent. Next, add all the costs together to get the total amount. Divide the total amount by 12 to get an average of your monthly maintenance spends. The result will determine how much you should set aside each month.
  • Assess your car maintenance demands and current financial situation. Adjust the number from the first step to account for your vehicle’s current condition. Before you settle on a budget, be realistic about your financial capabilities. You may need to increase your maintenance budget from the amount you spent the year before.
  • Plan for unexpected repairs and preventive maintenance. Once you’ve figured out how much you may pay, build some margin to cover unprecedented repairs or replacements. Refrain from withdrawing from your car maintenance savings. As much as possible, keep a separate fund.

Service regularly, save more — this is the reward of regular car maintenance and budgeting. A detailed budget for repairs will give you peace of mind, as well as reduce the likelihood of major expenditures in the future.


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