Car care can pay off
Maintaining a car in the United States costs anywhere from $100 to $350 per month, according to the American Automobile Association.
But specialists say costs can be reduced with preventive maintenance and small changes to driving habits.
In some cases, the fixes help drivers avoid big repair bills down the road, while other suggestions can save you money almost immediately.
"The biggest way to save money on your car really is to keep it. That may sound overly simplistic, but when buying a new car, you pay higher insurance, higher excise tax, sales tax, interest on a loan, and the car will lose 15 percent of its value on the drive home from the dealership," said Andy Betts, who owns the AAMCO Transmission Center in Walpole.
"Cars today are very well built and will last 250,000 miles or more if you want them to."
"Find a mechanic you can trust," Betts said.
The other big cost of repairs is parts. Betts said his shop marks parts up 1.5 to 2.5 times wholesale. He recommends customers call retail auto parts stores and find out what they're charging; a markup of two times the retail price should be about the maximum.
And Melissa Garcia, a supervisor at the Best Buy in Watertown, said many GPS units now include an added feature that helps save money at the pump: The GPS device will search nearby gas stations and tell drivers which have the lowest gas prices.
"Because gas prices typically go up during the summertime when everyone's leaving town or driving to the beach, using a GPS device with a gas price feature has become really helpful this time of year," said Garcia, who noted sales of GPS units typically increase around Father's Day and graduation season. "You can find the cheapest gas prices in your area or simply the closest gas station to your destination."
"Coolant leaks, fuel leaks, oil leaks are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to catching potential problems that a good preventative maintenance schedule will allow a professional mechanic to catch," he said.
"Lower octane fuel is not a problem in most cars, unless the manufacturer specifically prohibits this due to potential engine damage," Stellato added. "Some high performance cars simply cannot run on the lower grades."