Car prices in Singapore are no small sum, but aside to the upfront costs, there are also regular car maintenance costs that you have to factor in when you own a car.
In order to lower car maintenance costs, there are a few things you can do. Here are just 5 ways:
1. Save on premium petrol
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.
Most people don’t realise 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. According to major car brands like Audi and BMW, higher octane fuel is generally not required in Singapore.
2. Source car parts and accessories yourself
When you next visit the authorised 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.
If you have time, you can head to a car part supplier to get quotes on the listed parts. You’ll often find price reductions of between 30% to 50%, because service centres have a mark-up. With the parts, you can get an independent workshop to make the replacements for you.
These days, car owners even turn to Taobao. Apparently, you can get window visors, air-con filters, sports pedals, bulbs, wipers and water hose from the China site. Read our Taobao guide if you need tips. Note that China is right-hand drive, which means things like car mats will not fit in Singapore’s left-hand drive cars.
Also, if you want to lower car maintenance costs this way, you may be forgoing warranty claims for parts from authorised motor dealers, since they have the right to reject warranty claims for parts replaced by third party workshops.
3. Compare car insurance rates
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 your workshop’s car servicing to maker’s requirements
Just like Apple fans, most car owners are allergic to reading manuals. 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. You want to make sure they’re doing everything that’s required, but some workshops will charge you for extra routines, which aren’t necessary.
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 authorised dealer’s servicing program. However, an independent workshop is sometimes cheaper and faster.
5. Learn the basics of car maintenance so you can DIY
You don’t have to necessarily be able 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 by doing it yourself, they won’t ever develop into something worse.
How do you keep your car maintenance fees low? Comment and let us know!
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