Should You Do Your Own Car Maintenance?

When you take out a loan to buy a new car, one of the things that you should always factor into your budget so you can find the right amount for the weekly/fortnightly repayments is the maintenance of your car. It would be nice to think that cars never broke down or gave any mechanical trouble, but this isn’t the case.

A number of people wonder if they can save a few dollars on their car maintenance by doing their own car repairs. The answer to this question is yes and no. Some things can be done by a handyperson with a good set of tools but other things require an expert. If you attempt to do expert-only repairs, there is a high chance that you will end up causing more damage, which will leave you facing a bigger bill from the mechanics.

So what bits of repair and maintenance are smart moves that you can do yourself to save the cost of labour?

  • Changing the oil. Just make sure that you drain the oil out of the right compartment if you have an automatic transmission so you don’t leave the gear system without lubrication. Get this wrong and you wreck the engine. Also remember to put the plug back in the hole you drain the oil out of before you pour new oil in. If you don’t do this, you’ll waste a lot of perfectly good oil and some of your money.
  • Changing the air filter. Another fairly simple task that every driver can learn how to do rather than handing their car over to the mechanic.
  • Changing the fuel filter. Another comparatively simple task.
  • Changing the spark plugs.
  • Changing fuses. You will need to consult the manual (or look online) if you don’t know where the fuses are kept, but this can be the solution if one of your lights decides to die.
  • Replacing the drive belt: Take a good look at it before you take it off, noting where it goes as well as how worn it is. Take photos if your visual memory isn’t brilliant. You’ll need a few tools and this is more of an intermediate level task.
  • Replacing the brake pads. This is a bit more advanced but you can still do it without needing a trade certificate in auto mechanics. You will need to take the wheel to do this.
  • Replace your windscreen wipers.
  • Cleaning up corrosion around the connection points on your car battery. Remove the wires first using insulated pliers, then use a wire brush to get the corrosion off. Put the wires back on where you took them off from.
  • Replacing the bulbs in your lights. You probably shouldn’t do this with more modern LED units but old-style lamps can be replaced. Cue jokes about changing lightbulbs.

The more you tinker around with your car, the more you will be able to do, especially on older cars that were more mechanical than electrical/electronic.

What about the things that you shouldn’t touch? You should never attempt the following unless you really know what you’re doing:

  • Anything to do with the electronics or computer componentry. If it involves wires or circuit boards, leave it alone.
  • If you haven’t got the right tool for the job, don’t improvise. Borrow the tool from a mate, buy yourself one (although this could end up getting expensive) or bite the bullet and get down to the mechanics.
  • Anything you don’t have the right spare parts for. You are not MacGyver, so don’t try interesting improvisations involving bits of string, coat hangers and bits of metal

It’s a big moment in anybody’s life when the time comes for getting your first car. It’s also a big moment when your teenager needs a car of their own.

Buying a teenager’s first car is somewhat different from a car you buy for yourself. For the average family, it can be a bit of a thorny issue, with lots of questions that need to be answered before you all head down to the car yards.

Even if you are in a financial position and/or have the inclination to buy your teenager’s first car and give it to him or her as a gift, there are still issues to be worked through. The average teenager has no idea of the costs involved in running a vehicle. OK, he or she sees Mum and Dad putting in petrol and maybe doing the odd repair, but a lot of this just doesn’t get noticed. Parents have the responsibility of making sure that a teenager is prepared for this so a nasty reality slap doesn’t come once he or she leaves home and suddenly has to foot all the bills.

Because it is wisest to let your teenager pay for at least some of the running costs of the car, if not all of them, your teenager needs to have some form of income. Pocket money and grandparents don’t count; paper runs, mowing lawns and babysitting do. You may also need to give them some budgeting advice so they don’t suddenly find themselves short if the car needs new tyres.

First of all, you will need to sort out how to purchase the car. Are you going to get out a loan for the car? Who is going to make the repayments  you or your teenager? Or are you going to split the repayments? How much of the purchase price of the car are you willing to fund and how much will your son or daughter have to produce? There aren’t any right or wrong answers here. You may want to buy the car as a gift, or you may allow your teenager to get a no-interest loan from the National Bank of Mum and Dad, which they can pay off as time goes by.

If a loan is needed to purchase the car (and this can be a good idea to ensure that your teenager’s first car isn’t a cheap dunger that breaks down half the time and incurs nasty repair bills), then it can be easier for the parents (who usually have stable jobs and a better credit history) to take out the loan themselves and arrange a sort of within-family novated lease. If a loan is necessary and your teenager needs a car in order to travel to their new job (e.g. because it’s too far to walk to that workplace and/or taking public transport would involve travel at hours when it’s not prudent for a young person to be on the streets), then this sort of arrangement can be a smart option.

You also need to negotiate who’s going to pay for what. There is insurance, fuel, repairs, registration and all those other ongoing costs to be taken care of. Smart parenting sense suggests that these bills should not be automatically taken care of by the parents: teenagers need to learn some responsibility. However, there is some room for negotiation rather than just insisting that your teen take on the responsibility as well as the pleasures of car ownership. Parents may want to take care of third-party insurance, for example. Or parents may contribute towards fuel and other running costs in exchange for certain favours (e.g. if your teenager uses the car to run errands for you).

Take the time to talk it through and to educate your teenager about what it means to own a car and what it takes to run it. He or she might then decide on some other option for transport until they’re in a better financial position.

Some Car Dealer Tricks To Watch Out For

So there you are, all ready to purchase a new set of wheels. You’ve done your homework about getting finance for your vehicle and you’ve done the research for the sort of car you want, so your problems are all over and the fun part is about to begin, right?

Well, this would be the case if car dealers were all completely above board and didn’t have a set of tricks up their sleeves to persuade you out of your cash, and possibly more cash than you really intended to pay. We’ll assume that the car dealers aren’t trying to sell you an absolute dog that will blow up within a week, but they’ve still got some high-pressure tricks that you need to be aware of so you can shop smart and not fall for them.

Trick #1: Bait and switch. This is one of the oldest tricks in the book. You’ll see an ad in a magazine or in the paper or online for a car that looks like everything you need for a reasonable price. But once you get around to the car sales yard, they tell you that Too bad, mate, that one’s just been sold. But over here, we’ve got And then the pressure starts for you to buy something pricier.

Trick #2: Bamboozling number crunching. If you have found a car that you like, a dealer may try to talk you into a finance agreement that isn’t the best for you. This is usually done by taking you very quickly through a bewildering array of numbers and calculations and keeping your attention fixed on the weekly/fortnightly/monthly repayment amount. However, things like unnecessary extras (e.g. extended warranty periods, income protection insurance schemes) tend to be glossed over, as do loan terms and interest rates. The chances are that this will be presented so quickly that all you can really grasp is the repayment amount. It’s far better to come to the dealer prepared with a pre-approved personal loan that you’ve negotiated after long and careful thought in a pressure-free situation.

Trick #3: Playing mechanic. Here, the car sales rep will give your current set of wheels a glance and try to tell you that it’s really time that you bought a new one, even if you’re just casually browsing through the car yard doing your homework or window shopping. However, the average car dealer isn’t a mechanic (some are, but that’s another story) and they’re not really able to pronounce on the condition of your car just with a quick look. Even your mechanic can’t do that. Avoid this by keeping your mouth shut about your current form of transport and parking your car well away from the yard.

Trick #4: What brings you in today? This is not a casual, friendly question. They’re trying to find out if you’re desperate for a car or not. If your current car has just blown up and you tell them this, they’ll be rubbing their hands with glee  you’re already under pressure and are likely to agree to something less than stellar as a result. The correct answer to What brings you in today? or So what can we do for you today? is Just looking for now, said very casually.

One Car Or Two?

Getting the money together for a new car to replace your old one can be tough enough, which is why shopping around for a good personal loan is a real must. But what about when you don’t want to replace your old car but get a second one?

With a second car, you have to ask yourselves a few questions and think hard about your budget. If you’re still paying off Car #1, will you have enough in your pay packet to meet the repayments for two cars? Have you factored in that you will now need to pay for two registrations and two sets of repairs, not to mention extra petrol? It really pays to do your homework and have a good hard think. If you have already paid off one car, it might be easier to (a) get a loan for a second car and (b) make the necessary repayments.

As an aside, if you already have one car that you like and want to keep but your boss is offering you a novated car lease as part of a salary package, you might want to consider whether or not you want to use this offer to get a second car.

No matter what your situation  raising a personal loan or getting a car through a salary package scheme  you may want to ask the question whether you actually need a second car. Let’s face it: there is only so much petrol in the world and only so much space on the nation’s roads, and we all need to do our bit. On the other hand, some situations may require two cars.

So how do you decide on whether you should get one car or two? Here’s a handful of questions that you might want to ask yourself.

  1. How many people in your family? What are their travel needs? If Dad is on the road a lot and/or the kids do a lot of sport or other out-of-school activities, a second car is a bit of aIf there’s just you and you only travel to work, the mall and the movies (and maybe the beach), then you might not need a second car.
  2. Where do you live? If you’re out the back of beyond, it’s never wise to leave a family member stranded with no means of transport to the doctor or the nearest neighbour while you’re off in the only
  3. What sort of trips are you likely to make? If they are all shorter trips and don’t require much gear then you might be able to get away with doing the trip by bike or by foot.
  4. What is the public transport in your area like? If it’s possible to get to school, work or the shops (or even the doctor) by bus or train, then maybe a second car isn’t needed (OK, the bus may cost a bit but you’ll save on parking and maintenance).
  5. Do you have to take a lot of gear with you?

There are no quick, pat answers, and only you can decide what’s best for your family and your needs.

Turning Your Old Car Into Money

When you take out a loan for buying a new car, you usually need a deposit of some sort. Most car buyers have one readily available source of funds to get that deposit: their previous car. Of course, if you don’t already have a car or if you are looking for a second car, this option won’t be there. But you can turn your old set of wheels into the deposit for the new one.

The easiest way that you can do this is by trading in your old vehicle, using it as part payment for the new one. Many car sales companies are happy enough to do this. The advantage of this is that it’s quick and it’s easy  you just turn up with what you’re trading in and get the value of your old car taken off the price of the new one. You don’t have to fool around waiting for someone to come around to test-drive the car or pay for advertising. The downside is that you might not be able to get as much as you hoped for the trade-in. At some car dealerships, they have a set amount that they take off for trade-ins. You can try haggling, but it doesn’t always work. The amount you’ll get offered for the trade in will depend a lot on the age of your old car, the condition it’s in and even the make. The car salesperson is planning to make a profit off your trade-in, so naturally he/she will try to make that profit as big as possible when coming up with what your old wheels are worth.

The other option you have for turning your old car into ready money is to sell it. This can be done by putting it up for sale on the side of the road with a sign on the window in time-honoured fashion, or by listing it on an online site, either with or without an auction. The advantage of this method is that you can get a better price for your old car (though not always)  you probably aren’t trying to make a profit from the sale. You’re in control of the price, although if you’ve completely overpriced your old vehicle, you won’t be able to sell it. With an auction, you might be able to get a very good price indeed if the car you’re selling is desirable in some way (e.g. a sports car that you have to say goodbye to because you need a car that fits a family but the budget doesn’t run to two cars). The downside is that it can take a long time, meaning that you might have to wait until you have the cash on hand to use as a deposit to secure the loan for the new car.

Option number three is a cross between the two methods, where you get the sales yard to sell your old car on your behalf. Not all car yards are happy to do this, and even the ones that do will take a cut of the profits.