Car Costing You a Fortune? The Best Way to Save on Maintenance

Oil drain bolt
Oil drain bolt | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

One of the inevitable burdens of car ownership is the maintenance that goes into keeping it functioning properly. While dealerships may offer us free oil changes for so many years, or hassle-free maintenance at certain intervals, many of us still feel like we are spending entirely too much money when we take our car to the dealer.

Enter the DIY mechanic, and all of his inner thriftiness. Choosing to do your own scheduled maintenance is like opting to cook at home instead of going out to eat all of the time, and like a good gourmet home-cooked meal, the results can be both inexpensive and extremely satisfying.

Radiator hose
Radiator hose | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

But even a lot of DIY guys are not getting the best possible deals on the parts and tools they buy, with a large majority of them thinking that whatever the local auto store has on its shelves is going to be the best deal around. Sure, there are some fantastic specials going on at any given auto parts store every day of the year, but what most people fail to realize is that there are even steeper discounts lurking below the surface, and all they have to do is reel them in.

So in an ongoing effort to save you money so that you may buy more stuff later on, here are a few tips on the best ways to buy basic car maintenance goodies. Some parts are readily available with steep discounts, while others may require a mail-in rebate or a special promo code. But money saved is money earned, and while it may be a few bucks here and there, it all adds up when you look at your total savings at the end of the year.

Oil change special
Oil change special | Source: Advance Auto Parts

We begin with the basics, including the most simplistic car need of them all: the oil change. For those of us who drive used cars, or have a vehicle that is not privy to free dealership oil changes, having the ability to change one’s own oil can be a huge money saver every few months if you shop around. Check out this sweet deal we found at Advance Auto Parts, and look at the fine print. Yeah, that’s 5 quarts of synthetic oil and a top shelf filter (which typically costs $10-15 a pop) for $22.99 once your rebate card arrives.

Not into changing your own oil but still interested in saving a few bucks? Type in your favorite oil manufacturer’s name followed by the word “promotions” and you’ll be amazed by the online coupons you will discover. We found that Pennzoil is offering all kinds of deals right now through various service stations, with discounts ranging from $4 to $10 off an oil change.

K&N air filter
K&N air filter | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

After that comes the air filter, which according to some experts is just as vital to proper engine efficiency as fresh oil and a filter. While we at the Cheat Sheet are fond of buying something more permanent like a K&N filter, just for the fact that we never have to replace it again, certain car owners aren’t entirely too keen on dropping the extra money on a filter if they are just going to sell the car or trade it in down the line.

So before paying full price for that filter, check out the manufacturer’s website, as they will often have hot deals going on that no one knows about. We found one from Purolator that is good until the end of the month that takes an additional $5 off this already inexpensive item.

Car tune-up
Car tune-up | Micah Wright/Autos Cheat Sheet

As for the full-blown tune-up, depending on how new or exotic your car is, products for this project will typically run you well over $100-200 for everything you need. Though you might enjoy supporting your local shop, there are clear advantages to shopping online. Take a peek at this promo ad we found at the top of the screen while perusing for an oil change special on Advance Auto Part’s website, for example.

These kinds of deals are going on every month, and 20% off your entire online purchase plus a gift card for a future purchase sure sounds a hell of a lot better than paying full price for a tune-up. Combine that with a $2 rebate on an already discounted set of Bosch Iridium spark plugs, and that tune-up is suddenly looking way more affordable than you first expected.

NGK spark plugs
NGK spark plugs | Source: NGK

There are literally hundreds of thousands of unclaimed discounts every year that have been tailor-made for DIY car owners. Oftentimes people just don’t know that there is a coupon in place for a product, or that buying online automatically applies a steep discount.

Don’t be one of these people. Hop online, compare some prices, search for promotions, and always check the rebates section of an auto part store’s website for additional deals on shop supplies and tools that you might need. Happy hunting!