Most car costs can be divided into preventive maintenance, repairs, and other operating costs. Preventive maintenance includes things like regular oil changes, radiator flushes and tune-ups, while repairs involve replacing defective parts after the fact. Careful preventive maintenance can often reduce the frequency of major repairs. Other expenses usually include things like gas, car insurance and licenses that are either necessary to keep the vehicle moving or required by law. All of these things can add up, so it can be useful to track car costs to budget for them in the future.
Preventive maintenance is an important cost associated with car ownership that is often overlooked. It's often easy to assume everything is fine as long as the vehicle is running correctly, but many problems can fester without obvious symptoms until a major repair is needed. Scheduling regular oil changes and milestone inspections can help find such problems before they lead to a breakdown. While a vehicle may not need all recommended services, the manufacturer's milestone inspections can provide a good framework for preventive inspections. Knowing what to do in advance can also help you plan for expensive maintenance over time and reduce the financial impact.
Repairing broken components can be one of the most expensive expenses for your car. Over the life of a vehicle, this can lead to replacing worn parts like belts and hoses, as well as expensive electrical components like alternators and starters. High-mileage vehicles typically eventually need to replace a variety of suspension parts, and many vehicles develop problems with intake seals, head gaskets and a variety of other systems. Regular inspections may alert the owner to the impending failure of many of these, but a typical car incurs most of these costs during its lifetime.
Other expenses such as gasoline, insurance and tolls are also budgetable expenses for cars, along with maintenance and repair costs. Whether a vehicle runs on gas or an alternative fuel source, fuel economy, fuel cost and number of miles driven can potentially be used to factor fuel into the overall cost of the vehicle. Likewise, insurance should be considered in areas where it is required by law. If you regularly drive with toll booths, you can expect to have change in your glove box, but this effort can also be tracked. Car license costs can also get very expensive in some areas, so it's a good idea to set a budget for that as well.