5 Steps To Keep Your Vehicle Maintenance Cost Low

car maintenance

in partnership with volkswagen

Only 17% of the population opt for (or are able to use) public transportation. According to the Malaysia Economic Monitor, June 2015 – Transforming Urban Transport by World Bank. Majority of Malaysians own at least one car.

Based on an on-going survey on credit health by iMoney.my, a car loan is the first credit facility taken by most Malaysians showing that a car is often the first large purchase anyone makes when entering adulthood. However, owning a car is much more than just being able to afford the monthly instalment of your hire purchase loan.

Your car is probably the second biggest financial commitment for as long as you own one. On top of the monthly instalments, you will have to fork out money for road tax and insurance every year, petrol and toll every once in a while, and repair and maintenance every few months.

To put things into perspective, a RM90,000-car (1,600 cc.) will cost approximately this much every year:

ItemCost per year
Monthly instalmentsRM14,400^
Road taxRM90
Petrol & tollApprox. RM3,600
Total cost a yearRM21,909
^ Based on 10% down payment, 3.5% p.a. in interest and 7 years tenure.
* This amount indicates the cost for the first year only, and will increase every year.


Cost of repair (which will only go up as your car ages) is not included in the table above. Other than the cost of insurance (which reduces every year), road tax and monthly instalment (constant), the cost of servicing, petrol and toll will only go up.

Before you run out to get rid of your car or swear off buying a car, there are ways to manage your maintenance cost a little better. If you are looking to get a new ride, these 5 steps can help you lower the cost of maintaining your car in the future:

1. Look beyond the exterior

Yes, the shiny surface and the 101 dials and buttons on the dashboard can probably seal the deal for you when shopping for a new car. However, before you decide on the car, pop the bonnet (or maybe read the car specifications) to find out what is going on under the hood of your potential new car.

The engine is the heart of the car. Getting a car with a fancy interior but unreliable engine will likely cost you much more down the line.

One simple rule to remember is – smaller engines are generally more fuel efficient. You may not be a car extraordinaire, but knowing this nugget of information may help save hundreds (if not thousands) in the long run.

With the advancement of technology, now you don’t have to sacrifice on performance by opting for a car with a smaller engine. One of the car manufacturers that takes advantage of the advanced combustion technology is Volkswagen. Its Jetta uses the 1.4 TSI® twincharged engine with 160PS and is capable of matching a typical 2.0-litre Japanese B-segment sedan for fuel economy while not compromising performance.

A smaller engine also comes with much cheaper road tax, which is a nice little plus point.

2. Understanding the car’s maintenance schedule

Just like the first step, the second step must be done before you buy the car. Check out the maintenance schedule of the car you are interested in – most importantly the service intervals.

Typically a car needs to be serviced every 10,000km, but if you opt for a car with a longer service internal, you can save money and time.

While it is true that you may have to fork out more money each time you send your car for a service, you don’t need to visit the workshop every few months, because nobody likes sitting at the workshop for hours reading three-month-old magazines.

For example, the service intervals for Volkswagen cars are set at 15,000km, as compared to Japanese cars that are to be serviced every 10,000km. That means over a mileage of 180,000km, a Volkswagen would need to be serviced 12 times, but a Japanese car would require 20 workshop visits.

3. Be original

When buying a new car, always look ahead at the future maintenance costs and parts availability. There are always amazing car promotions, especially at the end of the year, and the deal sounds just like you may be able to afford a fancier car. You may be able to afford the monthly repayment, but if there’s a break down, be prepared to pay through your nose to replace any parts that need replacing. And if you opt for a generic part it can lead to even bigger problems.

To avoid any problems in the future, it is always recommended to choose original parts when it comes to car repairs. Something that is made specifically for your car is always going to work better than a generic part. Remember, your car is a complex piece of machinery that takes many different parts that are interconnected to function. One inferior part in that whole chain can potentially generate knock-on effects that manifest into horrifying repair bills further down the road.

Remember this when you are choosing to buy a new ride. It’s not just the cost but also the availability of parts. Your car won’t be good if it can’t run because it’s missing a part.

4. Don’t skip periodic servicing

This is a no-brainer. If you look after your car properly, you’ll be far less likely to be hit by hefty repair bills in the future.

Don’t be penny wise, pound foolish. You may be able to save a few hundred bucks skipping a service, but this could lead to a breakdown that can potentially cost you thousands of Ringgit. Regular preventive maintenance is probably the single best thing you can do as a car owner to keep your car happy and save money on repairs in the future.

Follow the maintenance schedule as recommended in your car’s manual. The average cost of a basic car service is around RM250 to RM300 – far less than the cost of having to replace parts later because of damage through poor maintenance.

It’s also important to note that the warranty that usually comes with a new car can be revoked if you fail to service your car according to schedule.

5. Take good care of your tyres

Tyres are expensive, hence you want to keep it in tip top condition for as long as possible.

It also helps if you get a car that doesn’t come with huge tyres, because the bigger they are, the more they cost. Not to mention, good tyres will also keep your car safe to drive. A Japanese-make car that uses a default 16-inch tyres cost RM452 a piece. That means RM1,808 to change all four tyres. On the other hand, a Volkswagen Polo uses 15-inch tyres which cost about RM1,055 for four tyres – which is definitely more affordable.

To maintain your tyres, make sure you stick to the recommended tyre pressures in your manual and check them regularly. Low pressure on your tyres increases the risk of damage to your tyres, while excess pressure of 20% can reduce the life of your tyre by up to 10,000 km.

Driving on slightly deflated tyres can cause them to wear out much quicker and unevenly, which means you will need to get them replaced sooner. Check the tracking regularly too as wheels that are out of alignment wear unevenly too.

Keeping the correct pressure on your tyres does not just extend the lifespan of your wheels, but it also helps you save fuel.

If you are like most car owners, you love (or at least appreciate) your car but hate the maintenance costs that come with it. Saving on maintenance is half the car, and the other half is the effort taken by the driver. With the 5 tips above, you can trim your repair and maintenance cost, and also ensure your car’s longevity.

Find out more about the Volkswagen Polo.

Image from purvesinsurance.com

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