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What are Common Car Expenses?

By Jeremy Laukkonen
Updated May 16, 2024
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Most car expenses can be categorized into preventative maintenance, repairs, and miscellaneous operating expenses. Preventative maintenance includes things like regular oil changes, radiator flushes, and tune-ups, while repairs involve the replacement of malfunctioning parts after the fact. Meticulous attention to preventative maintenance can often reduce the frequency of major repairs. Miscellaneous expenses typically include things like gas, car insurance, and licensing that are either necessary to keep the vehicle moving or required by law. All of these things can add up, so it may be useful to track car expenses in order to budget for them in the future.

Preventative maintenance is an important expense associated with car ownership that often goes overlooked. It is often easy to assume that everything is fine, so long as the vehicle is running correctly, but many problems can fester without any obvious symptoms until a major repair is required. Scheduling regular oil changes and milestone inspections can contribute to finding such issues before they cause a breakdown. While a vehicle may not require all of the suggested services, the manufacturer's milestone inspections can provide a good framework for preventative inspections. Knowing what will be need to be done ahead of time can also allow expensive maintenance operations to be scheduled over time, reducing the financial impact.

Repairing broken components can be one of the most costly car expenses. Over the life a vehicle, this can tend to include replacing worn items like belts and hoses, and expensive electrical components like the alternator and starter. High mileage vehicles usually eventually need a variety of suspension parts replaced, and many vehicles develop problems with intake gaskets, head gaskets, and a variety of other systems. Regular inspections can alert the owner to the upcoming failure of many of these, but a typical car will incur most of these expenses over its service life.

Miscellaneous expenses like gas, insurance, and toll fees are also car expenses that can be budgeted for, along with maintenance and repairs. Whether a vehicle is powered by gas or an alternative fuel source, it may be possible to use its fuel mileage, the cost of fuel, and the amount of miles the vehicle is driven to calculate fuel into the overall car expenses. Similarly, insurance must be considered in the areas where it is mandated by law. For those who drive on toll rods regularly, spare change in the glove compartment may suffice, but even this expense can be tracked along with the others. Car license expenses can also become very costly in some areas, to the point where it is a good idea to budget for them as well.

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