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Skipping Car Maintenance Can Be Expensive

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We can probably all agree that checking tire pressure, replacing wiper blades, and changing oil are important things for car owners to do on a regular basis. It may be challenging for you to fit these preventive maintenance tasks into your weekly schedule; however, simply performing these regular checks is a very intelligent investment given the amount of money it keeps in your pocket long-term, according to the nonprofit Car Care Council.

Illinois-based automotive market research firm IMR (Industrial Marketing Research) determined that one-third of drivers delay regular maintenance of their cars because they are too busy. Two groups that tend to put off these car upkeep tasks disproportionately are people who own older cars and millennials, the study found.

Car Care Council executive director Rich White, an expert at the value of preventive maintenance, advised that “car owners can preserve the trade-in value and save money by addressing small issues before they become more complicated, expensive repairs.” White added that these tasks help to make your car safer for you and other occupants

To focus specifically on the money, there are various ways in which car ownership can become more expensive when maintenance is avoided: loss of part of the life of the car, having to pay for costlier breakdowns, and the potential expense of an accident caused by lack of maintenance.

What exactly are we talking about, though? Before we get into the costs of failure to maintain a car, let’s look at what is typically considered the scope of maintenance.

What is the scope of regular maintenance?

Maintenance may initially sound like a vague concept, but the tasks and timeframes are highly standardized, based on professional expertise at how to really take care of these machines. Routine car maintenance tasks include checking the tire pressure and condition; verifying the functioning of the exterior lights; checking levels of all fluids; monitoring the car’s belts and hoses; confirming that the cables and battery are in proper working order; assessing the chassis lubrication; and looking at wear-and-tear on the wiper blades.

It can help to review a standard car maintenance schedule to see the checks that you should be performing on a regular basis. You can look at the manual for your car to get specific details related to your model.

How expensive is it to lose 50,000 miles of car?Incredibly, 84% of cars inspected during the nonprofit Car Care Council’s Car Care Months during 2014 were in need of some form of maintenance or repair. This figure is evidence of something that you may know to be the case personally: often, when people are tight on funds, one of the first things to be delayed is car maintenance.

Edmunds.com senior consumer advice editor Philip Reed said that failing to perform regular maintenance will typically remove 50,000 miles off the life of a car that would typically go 200,000 miles – meaning its life would be reduced to 150,000. How do we understand that 50,000-mile toll as a financial value though? What is 50,000 miles worth?

According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), the average annual number of miles logged across all American drivers is 13,476 per year. Assuming you drive that amount, it would take you 3.71 years to drive those extra 50,000 miles. How much is 3.71 years of vehicle? A simple way to calculate that is by using the average cumulative vehicle payment over that course of time. The average monthly car loan for a new car is $394, according to 2015 figures from Experian. Over 3.71 years, subtracting the relatively minor maintenance costs, you save $17,540.88 when considering the greater longevity of the car.

How much do repairs cost if you don’t maintain your car?Lost drive time on the car is just one way to look at the costs, though. Another additional potential cost is the repairs that you may incur if you do not get regular maintenance. Here’s what are standardly considered necessary elements of car maintenance that could become costly if they are avoided. Listed are the costs of routine maintenance for each item, along with the estimated expense of neglecting each task (according to 2014 figures from AutoMD.com featured in Bankrate).

(The number at the left is if the maintenance item is performed, while the number at the right is the effective cost if it is not performed.)
Routine oil changes – $120 (year of oil changes) vs. $4000 (engine replacement)
You keep your engine “healthy,” lubricated and clean, by changing its oil. This substance is critical because it helps remove some of the friction that causes engine breakdown. Oil should typically be changed every four months or 5000 miles.

Tire rotation – $50 (tire rotation once every 7500 miles) vs. $350-700 (tire replacement)In order to get wear to distribute evenly across your tires, you want to switch out the front and rear tires. Similar to flipping the mattress on your bed, tires should generally be rotated once every 7500 miles.

Timing belt replacement – $600 (belt replacement) vs. $2500 (engine repair)Putting in a new timing belt at the interval recommended by your car manual is important because if that part stops working, the engine will also fail and your car will decelerate until you’re at a stop. In that situation, you hopefully will get out only having to replace the belt. You may end up with expensive damage to your engine.

Brake inspection – $150-375 (pad or shoe replacement) vs. $300-600 (rotor or drum replacement)
You should expect your brake disc pads and shoes to deteriorate and require replacement. Getting a brake check once per year will help you fix the problem since it is obviously critical to your safety. If you do not get work performed routinely on your brakes, you could need a more expensive part replacement of a rotor or disc.

PCV valve replacement – $25 (replacement every 30,000 miles) vs. $100-1000 (engine seals or valve cover replacement)
The positive crankcase ventilation (PCV) system makes sure that the crankcase pressure remains within certain parameters. It also fights against accrual of sludge and stops leakage of engine oil through ventilation of blow-by gases.

Plug and filter replacement – $100+ (plug and filter replacement) vs. $335-700+ (upgrades to comply with emissions standards)
Car maintenance can give you confidence that you can consistently pass an emissions test. Maintenance of the engine involves cleaning and replacement of the filters and spark plugs.

Total cost – $1000 vs. $8000
Routine maintenance averages $1000 per year, while the alternative is spending 8 times that cost in eventual repairs. The total toll of this difference is $7000.

What is the impact of skipped car maintenance on accidents?The tab is getting big, just taking into account the costs associated with lost car life ($17,540.88) and repairs that result from failure to perform maintenance (another $7000) totaling more than $24,000.

There are additional expenses, though. The final part of the true cost of failing to maintain your car is that, disturbingly, many accidents are caused by lack of maintenance. In fact, according to 2004 research from the Maryland-based Car Care Council, the total cost of all these accidents, combined, is $2 billion annually.

Of course, car accidents are not just about financial cost but the incredible lost quality of life to those who are injured on the road. In this way, regular car maintenance is actually both a safety issue for your own family and a civic concern.



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