How to Lower Your Car Maintenance Costs


Ryan Ong



Lower car costs? In Singapore? Well you can use this a technique where you rhythmically twitch your legs; it’s called walking. “Uh, you can’t walk everywhere.” That’s just a myth car makers spread! Like the rumour of there being huge bodies of water that separate countries. But I sympathize with those who need wheels, so here’s other ways to keep the cost down:

1. Save on Premium Fuel

These days, you can’t just go to a petrol station and say, “Uncle, top up”.

Not without the confused attendant asking “Top up with what?” Because they have 98, 98 unleaded, super 98, etc. For entertainment value, try asking what the exact difference is. You’ll hear enough pseudo-science to fill three Star Trek episodes.

Most people don’t realize that even standard petroleum’s thoroughly “cleaned”. It’s crammed with additives that prevent particles from damaging filters. And as for the octane number, it doesn’t directly indicate how “fast” or “smooth” your car will run.

Higher octane just lowers the probability of pre-ignition problems. For the 10% of you who know what that means, good luck on that next NASCAR rally. For the rest of us, let’s just say high octane matters only to high compression racing engines.

You can pay more and use it in a regular car; but that’s like plugging a DVD player into a monochrome TV and expecting colour.


fuel nearly empty
It doubles as Donald Trump’s career gauge.


2. Source the Parts Yourself

When you next visit the authorized service centre, get the list of parts that need replacement.

Ask for “an invoice with a specific breakdown”. The invoice should state the exact name and model number of the parts needed. If you care to annoy the staff further, you can also find out which variants are permissible.

From here, there are two steps you can take:

If You Have Time:

Head to a car parts supplier, and get quotes on the the listed parts.  You’ll often find price reductions of 30% – 50%, because service centres have a mark-up.

So order the parts from the supplier, and have an independent workshop make the replacements for you. Just tell them you you’ll provide the bits (show them the list to make sure it’s right).

If You Don’t Have Time:

Go ahead and pay the service centre. But keep the list on you, and get a quote from the parts shop anyway. From now on, when you visit a workshop, ask for the exact parts they’re installing for you.

Compare the workshop’s prices to your price list, and you can see whether it’s fair.


3. Compare Car Insurance Rates


Totally wrecked car
I may have had a minor accident or nine.


Different insurers have different risk tolerances, and will calculate your premiums differently.

So insurer X might decide your accident from 10 years ago is a minor detail, whereas insurer Y might raise your premium 20% because of it. Likewise, different insurers have different preferences based on car models, the gender of the named driver(s), the age of the insured vehicle, etc.

The difference in premiums can amount to several hundred dollars a month. So make phone calls to all the insurers, and compare different quotes. Or you can just use a site like MoneySmart, which will do it for you.

Even if you already have an insurer, it’s good to check new offers at least once a year. You never known when something better might come up.


4. Compare Workshop Services to Maker’s Requirements


creepy car mechanic with backlight
And another $149.59 for Bomoh consultation…


Just like Apple fans, most car owners are allergic to reading manuals.

That’s the thick booklet you get when you buy the car. The manual specifies the checks and replacements that must be made, during each routine maintenance.

Make sure what the mechanics are doing (check their invoice) matches the car maker’s requirements. Some workshops will charge you for extra routines, which aren’t necessary. On a related note, you want to make sure they’re doing everything that’s required.

Extra routines can amount to a difference of several hundred dollars. If you’re told they’re necessary, even when it’s not in the manual, get a second opinion.

If you want to be safe, stick with the authorized dealer’s servicing program. However, it’s not impossible for an independent workshop to be cheaper and faster.


5. Learn The Basics of Maintenance


That must go in the fuel tank.


You don’t have to change a fan belt or re-torque the tyres. Just learn the absolute basics, so you don’t need to pay a mechanic every time you:

  • Check and change engine oil
  • Install new spark plugs
  • Top up brake fluid
  • Clean the engine

Remember, even if the work takes 10 minutes, workshops will charge you for the time. And if you correct these minor problems fast, they won’t ever develop into something worse.


Image Credits:
sleepymyf, AtomDocs,, ragingtornado, Rubber Dragon

How do you keep your car maintenance fees low? Comment and let us know!

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Ryan Ong

I was a freelance writer for over a decade, and covered topics from music to super-contagious foot diseases. I took this job because I believe financial news should be accessible and fun to read. Also, because the assignments don't involve shouting teenagers and debilitating plagues.