7 ways to make your car last longer and save you money

  • Cars are getting more and more expensive in the US.
  • Sales data compiled by the Kelley Blue Book show that the average car cost more than $US36,500 in February or nearly $US1,000 more than in February 2018.
  • We turned to the experts at Edmunds.com and Kelley Blue Book for some handy tips on how to make your car last longer and save you money.

Cars are big tickets buys for most American families. In fact, it’s usually the second biggest purchase right after the family home.

Unfortunately, cars are getting more and more expensive in the US. Sales data compiled by the Kelley Blue Book show that the average car cost more than $US36,500 in February or nearly $US1,000 more than in February 2018. Some of the more popular segments of the market were even more expensive. For example, full-size pickup trucks such as the Ford F-Series, Chevrolet Silverado, and the Ram 1500 had an average transaction cost of $US49,958. That’s an increase of more than $US3,000 over the same period in 2018. Compact crossover SUVs like the Honda CR-V and Toyota RAV cost an average of $US29,259, up nearly $US800 over the same time last year.

Read more: What your check engine light really means.

According to the US Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the average cars on the road in 2017 was 10.1 years old. That’s up from 9.5 years of age in 2009 and 9.0 years in 2001.

Regardless of whether this trend is caused by better build quality or increasingly high prices, the result is the same; cars are lasting a long time.

Recently, Business Insider spoke with Kelley Blue Book executive editor Michael Harley and Edmunds.com senior consumer advice editor Ron Montoya for some tips on how to make your last longer and save you money.

Fortunately, most of the advice is simple, common sense practices that don’t require much effort or expertise to implement.

1. Follow the manufacturers’ recommended service schedule.


Both Montoya and Harley emphasised the importance of following your car’s service schedule.

“The best way to prolong the life of your vehicle is to stay on top of the scheduled maintenance,” Montoya said.

Your owners manual should have a detailed outline of when the maintenance should occur and what will need to be addressed at each time.

This includes oil and filter changes along with inspections of your car’s tires, brakes, and fluid levels.

Montoy and Harley both say the old 3,000-mile per oil change rule no longer applies to modern cars.

“There could be oil changes anywhere between 3,750 miles for a severe service if you do a lot of stop-and-go driving or upwards of 15,000 miles between oil changes if you do a lot highway commuting,” Harley said.

Each car maker will spell out the oil change intervals in the owners manual.

2. Check your tire pressure.


Make sure the tires on your car are set at the optimum air pressure. Most cars will have the proper air pressure listed in the owners manual as well as in the driver’s door frame.

Both Harley and Montoya suggested drivers check their tire pressure at least once a month.

“A lot of people just wait until the (tire pressure monitor) light to come on,” Montoya said. “That’s not when you should be replacing the air in your tires. At that point, it’s actually a little too late and it’s an emergency situation.”

Not only will maintaining proper air pressure will help optimise the car’s handling and braking, but it will also save you money.

“If you let your tires run too low or too high, you’re going to get abnormal wear and tires are expensive,” Harley said.

3. Make sure you take care of the little things.


One way to extend to life your car is to take care of the little things before they escalate into the big problems, Harley told us.

For example, if a faulty oxygen sensor triggers the check engine light, replace the sensor before it caused excess wear to your car’s catalytic converter.

And installing new catalytic converters is a much more expensive job.

4. Do visual inspections.


Do frequent visual inspections of your car. This could be as simple as walking around your car to check for any unusual fluids, weird smells, or damage. You should also open up your hood once in a while to look for any issues that may crop up.

“Open the hood and looking around,” Harley said. “You don’t have to be mechanically inclined to notice that there’s fluid on top of or below the engine.”

“Cars are not supposed to leave puddles on the ground unless it’s water from the air conditioning and that should evaporate,” he added. “If you drive back in the evening and there’s still a puddle on the ground you should see if you have a leak of oil or coolant.”

The more mechanically inclined driver can also check for uneven brake wear which, if caught early, can save you on your next brake change.

5. Be gentle with your car when it’s cold.

Drive gently in the morning or when your car hasn’t had a chance to heat up. Thus, avoid gunning the gas pedal first thing in the morning.

Instead, let the fluids in your car heat up before you drive more aggressively. After all, lubricants work their best when they are warm.

“You want to treat your car just like you want to be treated yourself,” Harley said. “If you start your car on a 50-degree morning and you immediately floor it down the street and jam on the brakes, that’s the equivalent you crawling out of bed and running out the front door to get the newspaper.”

You don’t have to let your car sit heat up at idle, but you still take it easy on cold days.

6. Dont drive like a mad man.


Don’t drive like a mad man. Aggressive and high-speed driving will diminish your fuel economy while increasing the wear and tear on your brakes, tires, and transmission.

This all equates to more expensive trips to the mechanics.

7. Wash off the road salt regularly.


For those who live in cold weather climates, it’s important to occasionally run your car through a car wash in winter months. Not only will it look better, but it will also help mitigate the corrosive effects of road salt.

“If you’re in a place where your car is coated in this white salt grime, it’s a good idea to get the undercarriage pressure washed occasionally,” Harley said.

Even though these days most body panels and underbody components are made of stainless steel or galvanised to combat corrosion, it’s still a good idea to get rid of that build up.

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