We all know when it comes to paying for a car, the monthly payments are only one part of the cost. You’ll also have insurance payments, fuel costs, and parking. And that’s still not all. Car problems can crop up, too. Here are best practices for budgeting beyond your car payments.
Save for a Rainy Day
Setting aside money for car repairs is the most important part of budgeting beyond your monthly payments. The amount to save varies based on whether you’ve bought a new or used vehicle. On average, $50–$100 per month is a good amount for covering both maintenance and unexpected repairs. If you drive an older vehicle or one that already needs work, you may want to increase that amount to $100–$200. Talk to a trusted mechanic who knows your make and model, or browse owner’s forums on the Internet to gain as much knowledge as possible.
Typical Repair Costs
So what will car problems cost you? Well, that depends. Oil changes can run anywhere from $20–$80, depending on the shop, available discounts, and whether your vehicle uses synthetic oil or not. Other types of maintenance, like fluid flushes, run between $100–$300. A set of tires will cost between $200–$1,000, depending on quality and type, while brake jobs can range from $100 to $300 per axle. Many repairs cost a few hundred dollars, but some major repairs, such as replacing a cylinder-head gasket, can cost up to $1,000. Parts and labor are the main factors in any repair cost, and while costs vary depending on the part and whether the equipment is original or aftermarket, labor costs are a bit more standard, running from about $75–$150 an hour.
Even New Cars Need Work
Not all maintenance or repair work is covered by warranties. General maintenance and routine services, like oil changes, aren’t typically covered, with two notable exceptions. The first is pre-paid maintenance plans, in which you pay for maintenance in advance, either upfront, at the time of purchase, or monthly. Should you purchase one of these, it’ll require some extra consideration as there are a variety of pros and cons. There can be discounts involved but also longer intervals of time before you can receive service.
The other exception is when an automaker offers free maintenance for a certain time period after purchase. While these plans don’t require customers to pay for service work, there’s a good chance that the sticker price and monthly car payment will be higher to cover the cost.
It’s also worth noting that wear and tear repairs won’t be covered by warranty. It’s a good idea to set aside some extra cash in case your brakes or tires wear out, whether your car is still in the warranty period or not.
It’s up to you to determine if an extended warranty purchase is worth it. You may save some money on repairs on an older vehicle, however, be prepared to pay a deductible and realize that a warranty might not cover everything.
Remember, the cost of owning a vehicle isn’t just about car payments, fuel, and insurance. No matter how new your car is, it’ll need maintenance, and it might need repairs once the warranty period has passed. Setting aside some money each month means you’ll have a nice rainy day fund to turn to should you need it.