A Case for the Car Maintenance Fund

Kacie at Sense to Save posted recently about considering whether to have a specific Car Maintenance Fund, or to rely on an existing emergency fund for unexpected vehicle expenses. We've gone from one opinion to the other over the last six months. Let me tell you why.

  • Last October, we had to put tires on one of our cars. The tires were worn and we wanted them to have better tread for the winter. It was time. We were happy with the service and price we got at Costco, but the bill came out to about $525.
  • As our luck would have it, less than a week later, the other car with mostly-worn tires (not in dire need of being replaced, but getting there) got a flat. Rather than have one new tire and 3 old ones, we replaced them all. Again, we were happy with Costco's service, and the bill was about $525.
  • Our garage (apparently?) has narrow openings. My husband has run into the sides of the garage, knocking off a mirror, twice so far, and one other time injuring a bumper. All of the times, he was pulling out a car I parked- I guess I park closer to the wall than he does! He's a good driver, promise. He was able to fix all of these himself, but the bill for all of them together for parts has probably been close to $100.
  • We knew we needed the timing belt replaced on the older of our two cars, but when smoke started spewing out the tailpipe, there was something else wrong. The engine needed to be rebuilt, plus the timing belt replaced. To make sure it was done right, we went to the dealer. The bill: $2,300
  • A couple weeks ago, our third vehicle (the "farm truck") had its brakes go out. My husband replaced the master cylinder, but couldn't replace the brake lines with his equipment. We took it to our mechanic. The bill: about $300
  • According to Mint, over the last 6 months, we've had other maintenance-type costs totaling $500. This would include random replacement parts and oil changes for our 3 vehicles. I feel like I'm forgetting something major, but I can't figure out what it is.
This last brake problem with the truck was the last straw. We need to stop depleting our emergency fund. Yes, we've had the money on hand every time. Yes, the emergency fund has served its purpose. No, nothing has gone on the credit card, and we're still debt-free. Watching the emergency fund get depleted over and over is discouraging, though.

Starting last month, we started funding a Car Maintenance/Replacement Fund. This will cover 'emergencies' related to cars in the future, and eventually will allow us to buy a new car. And we have lost no time in this.

There was a hail storm last night. We now have a car covered in hail dents. The insurance company has been notified, and our deductible is $500. I'm taking it in to get a quote right now. And I'll continue to be thankful we gave some forethought to this 'emergency' and have money in the bank to cover the deductible!

What do you do in regards to car repairs? Do you have an emergency fund, put the repairs on the credit card, or have some other strategy?

2 pennies for thoughts:

ashley @ twentysixcats said...

We have a general "emergency fund" that we pull car repairs out of. We had to replace all 4 tires earlier this year, too! Fortunately, we've had to do very little in regards to maintenance to my car so far - compared with the older car we used to have, where we put like $800 every three months!

I think a huge advantage of having a car-specific fund is you might be able to more easily figure out when is the best time to replace a car. Of course, if you're only replacing cars because they are breaking too much, then you really might not have anything left in your maintenance/replacement fund to buy a new car. :-)

Shawanda said...

I think it's wise to specifically set aside money for repairs you can reasonably predict. The timing of basic maintenance and replacement shouldn't come as much of a surprise. For instance, we all know that, at some point, tires are going to have to be replaced. It's not as easy to foresee hitting a pothole and getting a flat.

I usually take the bus to work. Since I live in a big city, I have decent access to public transportation. So, I don't have to run out and get my car fixed as soon as something goes wrong with it. I have an emergency fund. But if I didn't, I'd rely on public transportation until I could save up enough cash to pay for the repairs. I'd rather not go into debt.

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