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How to Plan for Your Car Maintenance on a Budget

By Lindsay VanSomeren
June 5, 2019

If you’ve ever owned a car, chances are you’re pretty familiar with the sickening feeling in the pit of your stomach when your car starts acting funny.

Since most of us aren’t auto mechanics, that weird sound or odd behavior could mean a fix that costs anywhere from just a few dollars to a few thousand dollars. Sometimes it even seems like you’re taking one step forward with your bank account only to take two steps back when a car repair derails your budget.

Thus, it’s no wonder car maintenance is especially stressful. But, there’s also good news: You can save up for these events. You don’t need to let them catch you by surprise. Read on to learn more.

How much should you budget for car maintenance?

Here’s the thing. You know car maintenance and repair expenses are going to happen. So, why not save up for them in advance?

First, though, it’s a good idea to know how much to save. Aside from all of the other expenses of owning a car (insurance, registration, etc.), you’ll need to plan for two big things: regular car maintenance and car repairs.

Regular car maintenance includes getting things done like oil changes, new tires, batteries, brake pads, etc. Car repairs include replacing things as your car ages, such as CV joints and head gaskets. This also includes the unexpected repairs that can result from things like your transmission kicking the bucket.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average single person spent $794 on car maintenance and repairs in 2017. This means that it’s a good idea to save up at least $66 per month — ideally more, so that you’re prepared in case a big repair is needed, such as rebuilding your car’s engine or transmission.

Of course, it’s a good idea to consider other factors as well. If you have an older car, for example, you might want to consider saving more. If you live in a snowy area that requires you to put on snow tires in the winter and all-season tires in the spring, summer and fall, that can increase your costs as well.

Another good place to check out is Edmunds’ Cost of Car Ownership, which allows you to look up average estimated yearly costs for repairs and maintenance for your specific vehicle.

How to Save for Car Maintenance

Now that you understand how much you need to save, how do you actually do it? Here are two top tips.

  • Set Up Chime’s Automatic Savings

Did you know that you can set up your savings automatically with Chime? You can round up each of your purchases to the nearest dollar and deposit the difference into your Savings Account.

But for our purposes here, Chime’s automatic savings payday feature is probably the best. Each time you get paid, you can set up an automatic deposit for a specific amount. You can even set up a separate savings account just for car maintenance and repair costs, and withdraw money as you need it.

So, for example, if you want to save $100 per month for car maintenance and repairs and you get paid bi-weekly, you can set it up so that you deposit $50 into your savings account each time you get paid. This way, you don’t even need to think about it — it just happens automatically.

  • Set Up a Sinking Fund Line Item in Your Budget

Another option is to keep a separate line item in your budget as a sinking fund. In this case you set aside however much you want to save per month ($100 for example) on paper, in your budget.

The actual money can stay in your checking account if you wish, or you can move it over to your savings account. Either way, the idea is to have a certain dollar amount in your bank account reserved just for car maintenance and repairs.

Don’t Let Car Maintenance Catch You By Surprise

You’re already familiar with the scary feeling when your car breaks down.

Now, picture this: You can set aside money each month so that the next time your car needs maintenance or repairs, you have plenty of money just ready and waiting to be spent for that exact purpose. It’s like an extra layer of security. It’s an amazing feeling to feel ready and prepared to spend money, rather than be stressed out about it.

So, are you ready to start saving money for car maintenance and working toward that happier feeling? We’ll help you get there!

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