How To Keep Your Older Vehicle On The Road And Save Big Bucks On Inflated New Car Prices
New car prices are out of control: with an average window sticker hovering around $47,000, the price of a new vehicle has risen by over $6,000 in just the past year due to supply issues that have cut inventory, increased demand from buyers, and overall inflation of the economy. The same pressures have hit the used market too, with average pricing on a secondhand model soaring by 40 percent over the past 12 months.
In the face of these rising costs, it makes a lot of sense to try to keep your existing vehicle on the road for as long as possible. With the right approach, maintaining your current car or truck will save you significant money compared to the expense of a new monthly payment.
What are the best ways to ensure that your driving experience stays safe and enjoyable even as the years begin to pile up on your daily? We've got you covered with these tips on prolonging the life of your automobile.
Your vehicle's tires are the only component that actually touch the road, which is a pretty big clue as to how important they truly are. Unfortunately, they're also often overlooked when it comes to evaluating a car or truck's condition.
That vibration you've been feeling in the steering wheel? That pull to the left or the right? That loud sound when rolling down the road? Wheel spin when it's wet, or increased stopping distance even when hauling down from normal speeds? These are all issues that can cause people to seek out a new vehicle, yet they are frequently linked to a need for new tires.
Tires don't just wear out with use, they also degrade over time (due to exposure to heat and ultraviolet rays from the sun), which means even an auto that doesn't see much use might be sitting on tires that should be replaced. Swapping out old tires for new ones can dramatically transform the driving experience of your vehicle and often helps extend the length of time you can comfortably and safely drive it.
Sweat The Small Stuff (Before It Gets Bigger)
It's easy enough to let the 'little things' get away from you when it comes to car repairs. On their own, a noisy set of brakes, a grinding wheel hub, a wonky headlight, or an air conditioning system that doesn't blow all that cold anymore might not seem like much cause for concern, but cumulatively they can really affect how much you enjoy your vehicle.
Instead of letting small problems pile up, it's always the best idea to tackle them as soon as possible. Not only does this prevent you from being surprised by the kind of all-in repair estimate that makes you want to walk out of the garage bay and into a new car showroom, but it also keeps you safer and more comfortable on the road.
You should also consider that a small problem can blossom into a larger one. For example: a suspension problem might lead to an alignment issue that, over a few hundred miles or so, wears out one or more tires to the point where they also have to be replaced. Taking care of a problem before it causes issues elsewhere can save you substantial cash.
Creating a Repair Priority List
If you're on a tighter budget, it can be helpful to prioritize certain types of repairs over others.
- Any issue that relates to safety—generally, this includes brakes, fuel leaks, or tire and suspension problems—should be dealt with first.
- After that, you'll want to look at repairs for things that don't put you or your passengers at risk, but could leave you stranded (typically ignition, cooling system, timing belt, and driveline components).
- Finally, 'nice-to-have' features like air conditioning, power windows, and the infotainment system round out the third tier of repair priorities.
Keep Up On Maintenance
Repairs are one thing, but basic maintenance is another very affordable way to squeeze extra miles (and years) out of your vehicle. Keeping up with the recommended oil change and coolant change interval on your car or truck is one of the best methods to extend its life, and it doesn't take much more than paying attention to the odometer (or the changing of the seasons, depending on how much you actually drive).
Maintenance is more than oil and antifreeze, of course. Replacing brake pads and brake fluid, air filters, as well as engine accessory belts and windshield wipers that have worn out is also important. Don't let a dead bulb in a brake light lead to a traffic citation: change it as soon as you notice it's gone dark. Your wallet will thank you.
Even the most dedicated enthusiast can sometimes miss out on clues that an older car might need some TLC. Scheduling a regular inspection of your vehicle, typically once a year, with a mechanic you trust, can help avoid any unpleasant maintenance or repair surprises down the road.
Getting an automobile up on a lift and having an experienced pro look it over is never a bad call—especially if it keeps you from having to shoulder a monthly payment for a brand new car.