Anyone who knows anything about cars will tell you that one way to get cheap auto insurance rates is to have an older car that doesn’t have any kind of finance agreement (like a lease or a loan) so that you can drop the full coverage and buy only what you actually need.
Anyone who knows anything about cars will also tell you that the way to keep an older car running long enough to maximize the insurance savings is to keep it well maintained, but what does that level of maintenance entail? Surprisingly, basic maintenance is easy and inexpensive, and mostly involves being aware of what your car is telling you, and taking it to a qualified professional to have the actual work done.
Some of the easiest things you can do to keep your car on the road and out of the repair shop are:
Regular Oil Changes
Some people recommend that the oil and filter in your car be changed every 3,000 to 4,000 miles, but others say every 5,000 miles is good enough. Others recommend having this done every 90 days, no matter how many miles were driven. Your owner’s manual will suggest the optimum schedule for your car, but certain newer models actually have an indicator light that signals when maintenance is required. The important thing is not to skip an oil change, as your car will start to run sluggishly if you wait too long.
Watch Those Tires
Most mechanics advise that you check your tire pressure at least once a month, and before and after any long trips. Not only will keeping your tires inflated to the correct pressure make your car drive smoother and increase the life of your tires, but doing so will also help you save gas.
While it’s common for the people changing your oil to also check your car’s fluid (brake, transmission, transaxle, power steering, antifreeze, and windshield washer fluids are all included here), sometimes you must specify that you want a fluid change or fluid flush, where they literally replace all the fluids. At other times, such as the start of any new season, or before a long trip, you’ll want to check these fluids yourself, then take your car in to have them topped off if they’re low.
Checking your windshield wiper blades only takes a few seconds, and can be done whenever you’re at the gas station, especially if you’re also taking the time to clean your windshield. It’s usually pretty obvious when a change is in order – the wiper blades will streak the glass, or you’ll notice the rubber disintegrating – but it’s important to be observant about their condition, and replace them as soon as you notice a problem.
Dents and Scratches
Anything that mars the paint on your car can also provide an entryway for water, which can, in turn, cause rust. As well, it’s significantly less expensive to fix a small dent or scratch than to have your entire car repainted. The same is true of small cracks or pits in your windshield – maintenance is cheaper than replacement – and many insurance policies will allow you to have windshield repairs done with no out-of-pocket expense to you, just to avoid having to pay for an entire new windshield.
Belts and Lights
Like wiper blades, is often fairly obvious when a belt is about to fail, because there will be a burning-rubber scent, or a high-pitched squeal. Often, however, a visual inspection can alert you to a worn belt before it becomes an emergency repair. The lights in your car (head lights, tail lights, and turn signals) on the other hand, are less obvious, because you can’t typically see your own lights from inside the vehicle. Nevertheless, make a point of circling your car while the engine is turned on, at least every ninety days, so you can be sure all the lights are working.
None of these maintenance tips are terribly difficult, or very time consuming, but keeping up with them is vital to the well being of your vehicle and your wallet.
The author is a specialist in the auto insurance industry and knows that keeping up with maintenance on your car will help your bottom line in the long run.