Driving an old, worn-out car can be frustrating. Knowing when to pull the plug and buy a new car can be a difficult highwire act of financial planning. However, in the wake of the current chip shortage, finding a decent car without losing your shirt is proving to be pretty difficult. Welcome to the era of car maintenance. These days, fixing your car is probably a better call than paying these used car prices.
Used car prices might mean it’s time to dig into car maintenance
According to Consumer Reports, the time to sell your car when a pricey repair comes up is gone. Where once a crapped-out transmission or blown head gasket might signal that it’s time to dump your rust bucket, these days means you gotta pay to keep your hoopty around a little bit longer.
The lack of microchips has greatly strained the new car supply and, in turn, sent used car prices into the stratosphere. As of May, the average used car price has gone up 30 percent from this time last year. Even though some car repairs and regular car maintenance can get really pricey, especially when it’s unexpected, it may save you money while used car prices are this high.
According to Jill Trotta, vice president of industry and sales, car repairs are up from last year. As a result, many repair shops are slammed. This means many people are doing the cost-benefit analysis of fixing their old cars and waiting to buy something else.
“When my sales team calls into shops right now, they say they’re booked three to four weeks out,” Trotta says. “I think that’s because people are investing their stimulus and tax refund money into their cars because a $3,000 repair bill could be better than a $500 car payment for the next several years.”
Car maintenance is the key to keeping an older car reliable
We know changing the oil, monitoring tire condition, and driving sensibly are all good steps to taking care of your car. What else can you do to stay on top of your car’s maintenance and keep maintenance costs down?
The first thing to do is stop waiting to do the maintenance you know your car needs. Deferring maintenance can turn a small, inexpensive problem into a massive headache. Doing things like flushing your car’s cooling system or other non-immediate fluid changes might be something that can wait till later, but staying on top of these jobs will help keep your used car happier for longer.
With almost every machine, small problems, when neglected, can often grow and affect other parts of the machine. This, of course, means a more expensive fix down the road that could have been avoided.
Don’t forget to do research on the shop and maintenance cost
Most auto repair shops are upstanding and honest businesses, but some people are willing to take advantage of vulnerable, non-informed drivers in need of maintenance. Doing a bit of research can help to avoid these types of predatory shops. Also, having a cursory knowledge of your car’s needs is not hard to understand and can help protect you from getting taken advantage of.
Another helpful tip is to get your mental state right. If you look at car repairs as an investment to keep you safer and more comfortable in your car, you can more easily digest the costs. This won’t help your bank account, but the maintenance cost won’t have to derail your morale.
Car maintenance can be fun if you stay on top of it
In some cases, replacing broken OEM parts with upgraded aftermarket parts can actually be cheaper. Of course, doing this requires more time and automotive knowledge. As far as the mental game is concerned, upgrading your ride will feel a lot better than just maintaining it.
If we are going to be stuck with our old rides, for the time being, we might as well figure out how to enjoy driving them and keeping them as reliable and safe as possible.