How to combat the hidden costs of maintaining a car

It’s no secret that cars are one of the bigger expenses. Facing the purchase of a new car, while an exciting moment is one that will make your wallet feel quite a bit lighter. But buying and maintaining a car costs money outside of the initial purchase of the car itself.

There are several other “hidden” costs that you may not have realised you’ll have to deal with. All of these costs are necessary if you want to keep your car running smoothly, but there are some ways to keep costs lower than the average car owner might pay. By following these tricks, you might find ways to make sure these hidden costs don’t impact you too much. 

PETROL

It sounds obvious. Mostly because it is. If you are buying a car, and it hasn’t occurred to you that you will need to buy petrol, maybe you shouldn’t be buying a car. 

But there are many layers to this cost that can affect how much you are spending on petrol. Many don’t actually realise how much they need to put aside for petrol. 

The amount of money you spend on petrol will depend on these factors:

  • Your driving habits: how much time you spend driving, how far you drive, whether you drive for long stretches or frequently make several short journeys in a small period of time. 
  • The type of petrol your car takes
  • The price of petrol 

HOW CAN I COMBAT THE COST?

To prepare yourself for the cost of petrol, make sure you are aware of how much you will need. This is the first step; if you aren’t sure how much petrol you use, you won’t know how to cut down on the cost. 

The obvious way to cut down on petrol costs is to drive less. But for many, this won’t be an option. If your job or lifestyle requires you to drive, cutting down on driving isn’t really a choice. Plus, if you love cars, why would you want to stop driving so much? 

Instead, to cut petrol costs, look to find the cheapest place to access your specific type of petrol. Petrol prices will vary from area to area, so finding the cheapest nearby provider is the way to reduce this cost. 

CAR INSURANCE

Again, insurance should be an obvious cost, but few truly realise how much of a cost it can be. In fact, besides the purchase of the car itself, car insurance is likely to be your highest driving-related cost. 

But of course, once again, it is a necessary cost. Without it, imagine the monetary damage you’d face were you to get into an accident.

Car insurance comes in a variety of forms. It can range from third-party insurance (the cheapest), which only covers the cost of other people in the case of an accident, not you, all the way to fully comprehensive car insurance (the most expensive). Fully comprehensive car insurance covers both other parties’ damage and your own, from car repairs to extensive benefits. 

HOW CAN I COMBAT THIS COST?

The way to save money with this cost is to choose your car insurance carefully. Use an auto loan calculator to work out your options’ cost and consider the cover you are being offered. 

No one can know what unexpected situations they might end up in, but look at the ways you use your car and see if that can influence your choice. If you often find yourself driving on icy roads due to where you live, it would save you money, in the long run, to spend more on insurance. 

Think critically about the insurance you should get, then either use a comparative website or research yourself to find the best deal you can. 

CAR TAX

All car owners must pay car tax. Unfortunately, this isn’t really a cost you can cut down on after you’ve bought a car. 

To reduce this cost, you need to go into buying a car with tax in mind. 

The tax level you have to pay will depend on your car’s CO2 emissions and the type of fuel it uses. 

These factors will be caused by:

  • How new your car is
  • The engine size of your car
  • The emissions it produces

HOW CAN I COMBAT THIS COST?

This cost is unavoidable. But asking about emission levels when looking for a car and researching its tax cost can help prepare for this cost. 

MOT

MOTs are another necessary evil of owning a car. MOTs are key to making sure all cars (not just your own) are safe to be on the road. An MOT will save you from greater costs associated with poor car upkeep and accidents in the long run. 

MOTs must be completed annually by all cars over three years old. This is required by law. 

MOTs will cost you roughly £55, but this will depend on the testing centre you use. This is also only the cost for the test itself. Any issues that are flagged up in an MOT will then require extra payment. 

HOW CAN I COMBAT THIS COST?

Again, this isn’t a cost you can avoid. An MOT must be completed. However, you can avoid any extra costs associated with failing your MOT. 

Two in five cars fail their first MOT test. How can you make sure you are in the three-fifths that pass? 

Most cars fail their MOTs for small issues: warning lights and low levels of screen wash. Make sure to check all minor issues within your car – and fix them – before going to your MOT. For some of the larger issues, making sure to keep on top of your car’s upkeep throughout the year is the only way to keep the MOT cost low. 

REPAIRS

Throughout the year, you are likely to run into the odd problem here and there. Whether this is due to normal wear and tear or minor accidents, you will likely have to pay for repairs at one point. This cost is often “hidden” because no one wants to think about getting into an accident, do they?

The issue with repair costs is that you don’t know when they are going to come. They often come unexpectedly and can be quite a hefty price. 

HOW CAN I COMBAT THIS COST?

While likely to happen to you at least once, you can partially avoid this cost with close care. By making sure your car is kept healthy, you are less likely to run into an unexpected need for repairs. 

Finding the cheapest provider of repairs for the best quality is a sure-fire way to keep this cost low. 

It can really help to get a feel for how your car works when it is facing no issues. This way, you can easily notice when your car is feeling different from usual. This is often a sign that something might be up. By catching this early, you have the chance of fixing any issues before they become too big and in need of a full, costly repair. 

One way to keep your repair costs low is to have frequent car services. 

CAR SERVICING

Car servicing is a great way to maintain your car to an excellent standard. Unfortunately, it will cost you. 

Where an MOT only makes sure your car is working at the minimum level of safety, a car service will keep your car in good condition in all areas. The best bit about a car service is that you can tailor it to your car’s specific needs. 

If your car is more expensive than the average car, a car service can make sure it is still working at the value you paid for it. 

HOW CAN I COMBAT THIS COST?

Whilst car services aren’t necessary to have frequently; they are a cost that can save you money in the long run. As always, shopping around for the best price is the way to keep this cost low. 

CAR VALUE

This is probably the most unexpected cost for car buyers. Though you may buy your car for one price, this price is likely to decrease over the years as it gets older and you use it more. This means that if the time comes when you are looking to sell your car, you won’t get the same amount you paid for it. You can, however, control how much the price will decrease. 

HOW CAN I COMBAT THIS COST?

Maintaining your car to the best level is integral if you think you will sell it on later down the line. A car with as few faults as possible will sell for much more. Keep a detailed record of all the car’s MOTs and servicing. Though this may be difficult to achieve, a car with low mileage will also sell for more, so keeping an eye on this aspect will help you regarding this cost. 

Owning a car is a great expense, but by keeping your eye on these areas, you should be able to keep these costs as low as possible. 


Photo Credit: BMW

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