Don’t Go Broke Fixing Your Car!

I mentioned that maintaining your car is financially important as car emergencies can ruin a family’s budget quite easily. For couples looking at paying down debt, investing more for their future, or saving up for a paid for vacation, it can be incredibly frustrating to see huge expenses come up with their cars.

Every Car Needs Maintenance

Fortunately though, many car expenses aren’t emergencies, but simply scheduled repairs that weren’t planned. While you can definitely minimize many big repairs, you still have to spend money to keep your car running, especially if you plan on driving it for many years.

Besides oil changes and tune ups, here are other common car maintenance care services you’ll probably need as a car owner at some point:

  • Rotate and balance wheels and tires
  • Replace windshield wiper insert(s)
  • Replace air conditioning filter
  • Inspect A/C and heater operation
  • Replace oil drain plug, gasket
  • Inspect shocks and struts
  • Inspect and adjust drive belts

Putting it On Your Budget

To show you how to plan ahead for your next appointment and keep your budget in tact, I’ll use the example of having your timing belt replaced.

For some vehicles timing belts are replaced around 90,000 miles. When I checked repair shops in my area, I found estimates of $550-$650 for everything. At some point in the next year I’ll need to get this done, so budgeting some money now will make it much easier on our finances.

I’m going to go with the higher amount ($650), so that comes out to around $55/month. I can either go ahead and schedule a regular transfer into savings for that amount or I can keep that money in checking and use it when needed. Either works – savings will give us a bit more money, but with that amount, it’s not much so keeping it checking is not a big deal.

Don’t Forget the Other Expenses of Owning a Car

Besides maintaining the cars, we also have to pay property taxes and registration fees for them. in fact I just had to take care of that with our Honda. Fortunately it wasn’t too bad, but it’s still an expense in our budget. Factoring those expenses in with your family budget and help you stay on top of your finances.

Thoughts on Keeping a Car Budget

How have you been doing with staying on budget with your cars? How much do you two spend on your cars each year?

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Elle Martinez helps families at Couple Money achieve financial freedom by sharing tips for reducing debt, increase income, and building net worth. Learn how to live on one income and have fun with the second..

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  • Grayson @ Debt Roundup May 8, 2013, 3:17 pm

    Well, my car budget is high, but that is because it is also my hobby. I have a project vehicle that consumes most of my budget. If you spend the money, you will most likely be rewarded with a long lasting vehicle.

    • Elle Martinez May 10, 2013, 2:25 pm

      How did you get into cars as a hobby Grayson? Are you mechanic by trade or have you’ve been working with cars as strictly a hobby?

      • Grayson @ Debt Roundup May 10, 2013, 2:33 pm

        My older brother is a really good mechanic that got started in our garage. I learned by watching and then when I got my own car, I learned by doing. I got fascinated with it and have had project cars for the last 7 years.

  • Daniel Packer May 8, 2013, 4:51 pm

    I just passed 80,000 miles, so I’m thinking of getting the belts replaced. If they last for 90,000 miles, why not have them replaced at 80,000? I do not expect this car to last another 80,000 (thought that would be fantastic).

    I’ve included the cost in my monthly budget, expecting to find something wrong at some point, so while I am not putting it into a separate savings account, I’ve been mentally preparing myself for awhile now.

    • Elle Martinez May 10, 2013, 2:24 pm

      Glad you’re planning Daniel with your upcoming car expenses. It definitely makes things easier on the budget. My last few cars lasted 146k and 189k miles before I sold them.