Vehicle maintenance is not like going to the gym or going the laundry — you can’t just skip it because you don’t feel like doing it. Proper maintenance keeps your car safe to drive and catches small problems before they turn into huge, costly repairs. Make room in your budget to save for car maintenance.

Owning a car has many associated expenses, from insurance costs to your weekly fill-up at the gas station. Many people create an overarching budget to cover all car-owning costs. While it’s always a good idea to budget your income, think about creating a specific budget for car maintenance. After all, if you have serious engine trouble and you don’t have the money to get it fixed right away, you suffer a serious inconvenience.

Budgeting for Begginners
Your maintenance budget is for maintenance. Don’t wait until your car is falling apart before taking it into the shop. Get your car serviced, your tires checked, and your oil changed as often as your owner’s manual recommends. The whole point of creating a maintenance budget is so you can take care of your car before it needs huge repairs. Budgeting for maintenance might hurt a little at first, but it’s a lot more cost-effective than having to pay for an entirely new transmission because you never changed your oil.

The best place to start when figuring out how much to budget for car maintenance is with last year’s bills. Add up the total cost of car maintenance from the last 12 months. If you needed certain repairs but opted out of getting them, add those costs into the equation as though you had spent the money. Once you have the grand total for all your car repair bills, consider how old your car is. If it’s been requiring more maintenance recently, add a couple of hundred dollars to your grand total to account for your car’s age. Also add in future costs like new tires, brake pads, and oil changes when you’re compiling automotive costs.

Save Your Money Monthly
Take that grand total of repair bills from last year, and divide it by 12. You’ll get a monthly amount to put away. Use that money to take your car in for its service appointments. If you do need a repair, you’re more likely to have a $300 repair once in a six month span than you are to have little $50 repairs, so don’t worry if you have to take a big chunk of cash out of your maintenance budget when repairs do come around. The important thing is to keep this budget separate from the rest of your money. Put it in its own savings account, hide the cash under your mattress, or do whatever will keep you from using it for other things.

Maintenance should be part of your car ownership budget. Even if you’re not the kind of person who divvies up every cent of your paycheck, consider saving specific money for car maintenance. Your car is an essential part of your life, so make sure you can take care of them no matter what.